Full disclosure: A review copy of On Tour: Paris and New York was provided by Allplay.
I’ve actually been thinking a lot about writing “revisit” reviews, where I go back to a game that I reviewed five years or so ago and see how it’s held up. Part of this is just that I think it’s necessary in the gaming space; a challenge that I run into is that a lot of games are kind of ephemeral, to me; they’re enjoyable when I first try them, but they fail to leave a lasting impression on me and despite my enjoyment of them, they slowly filter out of my collection. The other reason why is that I, somewhat selfishly, really want to play some older games again and I’d like to have a reason to do so. You know, “having fun” is apparently not sufficient justification. Love that for me. But one game that I had been itching to replay for a while was On Tour, a roll-and-write from BoardGameTables (now Allplay) that tasked players with adding numbers to locations all across the US (or Europe) and then trying to build a route that hits the most routes in ascending order. It always struck me as very challenging, but clever, and it had been a while. You can imagine my delight to find out that a new version of On Tour had just been released at PAX Unplugged, and now, here we are. We’re zeroing in and tilting a bit back in time; so let’s see what trouble we can get into in On Tour: Paris and New York!
In On Tour: Paris and New York, players find themselves touring at the height of jazz’s popularity, hitting clubs across two of the most happening cities in the western world. In Paris, players will have to navigate various parts of town to plan out their ideal route, including using riverboats to their advantage; in New York, players will have to find their way around the disconnected boroughs and use soloists to fill gaps in their band at any club they’re playing at. Naturally, there’s still the route-building you know and love from the original On Tour, but with a few new quirks for players. Will you be able to create the best possible jazz tour?
Surprisingly, not a ton! On Tour: Paris and New York play similarly to the base game, with some region-specific differences. I’ll cover both.
This is the closest to the standard game. Like the original, you’re moving around between a few regions, and if you place on the indicated number, you get to circle the location (making it count double if your subsequent route goes through there). Interestingly, each indicated number now corresponds to two possible spots, making it possible for you to really leverage your luck, there.
Additionally, the North and South are disconnected save for some riverboats that make the crossing between them. As your route moves, it may move from any riverboat location to any other riverboat location. Record the difference between the two letters (A->C or C->A, for instance, is 2 points), and total the extra bonus points you get for using the riverboats, adding them to your final score. Otherwise, play normally!
New York plays more differently than Paris. For one, you don’t do the standard setup; you just start playing the game. Each card indicates one or more boroughs, with special consideration given to one of them via a Soloist. If you add a number to the indicated borough, add the Soloist’s icon to the space, as well. At the end of the game, as you make your route, cross off the leftmost unmarked box for a given Soloist type as your route takes you through their squares. You gain a bonus for the highest crossed-off number of each Soloist type, in addition to your score.
You may also notice that, like Paris, the boroughs aren’t necessarily connected. Queens and Brooklyn are, granted, but Staten Island is off doing its own thing way at the bottom of the map. To connect them, you’ll need to build Ferry Routes. Some locations are “landlocked” (white backgrounds within the circle) and others are not (grey background within the circle). To build a Ferry Route, either wait for a Ferry card to be revealed or for the three cards to all have the same borough on them (among the other boroughs that can be on the card). You may then connect any two non-landlocked locations with a Ferry Route and use that route at the end of the game. When you add a Ferry Route, you don’t add any numbers.
Finally, should your route take you on a fully scenic tour of New York City (by visiting all five boroughs), you gain an additional 7 points.
Player Count Differences
Like the original game, you can effectively play this from one person to a hundred with no effective changes. You’re playing on your own board without interacting with anyone, really. The one thing that can change is on the New York map, as it’s possible to build Ferry routes in lieu of placing numbers. This means with larger player counts, it’s somewhat more likely that a player may end the game prematurely (since they took numbers when other players would have taken Ferry routes). I guess that’s something to watch out for, but beyond that, there’s no major player count differences. I tend to prefer lower player counts when I play, but that’s mostly just me trying to account for potential analysis paralysis among players, rather than any other feature of the game.
- More generally, I like trying to create a simple path and then adding branches that reconnect back to the main pathway; this lets you have a stable way to score points without adding too much risk. I usually call this “densification”, since you’re just trying to build a path that’s already stable and then add branching offshoots that reconnect back. This is an ideal outcome that almost never works. You leave room for high numbers? You get low numbers. You leave room for both? You just get the same number that you placed six turns ago. The dice are fickle and cruel, and you should try to have some plan while acknowledging that man plans and On Tour laughs. That said, coming up with at least some semblance of a stable path can be helpful, especially since you can use riverboats or Ferry Routes to reconfigure your routes a bit.
