A Wonderous Journey Around Europe in a Game for 3-6 Players aged 8+ from one of the top Finnish leisure companies
First thought: Oh no! Not another game of travelling around a map (in this case Europe) collecting mementoes/souvenirs.
Second thought: Oh well, I suppose I should go through the motions...
Third thought: WOW!! I didn't see that coming!
Players travel around the major European cities: Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Vienna (Wien) and Milano (Milan) by the use of Route cards. The cards are dispensed using a device similar to the one I used in the revised edition of 'EuroHit', splitting the deck into different types, though in this case there are three decks, Normal, VIP and Joker, instead of two (kilometres and Cities), this idea works a lot better (wish I had thought of it).
The Cities are linked by roads, roads that may actually exist (unlike the roads in Avalon Hill's cock-up 'Assassin' where you can drive from Athens to Rome directly across the Adriatic Ocean) each of which go past Places and Points of Interest which are marked with small roundabouts. To move between Cities you need to play the exact number and type of card required to travel each road, counting roundabouts as road splitters. For example there are two roundabouts between Berlin and Wien so travel from Berlin to Wien will cost you three cards, one for each Roundabout and one to enter Wien. Sounds so easy doesn't it ?
Each player owns a coach company with a collection of one large and 10 small coaches in the player's chosen colour; Red, Yellow, Green, White, Blue & Black. The three types of cards are distinguished by the colour of their flip side, Green for Normal, Blue for VIP (also orange star in top right corner) and Orange for Jokers (with blue star in the top right corner). Each City has 10 specific 'souvenir' City Tokens, players can collect as many tokens from each City as they want to, but the first player to collect 2 from a city gets the 3pt Bonus card for it - there are Bonus cards for each City and once they have been taken they never change hands. Other Bonus cards are for the Most City Tokens and the first player to collect one (or more) Tokens from each of the Five cities, both of these are 5 point Bonus points.
Going back to the three types of card, these are set on the board in the marked spaces. Players are dealt three from the normal deck and after that when they take cards they can only take from one deck, three from Normal or two from each of the others, never mixing and matching. The cards in the Normal deck will always be Route cards (they will have the logo and name of a single City on them), the other two decks contain Jokers and Route cards (Joker deck) or Jokers, VIP and Route cards (VIP deck). The difference between the Joker and the VIP joker is that although they can both be used to replace any single card type the VIP Joker also gets you past other Coaches on the road.
After choosing your starting City all movement on the map is by the playing of cards. You need only cards that represent the City you are in and the City you are going to, you must have a minimum of one for each (example; Berlin to Wien is three spaces so you need 1 Wien and 2 Berlin or 2 Wien and 1 Berlin (Jokers of course can be used). When you claim a route you move your large coach from the starting city to the destination city and place small coaches on the roads inbetween. These small coaches stay in place until you move off to another destination meaning that any opponent wanting to travel along the occupied roads must play an extra card (or VIP Joker) for each other coach on the road. Every city you visit by playing the correct cards gives up a Token (if a city has no tokens left you do not get one). If you find you have a handful of cards that do not match the location you are in, you may spend any 3 of them and move you large coach to another City and remove your small coaches from the board, you gain a 1pt VP Ticket card but no City Token; using this method of travel too often will not win you the game but it can get you into good positions to use the remaining cards in your hand.
One of the neat things about the game is that although there are Journey cards that score you VPs and which, naturally, you need to have any chance of winning the race, you are not restricted by the journey cards when you travel. If there is a Journey card for Berlin to Wien, and you are the first player to travel to Wien from Berlin when the card is on display in the first row of the 'almost pyramid' future journey card dispenser mechanism, then you gain a City Token for Wien - you only get the token of the destination city. Take careful note of the Journey cards as they are not always two-way, in fact they are most likely to be one way, thus Berlin to Wien is not Berlin to Wien or Wien to Berlin it is definitely Berlin to Wien one way.
There is little player interaction or ways for players to be thwarted (other than someone beating you to claim a Journey card) or lose cards to other players - one could argue for an optional rule that the extra card/s used for passing other player's coaches should be played to the owner/s of the coach/es you are passing but that's about all - but you can travel to cities where you think other players may be wanting to travel, thus costing them extra cards due to your coaches semi-blocking the tracks. (remember if you travel by the three 'any' card movement you do not place small coaches on the tracks).
The roads are a mite confusing at first because they have dotted lines along them which in most cases (other games) would be 'movement marks' but the only movement markers are the roundabouts. Some of the lines dotted along the roads are Red in colour, these are roads that are unsuitable for travelling on unless there are 5 or 6 players involved; these roads make for additional planning.
One thing that was pointed out by a player of our group in the first game was that as there is no hand limit you could spend the first N number of turns simply drawing cards until the Normal deck is gone, and then start on the next deck etc. Once all/most of the cards have been collected (assuming all players do this) then you can begin collecting Journey cards, the cards you play for these being shuffled to make the draw pile. We tried this once, for the heck of it, and it certainly put a different slant on the gameplay, but it didn't make for a good experience.
There are actions, options and tactics which all help to make this game far more fun and enjoyable than our first impression. It is neat, has good quality in production, well written rules and a solid four-fold board on which the design is such that there is no cramping up of pieces being played on it. It makes a lovely change to have a board large enough to enjoy visually as well as within the realms of the game play.
As I said earlier, there are numerous souvenir collecting travel games and after a while they become much of a muchness, but I meant what I said when I wrote "wish I had thought of it" as the game mechanic is good for regular board gamers and families and especially good for introducing new players to the Euro-game style of playing.
At under £25.00 makes it very good value for money.