Posted by Dan Thurot
After yesterday’s alleyway mugging by Loot of Lima, almost anything would be an improvement. Good news! Our next BoardGameTables entry, On Tour by Chad DeShon, is exactly the broad-appeal title I was looking for. It’s both a roll-and-write and a flip-and-write. That’s a twofer.
I don’t know anything about how bands plan their tours, so my assumption is that On Tour is a faithful reproduction. Its core loop is tight enough you can barely see sunlight through it. Every turn is about flipping three cards and rolling two dice. Of those cards you’ll use two; of those dice you’ll use both of the numbers that can be formed by its digits. Roll a 3 and a 7, for example, and you’ll be working with 37 and 73.
Now you write these numbers directly onto the game map while adhering to the limitations of the cards you drew. Your goal is decidedly simple: once every state or country has a number, you’ll draw the longest possible chain without looping back or crossing your path. When tracing your route, each leg of the journey must move to an equal or greater number. If you happen to write a number into the exact spot indicated by a card, you circle it. That destination is now doubly valuable toward your final score.
The only shakeup comes when you roll doubles or draw three of the same zone, which lets you install a wild space.
And… that’s it. Really. You could probably play it right now.
It’s simple. So simple it might even border on simplistic. It also happens to provide a fairly good time, at least until a certain numbness sets in, and without succumbing to the usual mathiness of roll-and-writes. Instead, the entire thing is built like a press-your-luck game. It’s easy to make connections when the numbers have a gap between them. To chase a good score, though, you’ll probably leave little holes adjacent to your planned route, or make contingencies in case a connection doesn’t come through, or make careful zigzags or spirals across the map. I mentioned the geography. There are two maps in the edition of On Tour I played, one for the United States and another for Europe, and both have their own peccadilloes that set the tone for the session. The United States gets crowded on the Eastern Seaboard, even terminating in a dead end around Maine. Europe has a few sea passages that ensure spots like Spain, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, and so forth aren’t locked out of consideration. In both cases, On Tour is about envisioning the possible as much as it is about trying to shoehorn numbers into desirable spots.
For instance, the odds, limited to two d10s, are easy to parse. Fitting a number in between 41 and 68 will be easier than trying to wring something into the middle of 27 and 31. That’s an assessment nearly anybody can manage. Translating that understanding onto the map is another question entirely. For all its tightness, On Tour is really two games finely layered over one another: the probability of the numbers and the potential of fitting them onto workable routes.
I mean, don’t mistake this for mind-blowing stuff. There isn’t anything especially deep going on here.
But it’s hard to worry too much about a fifteen-minute game not being sufficiently deep. Is that praising it with faint damnation? To some degree. But contrast its simplicity and ease of entry with yesterday’s game, with its sluggish deduction and very real possibility of lasting ninety minutes. Unlike that title, On Tour provides exactly what it advertises. It’s a cool-off. It doesn’t exist to make you think big thoughts. It’s a finely dappled inch of water. A kid game masquerading as a game for grown-ups. Right down to the bonus education in geography.
And tomorrow, we’ll turn that formula on its head.
A complimentary copy was provided.
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