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Planecrafters Preview

Quick Look:

Designers: Andrew Bosley and Michael Patience
Artist: Andrew Bosley
Publisher: Paisley Board Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Planecrafters. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


From the publisher:

As the saying goes, “He who rules the skies…rules at building airplanes and blimps and things”. And the whole world is racing to be #1! The small nation of Crumplehorn, scared of being left behind by its rivals, looks once again to Master Pennington B. Knickernacker to save the day. And he’s more than eager to help! Reports say the eccentric businessman, an avid plane enthusiast, is secretly devoting his substantial financial resources to build a fleet of flying machines that surpasses all others. But does he work for the glory of king and country? Or to line his own pockets? No one knows.
Components and Setup:
Planecrafters includes the following components: 112 plane Part cards, 20 Employee cards, three bonus Award cards, four player aids, and 58 crown coins in denominations of 1, 5, and 10.

A completed "Black Hole", one of the planes players are trying to build.

To start, all of the Employee cards are placed face up in one of three rows, or tiers. There are three visual cues to help players know which employees go which which tier. For starters, employees with the deeper orange background are tier one. (There are two of each tier-one employee, and the duplicates are stacked on top of one another.) The tier-two and tier-three employees have peach-hued and beige backgrounds respectively, and they will also have five cards per row.

Employees are placed in three rows based on their tier level.

The second visual cue is the small diamond iconography beside the employee cost. Tier-one employees have one diamond, those in tier two have two diamonds, and the tier-three employees have three. This inclusion, however slight, decreases the reliance of players needing to differentiate the sepia hues to determine the tier. The final visual cue for determining which employees go with which tier is the employee cost; tier-one employees all cost 4 crowns, tier two ranges from 6-8 crowns, and tier three has a cost between 9-12 crowns.

"Jack-of-all-Trades" is a tier-three employee and costs 10 crowns to hire.

Once the employees are lined out, each player receives a player aid and five crowns. The remaining crowns are placed in a pile within reach of the players.

Players are dealt a number of Part cards based on turn order (first player goes to the player who last flew on an airplane, and play proceeds clockwise) and number of players. For example, in a four player game, the first player gets three cards, the second and third players get four cards each, and the fourth player gets five cards. The remaining cards are stacked face down within reach of all players. The top four cards from this newly created draw pile are turned face up and placed beside the Part pile. This is the "parts depot" from which players will draft their plane parts.

Once the Employee cards are lined out, all players have received their designated number of Part cards and crowns, and the part depot is created, play begins.

Rules and Game Play:
The object of the game is be the player with the most crowns at the end of the game. Players earn crowns by selling completed planes (and, in some cases, from the abilities of certain employees). When the Part pile is empty, the game ends at the conclusion of that round. Players count their crowns and add any bonuses from the Award cards, and the player with the most crowns wins. 

Each player’s turn consists of four phases: Hire, Acquire, Flyer, and Buyer. After the four phases, players discard their hand down to five cards, if necessary.

Hire (optional): Players can spend their crowns to hire a new employee to work in their factory. Each employee has a cost ranging from 4-12 crowns, but they also come with a unique ability that can be employed immediately and on every subsequent turn. Employee abilities can be stacked.

The "Factory Manager" allows a player to build more than one plane at a time.

Acquire: Players can obtain two new Parts cards from the parts depot by either selecting a face-up card (which is immediately replaced by a Part card from the pile) or by drawing a face-down card from the top of the draw pile. The available parts are nose, tail, left and right wings, and fuselage from various models. Spare parts are considered "wild cards" and can be placed in lieu of any plane part. Spare parts can also be moved as the plane is being built (i.e. switched from a nose to a right wing).

The "Spare Part" card can replace a missing plane part, but is not counted as a part when selling the plane.

Flyer: Players can place two Parts cards into their factory (i.e. the table space in front of themselves) to build their plane. It is not required that players place matching model parts, but the plane will sell for more crowns if they do. They can only play two cards and only build one plane at a time, unless a hired employee's ability states otherwise. Players will continue to add or remove parts to the plane until it is complete and ready for sale. If the player removes a part from a plane in progress, it counts as one of the flyer actions, and the removed card is discarded.

This plane is made up of five parts from four different planes. It would sell for six crowns.

Buyer (optional): Players can sell their plane for crowns. A plane is considered complete when it has at least a nose, tail, and left and right wings. Crowns are earned for each part of the plane, so at the minimum, a completed plane will sell for four crowns. However, if parts of the plane match, the value of the sell increases. Two parts from the same model are worth a total of three points. Three, four, and five-part matches are worth 6, 10, and 15 crowns, respectively. After a plane is sold, the cards are stacked and kept in the selling player's factory to be used as part of an end-game award.
Plane scoring is listed on the back of the player reference card.

At the conclusion of the turn, the active player will discard any cards in excess of the five-card hand limit. Play continues until the Part deck is depleted.  At this point, players count up their crowns and add any additional bonus awards.