- [Paris] Keep in mind that you can take the riverboats in any order, so you can try and set yourself up for a bunch of points that way. I used this to salvage an otherwise terrible game by getting 15 points off of just riverboats, for instance. You don’t need to use them from left-to-right; you can go out to in or any random combination of locations. Try to maximize the points you’re getting, though! They’re easy points if your route is amenable to it.
- [Paris] Fight the temptation to always place the number so you can circle it; you need to think about the long-term optimization of your route. I forgot in one game I played and just absentmindedly placed the number and circled it for the first couple turns. Suffice it to say, that game didn’t go incredibly for me. If you can make the circled spots work, they’re worth effectively double points, but just adding them to add them will quickly turn your map into a mess, usually. Sometimes it won’t! That’s dice.
- [Paris] There are a lot of locations with a lot of pathways in and out. That can be helpful, but make sure you’re not accidentally backing yourself into a corner. You want to keep a rough idea of your path during the game, just so you don’t, say, accidentally misplace a number and cut off a third of the map without realizing that you’ve done that until five or so turns later. That happened to a guy I know. He didn’t like it.
- [New York] You must think of how you’re going to place your Ferries. Granted, you can be somewhat flexible on this front until it’s time to place them, but don’t wait until the end of the game! You’ll probably need at least three if you want to hit every borough, but four or five can really offer you some flexibility. You can even use them to ferry around to other parts of a borough to fill in a route that you might have messed up. Don’t necessarily just rely on all of the Ferry Route cards showing up at the end of the game.
- [New York] It’s almost always worth hitting every borough, if you can. It’s a bonus 7 points, and that usually means that your route is pretty long and pretty viable as a result. It’s also nice to have some semblance of a goal; On Tour can be tough if you’re playing it without a direction of some kind.
- [New York] Soloists are very valuable. If you manage to make a long route with enough Soloists, you can get an extra 30 or 40 points, which is ridiculous. I think it’s a bit hard to plan for a route that specifically aims for getting 16 points from specific Soloists (or maybe that’s just high-level strategy that’s beyond me, to some degree), but the more Soloists you can have on your route, the better off you will likely be.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I really like the increasing tension and dread of On Tour, and that is still very much present in Paris and New York. There’s an inflection point in every game of On Tour where you shift from being excited about all the possibilities available to you to suddenly feeling dread about all the mistakes you’ve made over the course of your brief existence. It’s like your mid-20s in real life. Existential horror aside, it’s pretty funny. I’ve never known exactly when the game shifts, for me, but I’ve always known that I was in the former state and am now in the latter state as we approach the end of the game and my Ideal Perfect Route is immediately going into the garbage.
- I guess if you backed the game or if you buy the promo it comes with some big gold sparkly dice? They’re great. They’re extremely sparkly. You might be able to see them in the photos. I love them, though I wish the glitter were more distributed throughout each of the dice. This is a very small complaint.
- More generally, though, the big d10s that come with the game are particularly nice. There’s something very appealing about weighty, giant, clunky dice. It’s part of why I liked Tomatomato so much (among other reasons). The On Tour dice are delightfully pleasant to roll and very clear about what numbers have been rolled. Makes everything a lot easier.
- I like that there’s a vertical board and a horizontal board. I just think that’s nice that they took the two aspect ratios and tried something different with each of them!
- The new features add a lot to the game, which I appreciate! They don’t take away from the original On Tour, though; they’re just different. A solid standalone. I don’t think that this, for instance, makes me never want to play On Tour again. On Tour is simpler (and to that end, more streamlined). I think you can learn Paris pretty easily before the more-complex-but-higher-scoring New York, granted, but they definitely represent a slight increase in complexity from the original On Tour. There’s a place for both in my collection.
- The game plays pretty quickly, once you get used to it. You’re really just making bad decisions, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years, it’s that I know how to do that pretty fast. Granted, you might want to plan a bit more early in the game so that you don’t wall yourself off into a world of nightmares, but you’re entitled to live your own life.
- Pretty transportable, which is always a plus! The standard box size for these games (On Tour: Paris and New York, Factory Funner, Bear Raid, Kabuto Sumo, others like that) is a very high-utility size, which is great. I can fit a few in a backpack easily. They’re definitely dense games (the box, relative to its size, is rather heavy), but that’s okay. I don’t often think too much about physical game weight.
- I really like the art style. It’s so vibrant! Plus, thematically, jazz is an amazing theme and this is a fun time for a game to take place, so, it all works super well together. The color scheme is very pleasant as well (even if it causes me some consternation on the New York map).
