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21756[Review] 10 Days in Africa / 10 Days in the USA

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  • Tom Vasel
    Nov 1, 2004
      I first heard about 10 Days in Africa and 10 Days in the USA (Out of
      the Box Publishing, 2003 - Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum) when looking
      through one of the company's catalogs. When I read how educational
      the game was, I immediately had negative thoughts; as educational
      often equals boring when it comes to board games. Still, the duo of
      Moon and Weissblum have produced some wonderful games, and Out of the
      Box had a good reputation, so I was interested in trying them out. If
      the "educational" part of the game was true, I'd have even more fodder
      for my "games are educational" campaign I wage at my school.

      My initial play was a two-player USA game with my wife. As soon as
      the game ended, we immediately played another, then switched to the
      Africa version. The next day, I played the game in a multiplayer
      situation - several times. Again, a few days later, my wife eagerly
      requested the game one more time. Not since Lost Cities has a game so
      intrigued my wife and the others I introduced it to. I have to admit,
      the educational value is certainly there (especially in the Africa
      version), and the game is excellent. I prefer the two-player version,
      but even with four, downtime is fairly low, decisions are
      gut-wrenching, but the game is fun, leaving one with a "just one more
      time!" feeling.

      The game board is placed in the middle of the table, depicting the
      USA with its fifty states or the continent of Africa with forty of its
      countries. Each player takes two sets of racks - each numbered from
      one to ten, with slots to place ten tiles. A stack of tiles is
      shuffled and placed near the board. Starting with one player, players
      draw one tile, placing it in any open slot in their racks. This
      continues in a clockwise method, until all players have filled their
      racks. The rest of the tiles form a draw pile, with the top three
      being turned over face up next to the stacks, forming three discard
      piles. One player is chosen to go first, with play going clockwise.

      On a player's turn, they may draw either one of the face-up tiles of
      the top card from the draw pile. They then can either place the tile
      they took in the rack, replacing the tile there (which then goes to
      one of the discard piles), or discard the tile they drew. Players are
      attempting to complete a 10-day journey, connecting all their tiles
      together. Tiles are either a country (or state), an automobile, or an
      airplane. There are several rules concerning the tile's order.
      - The first and last tile must be a country (state) tile.
      - Country (state) tiles may be connected to each other if they are
      adjacent on the map.
      - An automobile may act as a "wild" tile, substituting for another
      state (country) as long as the country it represents is adjacent to
      the countries in both adjacent tiles.
      - Two automobiles cannot be adjacent.
      - An airplane tile is one of five colors (red, yellow, orange, green,
      or blue) matching the country tiles, which are one of the five colors.
      An airplane tile can connect to country tiles, as long as both
      countries are the same color as the airplane tile.
      - On the USA map, Alaska and Hawaii may be connected by any color
      airplane, but that's the only way to get to them.
      If the draw pile runs out, the discards are shuffled to make a new
      deck, with three more cards being laid face up. At the end of a
      player's turn, if they can show that all of their ten tiles are
      connected in the proper order, following the above rules, then they
      win the game!

      Some comments on the game...

      1.) Components: Both games look fantastic with clear, easy to read
      maps. The colors mesh well, and the borders are drawn well. The
      names of the countries and states are clearly marked, with arrows
      drawn to help easily identify the small countries and states. The
      tiles are thick, glossy tiles - a little bit less than half the size
      of a cassette tape. They shuffle fairly well, and look clean and neat
      against the backdrop of the racks. The racks are excellent, although
      I liked the wood burned effect of the Africa racks better. In fact, I
      enjoyed all the components of the Africa map better - OOTB obviously
      polished up a little after the USA game, the one published first.
      Nicest of all are four boxes on the African board, showing certain key
      rules of the game. All of the components fit in or around a small
      plastic insert in the small, flat sturdy box. The graphic design of
      both games includes the work of John Kovalic (who is tremendously
      talented) and they both look extremely sharp. These are games that
      one can be proud of when they hit the table.

      2.) Rules: The rules are simple, explained on four pages of
      full-color laminated pages. The Africa map rules are slightly
      simpler, since you don't have to deal with Alaska or Hawaii, but both
      games are very easy to teach and learn. The game can be taught in
      less than a minute or so (don't I always say that about Out of the Box
      games?) and it doesn't take too long to get the strategies down.

      3.) Strategy: There really isn't a lot of strategy in the game, per
      say - more like tactics. You deal with the cards you initially draw,
      and try to plan around them. Trying to get countries or states in
      your rack that have a lot of bordering countries and states is
      helpful, and some folk (including me) ditch Maine the minute they get
      it, since it only connects to one other state. The cars and airplanes
      sound like they are tremendously powerful cards, but with their
      restrictions they are useful but not game breaking. I've seen several
      games where the winner used only country/state cards, but I've seen
      others with four airplanes, connecting countries all over.

      4.) Tension: One thing I really enjoy about the game is the tension
      involved. It reminds me of two other games, Transamerica and Rack-O.
      Now, I dislike both of those games, but the concepts work better here.
      It seems that just before I pull that last tile to connect all my
      tiles, winning me the game - someone else does - just like in
      Transamerica. Unlike Transamerica, when I win this game, I feel that
      it's because of something I did. The game also reminds me slightly of
      Rack-O, as players shuffle their tiles, trying to get them in the
      proper order. However, the choices of tiles to draw (the face-up card
      mechanic is one of my favorite, a Moon classic) put the choice in my
      hands. Re-arranging tiles is possible, by discarding a tile, and
      hoping it's still there when your turn arrives again. I've tried this
      in several games, but often the tile is taken by someone else or
      covered by another tile. This is annoying, but it's a risk player's
      should realize they are taking. I've just gotten to the point where I
      never bank on getting one of my tiles back.

      5.) Fun Factor: The game is a lot of fun but is a silent affair,
      usually - except the cries of anguish when another player has
      announced their victory. Players are usually staring hard at the
      board, puzzling how to best get their tiles in the order they want.
      This is a quiet sort of fun and may not appeal to everyone, but the
      game is so absorbing that everyone I've played with doesn't mind.

      6.) Africa or USA?: If you can only get one of the two games, I would
      recommend Africa. The rules are easier, the components are better,
      and the countries are less known, making it more interesting. The USA
      version, however, is more difficult. There are multiple cards for some
      of the African countries, but only one of each US state. Still, both
      games are excellent; and if one is enjoyable, I would recommend
      picking up both, as they can be a nice change of pace. I'm hoping
      that other maps are released - possibly with small variants.

      Whenever I type a review, I lay all the components of a game out in
      front of me to better reference the game. When my wife passed by, she
      stated that just seeing the game out made her want to play it again.
      That, my friends, is a rare occurrence, and is solidifying my opinion
      that this is one of the best two-player games on the market right now.
      It runs in a short amount of time and is simple yet engrossing. It
      really does help one learn geography in both continents and looks
      really good when set up on the table. If there is a game that will
      help us introduce this great hobby into schools, then these two are
      that game. If you get a chance, pick this one up. It's not a
      rip-roaring party game, but a quiet, quick one full of fun.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games."