Welcome to Board Game Movie Night, this is a new series where I attempt to combine two of my favourite kinds of entertainment: board games and films. Have you ever wished you could experience your favourite film through board games? No? Well I’m going to be running through some popular films with board games anyway.
I’m starting with the 1987 John Hughes classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a tale of an unlikely duo trekking across the country when their flights are cancelled (an experience that is becoming more common nowadays) and they have to take a more unconventional route back home for Thanksgiving. I hadn’t actually watched this film until last year when my partner said it was outrageous that I hadn’t. I don’t think you can go too wrong with a Steve Martin comedy. Anyway, now I will be going over my board game picks for those who want to give Planes, Trains and Automobiles a go in board game form.
Planes - Pan Am
You naturally have to start with planes, as that’s the inciting incident in the film. Pan Am would ideally have much smoother journeys in this 2-4 player game designed by Prospero Hall. You are playing as small airlines preparing for Pan Am’s global takeover. Since you know Pan Am is doing this, you and your competitors are trying to expand as much as possible so you can be bought over by Pan Am and make the most shares (and subsequent profit).
While it looks like Pan Am has a lot of components (and it has a fair few), it’s easy to understand and start flying. The player aid is very helpful for this as you can follow the key actions easily. Every round you have the option to buy airports, landing rights and new planes in order to claim more routes before Pan Am buys them. This is a very satisfying process and you’re often competing with friends for specific routes.
While the film’s premise is based around missing a flight, it’s now an inevitability so it’s easy to imagine that a flight could be missed in Pan Am.
Trains - Iberian Gauge
There are a lot of train games out there and the typical example would be Ticket to Ride. But I will admit that I am not a Ticket to Ride lover and my train game of choice is Iberian Gauge. The film does not take place in the Iberian peninsula, so perhaps Ride the Rails from the same Iron Rails series would be more appropriate (as it’s based in North America), but I think Iberian Gauge is the superior game.
While the game deals in stocks and shares it’s easy to get to grips with after a few turns. You invest in a line, you develop the rails, you roll in the cash. Given that you connect to another urban area or major city, otherwise you don’t.
There may be a link between the game and the film as Neal and Del’s train breaks down. And even though trains don’t break down in this game, your relationships with your friends do as your rails veer off into unprofitable directions.
And Automobiles - Bad Company
While Bad Company may seem like a rogue pick for automobiles, the more you think about it the more it makes sense in the context of the film. In the final stretches of the movie, Neal and Del are trying to make it back via car and naturally hijinks occur. There is also a theme of theft in the movie, from Neal’s credit card to his wallet. So actually Bad Company a game where you play as a group of thieves makes sense. And of course you’re driving away in little cars to get away from the police!
I think Bad Company is a hidden gem of a board game, it has similar ideas to Catan where you are able to use the resources of your gang when you (or someone else) roll their number. The fun part is upgrading your gang members so you can get more resources from them (and they begin to look ridiculous in the best way, those legs are so out of proportion). In Bad Company you’re trying to gain the most Victory Points through completing heists, upgrading gang members and obtaining loot to name a few. Another very fun part of the game is gaining necklaces for your gang members (which look a bit like croissants). If you ever have the most of a type of loot (diamonds, gold, art etc.) you gain a necklace for one for your gang members and you gain more points the longer you keep it. So Bad Company completes the automobile portion of the film’s title.
So that’s a board game movie night for Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a holiday classic. If you have the stamina to play all these games in succession, I salute you.