What would be your criteria for a perfect board game?
Nice production values? Seamlessly scales between 2 and 6 players? Play time about an hour? Can be used as a ‘gateway’ but isn’t going to have Geek friends turning their noses up? It’s about transportation? Its retail recommended price is 30% lower than comparable games competitors?
Does such a game exist? Well Wattsalpoag’s Essen 2008 offering is very close to fitting the bill. However, only 43 Geeks own it (28/12/08) and it seems to have slipped under the radar as the Jumbo’s and A380’s of other publishers have garnered all the recent attention (if not acclaim) - which is a shame because Jet Set deserves a wider audience.
Wattsalpoag? Who they? Jet Set is the 5th game from this small publisher and designer Kris Gould. Previous efforts such as 'Fruit Fair' and 'Nomads of Arabia' have received praise in British board game quarterly ‘Counter’ but have largely passed by the collective Geek consciousness
The game has been compared to TTRE and has some superficial similarities: - the board is a map of Europe with lots of short connections between major cities and the aim of the game is to accumulate the victory points by fulfilling the links specified by destination tickets - they can be short one link hops, or longer routes requiring multiple links. However, unlike TTRE tickets, when claimed, provide income and you can’t claim routes without spending cash. Money in the game is tight- there never seems enough to do build the network you want to and using your cash wisely is the key to winning this game.
How does it play?
Each player starts with 30 Euros, a large number of plastic airplanes in their colour, lots of small plastic markers (they look like tidily winks) and two ‘Final destination tickets’ These are similar to the long routes in Ticket to Ride Europe but with three legs which have to be achieved in the a prescribed order without reusing the same link - Frankfurt to Lisbon via Athens for example.
A number of 1 length destination tickets are laid out on the board in one row, a number of longer length tickets are laid out in another. Next to each row is a draw pile of new cards. Two ‘vacation’ cards are put into each draw pile after a set number of cards (think Pandemic or Alhambra). Each destination ticket has a victory point value which corresponds to the length and difficulty of the route and they range in value between 1 and 7. The Final destination tickets have a value of 10 points. At the end of the game your total accumulated points from destination tickets determines the winner.
Each players turn is pretty simple - first replenish tickets if the number left in the row fall bellows the number of players (with an option to fill the row for a price of 1 Euro) then perform one action. The actions are:-
1)Claim one link between two cities for the cost printed on the link - add a marker in your link to record ownership and add planes for 5 Euros a plane.
2)Secondly, you can claim one of the face up destination tickets that matches a route you have a plane on by returning your plane (or planes in tickets that have multiple links) to your personal supply.
3)Take income (when you claim a destination ticket you put it in front of you and put three markers on it) by taking one marker off of each route you own for 5 Euros (you get two Euros for destination tickets depleted of counters).
4)Put more airplanes on your links-this costs 5 Euros per plane and a progressively more expensive licence fee (2 for one plane 10 for two..). This is the only action that allows putting your planes on multiple links.
5)Place planes on another players link by paying them 5 Euros per plane euros and 5 Euros per plane to the bank
The actions are quite straightforward and play tends to move very quickly after players have worked out how they can best progress towards their Final destination tickets using the available short tickets up for grabs. Play proceeds until two ‘vacation’ cards appear and then end game begins. No more cards can be drawn and players can now play one of their Final destination tickets. The game ends when either all players have played one Final destination cards or five rounds have passed since the first final destination ticket was played. Once you have played your final destination ticket you are out of the game, however every time your turn would have come around you add a plane to your final ticket giving you two points per plane.
The early rounds are all about building up income from short links that you hope to use in one of you final destination tickets. As the early links are refreshed then three point tickets become available and whilst they are worth more endgame VP they give you exactly the same income as shorter routes. But because you have to buy more links and place more planes to claim longer routes you slow down your income generation. And income is very important because of the need to be able to populate the links needed for your Final destination. The timing of the vacation cards appearing can be manipulated by refilling the empty spaces in the rows - and it can be disastrous to be caught out by the second vacation card appearing if you are no where near being able to claim your Final destination.
If I have to level one a criticism at Jet Set it would be that the early rounds feel programmed by the requirement to build up income and work towards one of your final destination tickets. However, that has not stopped me enjoying multiple plays as Jet Set fills a comfortable middle ground between gateway and richer geek fare. It’s fun to play, easy on the eye and requires careful planning to win. I hope this is the game that gives Chris Gould and Wattsalpoag the lift off they deserve and look forward to the launch of future games from this exciting publisher.
I'm one of the early 43 declared owners, and also wondering why it seems unnoticed.
If I have to level one a criticism at Jet Set it would be that the early rounds feel programmed by the requirement to build up income and work towards one of your final destination tickets.Partly for income but additionally for points, the initial moves of my first-time play were simply focused on capturing the point cards available and had very little to do with considering my Final Flight. More time is required for me to absorb the implications.
I enjoyed playing the game at BGG.con and look forward to obtaining a copy. Of course, it has only been available for purchase in the US since the beginning of December.