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Subject: Fundamentally Mille Bornes rss

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Lori
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I played a lot of Waterworks as a kid, and still enjoy it now and again. But it wasn't until later in life that I realized it was essentially a differently-themed Mille Bornes. Presuming you are familiar with Mille Bornes, consider:

The victory condition is to acquire a certain mass of cards before anyone else. In Mille Bornes, it's a certain number of miles; in Water Works, it's a pipeline of a certain length (varies by # of players). In both cases, it's not quite as simple as "just collect x cards of this type"; in MB you have to arrive at the desired total exactly, which restricts what cards you can use, and in WW you have graphic constraints--the cards all have to be played oriented vertically, and your water has to end up flowing down. But in both cases, most cards are usable.

The turn mechanism is similar. In both games, you have a hand of cards (of comparable size), and on your turn you have three choices:
(1) Play a card to benefit yourself (either by direct advancement, or by curing an affliction someone else has put on you);
(2) Play a card to afflict another player (in MB, the various road hazards; in WW, a leaky pipe);
(3) Discard a card you don't want or can't use, if you have no better play.
Following any of these, you draw a card to replenish your hand.

In both games, there are several different types of misfortune other players can afflict you with, and each one has a specific matching cure. In MB, you have the flat tire, the empty gas tank, the accident, and the red light, cured respectively by the spare tire, the gas can, the repairs, and the green light. In WW, it's not as evident that there are several distinct misfortunes, because generally speaking, the only bad thing you can do to another player is to play a leaky pipe on them. However, when you consider that there are several (5 plus a 6th (leaky cap) that is only usable in certain circumstances) distinct shapes of leaky pipe, and each one must be mended by its specific unleaky equivalent, you can see the parallel.

What about differences? There's no direct equivalent in WW to the MB speed limit, a partial affliction that allows you to still play cards of advancement, but only the lesser ones.

On the other hand, in MB, once you get a milestone onto the board, they can't take that away from you. In WW, due to the lead/copper distinction, there's the potential to directly smite a particular card an opponent has played, and effectively make them play it again. In certain situations involving the T-pipe, the possibility also exists of neutralizing some of an opponent's advancement cards so that they can never count them toward their ultimate goal.

Another difference: there's no WW equivalent to the green light of MB. As a response to the red light, the green light is just another affliction/cure pair (like leaky pipe/good pipe). But in the sense of having to start the game with a green light, and having to get another green after every misfortune, there's no parallel in WW, and that strips away a layer of difficulty and frustration that's present in MB.

Then there are the wrenches. How often in MB, while sitting interminably by the side of the road with a flat tire, watching your opponents zooming past at high speeds and taunting you by discarding spare tires, have you wished that even without drawing a spare tire, you could just magically, instantly fix the problem and get back in the game? In WW, you can, twice per game. The wrench is a sort of "deus ex machina" add-on that keeps anyone from being fenced into a position of utter hopelessness.

In MB there are the special power cards, which could be considered roughly comparable to the wrenches of WW. However, they function in a distinctly different way. The special power cards (like driving ace, priority vehicle, etc.--I can't remember what they are collectively called in English) each cure a particular affliction, not just any affliction, so they're weaker than the wrenches, which can fix a leaky pipe of any configuration. But in another way they're also stronger than the wrenches, because they prevent damage of their particular kind throughout the entire rest of the game, whereas the wrench only works in one specific incident.

The special power cards in MB, because you can play them in a coup-fourre, also affect scoring, which is more complex in MB. In WW, there really is no scoring; you just win, and the game is over. It's the equivalent of a hand of MB. In MB, you not only have score that carries over from hand to hand, but you have all sorts of frills that affect the score, like the bonuses that you get if another player never left their driveway, or if you won after the deck was exhausted.

So WW has the guts of MB, but is modified a little bit, presumably to make it an easier kids' game. Scoring is completely eliminated and the game is shortened, by making a hand a game. (This offers the interesting possibility of using MB as a model to create an extended, scored version of WW.) And the more powerful wrenches are introduced in order to reduce/eliminate the chance of anyone getting totally shut out from being able to play. It's interesting that in MB, you know it's hopeless when you've seen all the cards of the kind you need (to cure whatever misfortune has afflicted you), and the game instructions clearly specify how many of each kind there are--there's even a handy little summary card with that info on it for easy reference. In WW, though, unless you go through the deck, sort, and count (which I have never done), you don't know how many cure cards there are for each affliction--and the situation is a bit different anyway, because the same good pipe that fixes leaks can also be played on its own. Sort of as if you could play a spare-tire card when you didn't have a flat, and count it as a milestone.

I maintain that WW is essentially MB, simplified in a few aspects, but retaining the main design and function; rethemed; and given a visual layout that tends to obscure the similarity. If you like either one, try the other.


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Robert
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Great analysis. I was thinking that the other day while playing with my nephew -- stuck with a leaking T-joint, discarding card after card reminded me of waiting for a green light in Mille Bornes. Fortunately this situation occurs far less frequently in Waterworks. I would recommend Waterworks over Mille Bornes for younger players / players with ADD for that reason. Personally though I am a sucker for the Euro look of the milestone markers in MB...
 
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I agree that the basics are similar.

For some reason I like Waterworks with 2 players a lot more than Bornes. That's probably because the scoring is so much easier, the rules are easier to remember, and the special cards are more straightforward.
 
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