At Board's Eye View, we like deduction games and we enjoy playing games that incorporate a quiz or general knowledge element; for example, we're always up for a game of Timeline. Destination X additionally boasts a spycatcher deduction theme so it looked like an interesting prospect.
Opening up the box, the contents didn’t disappoint. Published by Aporta Games, Destination X comes with a huge stack of cards, including around 200 ‘destination cards’. These brightly display on the front a country’s flag and its geographical location. On the reverse, each lists physical and political geography facts and figures about that country. A second smaller deck of ‘informant’ cards each lists a category.
To play the basic game, six destination cards are laid out, flag side up. One player (the ‘spy’) secretly selects one of the six countries. Other players (‘the detectives’) play informant cards and the spy has to correctly answer the factoid question posed. So, for example, if an informant card asks ‘What’s the size of the population?’, the spy has to look this up in relation to the country he picked and he must give a truthful answer. The players then use this information to eliminate a country as a possible destination by choosing one of the six destination cards and flipping it over. If at any point they eliminate the country that the spy chose, the spy wins. If the detectives think they know which country the spy chose, they can ‘attempt an arrest’ by naming the country. If they are correct, they win and the spy loses; if they guess/calculate wrongly, the spy wins.
To be honest, this works better as a geography factoid revision guide than as a game. Part of the problem is that the spy has to use a ‘handbook’ directory to answer the queries on the country chosen. The handbook is a directory of all the countries, laid out in alphabetical order. That means that the detectives can barely avoid noticing where in the handbook the spy is looking. If he’s looking up the answer to a query by turning to a page near the front of the handbook, the detectives know the country chosen probably begins with an A–C. If he’s referring to the back of the book, it’s probably S–Z.
Even without this obvious tell, some of the answers are likely to be instant giveaways. Even though questions like, ‘what’s the capital?’ or ‘what’s the currency?’ are only answered with the first letter, even a player with minimal general knowledge will probably be able to use the information to home in on one or at most two destinations. Likewise, a very high or very low population answer may very well instantly identify the spy’s destination.
There are oddities too over the information printed on the back of the cards: some of the categories on the informant cards are reflected in the handbook but seem to be missing from the cards. This doesn’t hugely impact on game play, but it is an irritant when a card is flipped over and is shown not to have any information at all on it about, for example, that country’s main agricultural produce.
Attractive flag faces aside, the cards are essentially Top Trumps; and you can pretty much use them to play a version of Top Trumps that works as a game at least as well as the core game in Destination X.
We’ve referred here to the basic game because Destination X does incorporate some variants that help to step up the difficulty for the detectives. These include swapping out some of the ‘easier’ informant cards for some that may be slightly more challenging. They also include upping from 6 the number of possible destinations. The game comes with four scenario cards that set out the six countries to be used in each round. Aside from a Spy vs Spy variant, these are themed around the journeys of a historical figure (Edward Snowden, Leon Trotsky or Osama Bin Laden). They also each give the spy a special ability, although the ability assigned to Leon Trotsky doesn’t seem to have been thought through.
None of these variants seem to get around the issue of the handbook tell, except that the Spy vs Spy variant instructs players to download a copy of the handbook onto their smartphone or tablet. It seems the handbook is available as a pdf. If you have and use that in place of the paperback copy supplied in the box, it makes the basic game more readily playable. It does beg the question, however, of whether you need the other components. If you are going to have to go through the trouble of downloading a lengthy pdf of the handbook, you might just as well make your own pencil and paper version of the entire game.