- I also like the idea that each new location adds its own unique quirks to On Tour; it seems like there’s a lot of places one could go next. There are a lot of really good location-based roll-and-write series, and I love how all of them try to change things up from map to map, be it MetroX, Let’s Make a Bus Route / Get on Board, Next Station: London, or On Tour. I think it’s very fun to see how they incorporate new maps into how they structure their games. I’m excited to see how On Tour incorporates new features into theirs; I’d love to see some map that’s just a sad indie band touring the Pacific Northwest or something.
- I appreciate that there’s no real practical max number of players, either, and that it can be played remotely, if necessary. I ran a completely online game of it while I was taking the photos (which I still need to edit, now that I’m thinking about it) for this review, which was fun. It definitely added some complexity as I was playing both games at the same time, but that’s a different problem. I really like that publishers and designers have been putting more effort into thinking about how games play remotely (when they’re not using BGA or Tabletopia or something); it’s better to make your games more accessible to a wider audience.
- There’s not really a good way to indicate that you have two Ferry Routes that overlap each other, to some degree, which is unfortunate. I would just assume that you should try to keep them perpendicular where possible, but sometimes I have to get … creative with my Ferry Routes, and it would be nice to have a better way to indicate that on the board. Maybe use different line styles? I’m hoping to test this later.
- I’m also surprised that there’s not a symbol on the landlocked spaces on the New York map; just altering the opacity of the circle wasn’t immediately clear to us. This really threw me off for a bit in the first game; I think a tiny lock or a X or a “No Ferry” symbol or something by the few landlocked spaces would be helpful.
- The actual breakdown of which Soloists to go after tends to be an afterthought, for me; I almost always focus on the longest path that hits Soloists without necessarily prioritizing going after a Violinist, for instance. I imagine that a truly skilled player can make it work in a way that I didn’t expect, but it does feel a bit disappointing that I don’t really need to put that much effort into planning which Soloists go where in a given game. It would be interesting if there were some more guiding hand that determined which ones go where beyond “you draw what you’ve been dealt”.
- Completely understand why the boards fold, but having a location directly on the crease is frustrating, at best. This drives me a little up the wall, just because I’m always writing on that spot and my number looks terrible (don’t look too closely at the photography) because I can’t get a good angle on the spot to write the number correctly. It makes me the gentlest level of self-conscious, I suppose.
- I don’t really have any New York geography internalized, so it would be superb if the various boroughs were labelled, especially since the colors are fairly similar. It’s better after a few plays, but I kept getting The Bronx and Brooklyn confused with Queens. Manhattan and Staten Island I can mostly figure out, I suppose, but the other three are completely opaque and the geography matters. It’s a bit easier with the other maps since they’re regionally-divided (and I functionally understand that West is on the left [plus, the diagram helps]). Just having the borough names near their geographic area would help me a lot.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think On Tour: Paris and New York is another great entry in the On Tour series! I actually really enjoyed getting to come back and relearn some of On Tour’s mechanics and strategy, even if that meant having to stomach a catastrophe of my own creation when my routes inevitably got messed up by a mixture of bad luck and worse planning. Thematically, I find this set super appealing; the fun of being part of a roaming jazz band hitting up various clubs in a major city is a delightful thematic spin on the big touring bands that featured in the original game. I think it’ll even fit in the base game box, since I don’t think I ended up springing for the extra eight boards, but that’s a different question for another time. I actually appreciate this smaller box quite a bit; it’s easy enough to slide one of these into my backpack (and I like this a lot as one of Allplay’s standard box sizes). There are a few things I don’t love, granted, but those are largely just quirks of design choices. I love the color scheme, for instance, but I find that the colors on the New York map are a bit too similar, and that plus a bad sense of New York geography often means that I get confused when I’m trying to figure out which borough is which. Similarly, I get that the boards have to fold, but having a location on the fold means that every game I just have one number that was written terribly because I couldn’t get it down (due to the split in the middle of the location). Things like that. Those are, granted, not huge structural problems with the game, but they do make some of the games a bit annoying, which is unfortunate. Largely the biggest problems I have, though, so your mileage may vary on how much that impacts your enjoyment of the game. It doesn’t really knock mine down, too much, so it was nice getting to try a new spin on On Tour, and playing this has made me excited to see where they take the game next. If you’re a fan of On Tour and want to try some additional complexity, you’re looking to get into a roll-and-write with some good strategy to it, or you just like making big bets that may or may not pay off, I’d recommend trying out On Tour: Paris and New York! I’ve really been enjoying it.
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