Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Around the World in 80 Days

I played Around the World in 80 Days when I was in Hong Kong on a business trip, on Fri 14 Nov 2008 after work, at the Jollythinkers boardgame cafe. This is a game that I have heard of since a few years ago, and have been interested to try, but never had a chance to do so. I did a concise reference sheet for it quite some time ago, in anticipation of finally trying it some day.

The game is, of course, about trying to go around the world in less that 80 days. Every round, a number of traveling cards are displayed at the edge of the board, and each player takes a turn by first selecting one of the cards, then doing the associated action where the card is taken from, and then deciding whether to move his/her pawn. To move from one location to the next, you need to play traveling cards matching the mode of transportation shown between the two locations.

There are quite a number of other details, e.g. special power cards, money and how you can use them (buy a card, or re-roll a die), traveling by balloon, traveling by elephant (in India), the detective who slows down players at the same location. It takes a while to explain all these to new players, but although many, the rules are simple. Only one thing can be a little confusing at first - the concept of time. There are two layers of time, time taken by your pawn to travel around the world, which I will call travel time, and the order in which player pawns get back to London, which I will call real time. Every time you travel from one location to the next, the travel cards used will determine how much travel time is spent, and you use your marker to indicate this on the track around the board. At the end of the game, the player who has spent the least travel time wins. However, if there is a tie, then who ever reaches London first (i.e. in real time) wins. Also, the game ends when all but one player reaches London. The last player automatically loses, even if he/she has been very efficient in managing travel time. So there is a race element in real time too, in addition to the competition in travel time.

A slightly blurred photo taken using my mobile phone.

Moh Yen, Ah Chung and Ben, who is struggling about what to do next.

A better shot of the game board, but from the north.

me, Moh Yen, Ah Chung and Ben.

Around the World in 80 Days is a game that I'd play but would not buy. I'd say I'm not the target audience. This is a lighter game, suitable for families (and children) and non-gamers. I'm happy to have tried it, and Ah Chung, Ben and Moh Yen all seemed to have enjoyed it. In fact, we played it 3 times. The game is thematic. There is some interesting decision making in the game, e.g. the card that you want may not be laid out next to the action that you want to take. There is also a fun gambling element in the bonus chips at each location, for the first person to reach the location, and for the last person to leave. There are two face down chips at each location (I hope I didn't play this wrong), and whenever they are awarded, it can be good or bad for the recipient. Some give money, or special power card, or travel card, some also delay you for one more day. And then of course the special power cards introduce a lucky-draw or surprise element. Most of them are good, but usually you need to use them quickly, because when one of the two bad cards are drawn, everyone must surrender these special power cards in their hands, and the deck of cards is reshuffled. So there is a push-your-luck element if you hold on to your good special power cards for too long.

In summary, not my type of game, but it's a good family game.

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