How I spent 10 Days in the USA

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Today we played the board game 10 Days in the USA – well a card game where the board serves as a map with specific colour coded States. It was an interesting ten days – so here’s how it worked out….

The game is made by Out of the Box and you can read the full details, rules and a video of game play on their website. There are others in the series such as Africa, Americas, Europe and Asia – you can even play one or more titles together.

For our first play – I really enjoyed it and think it might become a favourite! It’s won a pile of awards so give it a go.

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In the well made box you get the large map, wooden painted card holders and a stack of really sturdy cards to mix up. The quality is really good and the game only cost us £11.49 incl postage.

The card racks have large slots in them – so it’s not difficult if you have limited hand mobility to place them. This would be easy to translate into Braille or textured cards. Players will need to be able to distinguish colours of red, green, blue, yellow and orange both on the board and cards themselves. However, this could easily be adapted for people using symbols or tactile overlays.

You need to be able to order cards and plot a route, remembering three basic rules. The box suggests an age of 8 yrs or over.

So, the game is about placing cards in one of the ten slots on your rack…. so onto game play.

GAME PLAY

It took us a while to figure it out – one of those ‘it’s easy once you’ve tried it’ type of games.

So the idea is to make a journey, starting and ending on any State. There is 1 card for each State.

Your journey is over 10 days (10 card slots) and in each slot you will have either a card with a State on it, a plane or a car. A car or a plane is assumed to take up one of your days!

  • Step one – fill up your rack!

Take it in turns to pick up a mystery card from the pile and make a decision where in your rack it will go. Once you have placed it, the slot is filled and it can’t be moved during the filling up process! So place them carefully. The next player takes a card and does the same….. you keep going until your rack now has ten cards in it (States, cars or planes).

The strategy starts with the filling process because you need to keep in mind three rules.

The three key rules are simple.

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  • Here is the first rule. If you want to fly from one State to another, there must be a plane card in the middle that is the same colour as the States.

In this picture, only an orange plane can take you from Rhode Island (coloured orange on the map and card) to Washington (also coloured orange on the map and card). So this was how I chose to spend days 1, 2 and 3, flying from Rhode Island all the way to Washington. I was a bit jet lagged after that one and the in flight magazine was as rubbish as always.

Be careful – there are only a handful of plane cards in the game! The rule book tells you how to fly to and from places like Alaska and Hawaii. I didn’t bother with Alaska – too cold for me but Hawaii …. maybe I’ll stop over in the next game.

  • Rule number two – you can drive from one State to another – but you must only pass through one bordering State in-between.

I placed my Kentucky card , then a car, then Alabama (top picture below). That made up Day 8, 9 and 10 driving from Kentucky to Alabama.  (Note I had to start Day 1 on a State and end with a State on Day 10). After three days of the best BBQ chicken wings and ribs in the USA (so I hear) I arrived feeling full and fat.

Like plane cards, there are only a handful of cars in the game!

  • Finally, if you have two States that are next to each other, you are assumed to be able to walk across the border – so the cards go next to each other on the rack. I played Iowa on Day six and walked to Missouri on Day 7! My feet ached a lot after that.

IMG_3046Changing cards

So your rack is filled with places and vehicles next to each other that don’t fit the rules – so now it’s a game of pick up and put down to try to make your journey fit the rules over the full 10 days.

You have a pile of mystery cards (face down) and you are asked to place three face up (the discard pile).

So now, it’s your go – you can choose to take one of the cards you can see face up – or pick up a mystery card.

If you like the card, you swap it for one on you rack. Now for a bit of strategy…. the card you are throwing away from your rack, can be placed on any one of the three discard piles, face up. So if you know that another player might need one of these, you can sneakily stop them from picking it up by throwing away your card on top.

If you pick up a mystery card and take an instant dislike to it – onto one of the discard piles it goes.

Now your go has ended – time to see what the next player does.

Remember, there is only one card for each State – so throw away and pick up wisely.

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Why I liked this game

Firstly, I’m rubbish at knowing where anything is in the USA – so it’s educational and the State cards have the capital city on them.

Secondly, you can easily see the map and you don’t actually play on the board – so it’s very adaptable.

Thirdly, you have to really think hard where to put the cards, right from the start and try and remember which cards you are looking out for!

Lastly, it does’t take too long and their is a bit of luck involved too.

What I didn’t like

From the start, there were some cards on my rack which I definitely didn’t want to accidentally throw away. It’s easy to forget your master plan and have a ‘oh s&*t’ moment as you throw the one and only card for that State on the discard pile by accident. Hence we got out some buttons to put in front of the cards on our racks to indicate ‘whatever you do, don’t throw these away’.

‘Sort it Out’ – another great board game.

Sort_it.jpgAlways on the hunt for a bargain, I came across this board game for only £10 on Amazon. Considering most board games are in the £20-40 price band, I took a punt and in the basket it went.

It’s one of our most played games at the moment and we have the Australian designers to thank for this one, apparently.

Game play

It took a while to sort through the instructions but essentially it is quite straight forward. You have a huge pile of cards and everybody plays at the same time with one card  – so, as you wade through the pack it will either last you many games or you might be still playing 2 hrs later if you are a bit thick/unlucky! If this happens, you may lose the will to live or need to make sure invited players bring a sleeping bag.

Each turn….

On each turn, a card is chosen, read out, placed where it can be seen/read by all players, and then everybody knuckles down to quickly place 5 items in order before the timer runs out.

So for example, the card might say “Place these animals in order according to the length of their tail” > shortest to the longest.  The list could be ‘Giraffe, Opossum, Kangaroo, Manx Long Horn Sheep, Emperor Bird of Paradise’.

Each item in the list is written inside a coloured block and players have 5 counters of the same colour so they can arrange them in their chosen order.

Once the time is up – you turn the card over and it tells you which order they were (and in this case, the actual length of the animals’ tails) – do your colours match up?

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Sometimes you might think you know the order of 4 of the items – but where you place the unknown one could throw all the others out of place – resulting in none being right! In that sense it’s a bit of a game of luck as well as knowledge.

Part of the fun is  seeing what other people put – and their logic behind it.

There are a good range of topics about all sorts of things, science, inventions, events, history, technology, maths, literature, films, tv, sport – but often with a twist. So for example you might know roughly which years a list of famous movies came out – but can you place them in order according to when the first sequel came out!  So a good blend of easy/straightforward to ‘never heard of any of them’, ‘can’t get my head around this’, questions.  If it looks impossible – we just put it back in the box – there are plenty spare!

Scoring

Oh yes, this is a board game so scoring does come into it. There is no dice – just a board and counter for each player.

You move towards the finish according to how many you got right. On the board are numbers – which tell you how many you move forward for each one you get right. So if you are lucky to be on a number two – you move two places forward for each one you get right.

The snag comes near the end of the board – which is where the game can be a bit long. Here it might say move forward 1 square for every correct answer, but also move 2 backwards for every wrong answer on that go.  Luckily, if you get all 5 in the wrong order, and end up going 10 places backwards, you might reach a safe zone, and not have to go back any further.

Accessibility and adapting the game for players with impairments.

It’s a game anyone can play as long as they are reasonably knowledgable about the world with a suggested age of 12+. I think some cards are suitable for younger children and you could even make up extra cards in terms of language and complexity to make it more accessible for people with learning difficulties.

The print is fairly small – I would say about 12-14 font size, but often in bold.

You will need to be able to put things in order from a list of 5 items (and be able to read the five things in the list).

Each round could be easily adapted for people using keyboards to note their answers or needing to copy the list into braille on the go/ write out in larger print. It would be easy to use an iPhone/iPad or similar to take a quick picture of the card so you have it on your own screen for easy reading and magnifying –  and can then even write on it with a drawing app if that makes it easier to show how you ordered it.

As it stands, you would need to be able to view the card (which is actually hard enough for two players never mind 6).

The game comes with 5 coloured counters to slot into a rack for the ordering process – they go in quite smoothly but are only about 1.5cm square and hard to pick up if you lack finger dexterity. I don’t use the rack and just lay them out on the table.

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You also need to be able to differentiate between the 5 colours (yellow, pink, orange, blue and green). Unlike Ticket To Ride, there are no symbols to help people with colour blindness of any type.

Some of the questions order things like units of measurement and event dates which might be difficult for some people. However, there is a good mix and plenty of cards to be able to leave out any which people find confusing or just too difficult.

Scoring might take some getting used to because of using multipliers and moving both back and forwards.  You could easily just make your own scoring rule of moving one place forward for each one you get correct.

The game is good in that everyone plays at the same time – no waiting for a turn which can often be difficult when keeping attention. On the negative side, your brain doesn’t get a rest!