Updated: Dec 6, 2019
Designed by Daryl Chow, Jumbo Games' edition of Overbooked is a revamp of a game originally released on Kickstarter by Randomskill. The Jumbo edition boasts some striking cartoon art by Gyom. This edition is, by all accounts, a significant step up from the KS version of the game.
The premise in Overbooked is that players are managing airlines. You each have your own board representing your plane, with seats in three aisles if playing with 1–3 and two aisles if playing with the full complement of 4. There are five categories of passengers. Those represented by green chits are senior citizens who are travelling together and want to be seated orthogonally adjacent to those in their own group. Likewise the friends travelling together (yellow chits) and the rugby team (blue chits). Players will score for these passengers according to the largest size of group of each colour they seat together. Different scoring rules apply to the red chits as these represent passengers in love who want to be seated in couples; as the rules explain 'three's a crowd' so these passengers score the player nothing where more than two are seated together in orthogonally adjacent positions. Finally the white chits represent children who are not allowed to travel alone: they only score points at the end of the game if all the seats adjacent to them are occupied by an adult.
Players take passengers by selecting one of the four cards displayed in the departure hall tableau. These show various combinations of colours and the layout of how they must be seated. You can always take for free the card nearest the boarding gate but if you take any other card you have to place dinner vouchers on any cards you pass over. Dinner vouchers are therefore a currency in the game, and every player starts with 6. Cards and the vouchers on them slide along to fill any vacant slots. If you take a card with dinner vouchers on it, you take those vouchers. This is a tried and tested system that will be familiar, for example, to those who have enjoyed Century: Spice Road (Plan B). We tended to find in Overbooked that, for the first half of the game, players were almost always happy just to take the end card; it was only as their planes were getting full that players started to become much more selective about their choice of card.
If you take a card that results in you positioning passengers where others have already been seated, the original passengers are considered to be 'overbooked' and are moved to the aircraft steps. As you might expect, all overbooked passengers score negative points at the end of the game.
The game ends when all players have had an equal number of turns after any colour of chits runs out. It can therefore be a deliberate strategy to try to run down a colour at the point where you think you have a big enough lead. There's strategy too over your use of the aisles: with a couple of exceptions, passengers for each card cannot be split across different aisles, and adjacency is always reckoned separately for each aisle.
Theme aside, Overbooked is essentially a pattern recognition puzzle game. The rules suggest a 30 minute playing time but we found games tended to run quite a bit longer. Although the game plays very quickly at first, it slows dramatically at the point when players start to be much more deliberate about their choices of card. Indeed, despite its simple and straightforward rules, this is a game where players can succumb to quite lengthy AP (Analysis Paralysis), to the extent that you might want to think about introducing a timer for players' turns.
Overbooked is very scaleable. The basic game can be tough enough but there are three levels of 'expansion' built in. Symbols in the corner of each of the cards aren't used in the basic game but they add further dimension to game play because they allow manipulation of the passenger seating, albeit at the risk of further AP. Black passport cards also add extra difficulty as do the optional Event cards that impose extra penalties and introduce additional opportunities to earn bonus points.
Jumbo have done a great job in the production of Overbooked. The art is attractive, if perhaps a little busy, and we had a chuckle at the almost entirely unnecessary control tower first player marker. Turn order doesn't alter in this game, so this elaborate cardboard construction merely serves to show who took the first turn so that players can ensure that every player has an equal number of turns.