Air Baron Strategy:
Because this is a game playable with 2-6 players, the strategies employed will vary. The main goal for every player is the same – to achieve a certain level of market share points to win the game. Because the game varies due to amount of players, certain strategies run a greater risk. The table below shows the number of points (market share + dollars) to win the game.
Players Points to win
To obtain market share and money, players purchase airline spokes. The table below outlines each hub and the corresponding point values. In order to obtain majority control of a hub, a player must purchase over 50% of the hub. Because it’s easier to obtain majority control over small and cheaper hubs, the point values are correspondingly lower.
Hubs (Number of spokes in hub) Majority Control Value Full Dominance Value
New York (6) 60 120
Washington (4) 30 60
Atlanta (5) 50 100
Detroit (3) 20 40
Miami (3) 30 60
Chicago (4) 60 120
Dallas Ft. Worth (4) 40 80
Houston (3) 20 40
Denver (3) 20 40
Phoenix (3) 20 40
San Francisco (5) 40 80
Los Angeles (3) 50 100
Opening the game:
My opening strategy depends on 2 factors. 1 – my turn number and 2 – how much money I start with. It doesn’t matter how many players are in the game, those are the only two things I concern myself with. If I start early and have more than $5, I buy a hub worth at least $4. If I can get into LAX with San Diego for 5, I do that too. I can always buy $1 spokes with later turns if I don’t get my spoke pulled out. If I start late and I have more than $5 to start, I definitely go into fare wars and attack Dallas. Dallas is a hub you can win with only $7. The early jump in Market Share allows you to take a loan if things get rough and with the game just starting the number of chits in the cup is small so the odds of the Dallas chit getting pulled are better than they will be around round 10 and beyond. The game starts with 13 chits in the cup and at the end of round one there are only 18 chits (assuming no one wins multiple chits through fare wars).
If I have less than $5, I’m staying conservative if I’m going early or late. I’ll go for a $3 spoke somewhere so no matter what is pulled in the next two rounds I can always pick up a $1 spoke. I
Round 2 – I’m buying in an adjacent hub. If I buy in New York to open, I’m buying in DC, Detroit, or Miami. The spoke I buy is dependant on how much money I’ll have left after the buy. By round 3 I want to at least have $1. If I’ve gotten a payday or two, I’ll be likely to spend more money. My main rule is to try to buy bigger value properties early because of the odds they’ll get pulled.
Round 3 – I’m buying another adjacent hub. Buying in the same region trying to create a triangle of hubs. This will help later during takeover attempts.
During the middle rounds, my strategy is determined by the amount of money I’m sitting on. If the money allows, I’ll buy a jumbo jet in the early middle rounds and put it on one of my higher value spokes to try to earn double and also to earn money if the jumbo profit marker is pulled. It goes back to the theory that as long as there are fewer chits to pick, the odds of your chit getting pulled are better than they will be later in the game.
I will rarely attempt a takeover if there is a useful chit available and affordable to buy. I don’t want to complete a turn without putting at least one chit in the cup that will pay me and/or up my market share. Every turn should be a step forward. A turn where you pay money and don’t pick up a spoke is a failure. Too many failures results in desperation.
I’ll go into sub-strategies in greater detail regarding some of the options players have, especially during the middle rounds of play.
The end is near:
As the game goes on, and the bad chits go into the cup. The worst of which being the Oil fuel hike, which forces players to pay the bank the equivalent of 10% of their market share. I use the same theories of percentages when planning my turn. When there are 3 or more bad chits in the cup, I’m less likely to buy a spoke that will give me majority control if I have little cash on hand. To avoid the oil can destroying my empire if I’m short on cash, I will borrow money. Even if I’m sitting on a couple bucks, I always try to have at least that 10% ready to pay. I’ll go in depth with loans as well. If the Strike chit has been pulled to the point where you have to pay $15 or $20 or more to stay active, it almost behooves you to go on strike for a turn. Especially if you’re close to a win. Interestingly enough, if a player is on strike they are unaffected by the oil can fuel hike chit. Something to keep in mind.
