Around the World in 80 Days by Michael Rieneck is based on Jules Verne’s book. Players are sent from London to circumnavigate the globe, hoping to make it back to London in 80 days. A race has begun!
Race around the world
So, it’s a race game. Race games have generally two problems, I think: if someone gets ahead, the winner might be obvious before the game ends and second, most race games rely on dice or other luck-based mechanics. Fortunately, Around the World in 80 Days avoids both of these.
To move, players play train and ship cards. Cards are drafted on the board, which reduces luck. The cards have different values, some are faster than others. However, even weaker cards can be useful: playing doubles counts only as one card, so if you play two cards worth eight days each, you’ll only spend eight days, not sixteen. This removes lots of luck from the movement.
To avoid obvious leaders, the game uses fairly clever scoring. Players count the days the spend on their trip. Majority will be from travel cards, but there are also some hazards on the way (the detective, for example, or bad weather) that slow the players down. The winner isn’t the first player in London, but the one who spent the smallest number of days on the trip.
Each turn, a bunch of cards is displayed for the players to choose from. With cards they also choose a special power. Sometimes it’s easy, when the best card is matched with a good power, but sometimes you have to choose between a good power and a good card.
Powers are generally quite helpful. Hot air balloon makes travel faster, for example. The turn starts from the player who took the starting player action last turn — that’s a good one to take, particularly if you’re sitting right from the starting player. Moving the detective can add pressure to other players, and so on. The decisions are fairly simple, yet interesting.
Once you’ve chosen your power, you may move if you wish. It might be worth it to wait, gather some strength before you move on. There’s a catch, though: you may only move one step each turn. You’ll have to keep with the others, because the last player to arrive in London is automatically eliminated from the race. That gives a good incentive to move along.
The game comes in the standard Kosmos big box. There’s a board depicting the map of the world (a bit drab, but ok), large wooden playing pieces, small cards and bunch of cardboard coins and markers. All in all it’s a well done game, but I didn’t find the art that exciting. It works, though, and that’s the important part.
Fun for four or more
Around the World in 80 Days is good fun. It’s a fairly light game, but still offers meaningful decisions. It’s not much of a gamer’s game, but with kids and inexperienced gamers who know and enjoy the book or the cartoon, it should work well.
The game seats three to six, but is best with four to six. Five is probably the sweet spot. The game moves on pretty swiftly, there’s no waiting for other players to move (except when you’ve made it to London first, but that’s happy, exciting waiting).