uBike Tours: Taiwan
- Designer: Chih-Fan Chen
- Publisher: Big Fun
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 30-45 minutes
- Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by Taiwan Boardgames
Each fall, I look forward to a care package sent to me from my friends at Taiwan Boardgames. I have felt for a long while that the games from the Far East are underappreciated, though their exposure seems to be improving each year! Sure, there are always hits and misses in each box, but I do love the exploration of the new games…
uBike Tours: Taiwan is a board game based on a real-life bikeshare system available in North Taiwan – https://taipei.youbike.com.tw/home. From their website: “The Department of Transportation, Taipei City Government (hereinafter the Authority), in order to encourage citizens to use bikes as short-distance transit vehicles, launched the Program of the “Establishment, Operation and Management of the Bike Sharing System”, in the hope that by equipping a urban bike lane network with a bike station service, encouraging citizens to use low-pollution and low-energy-consumption Bike Sharing as short-distance transit vehicles and reducing and replacing personal possession and use of motor vehicles, traffic congestion, environmental pollution and energy loss in the city will be improved.”
In the game, players ride their bike checking out the scenery, hoping to finish a 9 location tour. The game is based around 2 decks of cards – an 80 card scenery deck and a 25 card opportunity deck. The game starts with a display of 5 cards from the scenery deck laid out on the table. Each player draws a scenery card to place in front of them to start their tourist journey. Scenery cards come in two types – location cards and bike cards. The location cards has two important bits of info on them – in the upper left corner is their card number and in the lower right is their distance value (range 1-15). The Bike cards also have a card number on them, and each one depicts 1 to 3 bicycles on it. Each player also has 3 storage cards in their area: Scenery storage, Bike storage, Opportunity Storage.
On a player’s turn – the active player has two options: Search or Schedule.
To search, you will flip up two cards from the Scenery deck – one at a time – and place them in the tableau if possible. There are always 5 rows in the display, and the revealed card is placed 6 Nimmt style – that is, to the right of the card at the end of a row which is closest to the revealed card but not over it. If it is impossible to place the revealed card (that is, it is smaller than all the cards on the right end of each of the 5 rows), it is flipped over and placed on the left hand opponent’s Scenery Storage card. If a player ever has 5 cards on his Scenery storage card, he immediately turns those in for an Opportunity card (which is then stored on the Opportunity Storage card).
To schedule, you choose any row from the table and take all the cards from that row into your hand. Any bike cards in that row are placed on your Bike Storage area. You can then choose to play a Scenery card from your hand to the right end of your Journey. You will need to compare the distance value of the card you played and compare it to the rightmost card in your existing line. If the difference in distance is 0 or 1, you can play the card directly. If the distance is 2 or more from the previous card, you must play bike cards from your hand until you have played enough bike icons to make up the difference between the Distance values of the two cards. You now take a SINGLE cardboard bike token to show that you have paid the price in bikes and place it between the two cards. All unplayed cards will then be placed on your Scenery Storage card. You then flip your action card over to the Pass side – you will not take another turn this round. Remember, if you get 5 cards on your Scenery Storage card, you can turn them in for an Opportunity card.
When there is only one player left active in the round, that player may take a final Search action but then the player must Schedule on their next turn. After that final player Schedules, that player also chooses one other row on the board to discard. Then, a new card is drawn to start each chosen row from that round. All players flip their Action marker back to the active side and the player to the left becomes the new Start Player.
The game ends if one or more players has 9 Scenery cards in their row. The game is now scored – there are five ways to score points
· The player adds up the difference in their Distance Values between each of their cards and sums that total. The largest sum gets 4 pts, 2nd largest gets 2 points.
· Score 1 VP for each card of distance value 1, 2, 14, 15
· Score 1/3/5 points for 1/2/3 cards of the same distance value
· Score 2 points if you have 9 cards in your journey
· Score X points for your Opportunity cards
uBike Taiwan is a interesting little card game. Sure, none of the decisions are overly complicated, but given that you only get to make 8 to 10 of them in the entire game makes it so that you can’t let an opportunity pass you by. You start the game with one journey card on the table, and in my games so far, we’ve never gone more than 10 rounds before someone had managed to complete their line of 9 journey cards.
The card distribution system is the same as 6 Nimmt! Well, with the change that a card without a natural home does not close out a row but rather passes to your LHO as 20% of a bonus card. It’s an interesting randomizing factor, and one that sometimes might come into play when you’re the last player left and you’re trying to decide if it’s worth it to try to add one more card to the rows remaining – but doing so means there is a very high chance that your LHO will get 1 or 2 facedown cards in the process…
The scoring rubric is summarized on a card which is mostly in ideograms (and no English) – but it is easy enough to use it as a reference once the rules are explained once. Given the multiple ways to score points, it does give the player a lot of options on how to go about scoring. Every card should add points to the eventual total – the question is: which card will end up giving the most points in the final reckoning? Perhaps the hardest decision to make is the round where you actually could play a card from your row, but it might be more worthwhile to pass to wait for something better or to use the discards to get an opportunity card.
So far, I have not found any one scoring method that seems better than another, but I do think that I have done better when I have chosen on of the scoring methods to focus on and then tried to stick with that the whole game. Of course, my sample size is still very small, and as always, YMMV. With the way the rows are generated, sometimes your plans end up going out the window because you simply don’t get a chance to pick up the cards that you had wished for.
The artwork is really nice. The cards in each distance marker form a nice scenic picture, and you can see all of them on the final two pages of the rules. Though I’ve never been to Taiwan, there are a couple of scenic landscapes that definitely look beautiful, and I would certainly love to take a bike ride around the island to see said sights. uBike Tours: Taiwan is a great way to transport your game group to Taiwan for a short while, and it is the kind of game that may cause you to take another tour right after the first one ends.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor