Board Game Review

Budget Airlines, The Game! (Overbooked)

This review is also aerodynamically available on Zatu here!

Budget airlines are both a blessing on a curse to those who need them. They are cheap and efficient, but crowded and lack basic amenities. It’s a double edged sword. Sure, everyone who could would fly first class every time! Who doesn’t want hot towels, leg room and peanuts? But, that may cost double the holiday itself! Do you fly in style but remortgage your house, or deal with the crying child and cold food? Well… Overbooked by Jumbo Games lets you run that budget airline how you see fit. The game is a pattern recognition, pattern placement game for 2-4 players that takes a lot of thinking and planning.

Now this airport where your plane is located is… Strange. Passengers have some very odd requests and some must be placed in specific manners to score for you. Simply being on the plane isn’t good enough for every traveller! There are requirements for children and couples, but luckily every other passenger just wants to sit with people of matching tee colours. (For a budget airline, the demands of passengers are very specific!)

To kick off, every player takes their own plane on which to place passengers and 8 dinner tokens. Each turn, players take turns to take cards from the luggage conveyor to determine which passengers to place. The passengers must be placed in the pattern on the card onto the plane. The conveyor is made up of several sections. To take from the first section is free, for every section after that you must pay a dinner token and place it on the skipped cards. These then become available to any players who may wish to take said cards, increasing their options later on.

Placing the dice passengers is easy to start, but to ensure you score for them is tricky. The passengers have certain conditions to score and some need to be used in specific ways.

  • White – These are children and must be fully surrounded orthogonally to score but don’t score if next to another child.
  • Red – These are couples and must be sat orthogonally from another red.
  • Blue/yellow/green – These are groups of people who need to be sat in clusters, scoring more for having the most of one colour in a cluster.

When placing the passengers, you may encounter some problems… Groups of children? A love triangle of couples? A random rugby player amongst an elderly expedition? Or worse! Not enough seats… This can be problematic and can mean that you’ve trapped yourself. So what can you do? Easy fix. Kick someone off the plane. Old or young, get them off and replace them! If you were to place one passenger onto another’s space, you remove the previous and replace them. Unfortunately, the previous passenger will haunt you (not literally) and will sit in the Overbooked area of your board until the end of the game.

Overbooking a passenger is probably best used as a last ditch effort, although options may not be vast in the later stages of the game. As soon as one passenger colour is empty, everyone gets a final turn up to the round startee and then the game ends. Players then tot up their scores and acquire points based on the score guide. They also double the totals of their highest clusters of green, blue or yellow passengers if they beat their opponents’. Finally, they reduce their points based on empty seats on their plane and on the passengers they booted off.

We found ourselves talking throughout the game, discussing tactics, needs, but mostly complaining about the mess we’d made! The game kicks off nicely with lots of options and an ease of access into placing passengers. You’ll play a few rugby players, find seats for children… it’ll be going well. However, there is then mass hysteria when 6 passengers want to sit in the shape of an L, all of which complicate your current patterns. You don’t want to put a couple on the end of an aisle! Where is that child going to go? Do you kick off the nice old lady with no score value or the the lovely looking couple? It’s a good thing it’s not a real plane!

The quirky artwork is very comical, with each plane being uniquely illustrated with oddities and hidden bits. However, the true winner is the fact the plane boards are double sided! We played 4 player games and filled our planes easily, but the flip side is a wider plane for 2-3 players! This meant we were able to still accrue high point scores and passengers ran out when you expected them to.

Needing to make use of dinner tokens to acquire more appealing cards adds a resource management element to the game. It’s a small one, very minor, but you’ll completely understand why. The first card might be awful… two children on one card! So you splash out and spend 3 tokens to get the last one on the belt. The next two players do the same… Suddenly that first card has 3 dinner tokens on it and doesn’t look anywhere near as bad! Eventually one player has most the tokens and you’re forced to take everyone’s leftover cards. You’ve got to manage that currency!

On the other hand, if you’re that player with the small ready meal empire, you’ll be full of choice! It’s a good feeling! Plus, every 2 dinner tokens counts as one point at the end of the game so bask in those poor quality meals. And then when people are forced to choose the first card, they’ll be forced to think, too! This will inevitable make them question what they’re actually trying to achieve. Anyone can stick passengers on a plane, and there are no consequences for not matching patterns, but your score will suffer. This game requires a surprising amount of thought, take it lightly and it’ll catch you out!

The game runs very smoothly in terms of its handling. You take a card, move the belt down, restock the card, check for empty piles… You can’t really get it wrong! What you can get wrong is your passenger placement. This is where the game’s handling becomes tricky: the human side. Some people see patterns naturally and are able to score amazingly in this game, it works for them! Others, like me, need to plan way ahead and establish what sorts of cards they’ll aim to get. And the rest of the people will place 4 cards, panic, and overbook half their plane!

The game has a few variants within it too to keep things spicy. The standard, vanilla play is simply place passengers onto the plane to score the most. More confident players can utilise the symbols on the cards to change how the game is played and best utilise effects. Absolute madmen can use the dark passport deck, which no longer places passengers in small clusters. This deck requires you to place passengers in specific seats across the whole plane!

The set up, set down of the game could be messy if you let it be. There are lots of individual tokens for the passengers, and you could baggy these up. Jumbo provide a cardboard build insert to store things which works well, but I would worry about storing it sideways with this. Still, I’ve not yet had any messy box openings (for now!).

When we blindly unboxed overbooked, we expected a ridiculously quirky, yet fun, pattern placement game. The game delivers. The components make sense to the game, it’s themed excellently and made well, and the game doesn’t ever leave you guessing. Again, the only faults we found in routine were human error. If we could recommend you do one thing it’s baggy the tokens, but honestly, that’s preference! So should you feel the need to run your own budget airline, love to control the smallest things like people’s seating arrangements, or love a good pattern builder, this one’s for you! So pack your bags, get into groups according to shirt colour, and enjoy your flight!