Long before the pandemic lockdown hit, I’ve been a big fan of board games and a group of us having been meeting monthly for the past 15 years (without missing a single month!) to play the latest games we’ve discovered.
In an effort to stay socially distanced, we’ve been using Tabletop Simulator to connect regularly and still play board games, except in a virtual setting. One of the hidden blessings is that it enables us to discover new board games more easily and inexpensively.
While there’s definitely a trend towards naming games after places like Jaipur, Puerto Rico, Carcassone and Istanbul (all of which are excellent) or to feature maps, like Pandemic, Risk and Settlers of Catan (an equally great selection), there aren’t really that many games that have travel themes. Several have come and gone, but board games are a competitive business and titles rarely see a second printing if they fail to catch on.
Fortunately, there are a few titles that capture the magic of travel so if you’re looking for some new board games to discover and play with your friends and family then check these ones out:
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a fun family game that has players competing against each other to be the first to complete train routes across North America. It’s a colourful, card-collecting game that is easy to learn and fun to play. It has proven so popular that Days of Wonder, the game’s publisher, has several spin-off titles with different maps and modes of transport like trains across Europe and Japan or multi-mode travel in New York and London.
Mancala is one of the world’s oldest games and countless varieties have sprung up over the centuries in many different cultures so it’s no surprise that we’re still playing it in the 21st century and that it has been updated with an airliner theme. Planes is a quick game to play and easy to grasp, but has enough subtle strategies to ensure many replays.
So far I’ve listed games about planes and trains, so I guess the next should be about automobiles. Mille Bornes is a classic card game that has players competing to be the first to drive 1,000 kilometres. Originally designed in France in the 1950s, the game is actually a copy of an earlier American game, Touring, that dates back to the 1920s.
So that’s planes, trains and automobiles covered, so let’s talk about a boat game. Mississippi Queen has players racing their paddle-wheelers down the Mississippi River, picking up passengers along the way, but all while managing their coal supplies and navigating the tricky waterways before them. The game’s modular map means every game is unique.
If you like the award-winning game 7 Wonders, then you’ll like Tokaido, a wonderful travel-themed game by the same designer. While the game is a visual treat, it also features memorable game mechanics as players take on the roles of travellers crossing Japan’s magnificent East sea road. The traveller who discovers the most interesting and varied things in his journey is the winner.
Anyone’s who’s ever gone backpacking will enjoy Backpacker, a light card game that has players competing to be the one who returns home with the most photos. Along the way, they get to visit different countries and cultures, enjoy beaches, go trekking, spot wildlife and meet other travellers who give them good and bad advice, all while trying to avoid getting sick or missing their planes. It would be a fun game to give to someone who’s about to go on an around-the-world trip, although a pack of regular playing cards is probably a better choice.
The Voyages of Marco Polo
Marco Polo is a little more complicated than some of the games I’ve mentioned so far, but if you like worker placement games with lots of dice rolling, then this one’s for you. Players roll their dice to send travellers out to discover new cities while collecting and managing resources to complete contracts for victory points and more resources. Every player has his or her own unique power which helps randomize things even more and make it even more fun to play.
Easy Breezy Travel Agency
I don’t know if I’d want to be a travel agent right now, but wouldn’t mind being one in a board game. In this light game, the players are the top agents of Sheboygan’s own Easy Breezy Travel Agency. Each is competing to send their customers on exciting trips, keeping them happy and collecting big, fat commissions.
Scotland Yard has become something of a modern classic. One of the players takes on the role of the criminal mastermind Mister X while the others are detectives of Scotland Yard who must chase him through the streets of London before he escapes justice. Players use travel tickets to chase him by taxi, bus, and underground, around Picadilly Circus, along the River Thames, and through Paddington Station.
The Sagrada Família in Barcelona is Antoni Gaudí ‘s masterpiece, but the cathedral has yet to be finished. It is hoped to finally be done by 2026, the centenary of his death. Imagine you’re part of the team finishing the cathedral in this game that has you playing the role of a skilled artisan building a stained glass window in the church. Sagrada is visually beautiful and features unique mechanics that make it a lot of fun to play. There’s even a solo mode so you can play it during lockdown if you have no one else to play with!
Do you have a favourite board game, even one that’s not travel-related? Let us know in the comments!