Navigate your band across the USA in this roll-and-write
Android & iOS
# of Players
On Tour a a roll-and-write from BoardGameTables.com. Players are charged with getting their fledgling band across the continental United States with the goal of playing shows in as many states as possible. In the app you play solo, attempting to beat your previous high scores. A game can be played in about five minutes.
In On Tour, your goal is to create the longest single route connecting 48 states across the country. A state becomes a potential stop by assigning a number to it based on dice rolls. In order to be a valid route, connected states must have a number equal or greater than the previous stop on the tour.
The game begins with a setup where the two ten-sided dice (ranging from zero to nine) are rolled and two region cards are flipped. In setup, the state noted on the first region card is assigned the first die number. Die numbers are taken as the two die values next to each other. One die showing three and the other five would result in having 35 and 53 available, for example. In this example, a 35 would be placed on the state from the first card, and a 53 on the state from the next card. This process is repeated one more time, resulting in four states having numbers on them when you start the game.
With setup out of the way, the dice are rolled again and three cards are flipped. The dice work the same way, each turn providing you two numbers to use, and you must use both. The three cards let you know where you can use those numbers. The cards will denote large regions of states. North, South, Central, West, and a few smaller subsections. The cards still denote specific states as well, and if you decide to use a number on a state specified in one of the cards, you will receive a bonus point for using that state in your final route.
The only real catch here is that you can’t use a card more than once on a turn. If only one of the cards allowed you to play in the Northeast, for example, and you used one number on New York, you would not be able to use the second number on New Jersey. Having to place both numbers each turn is limiting on its own, adding in the card restriction really squeezes you at points. Should you happen to roll doubles or draw three matching cards, that counts as a wild which can be used as any number when calculating your final route. In the case of a wild, you only assign one wild that turn and then move onto the next.
The game ends when the states are full. The game, thankfully, calculates your longest route for you. You get one point per stop and then a bonus point for each stop that was created using the state from a card (these are denoted with a surrounding circle as you play).
That’s the entire game. Roll two dice, flip two cards, plop down some numbers, and then do it all over again.
Learning the game
I like On Tour, it is fun and offers different pressure points than the other roll-and-writes I’ve played. I, however, have two primary issues with the game. I hesitate to call them faults because I feel these will boil down to personal preferences.
First, the game doesn’t have a great way to punt bad rolls. You have to use every number and a varying amount of those will need to be stashed away in the Pacific Northwest away from your primary route, never to be heard from again. Reserving a “garbage” section of the map is simply a part of the game, the best I can tell, because you are going to get rolls that don’t fit and you can’t risk cluttering your primary route areas. I feel good placing a 34 next to a 36, that should be a fairly strong play given odds and math and such. However, if a 35 shows up later, I’m most likely going to have to punt it (there are some connections where the 35 could slide in and work well). It feels like The Mind in this regard. The 36 should have been a good play, but if the 35 shows up later I am punished all the same. Other roll-and-writes I’ve played are either more direct about bad rolls, forcing you to lose points while acting as a game timer, or simply allow you to do less optimal things with them. On Tour forces you not to treat them as one-time outliers, but a reality you must plan for. Again, this may be a positive for you, but it feels a bit off to me.
My other issue is how narrow the game gets near the end. You will, inevitably, play the game by creating multiple smaller sections of similar numbers and then work towards connecting them. There is a lot of fun planning, guessing, and luck-pushing in this that provides some of the best aspects of the game. However, I feel like too many of my games come down to needing one specific state to be filled by a specific number within some small range. If it hits, I’ve connected my routes and my score will be respectable. If it doesn’t hit, my score will be quite sad. It’s a major difference in outcomes that comes down to getting one roll. Of course, better planning would allow you to mitigate this a bit, but I am quite torn about seeing so many of my games come down to hitting these connections. I could play a really great game, but not hit the connection and end up with a very low score. Conversely, a poorly played game could end up respectable if you do manage to connect everything, regardless of how poor those sections were played.
