Friday 5 July 2024

Easy Breezy Travel Agency

The Game

Easy Breezy Travel Agency is a quick card game for 2 to 4 players. You are travel agents, and you collect travelers to form trip groups. Whoever makes the most money from organising trips wins. 

The game is set up like this. The 4x4 grid is a ticket price chart. The four columns represent price, from $1 to $4. The four rows represent four destinations - Miami, Chicago, New York and New Orleans. The cards within the grid are drawn from the four small stacks on the left. These are the transportation cards. They can be buses, trains or planes. Different modes of transportation carry different numbers of passengers. The positions of the transportation cards indicate the ticket prices. Prices always start at $1, but they can go up to $4. 

The four face-up cards on the right are the passengers. Some passengers want to go to a specific city. Some (I think of them as cheapskate backpackers) are happy to get a free ride anywhere. In this game you collect passengers, and when you get enough to fill the bus / train / plane, you claim the transportation card and make money (score points). How much you make depends on the number of paying passengers and the ticket price at the time. Backpackers help you fill seats if you struggle to get enough passengers. Just remember they don't pay. 

A turn is very simple. The available actions are straight-forward. What you will do most frequently is to take a card from those four face-up on the table. Each time you take a card and refill the pool, the new card from the deck may specify a price increase for one of the four destination cities. When this happens, you update the grid at the centre of the table, advancing the relevant transportation card. 

When you have enough passengers, you will be able to perform the second type of action, which is to claim a transportation card. You discard the passengers and you score points. You keep the transportation card for game end bonus scoring. A new transportation card for that destination will be drawn. It is priced at $1. The game end scoring is based on whether you have collected many transportation cards of the same city or mode of transportation. You will score more points if you collect many cards of the same city or mode of transportation. 

You may have at most four cards in hand. If you have more than that, any surplus is placed before you on the table. The cards are still yours, just that they are vulnerable to attack. Now the third thing you can do on your turn is to reorganise. As part of this action, you may place cards from your hand onto the table, you may force opponents to swap cards with you twice, and then you may take cards back into your hand. This is where the "attacking" happens, and where the concept of unprotected cards comes into play. Anything you have on the table in front of you are at risk. 

Each city card stack in the game has only three cards, of the three modes of transportation. So there are only 12 city cards in the game. The game ends when one city card stack runs out. This is something the players can manipulate. 

The Play

This is a light and quick game. Most of the time you are collecting passengers. You need to accumulate enough to claim the transportation cards. It is a race, and at the same time you hope to time the claiming of the transportation cards when the ticket price is the highest. There is a little brinkmanship here. Buses take two passengers (no more, no less), trains three, planes four. You can see what passengers your opponents have collected, so you know who are competing with you. Whether to use free riders is not always an easy decision. If you are desperate to grab the transportation card, you may have to resort to using them. Even when you will be missing out on points. Some points is better than having an opponent take the card before you can, or the game ending before you manage to take it. Yet, maybe if you wait for just a little longer you can get the right paying passenger, and that will give you a bigger profit. 

Whenever anyone takes a transportation card for a city, the next card to come into play always starts at $1. So if you miss cashing in at a higher ticket price, your passengers will suddenly devalue. 

The game end situation can be exciting. When you have enough passengers to claim the last transportation card of a city, do you do it immediately? If you are obviously leading then it's a no brainer. But if you are not exactly sure, it's not so simple. Do you let the game go on a little bit more so that you can score more points? But will that also allow your opponents to score even more? 

I have an ideal situation here. I have four paying passengers who want to go to Miami (yellow). The plane tickets to Miami are at $4 now, the highest rate. I will be able to score $16 at one go. However in case someone else claims the last Chicago (red) transportation card, the game would end before I can score my $16. 

The Thoughts

This is a light and breezy card game, just like the game title suggests. The rules are simple, but they create some interesting situations and decision angst. I find it an enjoyable filler. 

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