Updated: Jun 17, 2018
Breakdown and game review by Travis Wilkins
Planecrafters is live on Kickstarter until July 12th!
Planecrafters is a set collection, hand management card game for 2-4 players with a playtime of 30-60 minutes. In Planecrafters, you are working for Master Pennington, building planes and selling them for crowns. The player who has earned the most crowns at the end of the game is the winner.
By combining plane parts together, you assemble a complete plane. After your plane has two wings, a nose and tail you can sell your plane for crowns. The value of your plane increases based on how many parts of each model you have incorporated in your build.
What would a plane building operation be without employees? In the game you can hire from a pool of 15 different employees. (max 1 per round) This employee system acts as an light engine builder; this aspect of Planecrafters interested me the most. I found myself drawn to play multiple games to try out how different employees affected the game.
While most of the employees relate to the engine building aspect, there are several employees that have “take that” abilities. Therefore, the player interaction is dictated by your hiring strategies. What I really appreciate is how there are employees who safeguard your plane crafting business from the threats of the opposing players’ employees. This introduces a player interaction push your luck element! Do you put protection on your employees/factory or do you try to earn as many crowns as possible and risk paying the price?
Feeling lazy? Need some incentive? There are three unique awards that can help you direct your strategy: the distinction award, enterprise award and the industry award. These are awarded to the player that has sold the most valuable plane, has the most valuable employee pool and has the sold the most plane parts respectively. I appreciate the focus that these awards bring to the game, they are often the deciding factor when tallying up each players crowns.
What’s in the box
112 plane parts (some are designated for 3+ and 4 player counts)
20 employee cards (10 tier 1, 5 tier 2, 5 tier 3)
50 coins (crowns - the ingame currency)
4 two sided player aid cards (extremely helpful)
1 rule book
Overall, I feel like Planecrafters focused on refinement and replay-ability and thematic originality. I have lately really appreciated this style of game development. The result is a game that is easy to learn because the archetypes feel familiar. While I enjoy exploring games with obscure mechanical archetypes, they are often bloated because they are not as relate-able.
Combining set collection, hand management and an employee system that acts as an engine builder isn’t really breaking the mold. However, what you get is a experience that really works, we often play several games of Planecrafters in one sitting. There is something appealing about a game that is quick to setup and play that has subtle layers of complexity. For me, I really enjoy strategic filler games like Planecrafters because I don’t need to reference the manual constantly for finicky rules and I know it is going to a fun experience, perfect to play after a long day.
Plancrafters is very easy to learn, when teaching the game to a new player, I would recommend playing your cards face up rather than face down and suggest a few starting strategies that match the various employees. For example, when you hire the Technician, you are able to play one additional part card, which in turn allows you to build your planes quicker. There are a few strategic avenues that give you a distinct head start (you pick these strategies up after your first game) so it is very easy to crush a new player.
Plancrafters is divided into four actions: Hire, Acquire, Flyer and Buyer. Hire new employees (optional), draw 2 cards (more with certain employees), Play two parts cards in your factory (more with certain employees), and sell your complete plane for crowns (or incomplete with the contractor, this step is also optional)
Each employee's unique ability affect one of the four actions in the turn sequence. The employee card have a symbol on the bottom right corner of the card to remind you which action is affected. These simplistic design features really shine in a lighter weight game! The mark of a well designed game is complexity masked by simplicity.
Favourite Game Mechanic
My favourite game mechanic is the employee system. This is a very light way to represent engine building and I love how you are able to introduce a typically more complex archetype to younger gamers. For me, assessing the cost benefit analysis of each employee you hire is the perfect puzzle. You can hire employees that increase production rate, allow you to sell planes for more crowns or allow you to sell incomplete planes. If player interaction is your jam, you can hire the more nefarious employees and steal, tax and manipulate your opponent; the sky’s the limit.
One of my favourite starting strategies is hiring the contractor, they give the ability to sell an incomplete plane, this can really increase early game income and can mitigate some of the bad luck you can experience on the “Acquire” phase.
I will always pick a thematic game over an abstract game of the same nature. The theme of Planecrafters hits close to home because I have my private pilot's license. Being in control of a massive metal tube flying through the sky is a feeling that you can’t match. The idea of travelling in three dimensions is still relatively new to us, this is why both flight and the deep sea exploration will always have an allure of mystery.
When we first figured out how to put a plane in the air (and keep it there) our perspective changed. In Planecrafters, the art really allows me to appreciate what it would have been like in the idea that you are in that golden era of aviation, an era with little to no rules and regulations. The set collection plays to this lawless idea very well (attaching parts from different plane models wouldn’t fly with today’s regulations). The employee system hyperbolizes the fact that it was a booming and cutthroat industry. Like any thriving ecosystem, there are parasites that make their living off of the hard work of others. In this case, we have employees who will lie, cheat and steal to progress their factory further ahead!
15 minutes per player
2/ 5 complexity
Set collection, hand management, engine building
Awesome aviation theme
Beautiful art direction
What lacks in originality is made up by refinement and replayability
Some employees are unbalanced at different player counts
Some employees have “take that” abilities
Planecrafters is live on kickstarter now!!! (until July 12th) Check it out!
This review is based on a pre-release copy of Planecrafters provided by Andrew Bosley
(co-designer and artist) and is subject to change.