When the end of the game is in sight, there are two strategies most players will employ. 1 – sit back, hold the fort, hope for cash. 2 – go after hubs for that last dose of market share. Depending on where my triangle is, there are 2 really good hubs to go after for market share. Dallas and Atlanta. Because you have to pay double to overtake a spoke from another player, it’s a wise move to go after the $1, $2, and $3 spokes. This also holds true for the players trying to prevent a player from winning by attacking one of his spokes. It’s much wiser to go after a $1 spoke that can erase 60 market share points than going after the $6 spoke.
If you’re looking at needing 40-50 market share points to get a win, attacking the 1’s and 3’s in Dallas and Atlanta is the way to go. Utilizing the dice modifiers through fare wars and jumbo jets come heavily into play during these rounds.
During gameplay, there are several decisions to make. Again, there is no set best way of doing things. I’ll outline my strategies and explain my thinking for each variable.
Playing the Chits:
One of my pet peeves with players is the way they call their chits. I can’t stress enough the importance of this strategy. Now if you pull two random profit markers, it really doesn’t matter what order you play them in. But if you’ve got one profit marker and one other marker, it most certainly can have an effect on the game. Here are some examples:
Late in a game, where player 2 has a market share of 230, with about $5 or so in his bank
Player 1 picks his two chits.
Player 2 owns the entire Chicago hub.
Player 1 calls out Chicago, fuel hike.
Player 2 rejoices in the fact that he’ll earn his $27 payday before he has to pay his $23 Fuel hike.
If player 1 calls the fuel hike first before revealing Chicago as the other chit pulled, player 2 will be forced to sell off property, possibly losing dominance of Chicago, therefore changing a major payday into a moderate payday.
Similar example with the recession chit. If you pull that chit along with an opponents chit, call recession first. If you pull your own chit and recession, make sure you get full value for your spoke before recession hits.
If the Govt. contract chit comes out – don’t give your opponents extra ammo to bid against you – especially if you already own it or it’s going to be a high value contract.
Chit placement can win or lose games for you so be mindful of what chits you hold before just randomly calling them out.
The Government Contract
The contract is great source of income because no matter what profit markers are picked, you earn income. With the contract, I always play the percentages. I think, how many turns will have to go by for me to recoup my initial investment. If I still have a turn upcoming in the round, I count that dollar towards what I’ll spend for it. The main thing I think about when I determine how high I’ll go with my bid is how many chits are in the cup. If the contract is pulled during the first couple turns, I’ll go as high as 3 (if my cash allows it). I’ll risk losing 2 dollars in hopes that the contract will earn me at least 2-5 dollars. Anything more than that is gravy. During the time I own the contract, I will more often than not purchase higher value spokes as well. Also, if I own the contract later in the game, I’m more likely to take a loan if I need one – using the contract income to offset my interest costs.
Taking a loan
This is something that players are often reluctant to do, because you can’t win the game if you still owe the bank money. However, if you have a lot of property and are light on the dollars, the threat of the oil hike wrecking your empire is greater. If your market share is between 200 and 300, you may not be “close” to winning, but close enough. If you have to pay a $20 fuel hike and only have $4 in your hand, you are going to lose valuable market share AND income spokes. There is nothing wrong with taking out a loan to hedge your bets. However, I never borrow light. If I can borrow $30, I borrow $30, not $10. The important thing to note is that you can’t take a loan out if you already have a loan. $10 can be spent very quickly and if you find yourself in a situation where you need added funds, you won’t be able to borrow anything until that $10 is paid off.
Fare wars are what sets the game winners apart from the rest of the pack. A good fare war run is paramount to winning. I’ve won games without going into fare wars once, but more often than not the winning player at my table has at least 1 solid run in fare wars. As I stated in the beginning portion, if I have more than $5 and I’m starting 4th or 5th (or 6th if there are 6 players) I’ll chance fare wars to open the game. I’ll go right after Dallas. If I takeover the entire hub, I’ll stop because I’ll probably either be out of money or close and I want to be able to buy during my next turn, even if I don’t get a payout before that. The reason players going near last or last go into fare wars more often is obviously because they hope to be drawn first in the turn order and quickly remove themselves from fare wars, so as to start making money on their takeover investments as soon as possible. The obvious concern then is, if you go last in the next turn how much money will you lose out on. That’s something you need to gauge as the game goes along. If you have enough money that you can “afford” to not get paid for a turn, you may decide to stay in fare wars one more round.
