Pan Am: The Game throws players into the world of air travel with a big sense of strategy, drafting and playing stocks. I was pleasantly impressed with the game and its many different aspects that equally rely on each other, asking players to take risks or play it safe on every turn. The mid 20th-century aesthetic, economy management, and difficult choices make this game a challenge for both newcomers and experienced players.
The game’s concept is very original; who makes a game about selling airline routes to Pan Am? Well, the developers of this game did, and it is a lot of fun. Players will need to manage purchasing destinations, airports, new planes, and have enough money to invest in stocks. This balance is great as they take turns placing their engineers on locations around the board to buy things, place planes, or obtain cards. I found each round to have a lot of tension as players would want something terribly bad and see it be taken or try outbid by other players
The way to win is by purchasing the most stock in Pan Am. Players must buy and sell routes and generate income through their own routes to earn money to buy stock from Pan Am. The stock prices go up and down and are well randomized through a series of cards drawn at the beginning of each round. These cards dictate how much Pan Am will expand, the stock prices, and other things. These cards that dictate the beginning of each round are really well-balanced and keep players making tough decisions whether to buy stock sooner or later.
The level of strategy and difficulty of this game can be a little daunting at first. There are a lot of moving parts, but they do tie together very well. After the first two or three rounds, it’s pretty easy to understand gameplay. Becoming efficient through different strategies and understanding stocks will take some time, but that’s perfectly normal and welcome four most games.
I think this game has a lot of great potential, great replayability, and good levels of randomness and strategy. It never really felt unfair, the randomness affects all players positively or negatively meaning no one gains a lot and no one loses a lot just by chance. There could be some improvements here or there in the physical layout, and there are tiny issues with some game mechanics, But overall, this is a really great game for experienced and veteran board game players and a good next step for casual players.