Paging Patterson, Party of Five

by David Short
published by Alderac Entertainment Group

Planes is a mancala-inspired game by the extremely talented David Short (we're both big fans!), published by Alderac Entertainment Group. It's one of thier "Destination Fun" trilogy of games along with "Trains" and "Automobiles" You and up to three other players are moving your party of five cubes around the airport, trying to get everyone onto the right plane and earn yourself victory points. Like real airports, you don’t start out near your gate and must navigate around other (annoying) travelers who are mucking up the corridors.  In fact, if too many of them stop at a particular time (picture everyone standing there looking at the Departures board), a blockage happens and a cute little orange traffic cone halts all traffic temporarily.  But, this airport is a modern, interesting airport, with dining experiences and gift shops, and you might also gain points by having your party members “visit” those locations before they jet off.
Leaving on a jet plane...
How we came to play this game: 
Susan was given this game by her AMNH board game collaborator, Barry Joseph, who snagged a couple of copies at the NY Toy Fair back in 2015.

This reminds us of:
Susan: Because of the main mancala mechanic, I guess you could say “Five Tribes,” but it’s a rather unique game with how it blends that movement mechanic with goal achievement simultaneously.

Mike: Yeah obviously it’s gonna give Five Tribes vibes BUT it also reminds me of a favorite aspect of "Tiny Epic Westerns" and Susan’s own "Gutsy" where key strategic moves can be made by sacrificing one benefit printed on a card for a benefit of another kind that is also represented on the same card. This positive take on a “Morton’s Fork” mechanic is gaining popularity in board game design lately, and I’m fan!

Game art:
Susan: It’s classic AEG - simple, yet effective. This game has a bunch of symbols and the starter side of the board has some blank spaces - I feel like these could have been used to provide some legends. The player aids, which look like old-fashioned boarding passes (remember those? Before we had barcodes on our phones?) are very snazzy.

Mike: The airport layout is inspired. It’s very cool thing to have built the game UI around and I dig the story it tells. It’s not incredibly detailed, it's functional, utilitarian even, but it gets the job done.
Just get me to the gate!
Best part:
Susan: I really like the way that players have to make strategic choices between using the cards as either, actions - to help them adjust their movement to their advantage - or to save them to use them as goals to score victory points. And I also really like the mechanic of having to balance out also moving the neutral cubes to try to get yourself more of those cards.

Mike: Oh, I didn’t see that you mentioned this in my first read-through of your comments! Whoops! Oh well, as I have mentioned above I am also a fan of this but I get the most satisfaction in moving opponents pieces out of optimal boarding spaces. Soooo satisfying! Getting to move opponent’s pieces is something that’s not built in nearly enough to game design!

Worst part: 
Susan: I have no idea why the game includes so many traffic cones and I think the design is a little bland.

Mike: I’ve always kind of felt this game missed an opportunity to have “plane meeples”, allowing me to fly around the board making jet sounds as I do it!! (This is a key point of fun in AEG’s Automobiles with the cars!) I mean the game is called PLANES after all!!

I don't know, maybe they shoulda called it...

Mistakes we made:
Susan: I’m pretty sure that the first time that we played, we didn’t quite get that if we were playing as red and blue, for example, that the other two colors were acting as neutral and so still needed to be moved and could be boarded onto their planes to get to draw cards.

Mike: We may have played 3 times before we realized that you MUST have one of your own cubes in hand when you pick up at a gate! And if I’m being honest, it happens still at least once or twice a game (tho now we always catch it)

Play again?
Susan: Absolutely.  We got this game a while ago and just pulled it out again to show Susan’s fiancé. He picked it up pretty quickly and it was a good way to show someone how a mancala-based game works. It’s relatively quick.  I think this will be a staple for years to come

Mike: Well I guess Susan broke some news there! Yep, she’s off the market everybody! Our Susan’s getting hitched! Congrats Matt and Susan! (It’s still just TWO Damn Board though, but he can play with us every so often!).
That damn rock better not scratch any game boards!

Now boarding zone 1
Where’s the rest of my party?
Stopped by an orange cone!

Times played:  More than 10 less than 100

Game record – I mean, I’m not exactly keeping score but there is a rule of thumb that’s safe to bank on if you’re in any doubt:
 Outta the mouths of babes!

Is dope! 
So go buy one here: