I have loved games, maps and geography for as long as I can remember. Having all of them at once is only that much sweeter. A few years ago I discovered the 10 Days in.. games from Out of the Box, but I never did buy them. They’ve been on my Amazon Wish List for a long time, both for fun and educational reasons. So I was amazed at my luck when I learned that our very own John Kovalic is the illustrator for all of the games, and is working on the upcoming 10 Days in the Americas, too. I was hoping to review that one when it comes out, but when contacting the game publisher, they sent me review copies of the other four games that are already in print! I knew that my family and I were in for a treat.
I decided to start with 10 Days in the USA, since the map would be more familiar to the kids. I was very impressed with the board. It unfolds from very small into a fairly large board, and is nothing but a colorful map of the country. It turns out that you don’t actually use the board for anything but reference; there are no pieces that go on the board. Instead, the game includes thick cards that show either states or methods of transportation. The state cards have a drawing of the state and the state’s capital and population. The game also includes stands for the cards. That is it!
It is a simple set up, and the game’s premise is also simple: Complete a journey of 10 days where each day is somehow connected to the one before it. The game seems straight forward, but in actual play, it can be more complicated as you get yourself into impossible travel situations. Your initial strategies may evaporate as you realize that the one card you need isn’t available any longer. Some of the best games are that way, deceivingly simple. It’s a different game each time you play, since there is an element of luck and a large deck of cards. But there is plenty of strategy, too.
Game play starts with each player taking ten cards, one by one, and placing them in their card holders. This is where a lot of strategy comes in because once you place the cards, you can’t move them around. You can only replace them with new cards from the pile later in the game. I quickly learned that the setup of your cards is key to the whole game, but is also greatly susceptible to luck. But the more you play, the more strategies you figure out. Once you learn the patterns of placement, you can get a better starting set, if the cards are in your favor.
I like how during the game setup, you don’t take turns picking your ten initial cards. You just put all of the cards in a big messy pile and each pick your cards, one by one. Then if one person is slower than the rest, you aren’t constantly waiting. Once every player has done their setup, you start taking turns, swapping out your cards for better ones in the draw or discard piles. The first person to connect up all 10 of their travel days wins.
You can connect up the days in several ways. In the USA game, you can walk, drive or fly from state to state. Driving and flying each take up a day. Partly because of the variety of transportation available, your ten day trip doesn’t necessarily have to be in one direction. You could end up zig zagging all over the country. You don’t need to have an efficient travel route.
Once you have set yourself up for the best trip that you can, you spend the rest of the game trying to fix all the holes in your travel plan. You find yourself really wanting to rearrange some cards. Perhaps that would be a way to make this game easier for younger kids: get your ten initial cards all at once, and then arrange them in the best way possible. I can see the potential for a great number of house rules to keep things interesting.
For each game we played, it really did take the 20-30 minutes labeled on the box. It is a fairly quick game, unless people take a really long time to think about their turn. The first time we played, though, it took about ten minutes longer, since we were learning as we went. All of the games are supposedly for ages 10 and up, but my eight year old daughter had no real troubles. And my five year old really enjoyed watching us play, and studying the maps.
The second game we played was 10 Days in Europe. The set up is the same as for USA, but game play is slightly different. Instead of cars, there are boats for ocean and sea travel. Third we played 10 Days in Asia. Asia has four different ways to travel: by foot, plane, boat and train. Lastly, we played 10 Days in Africa. It seemed more like the USA game, since there was just car, plane and foot travel, though there were a couple of ferries thrown in. Each of these games is a little bit different and requires a slightly different strategy. If you want to play all of these games, I recommend playing in this order, from simplest to slightly more complicated: USA, Africa, Europe and then Asia.
I wish that there were related games that taught about history and culture of all these countries. Perhaps you could use the same boards and just make new card sets! (Hint, hint, Out of the Box.) Another way they could have added complexity to the game is to have points for different kinds of connections, such as more points for walking than for flying or taking a boat. You could easily use any of these game boards to make up your own game, such as continent domination, or a different traveling game. Just design your own pieces or use pieces from other games!
You might wonder why you should buy more than one of these games, since the game play for each is fairly similar. Sure, you end up playing the same type of game each time, but if you look at it as a way to learn about geography, learning the country names, locations and sizes, you quickly see how useful it is to play all of them.
These 10 Days in… games are quite different from other travel games I have played, such as TransAmerica, Ticket to Ride and Journey Through Europe. Rather than having specific locations to connect up, you just need to connect 10 days worth of travel. Your travel plans can be more fluid until the end.
One interesting but not surprising fact is that 10 Days in Africa was chosen as one of the Mensa Select games in 2004. Only five games are chosen for that distinction each year. Criteria used to choose the Mensa Select games include originality, game play, play value, aesthetics and instructions. Read GeekDad’s post about which games were chosen for this distinction last spring for 2009.
The 10 Days in… games are a fantastic way to learn about state and country names, locations, neighbors, sizes. A few small countries on all the country games are excluded for ease of play, but they are still outlined on the board.
The games retail for about $24.99, but you can get them cheaper on Amazon. I can’t wait until 10 Days in the Americas comes out later this year. I need the complete set!
Wired: Solid map and geography learning, fun game play, wonderful illustrations. The game can be challenging and fairly good for mixed abilities. Great price. Could easily use the boards for made up games and other kinds of learning.
Tired: I can think of a lot of game variations just off the top of my head, and I wish they’d included some more options in the rules. Perhaps Out of the Box should publish a companion book.