Almoster Famous

we have yet to get a french horn on the cover of On Tour, total failure, not good, problematic

I was somewhat cool on Chad DeShon’s On Tour, a roll- and flip-and-write about transiting either the United States or Europe and very likely getting stuck in a corner somewhere. It was a perfectly inoffensive but also perfectly inoffensive game, fifteen minutes long and not one of them too cerebral.

For the system’s second outing, Allplay has handed the reins to guest designer Alban Viard. The basics remain intact. The quality, however, has shot through the roof.

Aw, now I'm sad about Notre Dame.

Paris! Now without those pesky islands, apparently.

As with the previous On Tour, this version takes your band to two destinations. Rather than crossing entire continents, however, this time you’re hopping between the jazz clubs of two iconic cities: Paris and New York.

Paris hews closer to the original formula. As before, every turn consists of both a roll and a flip. The roll determines two numbers, transmitted onto your dry-erase board to chart your tour’s eventual route, apparently scrawled on a tourist map to appease your band manager’s coke-addled compulsion to only travel via numerical sequence. The cards, meanwhile, determine which areas you can write those numbers in.

It’s a game about planning ahead. Not only are you trying to put increasing numbers next to one another, you’re also seeding opportunities across the map and hoping to knot them into your overall plan later. Problems arise as the map starts to fill in. Inopportune rolls and draws often force you to sever potential avenues, leaving entire stretches out of reach. In the United States map, for instance, New England was a black hole from which you were unlikely to return.

Paris offers some respite thanks to the Seine. Cutting straight through the heart of the city, it connects large portions of the map. By reaching a bateau-mouche stop along the river, you can zip from one end of the city to the other. It’s not unlike the waterways that linked the far-flung reaches of the Mediterranean on the Europe map, albeit self-determined rather than drawn in advance. In fact, you earn points for traveling via boat. The longer the hop, the more it scores. This tends to see players hugging the waterline, the interior arrondissements riskier in their tendency to leave you stranded.

zombie version when? trading in the Mediterranean version when?

Both Paris and New York bring back the familiar cards and dice.

As a second whack at On Tour, it’s evolutionary, but still feels hidebound by one or two unlucky rolls or ill-timed flips. I found myself yearning for bridges, if only so my band could march across the Île de la Cité. Still, it shows that there’s more potential in this system than new map packs. The Seine and its riverboats allow for more reactive play, giving the back half of the game some more flexibility to venture into otherwise impossible crannies. It still isn’t enough to win me over, but it feels like a stepping stone on the way to the next map.

New York City takes the concept even further. Apart from Manhattan and the Bronx, its five boroughs are separated by water. Rather than offering a few locations along the water, every destination apart from a small handful of inland locations can be used as a ferry stop. These ferries are marked dynamically while you play, somewhat reliant on the draw but so wide-open that you can create surprising connections and freely bounce around the city.

The route-building itself becomes perhaps too easy, traced in sweeping ellipses and intra-borough zigzags that often visit every borough. Viard has an answer to that. While it still pays to prioritize the length of your route, you also want to stop by particular destinations to perform with soloists. There are four categories, ostensibly saxophones and singers and whatnot, but more recognizable as diamonds, circles, squares, and triangles. These are marked whenever you pen a number into a card’s precise stop. This demands more precision than the dual-purpose arrondissements of Paris. It also generates greater tension than the wild stars of previous maps, getting players to chase particular symbols in order to rack up the best points. It’s an additional layer that feels both natural and much-needed, offering competing priorities instead of funneling everybody toward the same victory condition.

Staten Island: only three destinations worth visiting, and two of those are the ferry stops.

New York is the good one.

If every map were as compelling as New York, On Tour might be one of my favorite roll-and-writes. As it stands, this set manages to be more interesting and playable than the first thanks to Viard’s willingness to cut a few shortcuts into the overgrowth. It demonstrates that there’s more to be done with On Tour. Hopefully future installments will be similarly inventive.


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A complimentary copy was provided.

Posted on March 27, 2023, in Board Game and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The omission of the 2 islands in Paris is criminal, though.

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