Pete Belli
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Round-A-Bout is a vintage hybrid that blends elements of a card game with a board game spinner gimmick. It was produced in 1987 by Milton Bradley and the game was designed to be enjoyed by 2, 3, or 4 players at least 8 years old. I paid one dollar for my copy at the thrift store.

The package includes a deck of 96 specially designed cards, the board/pointer assembly, a pile of 64 plastic score chips, and the rules. Everything is sturdy and my 25 year old deck of cards is still serviceable. No reading is required to play so younger kids might be able to join their big brothers and sisters at the table after the rules were explained.





Every card game needs a gimmick. Round-A-Bout features a combination pointer and card holder which functions as a kind of spinner during play. The contestants have a limited amount of control over the pointer and proper positioning of the device is an important element of the game’s strategy.

Like all carefully crafted card games intended for mixed audiences the rules are relatively simple but the play experience offers a little extra depth for more competitive customers. The object of the game is to avoid scoring points, which are considered to be penalty tokens. The actual game mechanics are deceptively uncluttered… players take turns placing cards with different numerical values in the holder until the total reaches 27 and the contestant who can’t play another card during his or her turn loses the round.





In addition to the numerical values every card is printed with at least one arrow. The arrow indicates which direction the pointer will be moved. A few special cards permit the player to turn the spinner in either direction. Some particularly nasty cards punish a player who loses a round with double or triple the number of penalty points if that special card completes a set of 27 in the holder.

The numerical values on the cards provide an interesting mix of options. There is a certain amount of hand management because each player always holds seven cards but the workload is nothing that would overwhelm a typical younger player. We thought the special cards with a value of zero were hilarious because just when one player thought the magic number of 27 had been reached (and the other player was totally screwed) the zero card literally turned the tables on that gloating contestant.





While there is a bit of strategy involved with guiding the pointer in the desired direction the fall of the cards during play is so random that planning one turn ahead is difficult. Obviously you want the spinner pointed at areas of the board with high penalty values if you think you’re about to force the other player out of the game with a play that puts 27 in the card holder. Defensive use of the arrows (pushing the player away from high penalty areas if you’re in trouble late in a round) is less effective because your opponent will frequently have cards that permit him to guide the pointer in any direction.

The ability to count cards in a deck of 96 would be a major advantage in this game because the number of special cards which allow a round to continue after the magic number 27 has been reached is limited. A session ends at 500 penalty points. In our sample game my opponent severely chastised me for assuming I had won the final round. I confidently started reaching for score chips to place on her section of the board when she nailed me with a Triple Penalty card. Since all of my special zero value cards had been squandered early in the game I had no response.

My opponent enjoyed the “Gotcha!” element of Round-A-Bout. There is quite a bit of strategy involved if players give the game a little thought. For example, if you’re about to lose a round but the spinner is aimed at a measly 10 point penalty area just take the loss and save that essential zero value card for later use in a more desperate situation. The victorious player said she would like to play again on another day. One or two more sessions will be enough for me, but Round-A-Bout is a nasty little game that provided a few laughs. Not a bad investment for one dollar.
 
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