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Board Game Review: 1000 Bornes

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Fundex takes a classic card game and raises it to another level with a board in 1000 Bornes.

Mille Bornes, the original French game (meaning “one thousand milestones”), is some fifty years old, itself adding a new level to an even older American game, Touring, created over a century ago. All these games are based around the simple notion of collecting millage cards toward a final goal. During the game, players not only attempt to draw high numbered cards but also work to impede their opponents with attack cards known as Hazards, creating a game with an excellent mix of luck and skill.

Setup is simple: each player gets six cards and the choice among black, green, yellow, and blue cars. Play begins with the youngest player going first, drawing a card and playing if he or she is able with a green “Go!” card, one of the most coveted cards in the deck, and discarding if they can’t play. When a “Go!” is played, the car is placed on the track, and mileage cards may be added. The board, an addition by Fundex, makes all the difference, eliminating the nebulous abstraction of merely collecting cards. Instead, in 1000 Bornes, the game is visual as cars move around the track, and tensions rise when players charge toward victory using one of the five Distance cards: 25 (marked with a snail), 50 (a duck), 75 (a butterfly), 100 (a hare), and 200 (a bird), the last of which is so powerful it may only be played twice.

While gathering mileage is important, the real key to the game is expertly playing the Hazard cards. Opponents may run out of gas, have a flat tire, get in an accident, be stuck in a speed limit (only 25 or 50 Distance cards may be played), or simply stop at a red light. Each of these is marked with a plastic piece placed in front of the car, showing that it may not move, once again clarifying what was once something that before simply needed to be remembered. Whenever a player falls victim to a Hazard card, he or she must play the corresponding Remedy (gasoline, spare tire, repairs, end limit, and the ever-important “Go!”). Even after playing a Remedy, the player must play a “Go!” to begin laying down Distance cards again. Torturing opponents may be a hilarious and powerful strategy, but the game is draw-one-play-one, so holding others back will also hold back the attacking player.

Constantly attacking also leads to the issue of the coup-fourré. There are several Safety cards of Safety Tank, Puncture-Proof, Driving Ace, and Right-of-Way that give a player invulnerability to certain Hazards. These cards may be held until a corresponding Hazard is played, allowing the would-be victim to lay down a Safety immediately, call out “coup-fourré!,” and take his next turn, skipping all those players in the middle. Few actions in a game can feel as fulfilling.

The game ends when cards in the deck run out or someone gets to exactly 1000 Distance to win the race.

While the core game is solid, recommended for two to four players eight and up, there is a great deal of room for house rules. For example, players may ignore the hand limit of six cards and one play, instead collecting cards until finally receiving a green and then shooting around the track. Players could play Safeties on other players, giving out favors to be called in later, as real races surely can go. Anything goes in the classic road race game, 1000 Bornes!

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.