Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Airline game

I've given some more thought to the ideas I'd had about an airline game, and I think I've come up with a basic structure of a game themed on the airline industry - specifically routing passengers from Origin to Destination in an efficient manner. On the down side, it doesn't incorporate my favorite part of the initial thoughts: the Rush and Cheap passenger types... but on the up side I think it could be simple and elegant.

The game is something of an area control or area influence thing, where you gain influence in different airports in order to complete tickets. Tickets have an Origin airport and a Destination airport, and when you play one, you score some number of VPs and some amount of income. The VPs will probably be static and dependent on the ticket (i.e. printed on the card), while the income will be variable. There will be a maximum value, and the player will receive less for any extra stops or layovers the passenger would have to make.

The board would look like an airline Route Map, with a simple web of routes to and from a couple of 'hub' locations and several other airports. Each route would have a circled number along it relating to the 'distance' - 1/2/3 unit (roughly relating to hours of travel). There would also be an Income track like in Brass (or potentially a score track tied to it, as in Railroad Tycoon), and a Plane Level track indicating what size route your planes can use and how much it costs to improve them.

Turns would be pretty simple, along the lines of Ticket to Ride: Either you buy influence in an airport, you upgrade your planes, or you complete a ticket. Buying influence in an airport means placing a cube in a column of boxes by that airport on the game board, or if you already have a cube there, bumping it up a level relative to other cubes. This 'stack' of player cubes acts like a line where the player 'on top' of the stack has priority. It would probably cost a unit of money (or 2) to place a cube in an airport, and a unit of money to bump your cube up the line. Perhaps in one turn you are allowed to buy influence in 2 different airports, or three, or maybe you get 2 (3?) units of influence to spend wherever you like...

The upgrade action is simple - pay the indicated amount of money and move your marker to the next space in the Plane Level track.

Playing tickets is where the points are made. I imagine tickets with a printed value X on them. Income for playing the ticket would be equal to that value X, less the "cost" of the trip, where "cost" is the sum total of all Distances on routes used, as well as any Layovers (1 unit for your cube at the airport, and 1 unit for each cube ahead of yours in line). After a ticket is played, the player's cube at each airport used is either moved to the bottom of the queue, or removed from the board entirely.

I feel like the cost description wasn't clear, so here's an example or two:
I have a ticket which has origin LAX and Destination PHX. There is a route between L.A. and Phoenix which is distance 1 (has a 1 in the Distance circle). My cube is 2nd from the top at LAX and at the top in PHX. The "cost" is 2 (at LAX) + 1 (Dist) + 1 (at PHX) = 4. Perhaps the printed value (which I was calling X) on the ticket was 6... I'd earn income of 6-4=2, so I would move my marker 2 spaces on the income track. The minimum possible cost for that trip would be 3, if my cube were on top at both airports. In that case I'd increase my income by 3.

I'm not sure this is a complete game as is, but as a main mechanic I think it might be solid. I'd like to think about it some more and see what else could go into the game. I feel like there ought to be more to it, but then when I look at what games are popular coming out right now - Stone Age, Ming Dynasty, Aquaretto... I see simplistic games, not complicated ones. So I'm trying not to get too complicated with the design of this one. To me, Stone Age is a "light filler" type of game. To a lot of people it's a "meaty strategy" game. I have to remember to keep that in mind when considering a design...

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