At first glance, Race Around Europe from developer Adrian Sen looks like a Ticket To Ride clone, with a static map of interconnected cities and transport routes. At its heart however, this is a much simpler title: and one which younger gamers will likely enjoy as they race around ticking off European cities from their itineraries.
Played against a single computer opponent, a game of Race Around Europe starts with you being given three randomly-selected cities, which appear in a list at the top of the board. The cities’ markers on the map are also highlighted, showing you the targets you have to visit to win the game.
Each city is connected to at least one other by a combination of rail (yellow), air (red) or sea (blue) routes. Nearby cities are only one or two connecting lines apart, whilst further-flung destinations can be up to four interconnected lines from each other.
From this information and the list of cities on your list, you must plot a route to visit each of them (in any order) before your opponent does. To travel on the map, you must use one of your ‘travel cards’ each turn, each of which has a value from 1-4 and a colour corresponding to the type of route it allows passage on.
To travel between cities, you must play a card with exactly the same number as there are lines between them: if you can’t play (or choose not to play) any of your cards, you can swap one for the next one in the deck, hoping for a more useful card to help speed you on your way next turn.
At random, hazards take place between turns, usually closing interconnected routes due to floods or high seas or the like for a number of turns. Thus, carefully plotted journeys can be thrown into disarray as you look for an alternative route around the hazard, all the while watching as your opponent travels merrily around an unaffected area of the map.
Reach one of your destinations and you’ll be presented with a city card containing some background information about the location; reach all three before your opponent, and you emerge from the race around Europe triumphant.
Race for Europe has a basic charm to it. With no sound or music and simple graphics, it won’t win many awards in the production stakes. That said, the game at its core is solid and interesting, one which can even help improve your level of European geography as you travel around the map, planning your route and learning about the cities you reach.
There are a couple of fundamental flaws which stop the game being great, however. First, the options are limited. There is no ability to play in any configuration other than one player against the iPad: and there are no varying levels of difficulty to test your skill against either. Additional options and configurations would have been welcome, especially as this seems to be a game tailor made for adults to play with their children.
The second issue is more serious, and concerns the game’s pacing. Whilst the animations between turns of the little players’ suitcases trundling from city to city are slow, what drags the most is waiting for the cards you need. As exact moves between cities are all that is allowed, you can often find yourself stuck in one location for several turns, as you swap out cards and hope for that precious combination of number and mode of transport which will allow you to progress.
This certainly slows things down to a sometimes frustrating standstill, and perhaps the option to combine cards in your hand to make moves would have been a better implementation choice.
Despite its faults, Race Around Europe is still an enjoyable title for younger gamers, or anyone looking for a relaxing change of pace. With a few more tweaks here and there and a couple of additional modes, it could quite easily be turned into the exciting cross-country race its title promises, rather than at times feeling like being stuck in customs.