That’s the downside from my point of view, but make no mistake that there is a lot of fun to be had in On Tour. The concept is incredibly simple but it forces you into some strange thinking. On Tour scratches different itches than other roll and writes that I’ve tried. The closest comparison I can think of are Qwixx and Qwinto which are physical only games that also use the increasing/decreasing number scheme, but don’t really share anything else in common. On Tour is an amazingly open-ended affair in a genre that usually thrives on the tension provided by making the most of limited turns in the very constrained confines of the pad of paper in front of you. Maybe that makes Welcome To… a more apt comparison?
On Tour is a fun game. It might be a case of being different enough from my preset expectations that I’ve had a tough time overcoming that. Or it might be that this just isn’t as good of a game as _________. I don’t know. What I do know is that this game is fun and definitely provides something different from the other digital roll-and-writes out there, and it deserves to be commended for that.
Barrier to Entry
On Tour features a brief tutorial. The tutorial simply overlays text on the game board and explains the rules in a few slides. While On Tour is a very simple game, it took me two readings of the tutorial for it to make any sense. After that, I dove into the game and understood within a few turns. All of this is to say that the tutorial could be better, specifically by being interactive, but the game is fairly easy to learn with what the app provides.
Look and Feel
The app looks nice. There is nothing that really stands out, graphically, but it all looks clean and functional. The splash screen graphic, pulled from the box art, is the best looking part of the app. The menu is super simple.
All actions in the game are performed via tap. The dice are rolled automatically, then you tap a circle, then choose which number to use. Repeat for the second state on the turn, then confirm your turn and do it all over again. The game features undo options at every step. If you hate everything you did on your turn, you can back out both choices and redo them.
The biggest potential issue here is the size of the circles you need to tap. They are small even on a fairly big phone (not a phablet, to be clear). This makes sense, functionally, as there is a lot to fit onto the screen. Compounding the issue is the tap areas for selecting which numbers to use, these are also fairly tiny. Not tiny enough to be a big pain, but tiny enough to imagine it being easy to miss. Fortunately, the game does allow you to zoom in on the map, but that greatly interrupts the flow of the game, so it is somewhat less than ideal. I tend not to have issues in this area, and this game is no exception, I am able to play without issue, but it is easy to imagine it being an issue for some.
The closest to multiplayer On Tour gets is a button at the end of your game where you can order a copy of the physical game, which can be played with friends. As many friends as you have boards for, in fact. Hooray, friends!
The app is purely solo. The game tracks your high scores so you can try to beat them. This is a fairly common way to release a digital version of a roll-and-write as we’ve seen in the past. The game keeps a list of your best scores and allows you to click on them to see the final board, to relive the glory of your best rounds.
You are able to resume your unfinished game between sessions, which is a nice touch.
Selecting a state
Nothing specific to add here so I’ll talk about the physical version of this game. I’m not sure I could actually play it. How long would it take to find your longest route? How often are stops missed? You will have a general idea of where your best route moves, but with the abundance of paths between states, I would imagine a lot of scores aren’t 100% correct, at least they wouldn’t be if I had to count.
The Wrap Up
On Tour provides a fun solo roll-and-write, point chasing experience. The only potential complaint I have about what is offered is that the screen might be a bit too small for those who have issues with that kind of thing. You can zoom in to make things easier, but not without disrupting the otherwise steady, quick flow of the game.
Gameplay-wise, it offers a different experience than the existing digital roll-and-writes. Yes, it is a solo app where you try to chase your high score, but the gameplay is something different. It ramps up the tension not only in trying to have everything you want hit exactly, but also by making it an extremely real possibility that your plans bust big time and you are left with a pitiful score.
I enjoy On Tour, it is fun, despite it probably not being my favorite roll-and-write. The app is a bare bones implementation but it does its job quite well and allows you to play a lot of On Tour in a little amount of time.