SCHMIDT SPIELE'S ADVENTURE TOURS by Seiji Kanai is a cracking family strategy game for 3-6 players aged 12+. Games take up to an hour to play and that's an hour spent having fun.
The game comes with rules in 4 languages, each set of rules on a single double-sided card with colour coded sections that make it so easy to check on a rule should you need to. These cards are designed to fit into the box without folding which means that the rules are printed in quite a small text which if I am honest isn't necessary - it would have been less aesthetic but more practical to have had the rules on a card double the size and folded centrally to fit the box. There is also a Tour Guide booklet that describes the special abilities and this booklet does fold, yet the text is also very small and again I dont think it should have been published this small because there is plenty of room in the booklet as the back 2 pages have been filled with adverts for other Schmidt games plus the back cover page is blank. However this is the only complaint I have about the game. I should at this stage point out that there is an error in the English rules, one that is obvious to regular games players but could cause arguements amongst new and first time players. The third from bottom note under "Actions" (a person with a red cross through them) says that the furthest right "equipment" card from any player is discarded. This should say "expedition" not equipment. The cards have no text and are thus not language dependent, the artwork on the cards is good and the abilities are shown by icons - the examples and explanations can be found, in all four languages, in the Tour Guide.
Other than the small text it is superb that the rules are so simple and written so simply because there is no need for complexity in a game that is neither complex nor complicated. The game plays over just 3 rounds and can end abruptly though there can be (cards depending of course) possibilities for other players to extend the time a little longer. This is because the game ends when one player has no cards in their hand at the end of their turn. Players should keep an eye on how many cards the other players have and when they see them getting low they should, if possible, play cards that allow them to give cards to other players. Of course playing one of these cards may not be the action you were going to take but if it extends play it could be worth changing your strategy. Naturally you have to be holding at least one of these cards in your hand in the first place. This makes for a great game because there are various options you can take but you often have to choose whether to help your own cause or affect someone else's plans.
There are 6 player (expedition) boards, each has a desert illustration on one side along with a three colour equipment bar showing the values 3 Red, 3 Blue and 3 Yellow. The other sides of these boards is a different illustration with different equipment values and more importantly a special ability that can be used once per turn by the owning player. It is advised that your first game or two be played using the basic desert side so that you can familiarise yourself with the mechanics of playing the cards and the abilities on those cards - these abilities are fully described in the Tour Guide brochure. Once you are used to the rules or if you are an experienced gamer then it is time to use the other side of the expedition boards. Having played many times we always shuffle and deal the expedition boards out at the beginning of each round. This gives players the possibility to play different abilities in each of the three rounds, but there are several ways to play including letting players select which ability they want and/or by keeping the same abilities they chose or drew throughout the entire game. The game revolves around the way each players positions their cards on their expedition boards.
The cards present the players with adventurers and come in four colours, Red, Blue, Yellow and White. The majority of the Red, Blue and Yellow cards have a +1 equipment bonus in the same colour as the card (I say majority because there is one adventurer who gives +1 bonus to all three colours. The White cards also have a +1 bonus in one of the colours (not white) and are all a character called Pater Miller. These are extra special cards because if you have one played in front of you it can be discarded to prevent you losing another, more valuable card. Apart from the equipment bonus, each card also has a cost (in equipment value) and a coin value. The cards can be used in two ways, one, as explained above, is to add value to the equipment. The cards that are used for this action are placed to the right-hand side of the expedition card and overlapped so that the bonus values can be read along in a row - the design on the cards is explicit for this visual effect. If a player chooses to use a card in this way then they have to draw a card from the deck at the end of their turn. Another thing to think of when positioning a card for its equipment bonus is that generally the action shown on the card is not activated, the card is for bonus use only.
The second way of using the cards is to send the adventure off on an exploration by placing the card atop the expedition board, then its special ability can be activated. However to be able to send an adventurer on an expecition the player must have the required number (or greater) equipment points available (add up the value of the shown colour on the cards to the right of the board); these equipment points are not spent as such, ie the cards used are not discarded but remain available throughout play and can be used as and when necessary. At the end of the round the coin value on the cards placed on the top of the expedition boards (those on an expedition or exploration) is added up and points given by means of supplied coin counters; any cards that remain in a player's hand reduce the value of points gained by 2 points per card. Then all adventurers are returned to the deck and the cards shuffled and dealt for the next round. At the end of the game the player with the most points has been the most successful and is thus named as the winner.
ADVENTURE TOURS is a fine, fun game, playable, and more to the point easily understood, by players at least 1 or 2 years younger than the suggested age of twelve. It is one of those games where you think that each other expedition card's ability is better than the one you have, yet the designer has actually created a clever game where it is how you play to your strengths that determine your success, and of course whether the other players choose to continually play cards against you. There is naturally a certain amount of luck involved because the cards are randomly dealt and drawn from a shuffled stack. For example, in one of the recent games I was in one player was lucky enough to continually pick up cards with the ability to give them a second turn. Obviously having two turns can be an advantage but if you have many turns where you get to play twice then it is, on paper, a powerful advantage. In the same game I never received one card with an extra turn yet I was only beaten into second place by 4 points (and yes the winner was the player with the amazing luck); the games are almost always very close and down to the wire. Clever, entertaining, thoughtful, very well produced, nice and colourful, simple rules, durable components and a reasonable retail price of around £20.00.