10 Days in Africa is a game I can best describe as a more fun and strategic version of Rack-O. It’s designed by Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum and published by Out of the Box Games. Along with some short and easy to understand rules, the game comes with 60 cardboard tiles (45 Countries, 10 Airplanes, and 5 Automobiles), 4 sets of wooden tile racks, and a game board that is basically a map of Africa. The premise of the game is to travel across Africa by connecting 10 countries by either foot, automobile, or plane. The first one to accomplish this task is the winner
Out of the Box
10 Days in Africa is listed as being designed for two to four players. We’ve found that while it plays decent with four and good with three, it is best with two. Playing time is listed at 20 to 30 minutes and that feels about right. None of our games have ever went over 30 minutes, while a couple have even finished in under 15 minutes. While the tile art for each country is nothing special, it displays everything you need to know, and it lists the capital city for each country (for informational purposes alone) as well. The tiles are very sturdy and fit nicely in the wooden racks. The board serves only to provide a visual reference for the travelers.
The board is put in a central playing area and each player is given a set of wooden racks arranged with slots 1 through 10 facing them. The tiles are mixed up and placed face down (we put ‘em in the box top). Three tiles are drawn and placed face up to form a draft/discard area. That’s all there is for the set up, making it quick and easy.
Each player draws 10 tiles (one at a time) and places them in one of the numbered slots (1-10) until each player has filled his/her rack. From then on, during a player’s turn, a tile may be drawn from either the face-down tile area or from the face-up draft/discard area. If taking a tile from the latter, you can only take the top tile from one of the three piles. The drawn tile can then replace any tile on your rack, with the replaced tile being discarded on top of one of the draft/discard piles. Play continues like this until a player successfully finishes a valid route. During play, the tiles on your rack should be hidden from your opponents.
To have a valid route, you must have a string of country tiles that either border one another or are connected via transportation tiles from Days 1 through 10. If you have two tiles side by side in which the countries border each other, you are traveling by foot. An example would be having Tanzania in your Day 1 slot and Mozambique in your Day 2 slot; since they border one another you can successfully travel between the two by foot. To help you in your travels, there are also automobile and plane tiles. These tiles, when drawn, may be placed in your rack in place of countries. Automobiles can be used in between two country tiles that are only one country apart; therefore you’re using the automobile to drive through the country that connects the two tiles. For example, say you have the Ivory Coast on Day 5 and Niger on Day 7; you can place an automobile on Day 6, driving through Mali since it borders both countries, effectively connecting the two. Planes can be used to make connections between far away countries. Plane tiles are colored (5 different colors) just like the county tiles are; therefore, you may place a plane tile between two country tiles for successful travel as long as all three tiles are the same color. An example would be having Niger in Day 7 and far away Zambia in Day 9; since both are red, you could successfully connect the two by placing a red airplane in the Day 8 slot. You cannot finish your travels with a plane or automobile in either the Day 1 or Day 10 slot on your tile rack.
Once you have 10 tiles that successfully connect countries starting from the Day 1 slot and ending in the Day 10 slot, you declare that you’ve completed your travels. You show the other player(s) your rack, and they’ll use the map to double-check your route. If it checks out then you’re the winner!
It may sound as if 10 Days in Africa is severely luck dependent and whomever gets the luckier draw will win. However, I have not found that to be the case. Being a tile drawing game, luck is involved but this is counterbalanced by a couple of things. First, there are the draft piles; when you draw from one of the three discard piles, you know what you’re getting. And by selective discarding, you can both help your cause and hinder your opponents. For example, you may have a tile in your rack that you need but it’s out of place; you can discard it one turn, and hopefully draw it back the next and place it in the needed slot. Also, you need to pay attention to the tiles that your opponents pick up. Then when you discard, if one of the piles has a face-up card that you think your opponent might need, put your discarded tile on top of it to keep them from drawing it.
Second, and more importantly, you need to optimize when placing tiles in your rack. Routes need to be planned and tiles need to be placed in such a way that you’re not just waiting for one specific tile to pop up in order to win. With a little skill in using plane tiles, automobile tiles, and country tiles that border many other countries, instead of waiting on one tile to finish your route, there could any one of several tiles that could bring you to victory. This will increase your chances of finding a winning tile.
I have found 10 Days in Africa to be fun, light, and quick; it makes a great filler. It’s easy to teach and even younger kids and non-gamers can pick it up quite easily. The people I’ve played it with usually want to play again; it has that “one more game” feel to it. It has the added bonus of being a game that even my wife enjoys. And, without even trying, I learned a good bit about African geography to boot. It might slide down a point (but no more than that) with further play but as of right now, I rate it an 8.