12 November 2020
Ambition that fails to take flight
Starting as a pocket-sized print-and-play game, Airborne in Your Pocket grew in box size and component quality, but still brings a light tile-laying wargame that can be played in around 15 minutes.
Players are the Allied paratroopers who are dropped into the enemy territory on the night before the Normandy landings. Their mission is to find explosives and sabotage German guns hidden in a bunker and set to fire at the beaches of Normandy. Players begin exploring the outside, placing and connecting tiles, resolving events and trying to find an ammo dump to collect explosives. Then they make their way to the bunker entrance tile and once everyone makes it inside, players will need to find the guns, sabotage them and then escape to the drop zone as the blaring red alert sends Nazi troops after them.
The history buffs are sure to find some familiar references to the equipment and weaponry of the period, however there are no historical knowledge prerequisites to the game. Despite the heavy topic, it is light in both theme and gameplay. While the speedy play, especially in a war game, is pleasant, this is also the only major positive element.
The exploration portion of the game is somewhat reminiscent of games like Betrayal at House on the Hill, where players place tiles and resolve events. However, while Betrayal at House on the Hill fully embraces the feel of B-style horror movie in the art of the tiles and in the text of the event’s themselves, Airborne in Your Pocket feels bland. Each tile does come with its own ability or an effect, however the art is generic. The events, while they may vary in difficulty depending on the where the players are located and if the red alert has been triggered, are simple one-liners that add very little to the overall atmosphere of the game. The events will primarily cause players to lose or gain some health, or start a combat encounter the result of which will be players losing some more health.
The combat itself is equally straightforward: players can either fight or attempt to evade combat. In the first instance, the resolution is a simple subtraction of the power of the character’s weapon from the number of attacking troops. If the players, however, choose to evade, they move to previous tile and simply loose one health. Finally, through events players can acquire items, but as they will be primarily useful during the fighting, the excitement if equipping a new gun soon dulls down with repetitive and simple maths of the combat phase.
Despite the above, Airborne in Your Pocket is not easy to win. Players’ events deck also act as a timer and as soon as the clock hits 10.00am, the game is lost. Players will need to coordinate well to complete all their tasks without delay, and survive waves of Nazis to boot. The pressure of time offers an interesting challenge, but unfortunately it is not enough to uplift the rest of the gameplay. There is certainly a way to have a wargame that includes the staples of the genre, but does not take hours to play. Unfortunately, this version of Airborne in Your Pocket is not it.
PLAY IT? NO
Despite the appeal of the quick playtime and the premise of the game, Airborne in Your Pocket is missing quite a few shots with its mechanics and the interpretation of the theme.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED: BETRAYAL AT HOUSE ON THE HILL
Airborne in Your Pockets hits several familiar notes as Betrayal at House on the Hill, including tile-laying, explorations, time limit, but does it in a more grounded, historical theme.
Words by Alexandra Sonechkina
Designer: Emmanuel Aquin
Publisher: Word Forge Games
Time: 15 minutes
This review originally appeared in Issue 43 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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