I’ve loved the resurgence of the roll-and-write mechanism in games over the last few years. Using the Yahtzee formula of rolling dice and writing the results on a scoresheet as a foundation, modern roll-and-write games have transformed the mechanism, offering new variations in use and theme. From the clever market manipulation and dice drafting of Harvest Dice to the pick-up-and-deliver train game SteamRollers, there seems to be a roll-and-write to satisfy anyone’s gaming tastes.
On Tour is one of the latest to embrace the roll-and-write trend and it does so in the best possible way: the game is easily explained and its production is flat-out gorgeous, thus ensuring it’ll see plenty of action on the tabletop.
You and your opponents each have a band that’s touring the U.S., living the dream of bringing your music to as many people as possible. But how many stops will your group be able to make? Will you perform in more cities than your opponents?
Each player gets their own map of the U.S. and a dry erase marker. Each city on the map is represented by a blank circle. One player will roll two 10-sided dice and everyone must mark these numbers on two different cities on their map. For example, if you roll a 3 and a 7, everyone writes the numbers 37 and 73.
Where you write your numbers depends on three cards that are drawn each round. Your map is divided into five regions: North, South, East, West, and Central. Each card depicts one of these regions and players choose a region from the three cards to write their number. Every card also has one circled city; if a player chooses to write their number in this city, they’ll circle it on their map.
These are the cities that your band is playing and you’ll eventually fill in all 48 states. After you’re done, you’ll connect one route of cities which must be made up of cities that are equal to or greater than the previous city in the route. You earn one point per city in your route, along with an additional point for each circled city your tour goes through. The most points wins.
I remember my first play of On Tour, when one of my opponents decried the lack of dice mitigation. I saw it differently: having to deal with what’s rolled is the main tension in On Tour. You’re not going to be able to connect all of the cities on your map so the question becomes, what can you do with what’s been rolled?
I like this straightforward puzzle that On Tour gives its players. How many spaces should you leave open between numbers? You could leave an open city between your 56 and 58, but that doesn’t leave you much wiggle room, obviously. Likewise, you probably don’t want to have too wide of a range, like a single space between 30 and 80, since you’re depriving yourself of additional cities to score along your route.
It’s a nice push-your-luck element and with every number rolled you’re hoping it’s within the range for your route. There is some relief, though. If the three region cards are the same or if you’ve rolled doubles, then players place a star in any of those regions. This acts as a wild and can be used to fill in those tough-to-fill gaps.
On Tour is an excellent roll-and-write game. It seems that with its solid foundation there are lots of possibilities for future expansions. Perhaps band manager cards that give special abilities? Or additional maps for those epic worldwide tours? I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to expand this game’s original idea; if so, I’d love to take my band out On Tour again.
Ruel Gaviola is a regular contributor to Geek & Sundry, The Five By, iSlaytheDragon, and other sites. His name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. You can find him talking about board games on Twitter or Instagram.