Pan Am Board Game Review – Funko Games / Prospero Hall

Pan Am Board Game Review – Funko Games / Prospero Hall

 

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. 

Overview

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. 


Mainplay

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.    

Winning

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.  

Looks 


Retro with an almost art deco vibe running through the board design all the way to the individual destination cards. Pan Am aims to be product of the time it is set in and it does a real impressive job of making you feel like you are playing a game designed in the past. I’m not sure if it was the intention but I wonder the if design brief specifically aimed to steer away from making it appear too modern considering that Pan Am closed its door in the early nineties. I can’t comment on the looks without mentioning the planes that you physically get to place on the board that just add that extra bit of wonder bling. They’re a delightful little touch that could have been simply tokens and it’s hard to not pick them up and play with them.  Everything from the money tokens to the share certificates shows a high level of quality aimed at Pan Am which is pleasantly surprising for a game you are likely to see on the shelves of your local supermarket.


Learning  

Well laid out with clear examples and explanations peppered through the rule book, the teach on Pan Am is relatively straight forward though it might take a few rounds to fully get your head around everything. The player mats have a break down reminder of what to do on each round, though a summary on the back page of the rulebook would have been welcome to explain some of the trickier mechanics. It is very much a teach and play kind of game and if you want to get up and running quickly, then Rodney Smith does an excellent walkthrough video to help you take to the skies quicker.

Timing 

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. 

Final Thoughts

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. 

Any Tips? 

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.


The majority of the games that we are play are going to take a reasonable number of sessions and playthroughs to fully understand every possibility that they offer. We hope this write up gives you an idea of whether or not this game is something that you will consider playing or even add to your collection. Our Six Degrees of Expectation have been written to make it easier for you to find out what is important to you as a player. Even if we don’t like something, hopefully it helps you to decide if it is something that you should find out more about. We always suggest you check out a gameplay video to give you a better understanding of the game as it is played. 

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