What a wild week! No review copies, this time, which is kind of a weird relief? If anything, it means I should actually publish my reviews of Movable Type or NMBR9 that I’ve been sitting on for far too long, but, alas, here we are. It’s a bit of a bummer, to be honest; my Favelas photo is really cool and I need to actually publish my dang review but I’d prefer not to go over the ol’ four-reviews-a-week-is-too-much-output threshold that I’ve already apparently committed to. I did five, once, but never again. Anyways, let’s actually talk about the games, this time.
In On Tour, you’re a … music band who’s just decided to, well, you know. There are places you’d love to go, naturally, but only so many trips you can fit into your busy schedule. Hop in the bus and hit the road in order to play the biggest tour the United States has ever seen. Will you be able to reach the top of the charts? Or will you end up a one-hit wonder?
Pretty much none. Shuffle the cards:
Give every player a player board:
They’re identical in functionality, but have four different themes; would love to see more in the future.
Roll the dice:
You’ll get two digits between 0 and 9, inclusive. If you rolled a 5 and a 1, that would let you create two numbers — 15 and 51. If you get doubles, roll again (and continue rolling until you don’t get doubles). Draw a card, and write the smaller of those two numbers on the state indicated by that card. Draw another card, and write the larger of those two numbers on the state indicated by that card. Circle all four numbers. Every player should have the same four numbers circled in the same four locations. Remove those four cards from the game.
You’re all ready to start!
So the game’s actually pretty low-complexity, which is nice. It’s played over multiple rounds until every space on the board is filled, at which point players need to make their longest path from low – high, going through various spaces. I’ll talk more in-depth about each part.
At the start of a round, reveal three cards and roll the dice. Similar to Welcome To, you do not have to use all three of those cards; you only need to use two. You must write both the numbers created by the dice roll (a 4 and a 2 make 24 and 42, for instance), and you may use one card for each number. It’s worth noting that the cards have regions (North, South, East, West, Central) and states, and you may write a number in either the region or the state indicated by a particular card. If you choose to write the number in the state indicated on the card, circle it.
If you happen to roll doubles and / or all three cards show the same region, instead of writing a number, write a star. That’s considered a wild and can be any number you’d like. As you might expect, writing a star in one of the states indicated by the card will allow you to circle it.
If, on the less lucky side, you are unable to play both numbers, write an X on any space on the board. That space is not playable or usable for you in the future, which is not ideal.
Once all but two spaces (or one) are filled, instead of drawing cards you may just roll the dice and fill those spaces in. After that, the filling in part of the game has ended; now on to path-building.
To build your ideal tour route, start at any number on the board and draw a path until you no longer can. The only rules for the path are these:
- You may only visit a space once.
- You may only visit a space if its value is equal to or higher than the value of your current space.
Now, check the length of your path and add the number of circles you visited to it to get your final score. Whichever player has the highest score wins!
For a solo game, just play it by yourself. I’d say try to beat 30 if you’re just getting started; should be a decent challenge. If you’re really cooking, try to beat 40! I still haven’t; quite hard.
Player Count Differences
Literally none. The games are played on private boards and there are no racing conditions or something, so, players can play completely independently. So, the only limit is your imagination, provided you can imagine enough player boards for everyone who wants to play.
- Early in the game, I tend to write most of the rolls in states on the cards we draw. That gives me a good network of solid point-scoring hubs, but it does restrict my options somewhat. I do this because otherwise I find there’s too much variability for me to make useful decisions quickly. With this, those decisions are mostly made and now I just need to make sure I can actually execute on them and get them connected.
- Note which states are hubs. I refer to hubs as any state that has more than, say, 6 edges. Tennessee is one such state; try not to waste it if you don’t have to. Bonus points if you can put a star and a circle on them; that’s always nice since it gives you options.
- Similarly, note which states are kinda “burn zones”. We’ve been calling states along the coasts without that many useful connections burn zones. The obvious major one is New England; it doesn’t have any pathways out so there’s no point putting anything there that isn’t essentially 01 or 98. Other ones are Florida, South Carolina, Washington, and California (no disrespect, friends; I’m Californian, myself). I was actually surprised to see that West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky are such major hubs; I grew up in WV and it’s usually a bit more likely for Appalachian states to get ignored.
- Don’t forget that you aren’t required to commit to a path until the end of the game. If you back yourself into a corner you run the risk of getting stuck; try to stay flexible.
- The easiest way to stay flexible is to make safe branches off of one main pathway. There are a lot of states that are all connected to each other; you can use that to build out extra branches from your path that curve back on to your main pathway. This is usually the ticket to a higher score, since you can add on those extra pieces to your path over time without affecting your main path’s ability to score. This lowers your risk (and will likely lower your score), but if your opponents get messed up by bad luck or bad placement this will usually ensure that you can still potentially win the game.
- The worst way to stay flexible is creating gaps that can only be filled by specific numbers. Don’t do that. I did that my first game and it made my whole life terrible. Don’t do 44 – EMPTY SPACE – 46; sure, you can put 44, 45, 46, or star in there, but it’s stressful.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Really great art. The box looks great, the boards look great, even the patterns on the boxes and the boards look great. It’s just … a really good-looking game, honestly. Very well-done.
- The dice are an excellent weight. Very good size, very easy to see and roll; a nice addition to the game.
- Dry-erase boards are a nice touch. It makes the game feel better than just sort of papers that you have to throw away each time or eventually laminate because you’re sick of that.
- I really like path-building games. I liked it a lot in Ocean Crisis (next week!) and other games that I’ve played recently, and I like it a lot here, too. I think it’s one of my favorite mechanics.
- Fairly low-effort setup. Just shuffle some cards.
- Easy to learn. I usually just teach the game by doing setup and then I explain how doubles work. That’s most of it.
- Love the theme. I kind of wish the game had more sort of narrative to it, but it’s easy to come up with one on the fly from the theme alone, which I appreciate. We can always use more games with music, band, or musical themes that aren’t just “battle of the bands”.
- Cleanup at the end is a bit of a pain. I’m always surprised at how much board there is to erase. It’s not the worst problem in the world, sure, but it certainly is a large board.
- It would be nice to have more variable setup options. The issue I have with a lot of games in this genre is that there really is no way to stop another player just copying your board. NMBR9 addressed this somewhat with variable start pieces; every player gets a tiny piece that forces them to play somewhat differently, eliminating the issue. I’d love it if a bunch of these roll-and-write games had something similar.
- Unless you have additional player boards, the box is extremely large. Just be careful with storing other things on it or something; you really don’t want it to get punctured. It looks so nice!
- I’m generally unamused by games that say they play 1 – 4 but don’t have any specific solo rules in their rulebook. I get that you just play the game, but, it would be nice to have some kind of challenges or scoring tiers or anything beyond “play the game and the score you get is the score you get; you win!” as the expectation for solo gamers. For me, it kind of makes the solo game feel like an afterthought.
- The choice of where and how to crease the board was certainly made. It’s not unplayable, obviously, but it is genuinely frustrating every game when I’m trying to circle certain areas or write numbers and I have to write directly in the crease. It would have been ideal if the creasing was less aggressive or if something was done to prevent that being a major point of writing.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think On Tour is a lot of fun! Like I said, it combines two things I really enjoy (roll-and-write games and path-building games) into a pretty solid across-the-board experience. I was somewhat surprised with this as a Kickstarter game, I’ll admit; usually they have sort of a penchant for coming with almost too much content, as though they’re trying to make sure they retroactively justify their purchase (a lot of Kickstarter games do this with extra modes, included expansions, unreleased promo content). On Tour feels more like a retail game in that it’s pretty much just the core game with no additional frills (save the high-production-value presentation). It almost makes you want a few more frills, just for varying the play up, but that’s no real fault of the game; it’s precisely because the game’s pretty fun to play and it makes your mind wander to variable setups, to random events, to all the trappings of more aggressively ambitious Kickstarters that then risk not delivering (figuratively or literally). I think it’s wise of On Tour to save some of that for a potential expansion (which I hope arrives; similar to MetroX, more maps would be wonderful), as it definitely avoids those potential pitfalls and delivers an elegant, streamlined product. I do appreciate that, and it makes me optimistic that there’ll be more to come. Either way, if you enjoy roll-and-write games, fun themes, or great art, On Tour has all three, so I’d recommend checking it out!