Bonus Awards: There are three bonus awards, one that is passed back and forth throughout the game and two that are awarded at the conclusion of the game. The awards are the Industry Award (awarded to the player with the most parts sold), the Enterprise Award (awarded to the player with the most expensive employee pool at the end of the game), and the Distinction Award (given to the player that sold the most expensive plane. This award is given at the time the plan is sold and can change hands several times throughout the game).

Bonus Awards: Enterprise, Distinction, and Industry.

Each of the bonus awards are worth eight crowns. In the event of a tie for the bonus, they are split between the tied players. The player with the most crowns wins!

Planecrafters is a set collection, hand-management card game with quick rounds. There is a small element of push-your-luck as players can blindly draft the top card off of the Part stack, but that is optional. Gameplay is accurately stated at 30-60 minutes.   

Theme and Artwork:
In my more recent reviews, I have steered clear of commenting on the artwork of Kickstarter previews, but this game had me rethinking that position. The art in Planecrafters is extraordinary. If I were to receive the exact same art in the finished version as I did in the review copy, I would be very pleased. Planecrafters' designer and artist, Andrew Bosley, is the artist behind games such as Everdell, Citadels (2016), and Mission: Red Planet.

The art in Planecrafters is a sepia-toned mashup of aviation and Art Deco that creates a whimsical caricature of the workers and planes without being campy. I know that art is subjective, but if you are the type that is tempted to buy a game simply for the art, this one may be for you.

Completed "Big Boy" plane. This completed plane would sell for 10 crowns.

The Good:
Something that often goes unmentioned (unless they are bad) are the rules. Planecrafters went from unwrapping, to rules, to play in about five minutes. The rules were laid out clearly for ease of understanding and implementation. On top of that, the game also includes unique player reference guides that easily gets players on track in the event they are unsure of their next steps.

Player reference cards show turn order, employee attributes, planes, and scoring detail.

I really enjoyed the theme and artwork. I won't spend much time here discussing the artwork all over again, but it worked well with the thematic elements of the game. And when I say say "theme," I'm not only referring to airplanes, but also to the narrative of Master Pennington B. Knickernacker that is woven throughout the instructions. It could have been simple for the creators to say, "this is a game about building airplanes," paired it with some cool art, and called it a day. But instead, they also created this world of Knickernacker and his eccentricities (such as Knickernacker parachuting candy canes over the town at Christmas). This added effort didn't add anything to the gameplay, but it adds so much to the experience of the game - and that may be more valuable.

Together the story and art create the world of Knickernacker.

Lastly, I was a big fan of the chain abilities triggered by the workers at different steps in a turn. Players can create some powerful combinations (more on that below) that can swing the outcome of the game. It requires that players not only build the planes for crowns, but also manage their workforce and defend against their opponents' workers. A chain of worker abilities can provide a path to victory even when the strength of the other players seems much greater.

The Bad:
Everyone that I played Planecrafters with had the same initial reaction at the conclusion of the game: "The 'Jack-of-all-Trades' is best card to have." The "Jack-of-all-Trades" Employee card, especially when paired with certain lower-tiered workers, is a powerful card. Players believed that victory went to the holder of the card, so much so that any subsequent plays with the same players became a race to earn it first, rather than a gradual progression through the game via completion and sale of planes with like pieces. I think that the perceived power of the "Jack-of-all-Trades" creates a singular focus at the beginning of the game that makes not receiving the card disheartening and more of a motivation killer than it should be.

That being said, can a player win without having the "Jack-of-all-Trades"? Yes. But it is harder.

Final Thoughts:

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."  - Vincent Van Gogh

I'll go ahead and say that Planecrafters should reach its funding goal on Kickstarter. There are familiar mechanics, a likeable theme, and a easily digestible play time of around 45 minutes. But these three things could describe most of the games that land on Kickstarter week in and week out - most of which do not begin to meet their funding goal.

It isn't these things that are going to propel Planecrafters from a vision to a reality; it's these things plus the small painstaking details that will collectively make Planecrafters stand apart from other Kickstarter offerings. It's the clarity and layout of the rule book and player aids (which may be the best I've seen to date). It's the gameplay and how the employee abilities add a different twist on a simple set collection/hand management game. It's the thematic elements in the story of Knickernacker and how that world is translated into the art of the cards.

Planecrafters made the effort to not only land the big things, but also all of the little details that together will help this project take flight.

Players Who Like: Kodama, Darwin's Choice, Bohnanza, Jaipur.

Check out Planecrafters on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/239242/sectre  https://www.freshwatergameco.com/  https://www.facebook.com/FreshwaterGameCo/  https://twitter.com/freshwatergame   https://www.instagram.com/freshwatergameco/ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/paisleyboardgames/planecrafters-a-fantasy-plane-building-card-game
On KICKSTARTER now! Campaign ends July 12, 2018.

About the Author:
Nick Shipley is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. You can follow what Nick is playing on Twitter at @NDShipley

Planecrafters Preview Planecrafters Preview Reviewed by Nick Shipley on June 13, 2018 Rating: 5

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