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Subject: Plane Game Idea rss

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Dan C
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While waiting for a flight I had an idea about a new game. It would have a similar feel to a 'Ticket To Ride' kind of mechanic, but with open goals.

The board would be a map of the US (or wherever) with the major cities/airports included. Each airport includes a certain number of gates based on how many passengers they can handle, e.g. Chicago O'Hare would have 12 gates and Portland would have 2 gates. The gate count at each airport determines the number of routes that can service a given airport.

Each player represents an airline trying to make as much money as possible by servicing as many passengers as they can. They do this by operating routes between airports. A route can be a short, medium or long haul based on the distance between the two airports.

At the start of the game, a row of (10?) passengers is dealt out on the board. Each passenger has an itinerary (start/end airport) and a ticket price (dollar amount), e.g. Silicon Valley Exec wants to fly from LAX to JFK and earns $2000, a college student wants to fly from DTW to MSP for $500. Whenever a player is able to satisfy a passenger's itinerary with the same or fewer connections they will earn income from that passenger. Income from passengers served by multiple players is split.

On each turn players earn income from all of the passengers they can service and then they can take one of the following actions:
-Buy equipment : add a route to your supply
-Operate a route : claim a route on the board using a route from your supply, the route length must match the distance between airports
-Move a route : move a route on the board to another spot

The game ends when all passengers have been serviced. The player with the most money wins. (I'm not sold on the victory condition, some other possibilities would be: the most routes, the most passengers, the most airports serviced.)

There could be some Event cards to spice things up, e.g. things like snowstorms to close certain airports, mechanical failures to take routes out of service, deal out new passengers, remove existing passengers


Thoughts about components - Gates could be represented by a vertical rod coming off the board and routes would be loops of string/elastic, operating a route between two cities would mean that your route can physically connect 2 gates

Any interesting to continue working on this?
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Joe Mucchiello
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I'm actually working on a Railroad Tycoon in Space game that sounds vaguely like this (as much as RRT is like Ticket to Ride) and have found the real problem with using money in the manner you suggest is that the game becomes solvable. A spreadsheet with the listed 10 starting cards can easily solve the optimal set of routes to maximize profit in the opening. In fact, given a fixed set of cards, you can probably figure out mathematically what is the best set of routes to go for at the start of the game based on the most expensive sets of cards showing at the start.

I'm not trying to be discouraging. I just think you need something else in your design to eliminate some of the obvious mathematics. TtR has the hidden goals to minimize "optimal" strategies. In a game like yours where there is seemingly perfect information available at the start, you need more than one factor to balance to avoid optimal strategies from emerging.
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Dan C
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You do make a valid point about the open information making the game solvable. I guess my hope was that it would also force more interaction for the scarce gate resources to prevent that. Maybe a mix of open and secret passengers would alleviate some of the problem, with the rule that the passenger card must be revealed in order to start collecting any income.

 
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Steven Metzger
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dcrowell wrote:
While waiting for a flight I had an idea about a new game. It would have a similar feel to a 'Ticket To Ride' kind of mechanic, but with open goals.

The board would be a map of the US (or wherever) with the major cities/airports included. Each airport includes a certain number of gates based on how many passengers they can handle, e.g. Chicago O'Hare would have 12 gates and Portland would have 2 gates. The gate count at each airport determines the number of routes that can service a given airport.

Each player represents an airline trying to make as much money as possible by servicing as many passengers as they can. They do this by operating routes between airports. A route can be a short, medium or long haul based on the distance between the two airports.

At the start of the game, a row of (10?) passengers is dealt out on the board. Each passenger has an itinerary (start/end airport) and a ticket price (dollar amount), e.g. Silicon Valley Exec wants to fly from LAX to JFK and earns $2000, a college student wants to fly from DTW to MSP for $500. Whenever a player is able to satisfy a passenger's itinerary with the same or fewer connections they will earn income from that passenger. Income from passengers served by multiple players is split.

