One of the interesting things to happen to the Funko range of games in the last couple of years is the abundance of intellectual properties they have dived into and how they have started to develop a series of games that try not to offer a simple coat of paint over some even simpler mechanics. We’ve seen everything from Back to the Future to Top Gun and even some more obscure properties like Rear Window. Most surprising to me is the development of a light economic route building game under the theme of the ill fated American Airline Pan Am, a company that ceased trading in 1991 after a series of unfortunate events.
Pan Am centres around developing airline routes around the world as a airplane operator and then trying to sell these routes on to the Pan Am corporation. The main mechanics revolve around hand management mixed with a touch of route and area control as you try to build up valuable networks that you can sell on.
When you first look at the map, you would be forgiven in thinking that you weren’t playing some kind of variation of Matt Leacock’s classic Pandemic. For those who have played this entry level classic game, then there are going to be a few of the mechanics that will feel very familiar and help you to settle in to how the main parts of the gameplay work. Each of the seven rounds of the game commences with an event card that will normally have some kind of small effect on the gameplay and also set the share price for Pan Am shares for this round. In the first couple of rounds when money is tight then the share price won’t seem to matter, but as round progress, especially towards the end, the announcement of the share price is more than likely to elicit some kind of emotional response. You then move on to taking turns playing engineers, which act as your worker placements, though unlike some worker games I’ve played, the engineers are placed on a bidding track and remove previous workers placed there at the cost of increasing the price paid for that particular spot. Place an engineer that you can’t afford and you’ll have to sell your hard earned Pan Am shares so there’s always a balancing act between controlling your finances and building up your airplane routes. Your engineers will grant you airports to build or destinations to claim, or you can purchase planes that will allow you to cover longer routes. The overall plan here is to create as many routes as possible under your control so that at next purchase phase Pan Am will start to buy routes from you for a high return. Filling your pockets is vitally important as the final action of the round is the chance to purchase shares in Pan Am. Which is the ultimate aim of the game.
After seven rounds the player who owns the most shares in Pan Am is declared the winner and then is allowed to run around the room making airplane noises.
Pan Am sticks with a strict seven rounds which helps to limit the maximum amount of time a game is likely to last. Even with a bigger player count you’ll be sitting at the table for a maximum of about ninety minutes to two hours. Though beware of those friends who suffer from analysis paralysis as the ability to kick other players off the bidding tracks can force them to stop and reconsider their next moves. The only increases because of the player count as it is difficult to have any simultaneous play due to the worker placement nature of the game.
This is one of the first games in the board game range that I’ve played in the Prospero Hall / Funko collaboration team and honestly I was actually surprised by the depth and complexity on offer here. Pan Am is running a few mechanic systems at once including the route building, worker placement and even a very light stocks mini game included in the package. For those who have played Pandemic there’s going to be a few familiar mechanisms, especially the use of destination cards when you are building a route, but Pan Am runs with enough of its own ideas to separate it from the Leacock behemoth. Unlike that classic, Pan Am has opted for a set round finish line, which at seven rounds will seem quite short for those playing the game for the first time, as it can take a couple of rounds to get used to the various actions on offer. Unlike other worker placement games I’ve played, I like the fact that you’ve got the option to quite literally boot another player off of their spot as it can lead to quick decisions needing to be made if plans are scuppered. As the game progresses the earning potential increases fairly quickly and it becomes a balancing act of buying shares or keeping money back to bid for additional planes. There’s a glorious crescendo as you approach the end game and you can see other players making the difficult decisions whether to lay that one last route or wait and buy shares to hopefully triumph. Pan Am is a pleasant high flying surprise that offers extra leg room and the need for additional baggage to carry the extra thinking you might need. Though I’m extremely disappointed that no one in the design team is credited in the game considering the mile high service they’ve provided here.
You can’t have the bigger routes without the bigger planes so look at getting them on the tarmac as quickly as you can as it will pay dividends in the future.
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
If you would like to support more written pieces on the blog then please consider backing us on Patreon. www.patreon.com/werenotwizards