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Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant from Mayfair Games

By Tim Kidwell
Published: February 6, 2013
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Product: Written by English game designer Martin Wallace, Aeroplanes takes 3–5 players, ages 14 and older, and puts them in charge of a fledgling airline. Through three eras of aviation, the players must balance resources and profitability while expanding their business empires across Europe, Africa, Asia, and into the Americas.

The game consists of over 300 cardboard pieces representing airports, passengers, advantages and bonds; 46 aeroplane cards, each with a unique aircraft; three black risk dice and one white first player die; five wooden victory point tokens, two black game tokens, a cloth bag for the passenger tiles and a large game board.

For a game with as many loose pieces as Aeroplanes has, a plastic insert to hold the pieces would have been nice. After I punched out the cardboard tokens, I used seven re-sealable snack bags to group and hold the pieces to ease setup. 

Game play: Because there are so many pieces, initial setup takes a while. After players are familiar with the game, it will go quicker, but it is still intensive.

Play is deceptively easy. The game is divided into three eras. At the beginning of each era, players receive an allotment of money, then perform actions, score and then do some minor upkeep, such as replenishing passenger tiles. 

The money a player receives at the beginning of an era must last him or her throughout the entire era. Once everyone has their money, players must perform one action of an available five: buy and aeroplane card, place airport tiles, claim a passenger tile, buy advantage tile or take a subsidy. Players continue taking actions during an era until all of the subsidies are gone. The player to take the black token from the subsidy box triggers the end of the era, when victory points are tallied and the next era begins.

Players must decide which planes to purchase depending upon their carrying capacity and how many airports the plane allows them to build. But if you have too much carrying capacity and don’t fill it with passengers, you aren’t profitable. However, if you don’t have enough space, you can’t carry all the passengers you want, nor can you make those big flights to destinations on other continents.

Victory points are determined in three ways. The first is the profitability of a player’s airline. The three players who best utilized the passenger capacity of the planes they own score a set number of points. Second, points are awarded to the two players who have the most airports in Europe, Africa and Asia. Finally, some planes and passenger tokens have victory point values that are tallied during final scoring at the end of the game.

Materially, Aeroplanes is a beautiful game. It does have a lot of parts and no insert to put them into, so you may want to be upfront with your customers on this point. Better that than them coming back and giving you some guff about it.

Conceptually, the game relies on a mix of strategy and chance that is best left to veteran gamers. Teenagers can grasp the concept, but the subject matter — building a globe-engulfing passenger airline — probably won’t resonate as well as it does with a more, shall we say, mature vintage?

Martin Wallace has garnered quite a following in gaming circles. Try creating a display featuring his games, such as Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, Steam: Rails to Riches, Railroad Tycoon, and of course, Automobiles. Turn it into an event: Run demos of Martin Wallace games. For everyone who participates in a demo, they get a coupon for 10% off a purchase of one of Wallace’s games.

Product: Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Stock no.: 4531
MSRP: $50
Availability: Alliance Games Distributors


  • Best for experienced gamers
  • Play duration of 2-plus hours
  • Requires strategic thinking