Now Boarding board game preview

Now Boarding board game

Take on the role of pilots and get everyone where they want to go.

There are some people who don’t like flying in airplanes, but I’m not one of them.

I love to fly!

I can kick back, relax, and let the pilot do his job while I stare out the window at the world from 30,000 ft.

Rarely do I wonder how the pilot or the airline sees the world.

Well, in Now Boarding by Tim Fowers the table has turned.

Now I get to be on the stressful side of the equation trying to get passengers from point A to B without them complaining.

The good news is that I’m not in it alone!

Now Boarding is a cooperative board game where players work together as pilots to get passengers to their final destinations before they get too angry.

The added twist to this cooperative game is that all players take all their turns at the same time!

Have you got what it takes to get everyone where they want to go?


How to play Now Boarding

As pilots in Now Boarding, players work together to get all of the passengers to their destinations without receiving 3 complaints.

To begin, players select the map that corresponds to the correct player count. One map of the United States is for games of 4 and 5 players and includes Seattle. The other map for 2 and 3 players has similar routes but without Seattle.

Each player puts their airplane in its starting airport and takes the corresponding starting route card plus one chosen upgrade card (additional speed or seat). Each player also draws one passenger that matches their starting city.

Now Boarding board game

Pick your plane and Route card and we’re ready to fly!

Then the rest of the passenger cards are shuffled and placed into 3 piles (Morning, Afternoon, and Evening). The number in each pile and how many will be drawn each round depends on the number of players. But in all cases, the number increases for each stage of the day – making things tougher as the day wears on.

Additional passenger cards are drawn and placed face down in their originating airport spaces.

For each part of the day, Weather cards are also drawn that impact routes either more favorably or less between cities.

Players are then ready to begin the first round of Morning.

Each round is has two phases: Flight and Maintenance

Now Boarding board game

More passengers await in the Afternoon and Evening piles.


Flight Phase

When everyone is ready, the timer and all the face down passengers are flipped over.
Then players simultaneously take as many actions as they can or want: Move, Pick up, Drop off.

The spaces between cities show how many moves it takes to get somewhere. Any pilot can fly on the black dots. But the color spots can only be flown by pilots with those color routes on their cards. Pilots can also only fly as many spaces as they have engines showing on their cards. Pilots can buy additional routes and engines during the Maintenance phase.

Now Boarding board game

The first passengers have declared their destinations.

Pilots can pick up as many passengers in airports as they have seats. While carrying passengers, pilots place the passenger next to their airplane cards to show they’re  riding in a seat. More seats can also be purchased during the Maintenance phases.

Pilots can also drop off passengers in any airport even if it’s not the passenger’s final destination.

Players can coordinate their actions to best move passengers around – such as one pilot dropping a passenger in an airport where another pilot can pick that passenger up and continue on.

Once a passenger is dropped off at their final destination, that pilot collects the passenger card into their personal pile.

Now Boarding board game

Get these passengers to their destinations and earn the money.


Maintenance Phase

The first step in the Maintenance phase is to place a Red anger marker on any passenger sitting in an airport. As soon as a passenger has 4 anger markers, they log a Complaint. When that happens, the passenger card is moved to the side of the board to a Complaint pile. If there are ever 3 Complaints in this pile, all players lose the game.

Next, new passenger cards are drawn and placed face down in their originating airports.

Then players can spend their money gained from passengers they’ve collected to buy upgrades for their airplane. Players discard the passenger cards when they spend the money listed on the card.

The price of each upgrade is listed on the upgrades chart: Seat, Engine, Route.

There are also temporary upgrades that are cheaper but are discarded once used.

Now Boarding board game

Things are backing up in Atlanta and passengers are getting angry.


Weather Change

When the time of day changes (Morning to Afternoon to Evening), the Weather also changes. Players draw Weather cards and move the weather tokens accordingly to the new routes affected.


VIP Passengers

Now Boarding also comes with advanced rules using VIP passenger cards.

If you more challenges in your cooperative game (as if Now Boarding isn’t challenging enough), you can play with these additional cards.

These cards turn regular passengers into passengers with additional needs – such as “must fly alone” or “can’t fly through weather”.

These cards are placed next to the passenger pile and players jointly decide when dealing out new passengers which passengers will get a VIP qualifier with them.


Final Round

When the Evening passenger pile is empty, players have one final timed round to deliver their passengers. At the end of this round, players count the total number of passengers in airports and still in airplanes. Players gain 1 Complaint for every 2 passengers.

Once again, 3 total Complaints and players lose the game.

After this final round, if there are less than 3 Complaints, everyone wins the game!

Now Boarding board game

Once a passenger has 3 Anger markers, they issue a Complaint.


Can the whole family enjoy Now Boarding?

Tim Fowers does a great job designing family board games.

He started with the cooperative game Wok Star years ago and has followed that up with Paperback, Hardback, Fugitive, and Burgle Bros.

Just like those games, Now Boarding is great for family play.

Since it’s a cooperative game, players of all ages can join in the fun. Though we’d still agree with Tim’s recommendation for those ages 8 and up.

Now Boarding is a challenging game.

Now Boarding board game

Pilots have to take into account where passengers want to go, how angry they are, and what the weather is like.

Each game is like a big puzzle to be solved. But players don’t know in advance what they’ll be faced with.

Sure they know they’ll need to work together to get passengers to their final destinations. But they won’t know when which passengers will come up. Planning is all well and good until you flip over the new passengers and see where they want to go. That’ll throw you for a loop every time.

Then there’s the random weather changes. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things Afternoon will change to Evening and the weather patterns will changes and mess up your strategy.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s the blasted timer!

It’s a good thing players get to discuss options as much as they want between rounds. And players get to take all their actions simultaneously. But as soon as that timer is flipped and the new passengers revealed, the pressure mounts.

That all being said, Now Boarding is a lot of fun to play.

Now Boarding board game

It’s a good thing players can pick 1 upgrade to start the game – extra engine or seat.

It’s good to get passengers to their final destinations because that means money and airplane upgrades. But sometimes it’s also good to just pick up an almost-complaining passenger (with 3 red anger markers) and move them to another airport. That’s because once you pick them up, their markers are removed.

So even if you can’t get them all the way to where they want to go, your at least stopping them from issuing a Complaint.

In addition to managing passenger flights and complaints, the other part players must balance are their airplane upgrades.

Additional engines, seats, and routes all cost money. And like real life, you’ll never have as much money to spend as you’ll want. So you’ll have to jointly make the tough choices about being able to carry more passengers, fly farther, or add new route options.

At least those upgrade choices are made between rounds when time isn’t ticking away.

Now Boarding board game

Nothing in life is free. Upgrades will cost you too.


How does Now Boarding score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

Now Boarding gets high marks on our “let’s play again” game meter because of the frantic fun.

Or maybe it scores high because it’s hard to win. And after a loss, we just have to play again. Because this time we’ll win!

Because players are taking their actions simultaneously, the game also flies by quickly. It’s good to come up for a breather during the Maintenance phase, but those are also typically brief.

If you like puzzle-like cooperative games that challenge you to think on the fly, then give Now Boarding a try.

Note: Now Boarding is currently on Kickstarter with only 2 weeks left from the date of this review. Go ahead an check out the Kickstarter page and make your pledge for a copy of this upcoming family board game.



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