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Card Game Review: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? from Pressman

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? the card game keeps up Pressman’s introduction of classic computer games to the tabletop, drawing on nostalgia from older players and finding a whole new generation of fans among younger ones. The Oregon Trail Card Game marched players across a continent; now Carmen,/em>, the timeless game of detective work, invites players to test their wits against world-class thieves.

The original computer game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? tested players’ knowledge of world geography in the 1980s, allowing them to pick up clues about where the robbers of the V.I.L.E. organization journeyed based on cities, money, and other regional references. It built a rich story-world of globetrotting around the pursuit of villains with puntastic names. This tradition is carried on strongly by the card game, with V.I.L.E. henchmen like Robin Banks, Sam O’Nella, Yul B. Sorry, and Li Non Mee. Many of the stolen goods are serious, such as the torch from the Statue of Liberty and Pizarro’s Sword, while others are hilariously cartoony, like Harald the Fairhaired’s Shampoo or the entire Grand Canyon. It is up to the players to get them back and apprehend the ultimate mastermind, Carmen Sandiego herself.

The mechanics of the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? card game are based on recognition and memory. To begin a game, players each take several rows of cards each from the Henchmen, Loot, and Location decks. Players take turns rolling a die that determines which deck they may look at for their turn. It may at first seem reminiscent of the great detective game Clue as players seek to discern combinations, but novel mechanics cause the cards to move among players and become eliminated during play, narrowing down the field.

Each piece of Loot is paired with a Location card, e.g. the Crown Jewels with London, and Gandhi’s Glasses with New Delhi. As players take peeks at cards around the table, they will figure out which is where and may announce a match by calling out, “I have a warrant!” They reveal the matching pair and eliminate them, along with a Henchman card, saving Carmen Sandiego herself for the last. Players swap cards with the central pile whenever they make a correct choice, meaning they will have to have strong memories to remember which cards move where. Handy reusable notebooks and markers encourage good note-taking skills.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is a card game for two to four players aged eight and up. With the guess-and-check nature of the game, its playing time will depend upon how well the players themselves can choose and remember the series of cards, although 20 to 40 minutes will likely be enough to track down that most slippery of sneaks. With memory as the strongest component of play, it is an excellent game for young players and older ones alike.

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.

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