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Tabletop Game Review – Pan Am

Pan Am by Funko Games
Price: ~$35.00
2 to 4
~60 minutes
Perfect for:
Families and groups who enjoy strategic worker placement and auction games.

Pan Am is a game of air travel expansion and acquisition! Players assume control of a small airline company with grand ambitions—to develop flight routes around the globe with the goal of eventually becoming part of the Pan Am family (as a wealthy shareholder, of course!). But air is rare, and players must carefully consider when, where, and how to build their mini-empire by making strategic investment decisions in types of planes, locations, and airports.

How To Play

To begin Pan Am, two to four players each collect a player board to keep track of inventory and income, their engineers (workers), $12, some destination cards, a few special actions cards, and their starting planes. The global map board goes in the center of the table with a few more destination cards revealed. Finally, the first event card from the deck gets flipped over which sets the current stock price and may impose a temporary rule or action for the round.

On a players’ turn, they must assign one of their engineers to an open spot on the board. Many of these are bidding tracks including the acquisition of new destination cards, an airport, or new planes. Other options include going to the routes track, preparing to claim a flight path on the map, or the directives track where players can get cards to score additional income or take special actions. Play continues until all engineers have been placed, and then each spot gets resolved – for example, the person with the highest bid for a destination card, airport, or plane exchanges money for the item, and routes get claimed.

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Acquiring routes (the longer the better) and airports increases a player’s income intake at the beginning of each round. This is important as the primary goal is to buy stock in Pan Am, and the prices fluctuates so purchasing at a perceived low is paramount. The other way to make money is buy selling acquired routes to Pan Am as they expand outwards from their Miami hub at the end of each round. Play continues over seven rounds, and the person with the most Pan Am stock at the end is the winner.

What Works?

What works in Pan Am is the fantastic adaptation of the worker placement mechanic, the highly engaging gameplay, and the overall theme. From the first action to the last, Pan Am is simply engrossing as players calculate and strategize efficiencies to maximize income. Because only one person can claim each route, there’s a necessity to think critically about what to invest in before an opponent sabotages your plan. The options aren’t so varied that analysis paralysis creeps in, but there also just enough variables to keep players feeling like they are in control. Finally, while there are many transportation-themed games, the design and execution of Pan Am stands out as notably delightful—the color palate is bright, the toy plane components are reminiscent of arcade prizes, and the general experience of “owning” a small plane company is pure fun.

Players who ultimately don’t like competitive resource management and engine-building games probably will not enjoy Pan Am as much as others. There is certainly a racing component to Pan Am and play styles could get aggressive as individuals jockey for particular cards, routes, etc. all while outbidding each other. Players looking for something a bit more friendly may want to try a different game. Finally, there is a small randomization element through dice-rolling for Pan Am’s route expansion, and the various round effects. In general, these are meant to add a little variability into the proceedings (and do so successfully) but some players may be frustrated at the few elements they have little to no control over.

Pan Am

Pan Am is a fantastic game, across nearly every dimension. While it incorporates familiar mechanics, there is more than enough thematic novelty to make it a worth addition to nearly any gamer’s library. Very highly recommended!

Recommended if you like: Ticket to Ride, Lords of Waterdeep, Pandemic

Final Grade: A+

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