Following the success of the 1856 game last Sat; the four of us turned up again Weds (ie: Me, Dave D, Mike and Steve H). Where's everybody gone? I know I've been absent for some time but that's over now and I'm getting back into the mainstream.
Anyway, we decided to play Air Baron, one of Avalon Hill's last games before being sacrificed on the altar of commercialism. AB is a game of running an airline and gaining control over domestic and foreign air routes in the USA. The winner is the first to gain the largest market share in cash and overall control of the various Spokes and Hubs.
"I was robbed." This was DD's comment at the end of the game. Hm. Ultimately, AB,despite its cash, events and all the other trappings of a financial game, is actually a wargame. You spend the first part of the game establishing a power base, but it is impossible to win without doing takeovers (attacking) other players. And takeovers are a 2d6 roll with mods, highest wins; defender wins ties. You can gain favourable mods by how you've taken control of Spokes/Hubs/Foreign routes, but to stand a real chance you need to be in Fare Wars; which gives you a +2 die bonus (good on a 2d6 roll) but forgoes you any normal income whilst you are in Fare Wars. And it costs you money to attempt takeovers. And income depends a random chit draw anyway.
In some ways it's similar to Risk. You get to a stage when you go all out to try and seize control and win; but if you don't succeed then the next strongest player will try and do the same, and there is little you can do about it. As for the player in last position (me in this instance), takeovers are counterproductive to a large degree as you are usually helping the main rival of whoever you 'attack'.
Back to DD's comment. Yes, I think he was. Not detracting from Steve's eventual win, but DD must have been within a few dollars of winning, but due to the fickleness of the random turn order and by the way that losing just 1 (one!) Spoke can lose you up to 60 points on the Stock Market, meant that with just two bad die rolls, DD dropped to third place from first.
Air Baron's not a bad game; but the end game does drag on for some time and could get impossible if the last placed player played the part of Kingmaker. It is a 'bash the leader' game (but so is Kremlin.) I do suspect, however, that we've all got used to Eurogames with fixed game lengths, or 'first past the post' like Vinci (AB is 'first past the post' admittedly, but in Vinci you don't get knocked backwards for losing a battle). Good for the occasional play (and go for the Government Contract, it paid out a fortune to DD and Mike over the course of the game).
Just to add the scores:
|Air Baron 140 mins|