Zoom in Barcelona
- Designers: Nuria Casellas, Eloi Pujadas, Joaquim Vilalta
- Publisher: Blue Orange
- Players: 2-6
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 30-45 min
- Times played: probably 10 total – 2, with review copy provided by Blue Orange and probably at least 8 with original produced by Cucafera
Barcelona is a fantastic city which I’ve had the pleasure to visit a few times during my travels. I have many fond memories of walking along La Rambla and seeing the wonderful sights. When I saw that there was a game coming at SPIEL 2019 themed around taking pictures of the wonderful sights in the city, I had to give it a try. In Zoom in Barcelona, players are competing in a photo contest where they are trying to take the best pictures – but they’ll have to travel around the city to get to the best pictures of city landmarks as well as views of the city skyline.
This game was well received here in 2019, and I ended up giving it to one of my local gamers as a wedding gift as they liked the game AND they took their honeymoon in Barcelona – so it seemed like a fitting home for the game. I missed it a bit when I gave it away, but as things go – new games came into the collection, and I didn’t think much about it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Blue Orange has produced a new 2021 version of this game, and I was glad to get another copy and get it back to the table. From what I can tell, it is a straight reprint, as I could not find any changes from what I remembered from the original…
The board shows a schematic map of Barcelona. There are 8 different Skyline spots which are seeded with matching tokens (never enough for all players to get one). From a deck of Landmark cards, four are dealt to the board to show which pictures can be taken at the start of the game; additionally, two theme tokens are drawn at random and also placed on the board. Four more landmarks are drawn and placed on the Natural light track in the bottom right. The Dragon token is placed on the board based on a card. Each player cats a Camera board and is given a City Skyline token (this remains private and facedown). There is a Zoom selector token which goes on the board, set to the 3 position. Finally, each player is dealt 3 transport cards.
A starting player is chosen, and turns go around the board until the game end condition is met – when a player takes their 8th landmark card. On a turn, players first move and then take an action. When you move, you can move up to 2 spaces by walking. IF you want to move further, you can discard a transport card and move the number of spaces (3 to 6) as shown on the card. Regardless of how you move, you cannot end your movement on a space occupied by another player. After you move – you MAY then take an action: taking a photo, visit an information point or taking the Metro.
To take a picture, generally you have to be standing on the location of the photo (of a Landmark, Skyline Building, Dragon or Natural Light location). However, you have 3 Zoom points to use over the course of the game. Each point spent allows you to be one space further away from the photo. If you take a picture of a Landmark, it must be one of the four cards on the side of the board. Take the card and then replenish the supply. If you take a picture of the Skyline, take one of the tokens from the space and place it near your camera board. If you take a picture on the Natural Light track, you must start with the leftmost card. When you take that picture, you move your marker onto the card of the picture you took. You must take these photos in left to right order. For each picture that you take, you will be able to score 2 of your Landmark photos at the end of the game. Finally, if you take a picture of the Dragon, you get do one of the following: choose any of the Landmark cards on offer, move ahead one step on the Natural Light track, take any available skyline tile or refresh the Landmark card display. You then flip over the next Landmark card to move the Dragon.
The other actions involve movement. If you choose to go to an Information point, you must be at one of the matching spaces; you now discard any transport cards you like and then draw to refill your hand to 3. If you take the Metro, you must be at a Metro stop, which could be occupied by another player, and then move to any un-occupied Metro stop on the board, at which point, your turn ends.
Once you have taken your action, your turn is over and the next player goes. Play continues until someone has taken their 8th Landmark photo. At that point, the game immediately ends and all players move into the scoring phase.
At the end of the game, you will score both your Landmark cards as well as your Skyline pictures. First, when considering your Landmark cards, you can only score as many cards as allowed by your Natural Light track standing – again remembering that you can score 2 Landmarks for each step taken on that track. Each scored Landmark card scores a base value of 3VP for the card itself, and then 1 bonus point for each match of the two themes which were chosen at the start of the game. Then, players score their skyline. Each player was given a Skyline token at the start of the game; you score for contiguously connected tiles that match the arrangement on your token. There is a scoring rubric printed on your camera board. It goes from 1VP for a single tile which is unconnected to any other tiles, all the way up to 30VP for all 8 tiles. The player with the most points wins. There is no tiebreaker.
