Apart from cycling insiders, probably not many people know that the heart of the cycling industry beats in Taiwan. Not only is most of the bike and component manufacturing capacity located there but much of the expertise as well - they have unparalleled knowledge in making carbon bike frames and accessories, for example. The annual Taichung Bike Week is a must-visit for every engineer and product manager in the business. But Taiwan also offers great riding, a vibrant cycling scene and crazy challenges; like the Taiwan KOM Challenge, that involves tackling a brutal 60-mile long course that's uphill almost all the way and accumulates over 11,000 feet of elevation!
Big Fun's Bike Tours: Taiwan game luckily invites the players to a more pleasurable way of discovering Taiwan on bicycles. The aim of the game is to search for scenery cards and then schedule a trip to the desired location. It sounds easy and the rules allow the game to flow quickly.
When you set up the game, first you create the scenery deck with all the Scenery cards and Bike cards and then draw five cards to create the central area by placing the Scenery cards in increasing order. Every Scenery card has two numbers on it: a card number (top left corner) and a distance value (bottom right corner). When you organise the cards in the central area, the new lowest card number goes first, the next one below it, etc. Each player is then handed a Scenery card so that they can begin their journey. Each player also gets three Storage cards to create the storage area.
Gameplay is simple: you can perform two actions. You can either Search (draw two cards and place them on the central area) or Schedule (pick up one of the rows and start building your journey). When you do a Search action, you draw two cards and check the card number in the top left corner and find the row in the central area that has the closest smaller number. If the number is smaller than the smallest number, you pass that card to the player on your left. As the Search action is repeated, the rows will get longer and longer, offering more and more cards to the player who can claim one of those rows in their turn by choosing the Schedule action.
The Schedule action allows you to pick up all cards in a row and choose one card that has a Distance Value (-1, 0 or +1) to add as the rightmost card in your tableau. Once you put down the card, the rest of the Journey cards go to your card storage and the Bike cards go to the corresponding storage area. If the difference between the Distance Values is bigger than two, you can use Bike cards to connect the journeys by making up the difference: in this case, you put a little bicycle chit on the two journeys and discard the used Bike cards. Every time you have at least five cards in the storage area, you can discard them and get an Opportunity card. These cards are either Bike cards or offer you bonus victory points at the end.
Once you decide to use the Schedule action, your turn ends. The game ends when a player has nine Journey cards. Once that happens, you go through four scoring categories to count victory points, add the victory points from the Opportunity cards and the player with the most points wins.
As an avid cyclist I like all games that are about cycling and this is no exception. The art is wonderful on the journey cards and I enjoyed the push-your-luck mechanic of the game. That being said, given how tricky it can sometimes be to find a suitable Journey card for your tableau, we often found during our plays at Board's Eye View that players were using the Schedule action in their second turn, with little incentive to wait for longer, thus decreasing the need to push your luck.
The English rulebook could be better. There were situations that weren't covered in the book (and I'm not talking about crazy-rare edge cases) and we quickly agreed to a few house rules to make the game more enjoyable.
Overall, it is a fun game that we've enjoyed playing, tho' for me it lacks the some of jeopardy that makes a push-your-luck game so exciting.
(Review by Balint Hamvas)