On each turn players earn income from all of the passengers they can service and then they can take one of the following actions:
-Buy equipment : add a route to your supply
-Operate a route : claim a route on the board using a route from your supply, the route length must match the distance between airports
-Move a route : move a route on the board to another spot

The game ends when all passengers have been serviced. The player with the most money wins. (I'm not sold on the victory condition, some other possibilities would be: the most routes, the most passengers, the most airports serviced.)

There could be some Event cards to spice things up, e.g. things like snowstorms to close certain airports, mechanical failures to take routes out of service, deal out new passengers, remove existing passengers


Thoughts about components - Gates could be represented by a vertical rod coming off the board and routes would be loops of string/elastic, operating a route between two cities would mean that your route can physically connect 2 gates

Any interesting to continue working on this?
I haven't yet played Ticket To Ride, so I'm not sure how similar your idea is to that game. However, it sounds like you've got a lot of stuff thought out mechanically.

Try to avoid the game becoming too random, especially if you have just one way to win (most money).
 
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David Pontier
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Again, as the others have said, not to be discouraging, but just want to throw out a few other ideas.

I have built a prototype plain game and have just never gotten around to playing it.

After playing my 12th different train game and having never once plaid a plane game, I went online and searched for plane games. All the ones I saw seemed to be remakes of train games, with a plane theme tacked on. Train games are extremely popular, so I assume game designers figure plain games should be the same. They aren’t. I’m not aware of any in the top 100. Count how many train games that are.

Why?

I find train games appealing for two main reasons. The first is track building. You get to carve up the map and spread yourself out, creating a huge network to make you money or points. Whether it’s TTR, Empire Builder, or Railroad Tycoon, there is a certain satisfaction in watching your empire grow. Even in the 18xx games, where the emphasis is more on stocks, those stocks grow based largely on the size of your network.

The second draw is the varied types of cargo you have to deliver. Not so much in TTR or 18xx, but in games like Empire Builder or Tycoon, Steam, and AOS, it isn’t enough to just have a large empire, you need to coordinate it with the supply and demand of several different goods and cities. The simple challenge of TTR to connect cities, changes to connecting the right cities in the right way, and often in the right order.

Planes have neither of these. In order to get from Chicago to LA, you don’t need an inch of track (unless you count the runways). All you need is fuel. And whether you are flying to LA or to New York, the same fuel works for either. Now, I know that airlines do set up routes, they do have “sky track”, or a route that planes always travel when going between two cities, but it doesn’t have the same feel as a train.

As far as goods, yes, you can ship just about anything by air, but the only cargo that matters is people. Nobody ships coal, or oil, or livestock, or lumber by plane. And the problem with people is that every city in the world produces them and every city in the world requires them.

So when you start your post by saying you want to design a plane game around TTR, I cringe a little bit. Instead (in my opinion) think about what makes planes different from trains and build on those differences to develop the game.

Without going into to much detail, in my game the tickets are developed from three stacks of cards. You draw one for the “From” city, one for the “To” city, and one for the number of passengers. With fifty cities on the map, there are over 2400 unique routes to fly, and each can have many different amounts of passengers. In my game, you don’t build track. Instead you buy fuel and pay maintenance fees. You can upgrade your plane to go further, but then it costs more for maintenance. You can decide not to pay the maintenance fee, but then you risk crashing your plane. Ticket prices are based on a bidding system where the lowest bid wins, and you have to try to cut operating expenses to insure the lowest ticket price possible while still making a profit. And money doesn’t decide the winner, customer satisfaction does. Customer satisfaction depends on how many connections you have for each flight, and how low the ticket price is. You can also add planes to build a fleet and satisfy several tickets at once.

I really like the game concept, but the reason it hasn’t gotten off the ground yet (ha ha), is because I fear there is too much math in it, and I am trying to find a way to simplify the concept.
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Steven Metzger
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Piqsid wrote:
Again, as the others have said, not to be discouraging, but just want to throw out a few other ideas.

I have built a prototype plain game and have just never gotten around to playing it.

After playing my 12th different train game and having never once plaid a plane game, I went online and searched for plane games. All the ones I saw seemed to be remakes of train games, with a plane theme tacked on. Train games are extremely popular, so I assume game designers figure plain games should be the same. They aren’t. I’m not aware of any in the top 100. Count how many train games that are.