If you hold the government contract and do not have an outstanding loan you are paying interest on, you still get paid even if you are in fare wars so it’s possible to continue to earn money.
Fare wars as a defense.
How is this possible? Well, in situations where you are close to victory and need a few market share points it can be. You may want to be out of fare wars and hope for that one big payoff that will put you over the top, but you will probably be attacked by other players in the hopes to knock your market share down until they can catch up. Staying in fare wars offers you a defensive “plus-1” to your die roll and in some instances forces other players to also enter fare wars.
Buying Jumbo Jets
You get six Jumbo jets to deploy during the game and if you have the money early on you should definitely buy one or two early. No matter how many spokes you have, you never lose your jets. You lose control of foreign spokes if you lose all your spokes in a particular hub, but the Jumbo Jet is an investment you never lose unless you sell them. The Jumbo also is a great way to earn money because it carries it’s own chit and also doubles the value of any spoke it’s deployed on. There’s also nothing like the security of having two or three jumbo jets undeployed and ready to use during fare wars.
Jumbo Jets as defense
Similarly, Jets can be used as defensive objects. If I’m close to winning, I’ll put my jets on lower valued spokes to deter my opponents from attacking them as easily. The worst thing that happens if I lose the spoke is I use my jumbo to try to re-acquire it.
Buying Foreign Spokes and deploying SST’s
Foreign spokes are a last resort for me really, due to the risk of possibly losing them. They’re nice in that they pay more in most instances than jumbo jets, and they offer the same plus one die modifier to the entire hub. Because of the extreme expense of the SST, I rarely purchase it. Matter of fact, I’ve only purchased it once – on the Rio De Janeiro spoke – and it was an offensive purchase as the next turn around I went into fare wars and knocked out an opponent who was near victory by taking over majority of the Atlanta Hub. The SST and takeover attempts cost me $30 in cash ($20 for the SST, $2 for the Birmingham takeover, $2 for the Jacksonville spoke, and $6 for the Nashville spoke – but netted me an overall gain of 100 market share. He dropped 50, I gained 50. I was able to hold off his counter-attacks long enough to sustain the cash loss and make enough money to win the game.
When you take the game Air Baron to it’s roots, there is a lot of luck involved. You can’t be as aggressive with your purchases if you start the game in the first position and have $2. You can go after a $1 spoke and hope you get the hub pulled during the round. You may decide to pay $2 for a $1 government contract and end up making $40 on it. You may end up spending $10 on a $5 contract and not see a dollar from it. You can make all the wise purchases on the board, but in the end if your chits aren’t pulled frequently enough it’s tough to compete.
This is what makes Air Baron a particularly frustrating game for some gamers. You think you have things going your way and you get hit with the crash chit and the fuel hike chit in back to back turns. You see all your good paying chits pulled during a recession. You lose valuable payments sitting dormant in fare wars. Sometimes you go many turns without seeing any payouts. Some of these scenarios while still based on luck, can be avoided based on your strategy – which is why I’ve decided to post this.
The thing that makes this game great in my opinion is the fact that no matter how up you are, you can easily lose. No matter how low you are, you can still win. I’ve been in a longer game where a player went bankrupt twice and still came back and won the game by taking $60 loans, going into fare wars and winning certain hubs. If you have patience and enough luck to keep the frontrunners just short of winning, you’re always a fuel hike away from a possible new game.
I was browsing the comments section of this game, and wanted to address something. I'm not sure if I really went into it here, but when your chits aren't getting pulled it is frustrating. There is a sense of luck involved in this game, as in many games.
If you have an opponent who is running away with the game because they keep getting paid, keep accumulating properties, and subsequently increasing their liklihood of getting paid in the future - take advantage of the loans. Take $30-$40 in loans, go into fare wars, chip away at their lead. This is a game where it's odd to idly sit by and wait for good things to happen to you. Now, I have won this game by not going into fare wars once and not taking a loan once. That happened one time and it was a 3 player game where I was extremely lucky. Extreme luck doesn't come very often, so you're going to have to make your own luck with this one sometimes. It can be done.