• Number of Plays: 5
  • Game Length: 30 – 60 minutes
  • Mechanics: Pick up and Delivery
  • Release Year: 2018
  • Designer: Tim Fowers
  • Artist: Ryan Goldsberry
  • Publisher: Fowers Games

It’s hard to imagine the mind of a person who sees a busy airport, full of delayed planes and the slow seething anger of the unwashed masses and thinks to himself “I can make a game out of this”. My friends, let me introduce you to Tim Fowers.

Tim Fowers is the only board game designer my wife knows by name. He’s designed 4 games in her top 50 games of all time (Paperback, Hardback, and Burgle Bros and Now Boarding). His continued collaboration with artist Ryan Goldsberry and re-use of characters has established a familiar aesthetic when a new game hits the market that makes everything feel somewhat familiar.

My wife and I tried Now Boarding for the first time at the local board game cafe, unaware that Tim Fowers new game had been shipped and delivered (I had saw it on Kickstarter but passed on backing it at the time). Knowing very little about how the game was played before hand, I found the rulebook to be adequate tool for teaching the game with only minor confusion during the set-up process.

I don’t fault the rulebook for our confusion though. It can be difficult to convey concepts for a real time game using the written word. The game has a “STOP! Check out our How to Play Video!” inserted in the box, but watching a video on your phone isn’t the best option when you’re in a noisy cafe.

Concepts learned and game prepared, we launched into our first play of Now Boarding. At first the morning flights were easy affairs, single passengers going directly to their destination, no one waiting for longer than a turn at their home airport, and even able to take advantage of some good weather on the way.

Shortly into the afternoon phase of the game, the pace began to quicken, at one moment there was a single person waiting on the eastern seaboard, but half a dozen customers were angrily stewing in their delays all along the west coast. a concerted effort saw these passengers picked up, but with all the planes on the right side of the board, suddenly the left was filling up with a pair of travelers at each gate, and not enough time to pick them up before their anger boiled over and complaints were filed.

Now Boarding does a real time coop game very well with some interesting mechanics. In between every real time phase of the game you deal out the next set of passengers to their home airport, face down. At this point you can sit and discuss what your plan of attack is, but you only have half the information you really need. Once the real time phase begins you flip over the face down passengers and reveal their destinations. It’s at that moment you realize that the person you were going to pick up needs to go in the complete opposite direction, and the airport you’re passing through has someone that wants to go to your destination! Too bad your plan is full. You couldn’t just… kick someone off the plane because a new customer is slightly more convenient, could you?

Yes. Yes you can. In fact, if you want to win, expect some sudden layovers. It feels rude to jettison a passenger, but seeing as how people only accumulate anger when they’re idle in an airport it makes sense to juggle your customers between planes. After all, once you’re on the plane and moving you just feel so much better, even if your plane isn’t bound for your final destination.

All in all, Tim Fowers has designed a fantastic real time coop game (two of my favourite game genres mixed together). Our initial thoughts is the game is a little easy, we’ve won 80% of our games, and one of our losses was due to us having people complain at 3 anger, not 4. We have started introducing the MVP cards which add some wrinkles such as crying babies (people get double anger), unattended minors (can’t fly alone), and nervous fliers (can’t fly through weather). These slight wrinkles can throw a wrench into your smoothly running engine and cause a small freakout on my side of the table. I would like to see an expansion added to the game to create some variability, perhaps another country, or adding a ‘first class, business, and coach’ section to your planes offering more rewards for prompt delivery.

TL:DR – Real time Co-op pick up and deliver. If you don’t like any of those words this isn’t going to change your mind. If you do enjoy those, this is likely to be a hit.