04/04/2020

Yukon Airways: Fly your seaplanes [Review]

yukon-airways

Yukon Airways was taking the background of 1979’s situation; you just finished preparing your seaplane over the Schwatka Lake to board the passengers queueing on the piers. Your flight took off from Whitehorse through the gorgeous wilderness of Yukon. Who will be gaining the most profit after six days of non-stop flights in Yukon Airways?

Yukon Airways is designed by Al Leduc and published by Ludonova. My first impression of the game was really good, like really good; and it still lingers up until now. Are you ready to fly? Let’s jump in and play together.

Yukon Airways’ gameplay

The component from Yukon Airways might be a bit overwhelming with dials and switches on the player board. Don’t let it discourage you! Trust me, this game might be intimidating but it’s actually quite friendly! Let’s start by setting up all the player boards; you also place the mainboard in the middle. There will be three objective cards randomly chosen for one session.

I really like the money tokens that look like these rectangles. Here you can see the piers, the money tokens, the Ticket cards, and a glimpse of the player board.

Place the game marker on Tuesday (the day all pilots begin flying their seaplanes). This marker moves every time each round ends; the game ends when it reaches Saturday. Each pilot will get his/her seaplane card. The card has two sides, one with bonus and one without (advanced mode). Place the player marker on the turn track.

Shuffle all the Ticket cards and distribute six cards to each player. Place all the seaplane meeples on Whitehorse. We need to cast the dice and place it on the respective pier’s numbers (this will be your passengers). Randomly place the colourful cubes and separate the grey ones on the side of the mainboard. Starting from the first player, each gets $1, $2, $3, and $4. The game can now begin.

The four phases in the game

Boarding phase

All rounds begin with the Boarding phase. In this phase, during his/her turn, each player places his/her player marker on the gate (pier) and triggers the effect of the chosen gate. Then, he/she can take up to 4 dice of the same colour from the gate and put it on his/her seaplane card. Before doing this, he/she may spend $1 to move a die from one gate to an adjacent one. He/she may move as many dice as possible, as long as he/she can pay.

This is your seaplane card. As you see, you can take up to 4 dice; each free seat will contribute to 1 fuel for your journey.

The free space on the seaplane card and the Bonus fuel dial indicate how much additional fuel your plane gets. The fuel capacity must not exceed 7; if it exceeds, then the rest will be lost.

Afterwards, all the player marker gets back to the turn tracker, starting from the smallest gate number to the biggest one. Then, the first player on the track will initiate the Flight phase.

Flight phase

Starting from the first player, he/she plays the Ticket card(s) to fly his/her seaplane through Yukon. If you play more Ticket cards (with the same icon shown on the upper left corner) behind the destination’s Ticket, you gain a bonus for your flight. If you don’t have the destination’s Ticket, you may play three face-down Ticket cards to be a wild card. However, you don’t gain the bonus at all.

The general board in the middle. Here you can see the piers where the dice (passengers) line up and the whole map of Yukon.

Place each die you want to deliver on the Ticket card(s) you have played; deduct the fuel used to fly to the destination and fly your seaplane meeple to the destination on the mainboard. If the colour of the die matches one of the cubes on the destination, you get the corresponding cube and put it on the map on your player board. Then, you can upgrade the player board’s dial or switch for each cube you gain. If there’s no matching cube, then you gain the grey one instead (no upgrade).

With this upgrade, you can build your seaplane on your player board to be more efficient. For example, you can gain more fuel bonus later. Some other options include the ability to draw more Ticket cards or bigger hand size. Or, you can also upgrade your Christmas bonuses for extra cash at the end of the game. It’s your plane so it’s your choice!

Do not forget to look at the three objectives cards! If you fulfil the objective(s), you gain the bonus directly, too! This is pretty beneficial to win the game. All players will fly during his/her turn. If one player still wants to fly, he/she needs to wait until his/her turn starts again. If all players decide not to or cannot fly anymore, then this phase ends.

