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Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
Texas
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I played Around the World in 80 Days at a recent convention and had mixed thoughts. I wasn’t sure if designer Michael Rieneck tried to create a light game or something substantial. Despite my uncertainty, it wasn’t a bad way to pass an hour and my wife liked it. So I bought a copy. Around the World in 80 Days boasts good mechanisms bumping up against a novel bad idea.

Presumably based on the story, Around the World in 80 Days pits the players on a trans-global race. You move from city to city in a fixed path (starting from London to Paris). Each path shows what route cards are needed, trains or ships in some combination. For example, New York to London requires two ships and a train. Players collect cards and must play them to “make the leg”. Each card has a value in days, and the scoring track is how many days you’ve gone. So if you play a train 2, ship 4 and ship 8, you make the NY – London journey in 14 days. If you match cards (route and number) on a leg, you only use one. So if you played train 2, ship 8, ship 8, that leg only requires 10 days. A nice idea, and it gives reason to draft high value cards (if you can match them).

On a round, one more card is dealt out than players and you go around the table, drafting a card then choosing to make a leg (or not). Each card, though, is also dealt in a slot that indicates a special action you can use:

* Get a gold coin,
* Use the Balloon,
* Draw an event card,
* Move the detective,
* Become the start player,
* Discard and replace 1-3 cards

These powers never vary, and are used in that order. (In a three player game, only the first four actions get cards.) The balloon lets you roll a die to replace the value on a single card. Gold coins can buy cards or re-roll the balloon die. The detective patrols a city (except London) and anyone who ends their player-turn there suffers a two day delay.

Also, prior to the game bonus chits are set up on the board indicating what benefit the first (and last) player to enter a city get. These are either a gold, a card, or a day penalty for everyone else.

Once a player reaches London, all other players lose a day each round. If all of the players (except one) are in London at the end of the round, then the game ends. The player who didn't make it is eliminated, and of the remainder the person who used the least days wins, if that value is 80 days or less. If it’s more than 80 days, then the first player that reached London wins.

So each turn, you get a card, maybe spend some cards to make a leg, and get a bonus action. The addition of a power to the card drafting is nice. The good (low value) cards may not line up with the mechanism you want.

I now direct my attention, and ire, to the event deck. The event deck is small: around fifteen cards. Two of these cards (“Storm” & “Delay”) force everyone to discard all of their event cards, reshuffle the deck, and lose a day or two . [People who have finished never suffer penalties, however]. So holding event cards for future use is problematic, and a significant portion of the deck does not benefit the drawing player. The other cards are a mixed bag, but mainly only useful in certain situations. A few cards are powerful, while one card (the princess) is almost useless. This makes the event cards weak overall.

That’s not a problem, if the game had made that clear. However, playing for the first time several players would draw an event, note that it would be useful a turn or more in the future, and then have to discard it due to a storm. Sometimes the other actions are also useless. Balloon doesn't do anything if you don’t plan on moving that turn, or have all low numbers or a pair. In a drafting mechanism, some choices are going to be weaker than others, but having such a high variance tasted funny. After my first game I chalked my experience up to bad luck. After my second game, I grabbed the event deck and looked at it.

I’ve played a 3rd time, and I now categorize AW80D as a medium filler. You have the planning of the route cards (you can see what cards you’ll need in the future), but there’s chaos in the events and powers. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, that bad card (that gives you a pair) combines with the power you want, so nobody ahead of you will take it. Sometimes you’ll see a round with no ships when you desperately need one and go first. The game can't decide if it's serious or not. Each mechanism points towards a different design goal.

The overall effect may work to the games advantage. This allows you to crow about brilliance when you win, and curse the fates when you lose. The event deck adds to this. It’s not a bad idea, but seeing a high degree of useless events in a game is ... unexpected, and better suited to a game like Monopoly, not a game with a veneer of planning. Just warn new players about the event deck, so that they don’t value it highly, and you’ll be fine.

Around the World in 80 Days has too many rules and exceptions to serve as an introductary game, but will be welcome in most groups that play European games. It is pleasant, if hollow.
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Crazy Bob
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Bankler wrote:

I now direct my attention, and ire, to the event deck. The event deck is small: around fifteen cards. Two of these cards (“Storm” & “Delay”) force everyone to discard all of their event cards, reshuffle the deck, and lose a day or two . [People who have finished never suffer penalties, however]. So holding event cards for future use is problematic, and a significant portion of the deck does not benefit the drawing player. The other cards are a mixed bag, but mainly only useful in certain situations. A few cards are powerful, while one card (the princess) is almost useless. This makes the event cards weak overall.


That's why I find getting gold better than getting an event card. You can buy event cards when you are in a position to use them with a much less likely chance of them getting trashed.
 
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Stephen Groves
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Just got this the other day and quite enjoy it. I think it is a good introductory game as long as there is someone at the table familiar with Euro games. It is a good introduction to a very familiar Euro game mechanic and the choices to be made in these games without bogging down with too much to analyse.

As for the event cards, I do kind of agree. But they are just one of the choices you can make and rarely is it the worst choice for you. The important thing in the event cards are the "Storm" and "Delay" cards as the variable nature of their appearance can upset one's best made plans.
 
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Jonathan Franklin
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I somewhat agree with the cards, but if you don't like them, you could always remove them and just give a gold when someone gets an event card (or give them the option of a gold or an event card - thereby maybe slowing the drawing of event cards and decreasing the number of storms/delays.

My slight annoyance is at the pacing and fiddly scoring at the end, along with the counter intuitive moving markers backwards once the first person has finished. The end seems to encourage calculation and it slows down right when it should be speeding to the finish.
 
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Joshua O'Connor
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Hmm, this last comment kinda makes me not want to take a chance on this game.
 
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