GAME: 10 Days in Africa
ASSIGNMENT: Connect African countries by land and air to create a 10-day continuous journey.
In brief, how does it work? In this game, the goal is to connect locations to make a cohesive 10-day journey. The game uses a Rack-O mechanic where you draw a location and swap it out with another location on your journey. You may also swap 2 tiles on your rack. You must start and end in a country, and you can connect any countries that border each other normally, use colored airplanes to fly between two similarly colored countries, or use a car to travel through a shared border country. The winner is the player who first strings together a 10-day journey that is completely connected.
Now, here was our journey.
On the opening draw, each player selects one tile at a time and can place it on any of the 10 slots. If you get lucky, you may even form some valid connections from the get-go, as I did here:
So I’m going to try to begin my journey in Botswana, and catch a plane to Cameroon.
Botswana is a landlocked country that is South Africa’s northern neighbor. Cameroon lies at the crossroads of Western & Central Africa, situated in the corner of the Gulf of Guinea. Botswana gained independence from Great Britain in 1966, and today is Africa’s longest continuous democracy. It is home to a wide array of wildlife, and one of the best places to book a safari. However, tourism is still only secondary to their main export: diamonds. Approximately 85% of Botswana’s export earnings come from the diamond trade. Botswana’s economy has been ailing a bit since a downturn in 2010, despite efforts to decrease their heavy reliance on diamonds.
A couple turns later, and I was able to book a ride through the country of Chad and into Sudan. Now, you do not have to create your 10-day journey in order—that is not a rule. Mine was just working out that way. On your turn, you may either draw blindly from the deck, or take one of the top cards from the 3 face-up stacks. Of course, your opponent’s goals are hidden, but you can sometimes gather just an inkling of where they’re going by observing what countries they take. Half my trip is done…but how does that compare to where my wife is? It’s still early. I feel pretty safe.
Sudan has seen major changes just since this game was released. South Sudan split off and gained independence in 2011. This did not occur without conflict however. As of 2019, both the north and south have been involved in a civil war for several years. Sudan touts that they have more pyramids than Egypt, and though this is true, none come close to drawing as many visitors as Giza. They are remarkable though and hearken back to a time when African & Mediterranean cultures converged. However, any and all travel is advised against this year, due to the coup d’état that occurred on April 11, 2019. Omar al-Bashir, who had been in power since 1989, was deposed. Despite the extreme instability right now, there is some hope for democracy moving forward, as the military & civilian leaders have agreed, albeit not without some turmoil between the Forces for Freedom and Change and the Transitional Military Council, to a power-sharing deal.
South Sudan’s reasons for independence stemmed largely from ideological differences, as most of the South’s population is Christian, while most of the North is Islamic. The two countries are also markedly different geographically. The North is dominated by desert landscapes (as pictured below) and the South contains much more vegetation, in swamps, grasslands, and jungles. The whole region desperately needs peace and long-desired stability, and I pray that that happens soon.
Sudan makes me hopeful though, because I see that it borders quite a few countries, increasing my odds of finding a connection. But wait, I already have the small country of Eritrea (which borders Sudan) on Day 8, so I switch it with my Day 6 country. I also notice that I already have a yellow-colored country on Day 8, which means if I just find a yellow airplane, I can book a flight between the two countries. Before that though, I decide to replace my yellow country on Day 8 with Mali, which has more connection opportunities. I then find my bright yellow plane I’ve been looking for, and complete my trip all the way to Day 8.
Eritrea lies in eastern Africa, on the shore of the Red Sea. Incredibly, they have had the same president, Isaias Afwerki, since they declared their independence in 1993. However, the UN has accused Afwerki of serious human rights violations. Evidence supports this as the state of religious freedom in Eritrea is not good. Christians around the country are persecuted both at a local & governmental level. [https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/06/1041041].
Eritrea, only slightly larger than Pennsylvania, has a remarkably diverse geography that features desert along the Red Sea, rolling plains, and the Highlands mountainous region
This is where the game can get tense. Generally, both players start noticing that each of you are immediately discarding most of the tiles you draw, which means that you’re only looking for 1 or 2 tiles to complete your trip. It’s also like Rack-O in this regard. Sometimes you unintentionally back yourself into a corner, creating a connection that will be hard to complete, especially depending on what tiles have long since been discarded. I have another yellow country (Zimbabwe) in my Day 10 slot, so if I can get ANOTHER yellow plane, I can win. I can’t remember if there have been other yellow planes lost to the discard piles. Uh-oh. Fortunately My wife discards one, and I take it to win the game. My wife also only needed one tile, but just could not find it in time.
Here is my final 10 day journey in Africa:
Just because I was curious, below is a rough estimate of how much my hypothetical journey might cost. This would just be a baseline, with no luxurious additions at all.
Final Thoughts: I am a geographer, so this one appeals to me on that personal level. It is simply fun, and I stress the “simply” part. The simple gameplay can be taught in a minute. This is a great one to introduce to your family, including grandparents, or kids who may not be avid gamers. It is also greatly educational, because the game board is a large labeled map, the informative tiles list the capitals and population, and after a few plays, you become much more familiar with the geography of the region. These games would also be great in a Geography class setting. The components are absolutely top-notch. You know, they could have gotten away with mass market quality. What you have instead are thick tiles, a large quality board, and solid wood racks for holding the tiles. The game looks splendid and is fun for all ages. Highly recommend! I hope they reprint these soon, because as it stands it is hard to find a used copy for a good price. Any version you can find is great though.
Check it out on Amazon (click below):