"To be honorable and just is our only defense against men without honor or justice." -Diogenes of Sinope
"Today is the yesterday you won't be able to remember tomorrow" -Pinkwater
Take Off is a quick, inexpensive card game. Included in the regular deck-of-cards-sized box are two decks of cards (44 Aircraft cards and 18 Route cards), four cards with player-aid material, and instructions in German, French, and semi-English. (In a card game I would translate Ablagestapel, for example, as discard pile rather than deposition stack ...)
The Aircraft cards show one or two airplanes flying against a partly cloudy sky - not exciting, but not ugly. The Route cards are a bit ugly, alas: they try to resemble plane tickets, I guess, which are not known for their beauty. Still, they're functional. The Aircraft cards have no German on them - just one or two planes and one or two numbers (in red, blue, or green). The Route cards do have some German, but are color-coded and you don't really need to know the German. They do have German spellings of various cities, such as Kairo, Moskau, Tokio, but all are easy to figure out except possibly Kapstadt, which we call Cape Town.
In particular, a Route card contains:
* A list of three cities which comprise the route,
* A point value for the route, ranging from 3-7 points,
* Ignorable verbiage to make it look like a ticket,
* A color-coded description of the route length:
... * Green routes are short distance (Kurzstrecke),
... * Red routes are medium distance (Mittelstrecke)
... * Blue routes are long distance (Langstrecke),
So What Kind of Game Is It?
It's an auction game, pure and simple. It plays quickly - we call it a filler game - and doesn't stress your brain too much, yet still rewards careful play.
The basic premise, I guess, is that the players represent airlines bidding for the right to fly certain routes. The bidding is done with planes: the player who commits the most planes to a route wins the route and the points it represents.
Each route lists three cities. There are nine different cities, and each city appears on two green routes, two red routes, and two blue routes. All routes (and the cities they are composed of) are listed on the player aid cards.
The more routes you collect with the same city, the more efficient you are - you're creating hubs. Thus, there's a point bonus for collecting multiple cards with the same city, also detailed on the player aid cards.
There are only 18 routes to be auctioned off - once all are auctioned, players count up the scores on the routes they have won, then add up their bonuses for multiple cards with the same cities, and the highest point value wins. The rulebook includes a score sheet which some kind soul has enlarged and put in the files section of BGG. Use it, if you play this game - it makes it much easier to score!
A Typical Turn
Each player is dealt seven Aircraft cards and three Route cards. The first player offers up a Route for auction, and the player on his left opens the bidding on it. Bidding continues around the table until only one player hasn't dropped out. The winning player must discard Aircraft cards with a value equal to (or greater than) the amount he bid, then he collects the Route card, leaving it face up on the table in front of him. The player who offered the Route up for bid takes another Route card to bring his hand back to three cards, and the next player offers up a Route card for auction.
This continues until there are no more Route cards in the draw pile, at which point players offer up, one at a time, the Route cards in their hands. When the 18th Route card has been auctioned off, the game is over.
Notice there's nothing in there about drawing Aircraft cards. That's because you don't replenish your hand of Aircraft cards until all players have four or fewer Aircraft cards! This is a clever rule which prevents a lucky Aircraft draw from dominating the game.
Aircraft cards range in value from 2 to 7, but some cards have two numbers on them, which can total up to 13. But that's misleading, as you never use both numbers on a card - it's always one or the other, as they are in two different colors.
Each Route card has a color: Red, Blue, or Green. Aircraft cards that you use to bid on a given Route card must match the Route card's color. Thus, I may have three blue 7s and four red 6s, but all that power is worthless if you offer a green Route up for auction - I can't even bid on it.
You don't get change from an Aircraft card, so if I bid "4" and your lowest card of the appropriate color is a "7", you may as well jump the bid right up to "7" to keep me from saying it first.
You can combine cards, but they all have to be of the same color. Thus, if I have a blue 4, a blue 5, and a blue 6, I can pay 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, or 15 to win a blue Route card. If you bid 16, I'm out of the running. So I might start off with a bid of "4", then raise to "9" if you bid 6, 7, or 8, then raise to "11" if you bid 10, and so on.
How much you bid depends on the card offered up for auction, of course. You not only have to weigh how many points it's worth by itself, but what it does for your "connections". That is, if I already have two New York cards, I'm very interested in a third NY card. In this game, it pays to concentrate: for example, you'd love to get five NY and five Los Angeles and five London cards and would be willing to give up any pretense at going to Tokyo in order to do that.
But you can't just let your opponents have that Tokyo card for two Aircraft points! So often you have to bid them up a little, hoping they'll actually stay in the auction, just to make it more expensive for them ...
The Aircraft cards with two numbers always have two different colors. They're very flexible - but it hurts when you actually have to pay with them.
When bidding, you have to weigh the Aircraft cards in your hand, the Route cards left in your hand, what's being auctioned off at the moment, what color cards others have played since the last refilling of Aicraft cards ... and so on. Yet all that doesn't really paralyze your thinking - it's a pretty quick game.
The game is listed as being playable with 2-4 players. Yet we found the two-player version to be lackluster. You have too much information.
Therefore, when we play two-player, we shuffle the Route cards, then remove four of them, sight unseen, before beginning play. Thus, you may have three Route cards dealt to you which all have Delhi on them, but you may spend a lot to collect them only to find out the other three Delhi cards aren't in the deck this game, so you won't get the highest bonus you might have ... We like it better that way!
Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?
Some people simply don't like auction games.
As auction games go, it's light. There's no agonizing as you'll find in Medici, for example.
It's quick (20-30 minutes), and that may not be what you want in a game.
There's not a lot of planning you can do, beyond the order you offer your Route cards for auction and judging which cities you need to save your various colors for. So though you can see ahead that you have a green Route to offer up that you want, and so should save your green cards for, when someone else offers up a green Route that you also want, you pretty much have to bid on it ...
The components are not as beautiful as many German games. The cards are sturdy and plastic-coated, all right - no quality problems there. They're just not exciting to look at.
The English rules take a little figuring out, and sometimes you even have to resort to the original German and use your own dictionary when a term just doesn't make sense. But this is minor - you really can figure out how to play once you realize that a deposition stack has nothing to do with a lawsuit.
I like it. We actually play it fairly often as a quick filler - either at the end of an evening, or while waiting for dinner to cook, or because someone has to leave in half an hour and there's not enough time to play El Grande. While not deep or taxing, it's a good, light auction game.
I don't understand why it rated so poorly on BGG - sure, it's no Medici, but it's not a bad auction game. It's my favorite game published by Adlung, not, I admit, that that's saying much ...
I've had this deck of cards for years and have finally gotten around to playing it. In the early euro-gaming days when Tigris & Euphrates and El Grande were brand new, I was buying a lot of the little just-a-deck-of-cards games. Most of these got stored on the shelf. The more dazzling big box games got all the playing time. But with game costs getting so high, I started revisiting my just-a-deck-of-cards games that had cost me less than $5. I had to struggle with the TAKE OFF rules a little, but once I got them figured out, I found it to be a very good game--very good. I'm hoping that my other just-a-deck-of-cards games turn out to be just as good.