Why?

I find train games appealing for two main reasons. The first is track building. You get to carve up the map and spread yourself out, creating a huge network to make you money or points. Whether it’s TTR, Empire Builder, or Railroad Tycoon, there is a certain satisfaction in watching your empire grow. Even in the 18xx games, where the emphasis is more on stocks, those stocks grow based largely on the size of your network.

The second draw is the varied types of cargo you have to deliver. Not so much in TTR or 18xx, but in games like Empire Builder or Tycoon, Steam, and AOS, it isn’t enough to just have a large empire, you need to coordinate it with the supply and demand of several different goods and cities. The simple challenge of TTR to connect cities, changes to connecting the right cities in the right way, and often in the right order.

Planes have neither of these. In order to get from Chicago to LA, you don’t need an inch of track (unless you count the runways). All you need is fuel. And whether you are flying to LA or to New York, the same fuel works for either. Now, I know that airlines do set up routes, they do have “sky track”, or a route that planes always travel when going between two cities, but it doesn’t have the same feel as a train.

As far as goods, yes, you can ship just about anything by air, but the only cargo that matters is people. Nobody ships coal, or oil, or livestock, or lumber by plane. And the problem with people is that every city in the world produces them and every city in the world requires them.

So when you start your post by saying you want to design a plane game around TTR, I cringe a little bit. Instead (in my opinion) think about what makes planes different from trains and build on those differences to develop the game.

Without going into to much detail, in my game the tickets are developed from three stacks of cards. You draw one for the “From” city, one for the “To” city, and one for the number of passengers. With fifty cities on the map, there are over 2400 unique routes to fly, and each can have many different amounts of passengers. In my game, you don’t build track. Instead you buy fuel and pay maintenance fees. You can upgrade your plane to go further, but then it costs more for maintenance. You can decide not to pay the maintenance fee, but then you risk crashing your plane. Ticket prices are based on a bidding system where the lowest bid wins, and you have to try to cut operating expenses to insure the lowest ticket price possible while still making a profit. And money doesn’t decide the winner, customer satisfaction does. Customer satisfaction depends on how many connections you have for each flight, and how low the ticket price is. You can also add planes to build a fleet and satisfy several tickets at once.

I really like the game concept, but the reason it hasn’t gotten off the ground yet (ha ha), is because I fear there is too much math in it, and I am trying to find a way to simplify the concept.
Well, to be fair, it's obvious that the game has to be far less about route-building and more about resource management (the passengers). Also, a good chunk of those train games are (surprise!) 18xx, which is at least as much an economic management game system as it is an actual "train" game. Empire Builder is more about routes, though.

The OP's idea should not be very complex, then, to fit theme.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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Piqsid wrote:
The second draw is the varied types of cargo you have to deliver. Not so much in TTR or 18xx, but in games like Empire Builder or Tycoon, Steam, and AOS, it isn’t enough to just have a large empire, you need to coordinate it with the supply and demand of several different goods and cities. The simple challenge of TTR to connect cities, changes to connecting the right cities in the right way, and often in the right order.

And it is the TTR model that the OP sounds like he is following. This is why I pointed out he was lacking a variable or two to prevent his game from being solvable.

I went with a space theme in the game I alluded to since airlines hauling freight just is not believable. But space cargo? No problem. I agree though that the missing component is the track laying. TtR manages without it so I'm hoping my space game can manage without it as well.
 
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Dan C
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Quote:
In my game, you don’t build track. Instead you buy fuel and pay maintenance fees. You can upgrade your plane to go further, but then it costs more for maintenance. You can decide not to pay the maintenance fee, but then you risk crashing your plane. Ticket prices are based on a bidding system where the lowest bid wins, and you have to try to cut operating expenses to insure the lowest ticket price possible while still making a profit.


I like the idea of the maintenance fees influencing the chances of crashes. The bidding is also an interest aspect to push the risk-vs-reward aspects.

I was definitely trying to keep the game on the simpler side of things. My gaming group is typically just my family so 'solvable' isn't typically an issue for me. ;)
 
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