Clear for Takeoff : A Race Down the Runway
One of my recently adopted criteria for a good family game is total length – from setup, through play time, to teardown. In this, Clear for Takeoff excels. Designed by Hagen Temeryazev, an airline pilot, illustrated by Etienne Hebinger, and published by Blue Orange Games, Clear for Takeoff is a card game that has you racing to get all three of your planes down the runway and into the air before anyone else. Hampered by an over-dependence on luck, and at times descending into maddening waits for just the right card draw, the game is still a fine amusement for a wide age range when you’ve got only a few minutes for play and even fewer for reading a rulebook.
The mechanics of Clear for Takeoff are straightforward enough for most kids to grasp immediately – you must collect and play matching sets of cards, with the size of the plane you are moving determining the size of the set. So, to move your big plane to space A, you play 3 cards marked A, then 3 cards marked B to advance to B, and so on.
The two wrinkles to this mechanic are intended to make the game more challenging than a collection-candy-land, but they tend mostly to invoke frustration rather than fun. First, you can play a delay card on your opponent, who now must either sacrifice a wild card to defend, or have one one of their planes move back a space. But because you cannot move your own planes when you do this, it feels more like a waste of both your turn and your opponent’s. If there’s a third or fourth person playing, they seem to benefit the most, as it gives them an opportunity to speed past the both of you.
The second wrinkle is the weather deck, which is a check on advancing to the final space D. Flip the top weather card, and if it restricts the takeoff of your chosen size plane, you lose your set of D cards and your turn. But each weather type only restricts one plane size at most, and the deck is small enough that it is fairly easy for my 10-year-old to count cards and known for certain he won’t be stopped by the weather.
It’s hard to play Clear for Takeoff only once. Most plays in our house end with “Again?” And the answer is usually yes. Shuffle the cards, slide the planes back to the hangar, and go. So there’s definitely a strong one-more-time allure to this game, the promise that this time, you’re finally going to get that third plane in the air.
But to me Clear for Takeoff‘s replay value is hurt by its heavy dependence on luck – namely, drawing the letter cards you need at the right time. To its credit, it does not feel so dependent on luck as you play. If you don’t have 3 A’s to move your big plane, well maybe you have two C’s to move your medium plane off space B. But my oldest, who very quickly mastered the game mechanics and strategy, nevertheless went on a terrible losing streak as we were reviewing the game. He so often finished with one or two planes stuck on a certain space, waiting turn after turn to draw a specific letter, that he grew very frustrated and almost lost interest in playing anymore.
When we first got the game, we were pleasantly surprised with how quickly our 5-year-old picked up the rules and was able to play all on his own (the minimum age listed on the box is 7 years old). Combined with its short total length, the game received heavy play in our house for the first few days. The box is also small enough that the game is quite portable, and would make a good diversion while at a sit-down restaurant or in a waiting room.
So despite its shortcomings, Clear for Takeoff still provides some simple fun during a quick, spare few minutes time with your kids. You can get your own copy here.
The Family Gamers received a review copy of Clear for Takeoff from Blue Orange Games.