These three games are essentially the same game, with different maps (obviously) and a few different options because of the map differences.
The map boards are bright and clear, with the states or countries each in one of five colours (except Hawaii and Alaska on the USA board, which are in a sixth colour, purple). The tiles are solid, but stick together a little which makes their handling a little awkward, but not so much as to be a huge annoyance. The tile racks are wood, simple but functional, but as a result have a really good feel. The artwork is functional – it’s a map of the area concerned and silhouettes of the states/countries on the tiles, there’s not really much you can do with that. They do, however, include the state/country capital, the population (at time of publication) and the area. The plane, car (USA/Africa), and ship (Europe) tiles are nicely designed, and I did notice that John Kovalic (probably best known for his artwork in Dork Tower) is credited for illustration. The rules are on a heavy, glossy paper. They are clear, show some examples, and also clarify possible questions.
The aim of the game.
To create a plan for a 10 day journey across the USA, Africa, or Europe.
The players simultaneously take an initial set of 10 tiles, but one tile at a time. The player takes a tile, decides where on their rack to place it, and once placed, takes another tile, then keeps placing them until they have ten tiles. However, once a tile is placed, it cannot be moved to a different day in the journey.
Once all players have their initial ten tiles, the remaining tiles form a draw pile, and the top three are turned over to form three discard piles.
Playing the game.
The active player can draw the top tile from any one of the face up discard piles, or a face down tile from the draw pile. They can then either discard the tile drawn, or discard one of the tiles in their rack, replacing it with the drawn tile. If any one of the three discard piles is empty, (which can only happen if they drew the only tile from that pile) they must discard to that pile; otherwise, they can discard to any pile It’s then the next player’s turn. If at any time the face down draw pile is exhausted, the tiles from the discard pile, except for the top one of each, are shuffled to create a new draw pile. The 3 tiles kept aside form the new discard piles. Play continues until a player has completed their 10 day journey. Nothing is played onto the board, that’s just used as an aid to see where the states/countries are, and how they connect.
Completing a journey.
A completed journey must start with a state/country tile, and end with a state/country tile; you cannot have a transportation tile (plane, car, or ship) at either end. Travelling from one state/country to another can be done in one of three ways. By foot, if travelling to an adjacent territory, the two territory tiles are placed adjacent to each other. By car (USA and Africa only), the two territory tiles have a car transport tile in between them, and the two territories in question must have a territory that borders both. By plane, the two territories must be the same colour, and the plane transport tile in between them must also match in colour. There are special rules for flying by plane to Hawaii and Alaska in the USA game to take account for the fact that that’s the only way to travel into and out of these two states. The Europe version doesn’t allow the car travel rules, but uses ships instead. Ships are designated to a body of water (Atlantic, Baltic, Mediterranean), and they go in between two countries, both of which must have some coastline on that body of water. Also, some of the territory tiles are duplicates; a list of these can be found in the rules. This means that if one of those territories has been and gone, you still might be able to get old of one later.
It’s a simple game, with very limited player interaction. You can glean some information about what other players may want from the discards they draw, much as in rummy, but because there are so many ways to use them that doesn’t help very much. One tactic that can be used, if you have a tile that you want, but in a different location, is to discard it, hope it’s neither picked up nor covered by your next turn, and then draw it again so you can place it where you want it. While that means a 2 player game can be quite strategic, with 4 players it’s hard to plan like that. It’s not a game of great thought, but it is a game to help learning geography. It’s already helped me get a better understanding of geography of all three areas. A minor design problem is that the text of the population and area gets hidden when in the rack, and given that when they are in the rack is when you are looking at them most, it’s a shame that information is not visible.
Two additional subtle things that make 10 Days in Africa stand out just a little from the other two is that there is a rules summary on the board, and all the countries that have duplicated tiles are marked with an asterisk. This is really helpful to game play, and it’s a shame these features aren’t on the USA and Europe editions.
6/10 (10 days in USA)
6/10 (10 days in Europe)
6.5/10 (10 days in Africa)