The only thing the player can reliably control is his balloon altitude, which is all any real balloonist has. In general, the higher a balloon, the faster it will go. The lower the balloon is, the greater its ability to change latitude bands since Local Wind cards mostly change the latitude band by 0 or 1 with only a very few changing it by as much as 2. Thus one of the main dilemmas is when to travel at High altitude where one is largely immune from unfriendly Local Winds, but which uses one's small supply of Fuel.
Certainly players who engage in a little advance planning can help their chances. For example, when the player has three cards on the table, he is unable to play a card on one's own behalf. Players should figure out the best timing of this, particularly in conjunction with the movement of the pawns. Or perhaps the best strategy is only let oneself into the three card situation when absolutely vital. Players must also consider when it is worthwhile to play a card on another just so that a pawn overleaps the one resting on one's own color.
Similarly, at what point is it better to change the weather rather than switch to a more advantageous lane? If not in the lead, instead of moving to the fast lane sometimes a player may be better off playing a contrary strategy of finding a lane that no one else is using and changing the weather in hopes that that lane will be fast and the current popular one slow, or even backwards.
Also, consider that two or more trailing players can conspire to play cards on one another to help each other, although strictly speaking the players should not discuss what cards they might play. Players can also cooperate to move the pawn around the wind rose in a fast way, i.e. the pawns leaping over one another, so as to be able to target the lead balloon several times.
Players should pay close attention to the effects of their movements at the quadrant lines. If a balloon is traveling in a fast lane which becomes a slow lane in the next quadrant, it can be worthwhile to slow down just slightly and then speed up again so as to get a good way into the slow quadrant before having to move according to its slower winds.
Don't forget that the Advantage cards have a dual purpose. By discarding them another player's Local Wind card can be taken from the table. This can be a great way to improve the hand, especially if needing a particular Local Wind direction or Weather Change. However, beware of inadvertently assisting the opponent if he already had three cards down and would have otherwise wanted (or desperately needed!) to play a card on behalf of his own balloon.
If the "Emergency Measures" optional rule is used, counter-card play introduces yet another element of decisionmaking.
Finally, many games end with several balloons in very close contention. At that point, each of these balloons will be suffering the "slings and arrows" of its opponents. In such a situation the player who has carefully managed his chip supply and built a good card supply both in the hand and on the table will generally win. We have played games where the leader was on the finish line, but because of being well-prepared the actual winner came from a spot no fewer than seven spaces behind.
The optional Friendly Weather rule is recommended for your first game. All of us at Up & Away Games sincerely hope that you enjoy it.