Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a 20th-century airplane tycoon? Well if you haven’t, you are now!
Enter Master Pennington B. Knickernacker XVI – a man whose ambitions are even larger than his name. He’s hiring you as a part of his massive business plan to create fleets upon fleets of crazy aircraft for the nation of Crumplehorn! You have the opportunity to capitalize on this brave new industry and how you do it is up to you. Will you collect high-end parts to ensure that you build only the greatest ships possible? Will you seek out the best and brightest minds you can find, creating numerous jobs for a formidable workforce? Or will you throw those notions away, pumping out slapdash crafts to make a quick buck while the getting is good?
Planecrafters is an accessible strategy game for 2-4 players from designers Andrew Bosley and Michael Patience of Paisley Board Games. The game revolves around managing your factory, in which, you will (you guessed it!) craft planes. The main deck of cards contains all kinds of plane pieces: noses, tails, wings, fuselages, and even spare parts to fill in the blanks. Throughout the game, you’ll physically piece these cards together on the board to create your own aircraft. This tactile process is where the game really earns its namesake, and it’s a novelty that remains fun throughout the whole experience. You can get extra points if the pieces match each other in style, but sometimes it’s more efficient to make weird “Franken-planes” instead (and more fun).
You’ll also have to contend with your opponents who are trying to do the very same. While it seems that demand for planes is always high here, the workforce itself is a bit more finite. Make sure you hire the right employees to help you acquire and utilize your parts most effectively, and don’t let your opponents get them first! It’s a strategic game of creativity and efficiency. I know there is definitely a pun here about “engine-building”, but I’m too busy being charmed by the artwork to really dig for it.
We talked with Mike and Andrew a bit to hear more about the inspirations behind Planecrafters. “I’ve been an aviation enthusiast for as long as I can remember,” says Mike. “I asked [my daughter] ‘If you could have/create any game, what type would it be; what would it be about?’… she responded with ‘I would make a game about building airplanes’.” And her reasoning? “Because I know you love airplanes, Dad.”
What followed was several years of work, and several more iterations on a core design. “Planecrafters has been in the making for about three years,” Andrew tells us. “For the last year, it’s really been about game balance and making the player experience the very best.” When asked what games helped influence parts of the design, Mike gave us a few examples. Kigi’s tree-building gameplay “showed us a new way of using cards, by being able to overlay the cards in a non-linear fashion”. The way that players associate with characters in Citadels helped lay the groundwork for a “sense of identity” with the employees. Mike explains that “[players] identifying themselves as part of the game is something we hope to have happen in Planecrafters.” And finally, the mechanic from Ticket to Ride “of having several face up cards as part of the draw deck was something we added later in the game, in order to make it a little easier for players to find the parts they needed.”
When asked more about the importance of that flexibility for players, Andrew explains “While we have played this with every kind of gamer, our focus has always been on making this accessible to new gamers… transparency and simplicity were priorities.” This focus on accessibility is most obvious in the game’s core mechanic; connecting plane parts is fun, simple, and easily understood by anyone who sees it for the first time. The employees provide much more meat and strategy to each session, but their abilities are never complicated enough to strain the straightforward design.
We had a great time playing Planecrafters with Andrew, and we really enjoyed learning about their design process as well. But we also wanted to know what the goal is moving forward. How has their relationship with this game evolved, and what does it have in store for the rest of us? Mike answers “it has become a passion project. We love playing this game, and hope many others will too. If Planecrafters is especially successful, we hope to have the opportunity to develop the expansion, and other games in the series, more quickly. We hope that Planecrafters will help establish Paisley Board Games as a company that puts a lot of thought into its games.” I have no doubt that it will.
Paisley’s Planecrafters launches on Kickstarter June 12th. To stay informed about it, head over to Paisley’s Planecrafters page. They’ve got more details about the game, a signup box for their newsletter, and even the full official rulebook! (Seriously, go get a head start on beating your friends!) Thanks again to Mike and Andrew, and we’ll see you in the skies!
All images provided by Paisley Board Games