Transport and route building have become common staples as board game themes, and at both ends of the spectrum in game weight and complexity. At one end we have a plethora of relatively simple 'gateway' games like Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder) while at the other we have a whole sub-genre of highly complex 18XX games that merge route building with stock market manipulation. You might think there's little room for any new take on this genre. You'd be wrong...
Played competitively, Rafa Dawid's Connecting Flights (Bazzite Games) has 2–5 players take on the role of airline managers. Played over 10 rounds, players are recruiting passengers and building routes by buying planes and airport facilities or landing rights. You'll also have to obtain the fuel trucks needed to keep your planes in the air; tho', in a very modern twist, you can also splash out on electric planes that never need fuel trucks. Unlike the vast majority of route building games, routes aren't predetermined on the board: even the passengers who insist on travelling business class seem to be remarkably vague about their intended destinations - specifying only the continent that they want to fly to. It's up to the players to build their own routes, both within and between continents, by buying the cards representing airports.
You'll earn money for conveying passengers and, optimally, you'll want to connect flights (ie: chain routes) together so the same airport can be used in a round as both the destination for one route and the starting airport for another. You'll then spend what you earn to get additional planes, fuel trucks, airports and passengers. But, watch out - passengers may be relaxed about their precise destinations but they are implacably insistent on the star ratings of the aircraft and arrival lounges...
Essentially, Connecting Flights is a game about optimising the resources you obtain, but it can involve quite cutthroat competition. The core mechanic for adding airports and passengers is via auction. And there are no giveaway bargains to be had: the starting bid has to be at least the face value of the card. Players each have a different special ability or bonus, and Events cards, government grants and taxes, as well as the possibility of 'sabotage' of rivals, all help to shake up each round while also providing a catch-up mechanism to keep everyone invested in the game even if they are lagging behind the apparent leader.
Connecting Flights tho' isn't just a competitive game. Also included are the rules, cards and playing board for a solo and fully co-operative (two-player) game. In place of the auctions and events, this involves placing out meeples to reflect passenger demand, so that the colour of the meeple reflects the colour on the board of the continent to which they want to fly. Your ultimate objective is to get all the passengers home within the game's 10 rounds. Building on the resource management and optimisation of the competitive game, this coop version is, at its hardest setting, a fiendishly challenging puzzler.
The transport theme may be well-travelled but, in Connecting Flights, Bazzite Games have produced both a competitive and cooperative game that feels very different. Both modes are potentially 'brain burners' but neither comes with an overly heavy rules overhead: tho' Connecting Flights challenges players, it's certainly not inaccessible. This is a game that will keep experienced gamers on their toes but it can still be played and enjoyed even by those who've previously tackled nothing heavier than Ticket to Ride.
Connecting Flights is expected to land shortly on Kickstarter. If you click here, you'll be able to link to the campaign as soon as their departure gate gets listed.