The three objective cards in this session (left to right): Draw two Ticket cards for each green die on the destination card, gain $1 for each yellow die on the destination card, and gain 1 fuel for each blue die on the destination card.

Income phase

It’s time to get money for your Yukon Airways! First, each player gets dollars based on his/her highest destination’s value among the places he/she visited during the Flight phase. Then, each player gets $1 for each die on the Ticket cards (some destinations contribute up to $3 per die, though). If there are objectives fulfilled, then the player also gains money from them.

Maintenance phase

After all players have gained their money, the round ends. But first, there are some things you have to do: take all the dice on the Ticket cards and those pitiful passenger dice on the seaplane card; roll these and place them back on the gate just like before. We then have to discard all the Ticket cards used during the previous phase. All players then draw cards based on the indicator on his/her board and discard them until he/she has cards based on his/her hand size. Last but not least, move the black marker to the next day.

End of game and scoring

Yukon Airway is concluded when the last round on Saturday ends. All players then add up all the money they gained during the rounds, the gained Christmas bonuses based on the dial, and the extra bonuses for the number of distinct destinations they have travelled to. If a certain switch is on, he/she also obtains twice of the numbers of the most cubes of one colour they have gathered. Whoever gains the most dollars win the game!

Experiences, opinions, and thoughts

It’s a beautiful game…

I will start with the aesthetic aspect. I like the artwork, this is also the core drive why I decided to get Yukon Airway. I mean, who doesn’t love seaplane? The theme, Yukon, gives me the real chill, too. This region was visited by Scrooge McDuck, one of my fictional childhood hero. What’s more fabulous is the components. The mainboard looks good and the player boards are even more amazing.

Ludonova really went extra miles by designing them to look like the real seaplane cockpit with dials and switches. They even added the illustrated Al’s childhood pictures on the cockpit. You will feel like you really were a pilot. It’s just beautiful.

Your cockpit a.k.a. your player board. It really makes you feel like you are a pilot.

Gaming experiences

Yukon Airways can be played by 1-4 players. You can go solo and it would still be enjoyable. I would recommend playing this game with 4 players to get the most satisfying experience with the game. However, a game with three will still be amazing.

There are two core mechanics in the game. First, there’s this feeling of the engine-building. Second, the pick and deliver. I don’t deny that there’s this dice drafting in Yukon Airways, but this one would vanish when the players upgraded their engines to gather dice of two different colours (because you basically can only take up to 4 dice in one round).

Building your engine to fly efficiently will be the best strategy. However, the aspects you want to upgrade will depend on your gameplay, too. Do you want to fly to many distinct locations? Or do you want to fly to Inuvik several times in the end-game to gain more dollars? The engine you build will be really different for this matter.

I would build my engine during the first two rounds and then I will fly full-throttle to gain money for the rest of the game. This makes Yukon Airways one of the most strategic games I have ever played. However, that does not mean this game lacks tactical point. In fact, during the game, players have to adapt to the Ticket cards they have on their hands.

The audience

Yukon Airways is actually a pretty light game. Yes, there’s strategy-packed decisions involving your moves. It’s true that you have to manage your limited resources to gain money/points. Despite all these things, this game is really easy to learn, thanks to the clear and concise rulebook. You might not want to bring it up to your table with some new players, but this definitely suits well for those who want to step up their games. Yukon Airways will still be enjoyed by veterans.

Verdict

Bringing your seaplane soars and travelling over Dawson City and other legendary yet mysterious places in the furthest north part of Canada? Count me in. I’ll definitely fly in Yukon Airways. It’s elegant and Al has successfully combined three mechanics and one genial theme together to produce such an exemplary game that struck my heart and will never leave.

Anyway, you can read his designer’s diary here. It’s a pleasure to get the chance to play and review this game; all thanks to Ludonova and Al Leduc himself.

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