Reviewed by Herb Levy
PAN AM (Funko Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 60 minutes; $34.99)
Ever since the Wright Brothers took to the skies in 1903, airplanes and air travel have captured the imagination of the world. This fueled the growth of airlines and, from the 1930s to the 1960s, one of the most glamorous was Pan Am. In this new design from the design team of Propero Hall, that glamour is revisited in the appropriately titled Pan Am.
As you might suspect, Pan Am airlines is the focus of the game. Players control independent fledgling airlines and attemp to build routes to generate income and, if they are lucky and smart, sell those routes to Pan Am for cash so they can buy stock in Pan Am. The player with the most Pan Am stock when the game ends, will be the winner!
All players choose a color and gets the play mat (and income marker), 5 airports, engineers (the number depending on the number of players) and planes in that color. There are four types of planes in the game: Trimotors (with a flight range of 1), Clippers (range of 2), Cruisers (range of 3) and Jets (range of 4). Players begins with 2 Trimotors and 1 Clipper. (The rest of the planes remain in their supply.) Players also draw 2 Destination cards and 1 Directive and start the game with 12 money.
The board is a stylized representation of the world with various locations linked by air routes. Routes have a range to them, marked by numbers from 1 to 4. In addition, there are five areas on the board (labelled A, B, C, D and E) players will visit in order to do various actions as well as a track to chart the price of Pan Am stock The game is played in seven rounds and Event cards (four each for rounds 1 through 7) are mixed and one for each round chosen to make an Event card deck.
Destination cards showing the region and particular city in that region are shuffled and four placed on the board (in area B). Directive cards (chance cards but all good) are shuffled and placed in area E.
Each of the 7 rounds follows the same procedure. First, the top Event card is drawn. This card will set the current price of Pan Am stock and provide a random event that may be good (sell a route to Pan Am or additional expansion – more on that later) or bad (lose money). Then, starting with the first player, players assign their engineers (think of them as “workers”) to any available space in the A, B, C, D or E areas on the board. In areas D and E, it is a first come, first served situation – but in A, B and C, you may find yourself forced to defend your position.
In the A, B, C areas, tracks require a money payment to do the action. A player going there can occupy any space on the track. Anyone else who wants to go there (and do that action) has to occupy a higher (and more expensive) position on that track, bumping the other player’s pawn back to that player. The bumped player may then return to that area and place the engineer again (at a higher step) OR simply reassign it elsewhere. When all players have placed all their engineers, areas are resolved.
The player with the highest bid on Area A may place one of his airports on any unclaimed city on the board. Players with high bids at Area B collect Destination cards. (There is no card limit.) Players with successful bids in Area C claim the appropriate planes from their stockpile and place it on their playmats where they are ready to be used. Area D allows a player to claim a route between two cities. You need landing rights in order to claim routes and landing rights may be gotten in several ways.
Placing an airport in a city gives you landing rights there. (It also increases your income by 1.) If you have a Destination card with that city’s name, you also have landing rights (and you keep the card). Discarding a card from the same region as that city gives you landing rights too. And, if you’re really desperate for a city, discarding TWO matching cards from ANY other region that match each other but not the region of the city you have you eye on, grants you landing rights as well.
When you have staked a claim in Area D and played (and discarded if need be) cards that give you landing rights, you may claim that matching route. This route is shown to belong to you by placing one of your planes (equal to or greater than the route distance) along the route. Your income also increases in value by the length of the claimed route. Now, Area E is resolved as players there take a Directive card (no limit on these either). These engineers remain there as this is the player order for the next round. With all player actions resolved, it’s time for Pan Am to get into the game.
At this point, Pan Am expands. The special Pan Am die is rolled. This is a six-sided die that shows one or more routes (using symbols matching routes on the board or the Pan Am logo). How many times the die is rolled is determined by the Event card of the round. Pan Am expands from Miami. (For variety, an alternate starting point suggested by the rules is Rome.) As Pan Am expands, it will buy any routes it comes across owned by a player paying anywhere from 5 to 14 dollars based on the route length. If the Pan Am logo is rolled, Pan Am will buy ANY route on the board!!! Now players collect their regular income (and remember, once you sell a route to Pan Am, the value of that route is subtracted from your income!) With money in hand, players may buy Pan Am stock.
Starting with the first player, each player may purchase as many stock shares as they wish at the current value on the Pan Am stock track. Once bought, stock may NOT be sold unless you run up an expense and have no money. (In that case, stock is sold for $2 LESS than its current value! Not a good idea!)
Play continues until seven rounds have been finished. The player with the most Pan Am stock is the winner! Tie? The money on hand is the tie-breaker! Still tied? Then victory is shared!
Pan Am comes with nicely molded airplanes of different sizes (and it was an excellent idea to have lines on the plane indicating its route distance capabilities). Cards are sturdy (although the Destination and Directive cards are a bit on the small size, albeit making it easier to fit on the board spaces, and the play “mat” is serviceable but a bit flimsy). Colors used are easy to differentiate too. High marks are given for keeping the iconic and eye-catching Pan Am logo on the box.
Game play utilizes the bidding mechanism seen in earlier releases such as Evo (Summer 2001 Gamers Alliance Report) and Vegas Showdown (Winter 2006 GAR) and it works well here too. In most games where stock buying is a key goal, players have a wide selection of investments to consider but here, Pan Am is the only game in town. While all players benefit as Pan Am grows, players benefit to different degrees and therein lies the challenge! As Pan Am expands, players can see where the next expansion may take place and plan accordingly. (Of course, one cannot be certain: dice rolls DO determine expansion!) Big money can be earned through longer routes but the longer distance planes cannot be bought until later in the game so preparation for completing those 3 and 4 routes (through airport placement and card holdings) is important.
It seems Funko is serious about making a serious entry into the burgeoning board game market and has made an auspicious start with Pan Am, a game that puts the fun in Funko. Although targeted for casual gamers (made more user-friendly with Event cards and die rolls adding a chance element to play), the game has more “meat on the bones” than the typical mass market regulars making it something engaging for more serious gamers too. So, if you’re looking to bridge the gap between casual and serious players, with Pan Am you can!- – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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