Pan Am: The Game – Airline Extravaganza

Pan Am game box

Take part in the golden age of travel with Pan Am.

From tweed suits to short skirts, parties in the skies were the events du jour. Regional airlines gave way to international forces like Pan American World Airways and Trans World Airlines. You too can capture this era through Pan Am: The Game from Funko Games. In Pan Am, you will be the leader of one of those regional airlines. No matter how you build your routes with new destinations and bigger planes, the globe-spanning Pan American is going to win. Can you ride to victory on their coattails by owning their stock?

How to Play

We created “Player Start” bags with 12 money and the airports, engineers, income tracker, two trimotor planes, and one clipper plane in each color. Each player takes an airline board and their matching start bag. Draw two destinations and a directive card, and begin! The first player is whoever most recently flew in an airplane.

Gameplay

There are seven rounds in Pan Am and four phases in each round.

1. Event

In the event phase, flip the next round card and read the effect. Adjust the price of Pan Am stock and take note of the number of times the expansion die is rolled.

Age of Tourism: Each player earns income equal to the distance of their two longest Routes.
An event for round 5. All players will earn bonus income, stock price goes up, and the expansion die will be rolled twice.

2. Engineer

In the engineer phase, each player takes turns placing their engineers on the (A) Airport, (B) Destination, (C) Plane, (D) Route, or (E) Directive locations. Players can outbid their opponents in locations A-C to seize an airport, destination, or plane of their choice. This forces the outbid player to reallocate their engineer.

Locations D and E are limited by the number of spaces in them. Go around the table until players use all their engineers.

Hong Kong - green pawn on 2. New Delhi - gray pawn on 0. Istanbul - red pawn on 2, gray pawn being removed from 0. Mexico City - yellow pawn on 0.
Placing engineers in (B) Destinations. Red outbids gray for the Istanbul card.

3. Resolution

During resolution, players remove their engineers from the board in alphabetical order. The winning bidder for the (A) airport pays the bank and builds an airport wherever they like. The winning bidders for (B) destinations pay the bank and take their respective destination cards. The same happens for (C) planes.

When a player removes their token from the (D) routes section, they must have landing rights for both cities on a route to claim it. Players have permanent landing rights in a city if they have an airport there or have the card for that city. A player may claim one-time landing rights by discarding a card matching the desired city’s color, or two matching color cards of any color. Once landing rights are secured, they place a plane capable of the distance requirement for the route, and increase their income accordingly.

Engineers in the (E) directives stay on the board, but the player draws a Directive card. These engineers gain Priority Access for the next round: they are assigned before the first player’s turn.

4. Pan Am

The last phase of each round is the Pan Am phase. Roll the Pan Am die to determine which direction(s) Pan Am will expand. These tracks: the South America Path, Europe Path, and Asia-Pacific Path, match the general expansion of Pan American World Airways half a century ago.

Use Pan Am tokens to track this expansion. If Pan Am expands into a route owned by a player, Pan Am buys that route. That player gets their plane back, and money from the bank depending on the size of the route. The Pan Am face on the die allows each player to sell a single route of their choice to Pan Am.

Pan Am tokens around Miami
Pan Am starts expanding from Miami (or pick Rome as an alternate starting point).

Players then collect income for their routes and airports and buy as much stock as they want at the current stock price.

End Game

These phases are repeated in each of the seven rounds, Cruisers (capable of length 3 routes) are unlocked before round three, and Jets (length 4 routes) are unlocked before round six. The winner is the player who has amassed the most Pan Am stock at the end of the game!

Pan Am tokens along the following path: Midway - Wake - Guam - Manila - blur. Red and gray airplanes are just barely visible going to other destinations.
Pan Am keeps expanding: The Asia-Pacific path

Impressions

The first thing we have to touch on with Pan Am is the aesthetic. Prospero Hall and Funko absolutely killed it with the art and design in Pan Am. Everything about the game, from the color selection to the destination card art, screams pre-1970s corporation. It’s gorgeous.

Immediately noticeable when unfolding the board is the map layout. The designers eschewed the traditional Mercator projection for a different layout, minimizing much of the southern hemisphere. This choice is key to the Pan Am extension paths; no routes exit one side of the board to appear on the other.

Pan Am game board

Situated in the middle of the map at the North Pole, the Event Cards read like newspaper clippings. These glimpses into the actual history of the company give players clear instruction while capturing another vestige of a bygone era.

Event cards. Round 1: Radio Communications, The Great Depression. Round 7: Computerized Reservation, End of an Era
Event cards reflect real events in Pan Am’s history

But above all the glitz and glamour, Pan Am is a masterpiece of design. We are so impressed with the careful treatment of the source material and the creation, somehow, of three different games, depending on player count. It’s just incredible how this game feels completely different at two, three, and four players.

At Two Players

Each player has five engineers in a two player game. This means there are plenty of spaces on the board for everyone to do essentially whatever they want. There’s a little jockeying for position, but there’s enough strategic flexibility to pivot in another direction if your opponent is gumming up the works for you.

Two player Pan Am is a laid back resource management game. You can enjoy this with a family member or friend over a casual drink and some snacks.

At Three Players

With three players, the rules restrict each player to four engineers. Suddenly, this calm, relaxed, laid back (very 70’s, I might add) game tightens up fast.

Pan Am becomes a savage worker placement game where the most astute players are rewarded for carefully monitoring their opponents’ moves. With twelve engineers in play, the board is incredibly tight at the beginning, when everyone wants to perform more or less the same actions: grabbing destination cards and acquiring planes. You’ll need to carefully weigh the value of destination cards that could have been free in a two player game, as players outbid each other and prices rise.

Fun and freedom at two give way to compact, ruthless play at three.

At Four Players

Surprisingly, the dynamic completely changes again at four. Each player only has three engineers at this count, so the board isn’t any more crowded than in a three player game.

The biggest shift at four players is that no player now has enough engineers to accomplish all of the necessary tasks to build a route in one turn: acquiring landing rights for two cities, a plane, and placing an engineer in the Routes section. Because of this, the gameplay loop must be broken across multiple rounds. This leads to slower building across the board (literally) and suppressed scores at the end of the game.

Because the lower worker count loosens the gameplay loop, the game is inherently less stressful even though there are more players gunning for the same resources.

(D) Routes, all six spaces filled with engineer pawns
Available spots can fill up quickly at 3-4 players

Pan Am manages to be a laissez-faire resource management game at two, an intense worker placement game at three, and caps off its chameleon-like style with a Euro feel at four. It’s really impressive how much variety you find in one box.

I might have liked to see something like a “Freelancing” spot available at three players. This could provide an outlet for players to park engineers and perhaps get a little bit of money. Otherwise, some players have to put their engineers on routes, a waste if they can’t claim one. Apart from this small adjustment, there’s nothing I can come up with that I would change.

Final Thoughts

We adore this game. Pan Am is in the running for game-of-the-year for us, and it will be on our shelf for a very, very long time. Its flexibility and stunning table presence make it a clear winner for The Family Gamers. We know there are plenty of other families out there that this will win for, too. At $35, it’s a steal.

Find Pan Am at Amazon or ask for it at your friendly local game store.

Pan Am game box

The Family Gamers received a copy of Pan Am from Funko Games for this review.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Pan Am
  • 10/10
    Art - 10/10
  • 9.5/10
    Mechanics - 9.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Family Fun - 8.5/10
9.5/10

Summary

Age Range: 12+ (We say 8+)

Number of Players: 2-4

Playtime: 60 minutes

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