My thoughts on the game
Zoom in Barcelona is an interesting game that appeals to me because I have seen many of the sights and landmarks on my own explorations of the city. There is an exciting sense of exploration and racing as you move around the board working on getting pictures of the particular landmarks before other players beat you to the shot. At any given time, there are always a number of different possible targets. There are always 4 Landmark cards available, up to 4 Natural Light places, up to 8 skyline shots and the Dragon.
Oftentimes, it comes down to luck of the draw with the Landmark cards; there will surely be one or two times when a card comes up and it just happens to be near your current location. It’s probably best to just snatch those up when the opportunity presents itself. Otherwise, you’ll have to figure out what’s the best plan of action. At some point, you’ll want to get the Natural Light spots in order to allow you to score your Landscape cards. The Skyline tiles can be quite valuable as well, though it will definitely help to get them adjacent to each other. While you can take these tiles in any order that you like; you’ll need to keep an eye out of them as there are never going to be enough for all players to get any tile – so, if there is one crucial to your plans, make sure you get one before the supply runs out!
I think that there is a small starting player advantage which is curiously not compensated for in the rules. The game ends immediately when a player takes their 8th Landscape card, and any game with a sudden end gives players earlier in order a chance to take more turns than those later in order. Further, the fact that players cannot end their movement on the same spot means that players later in order could be blocked from certain spaces, especially when there are a few things (i.e. the Natural Light spaces) which all players are vying for in the same order. Sure, this is mitigated a little by players starting in different places (and being able to use the Dragon to move ahead on the track) ; but the developer in me wants players to have an equal number of turns or maybe ensuring that those later in player order get a better selection of transport cards from the start or maybe more zoom points. Anyways, this may not bother you, and maybe it shouldn’t bother me in a light family game, but it does, so I mention it. In reality, I’m not sure if it really affected our game play or not, but being last in turn order and losing by three points did make me think about why we didn’t get an equal number of turns.
But, if you look past that (or if it doesn’t bother you), the game is a quick paced tour around the city of Barcelona. An individual turn can take only seconds, as players have enough time between turns to know where they want to go next. Sure, someone might step in and take a card that you were also vying for – but in general, I found that most of the time I was waiting for my turn to come around so I could quickly declare my movement and then take my single action.
I really like the tightness of the zoom function; you only get three spaces of zoom for the whole game – and man, those are precious. A single extra space might save you an entire turn if it allows you to take a picture and not have to move an extra time to get there; a zoom action might also allow you to take a picture that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to take (because someone else is standing on the actual location). There is a delicate balance between using them in the early stages of the game to get ahead of your opponents (or to snatch one the limited supply of skyline tiles) versus saving them for the endgame when you might need to have one in order to take a necessary picture.
Our first game went a bit long as most players tried to get all the skyline tiles and get all the way through the Natural Light track; but with some experience, I can see a strategy where players can rush the ending a bit by taking as many pictures as possible. The one governor to this is that the rushing player still needs to take some Natural Light pictures along the way or else he simply wouldn’t score anything!
After playing it many more times, the game still holds its appeal. It is very much a reminder of great times that I had in the city, and the game itself does not feel tired or “same-y” after multiple plays. You still have to race around the board trying to get to places faster than your opponents. The new 2021 version is a good choice, and I’m glad that this decision gives more gamers a chance to play this game. The game is fast paced, and you will be asked to explore the city as you decide which of the many sights to take pictures of.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers (of the original version)
Doug Garrett: Shelley and I had a great time with this one (covered on Episode 698 of Garrett’s Games podcast). With the caveat that we played it as a 2-player, we loved the way it conjures memories of our visit to that wonderful Spanish city. As we talked about in the podcast, I think that the biggest “luck” factor (though Dale’s right about the luck situation as discussed above) lies in the tiles of landmarks that you need obtain in a certain order for better scoring at the end of the game. If it’s standard set collection, then everyone gets points based on the tiles collected (a nice alternative to getting the ‘correct’ photos that the judges are requesting). If you play with the alternative tiles that have different orders for the landmarks, you run into a situation (as we discuss in the podcast) where Shelley obtained 4 tiles to my 3, but hers wound up being in order, whereas mine didn’t. She would up with (I think) points to my 3…which seemed rather harsh. However, take those added tiles out, and all would be fine. It’s definitely staying in the collection!
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Doug G.
- I like it. John P, Dale Y
- Neutral. Craig V, James Nathan, Eric M
- Not for me…