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Subject: Is 10 Days in Asia the equivalent of Non-Gamer Catnip? rss

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Stuart Roberts

Chatswood
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Catnip is interesting stuff. Its clinical wikipedia description belies the fascination of the plant:

Quote:
Nepeta cataria (also known as catnip, catswort, kitty crack, or catmint) is a plant in the Lamiaceae family. Nepeta cataria is mostly used as a recreational substance for pet cats' enjoyment.


Infact, I suggest you watch the following Youtube video to gain a complete comprehension of the impact of catnip on unsuspecting felines. (Don't worry, I'll wait...It only goes for 2 minutes.)


Crazy stuff hey?

Contextual Clues
I don't know if you've noticed this, but I think 10 Days in Asia has the same effect on Non-Gamers. To set the scene: I have a modest collection of board games that has a wide variety of traditional gateway games. You can check out my collection if you like, but the highlights include all of the staples (Dominion; Settlers;TtR). I've also got some medium weight Euros, some Co-op and a reasonable number of political games. These board games are displayed in the living room in an Ikea bookcase - the rationale being that visitors can pick what they want to play which makes board-gaming that little bit more approachable.

One of the games on my shelf is 10 Days. Now to provide the last piece of context, I bought this game originally for my wife because her geography was pretty bad. I thought, what better way to help her improve than to buy a game that will necessitate her developing some geographic awareness - if the game is average then so be it...

Initial Impressions
It wasn't bad at all. My wife and I instantly recognised the similar mechanic to TtR with the open tile collection mechanic coupled with a deck and chuckled knowingly upon learning that this game was indeed an Alan Moon game which probably proved a precursor to TtR. We enjoyed the challenge of creating a travel itinerary and finding the appropriate travel tiles to connect our sporadic countries into a continental trip. We were apathetic towards the strategy of watching each others tile discards, mainly due to our enjoyment of deeper strategic games like Glen More and 'Gric. Overall, it proved pleasant; simple; quick; and, most importantly, educational. The game did its job perfectly in being more entertaining than an Atlas although the primary colours meant that it was substantially uglier.

We were like the guy on the right: "Not bad - I'll still play it"

Let the right ones in
Needless to say, we thought 10 Days was going to be a solid 6. We'd play it to brush up on geography or when feeling too tired for a heavier game. It was by no means a bad game - just not deep or challenging enough to fully satisfy our gaming desires.

This was until our non-gaming friend came over. She would not call herself a gamer; but she has played many gateway boardgames and even Agricola in the past, all of which she enjoyed. We gave her carte blanche to choose from our boardgaming bookshelf. She asked to play 10 Days. We ran through a game, nothing special in my wife or my eyes, but then she asked to play it again. After this second play we moved on to Dice Town.

The next time this friend came over she requested it again, "I'd like to play the travel game - I've been thinking about it and I've got a new strategy". We were floored, this was the first repeat request we've gotten from this friend. So we broke out 10 Days and played a four player game with a fourth friend: Both of them loved it. A repeat request ensued. To finish up with we played Jo and my current game-of-the-month Survive! Escape from Atlantis, it was well received but at the end of the night both of the non-gamers were talking about how they'd like to play "the travel game" again. My wife and I were perplexed...

Where is the appeal in this board game that is so... beauty deficient?

The beauty of simplicity
This is not a game I'd associate with beauty. Infact, it is close to one of the ugliest games I have played. Check out the transportation tiles...


You aint got no alibi: for an orange and white plane! Was this made in the late 70s?

But I think the strong appeal for non-gamers lies in the following simple appeals:

1 STRONG THEME! It is a game about travel which appeals to a prime interest of most 16-35 Western adults. We enjoyed many tangental conversations about the last time a friend travelled to Iran; the appeals of China; where Oman is and what to do there. Regardless of who won, we all enjoyed showing our partial itineraries and commenting on which trip would be the most enjoyable.

2 VERY SOCIAL! As a result of the first point, this proved to be a very social game. Perhaps even more conversational than several political games that rely on conversation to work. We were continually chatting about prior trips, future travel, and even geo-political politics! With no hint of hyperbole, our non-gamer friend had gone home and researched the history of Poland, intent on answering some questions that were raised the first time we played 10 Days! We even got on to discussing the Jasmine Revolution and the first Gulf War. This game proved to be an amazing ice-breaker and conversation starter.

3 INTERACTIVE without being COMPETITIVE! This is an interactive game where every tile you discard can, potentially, be gleaned by an opponent. This simple mechanism means that you are always engaging with the other players. Importantly, this game managers to be interactive without being nasty. Sure we were racing to create an itinerary. Equally, we were being careful of which tile we threw out to each other. But you never overtly attack or exclude someone (a major gripe my friends have with Settlers) - or at the very least they are not aware that you are withholding that perfect card.

4 SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE! The rules are soooo easy to grasp [take a tile, play it, discard a tile], indeed the largest barrier to playing this game is knowing where tiny countries like Bahrain are. The ease of the rules, and limited choices will drive most gamers nuts as it results in very little strategy, a large reliance on luck, and little long-term planning; however, non-gamers find it accessible and manageable. Importantly, it frees up your attention span so that, instead of devising and remembering a comprehensive strategy, you can enjoy in conversing over the gaming table.

I obviously don't have the 25% gene
To be perfectly frank, I don't enjoy the game that much. I'd much rather burn my brain and out-strategise my opponent. I lust for a challenge and appreciate a hard-fought victory. On my opinion alone I'd rank the game a 5, perhaps a 6 on a generous day. But, in this regard, I'm a minority.

Remembering back to when I first started playing board games, and how I found Guillotine an enjoyable challenge, I need to remember that non-board gamers have very different values and priorities for a board game evening. Whilst I have invited them over the play games, they have come over to see a friend. Socialising is therefore much more important than strategy. Considering this, 10 Days has proven to be a highly addictive substance, and I believe the above comments to be the reason why. Out of my entire board game collection, this title has proven to be the most consistent hit that I own. This cannot be just a fluke!

So where do we go from here, do we rip out the Catnip bush or just be glad that there won't be a mouse problem for years to come? I'll leave that call up to you...
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Simon Woodward
New Zealand
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Excellent review! Top notch. Much better than a lot of the rubbish reviews we're getting at the moment.
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Stuart Roberts

Chatswood
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Cheers
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The Soot Sprite
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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Asia was one of the first games in my collection, and my wife loved it. So much so that I purchased Europe, Africa and The Americas because she wanted to try the 20 Days around the world variant. This was her gateway game.

The first time I played with my in-laws, every time a tile was picked or discarded, her father would mention some current or historical trivia related to that country, and demanded that we quiz him on the capital cities and populations (listed on the cards). They loved it!

I find Asia the best out of the series, partly due to the variety of transports available.

The colours don't bug me at all, except in poor lighting when the yellow and peach colours can look alike.

My wife and I still enjoy playing it, particularly when we're tired and want a fast, light game. It's a pleasant way to pass 15 minutes.

We don't even mind the odd game of Guillotine...
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Ken Thibodeau
Canada
Quebec
Quebec
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manukajoe wrote:
Excellent review! Top notch. Much better than a lot of the rubbish reviews we're getting at the moment.


+1
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Scott Johnson
United States
Cloquet
Minnesota
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This is one of my wife's favorite games! Thanks for the great review!

I have tried this with my Scattergories-loving game group, and it has been well received by them also.
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Max Winter Osterhaus
United States
Oakland
California
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Really excellent review and good insights about what a game can do other than burn the brain...it can also just get everyone thinking about the world and open up avenues for conversation, and in fact tempt us into learning more.

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