A to Z Gaming: Overbooked

Overbooked first player marker in the shape of a flight control tower

We packed our airplanes full of passengers in Overbooked, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Overbooked
Players: 1-4
Time: 20-40 Minutes
Designers: Daryl Chow
Artists: Gyom, Roman Kucharski, Sandy Solihin
Publisher: Jumbo

Overbooked is a card drafting puzzle game where players attempt to fill their airplane seats without kicking anyone off the flight. Whoever can ensure their planes are as full as possible with lovers in pairs, kids surrounded by adults, and large groups of people traveling together will win.

The game is set up with the departure and score boards in the center of the table. The passenger tiles are placed near the departure board. The passenger cards are shuffled and the stack placed on one end of the departure board with four turned face-up on the board. Each player takes an airplane board, aircraft steps, and player helper card in their color. Their service desk is fitted to the departure board and six dinner vouchers placed on each service desk. Choose a start player, and they get the control tower.

On their turn, the player will choose a passenger card. They can take the first card (furthest from the deck) for free, but to take any other card, they must place a dinner voucher on each card they skip over. If the card they take has any dinner vouchers on it, they place them on their service desk.

Then the player must place the passengers depicted on the card into their airplane. These cards show which passengers the player must place and their configuration. The configuration of the card can be rotated, but it can’t be mirrored. All passengers on the card must get a seat — if one of the new passengers takes a seat already occupied by a passenger, that original passenger will be moved to the airplane stairs. The new passengers must also all fit in one seating area of the plane (i.e. they can’t span an aisle). A few cards show passengers with seating preferences (window, aisle, middle), rather than a configuration — these passengers can be placed anywhere on the plane that satisfies their preference.

The game ends during the round when one or more passenger types runs out. Players finish the round, but as players choose cards, they simply ignore any passengers the have run out. Once the round is finished, players count up their points using the baggage claim score track. For all scoring, adjacent means to the right, left, ahead or behind. The passengers score: 5 points for each pair of love birds (red) who sit together (but there can’t be a third one adjacent to them!); 3 points for each child (white) who is has non-child passengers on all sides (though, windows and aisles count toward surrounding the child); 1 point for each passenger in the player’s largest group of rugby/friends/senior passengers (blue/yellow/green) — doubled if the player has the largest group of that type. Players lose 2 points for each overbooked passenger (passengers on the airplane stairs), 2 points if they have the most overbooked passengers, and 1 point for each empty seat on their airplane. The player with the most points wins.

I heard about this game from The Dice Tower review, and it sounded like just my kind of game — I love puzzle games. The adorable art was just the thing that tipped the scale for this one. Before buying it, we tried it out at The Dice Tower Retreat, and ended up really enjoying it.

I’m not very good at this one, but I enjoy trying to figure out which batch of passengers to take to fill my plane to the fullest. I often concentrate too much on the big groups, when it would be more fruitful to get pairs of love birds or surrounded children out there. On the other hand, the big groups help keep you from getting a lot of empty seats (negative points) at the end of the game.

There are some advanced rules that we typically play by — for example, some of the passenger cards have symbols that do different things like allowing the splitting of the party over an aisle or ignoring one customer, and there is a small deck of event cards for additional scoring opportunities — just to add some complexity to the game. But I’m happy playing by the base rules, too.

How is it as a 2-player game? Overbooked works well for two players. The main player interaction is in the drafting of passenger cards, so with two players that line of cards may not move as quickly as you might like, but both players are stuck with the same bad situation, so it evens out in the end.

How about the art and component quality? The art is amazing. I recently discovered that one of the artists has also done most of the Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North art, which is another game where I always take time to admire the fun characters. The cards and cardboard passenger tiles are all good quality. The one thing that doesn’t really work is the control tower, but that’s easy to overcome — we usually use the “winner” token as our start player marker instead.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely yes. This is a fun, quick game with a lot of great puzzly choices and fun, cute art. It hits all the notes for me.

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