Review: Mille Bornes28 Nov 2017 2
Review: Mille Bornes
Released 22 Nov 2017
Mille Bornes is a name you might half-hear if you've been hanging around in board game circles awhile. One of those games folk rarely talk about but lots of people seem to know. Turns out that it's a French kids' game about car racing and the title is French for "a thousand milestones". And it also turns out there's a reason folk rarely talk about it.
Players each get a hand of cards and they get a new one each turn, then they play or discard one of those they have. You could play a distance card, marked in miles, and first to a thousand total is the winner. You could play a hazard card which stops another player moving until they play the matching safety card. And ... that's pretty much your lot.
There is another rule, something called a coup-fourre. Some safety cards offer permanet protection against the matching hazzard and, if you get to use one, you get an extra turn. It adds a little surprise to the tit-for-tat card slaps, a little snap back against aggressive plays. Not a lot of extra interest, or complexity, yet the app tutorial doesn't explain it very well.
Now, Mille Bornes is a kids' game and it's unfair to review it as anything else. So, after I'd played it, I gave it to my kids to play. They're 7 and 11 and they're not so hot on board games as me. And after they're played it I asked for their opinion and it was pretty much the same as mine: it's awful.
Play consists of nothing except mindlessly peeling off cards and hoping for the best. If you've got miles, play them. If you've got hazards, stick them on the leading player. If you've got the appropriate safety and need it, play it. Should none of the above be relevant - a situation of terrifying frequency - discard and do nothing. I'm pretty sure I could write an effective AI to play against.
To my astonishment, there are actually two levels of AI, although I'm not sure what the difference is. Playing against either proved equally tedious. Especially so if you make the mistake of trying to play with more than two.
When I managed to convince my kids to try it with me in pass and play mode, things did improve a bit. Being able to play those hazards on real flesh and blood people is more fun than crippling a mindless bag of pixels. Racing for the finish against players rooting for their own victory is more exciting and the denouement more satisfying. It looks nice, too, seeing cards racing up a track instead of just piling distance cards atop each other. The nicest presentation in the world can't, however, hide that it's just a too-simple take-that game.
Developers Asmodee Digital have tried to add a bit of interest by creating tracks for the game. This is wholly new feature, enabled by moving a card game to mobile. Some tracks have trick spaces which can net you extra turns or sneak a shortcut. It adds a bit of fun, but not a lot. And what they give with one hand, they take with the other. There's a simple scoring mechanic in the original which adds a bit of tension to the endgame. It's absent here, with the first player to a thousand always taking the win, and there's no option to use the original rules.
It's also missing the four-player partner game that's the default mode in the original. Sadly this is the most fun way to play, since it makes it much less likely you'll run out of important cards. So while this version of Mille Bornes is okay pass and play, it's less fun that it should be. It's of no interest at all in any other mode: it's simply a bad choice of game for a mobile version. And, for the first time ever, it's left me thankful a tabletop adaptation doesn't have asynchronous play.