Faffing About the World
I’m going to detail Trekking the World, the sequel to Trekking the National Parks that’s apparently selling like gangbusters, and I want to buffer your expectations by pointing out that I mean these things descriptively rather than pejoratively. Moreover, I think it’s fantastic when a game exceeds expectations and attracts a raft of enthusiastic fans. And really, the hobby is about enjoying these things in company, as friends and family, and nothing can take away the precious memories we make when we share quality time.
Whew. Okay. Here goes: Trekking the World is utterly and defiantly mainstream. It’s as smooth as a white granite countertop and about as interesting. It has been engineered for appeal, relies on familiarity to draw attention to itself, and says nothing of note. I do not like it. I expect it does not care. Which makes it all the more puzzling that it appeared on my doorstep without warning, like a baby in a bassinet, except the baby turned out to be a very dull child who grew up to become an actuary.
It’s tempting to stop there. Instead, let’s go through the motions. After all, Trekking the World did.
This is a set collection game. Multiple times over, in fact. Your trekkers, nameless and faceless pawns, are racing to visit destinations around the world. These destinations are drawn at random from a deck. Why? “What a strange question,” Trekking the World seems to ask. “Why would a game ask why, let alone answer? Isn’t a game more a function of if, when, how many, how much? Anything but why. There is no room for intent. Purposelessness is the purpose. Just relax and play.”
For a moment I regard Trekking the World. Surrender seems so easy. Besides, I wouldn’t complain if I were at somebody’s house — oh, to visit a home again! — and they hauled this thing out from their game closet. These are regular people. They keep their games in the hallway closet, not stacked on shelves and on the table and sometimes, during convention season, in a teetering tower ready to haul into the basement. I wouldn’t complain. I mean that. It’s good enough that I’d just smile and say sure, and we would play and it would be unmemorable and forgettable and fine. Together we would collect sets and—
Set collection. That’s what I was talking about.
On your turn you must move. One city to another. If you land atop a souvenir cube, you pack it into your suitcase. If you have the right cards to visit a destination, you exchange them for the card picturing that place. Both of these are sets: souvenirs and destinations. One time, I determined to only pursue destinations I’d visited in real life. This didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, but I can’t recall the details.
Every so often, it’s possible that you’ll run out of cards, usually because you moved and then exchanged your current cards to visit a destination. Your next turn will then consist of taking cards, as near to a skipped turn as humanly possible.
“That’s not true.”
“That isn’t true. It’s not like a skipped turn. You get to draft your cards. That signals intent. That informs your strategy. I don’t know of any skipped turns that inform strategy. Do you, Dan?”
Plenty. But this isn’t drafting like in, say, Ticket to Ride, although you’re using the same trick. I’m not sure it’s really possible to signal intent. Even if it is, it doesn’t matter for very long. For one thing, Ticket to Ride isn’t just about exchanging colors to fulfill contracts. It’s about blocking.
“I have blocking.”
Soooooort of. Pawns—
Trekkers, sure, they block spaces. But I don’t know why. Are they two miles tall or what? If I’m in Egypt, does it prevent my friend from being in Egypt at the same time? What is happening here?
“Why does something need to happen?”
It doesn’t, strictly speaking. I just prefer games where something happens. Where a move has, you know, import. Where the theme isn’t just a nice roll of wallpaper that you can drape over the arithmetic.
“You said theme. Don’t you mean setting?”
I’m not sure I do. When people say that a game has mechanics and a theme, this is what they mean. Like how a theme park has a theme. The place looks like a frontier town or a spaceport or whatever, but it isn’t those things, it doesn’t behave like those things, and nobody expects it to. I usually say “setting” because most of the games I play have themes in the traditional literary sense, even if those themes are often simple or straightforward. But what themes do you have? Travel is fun? I’m not sure that’s a theme. I’m not even sure the gameplay is there. You’re full of downtime. You have turns that feel like skips. I once zoned out on my turn.
“But here’s the thing, Dan. A lot more people like me than you. That means I’m better than you.”
Wait, what? Wow. What a weird thing to say. I don’t see how we could know that. Life isn’t a set collection game. Anyway, that’s an ad populum fallacy.
“I don’t care. Neither do you, Dan.”
… Okay. We can agree on that.
And that’s how you write a thousand words about a game you don’t care for.
A complimentary copy was provided.