Publisher: Aporta Games
Designer: Kristian Amundsen Østby and Eilif Svensson
Release date: 2020
1 – 6 Players
*Fast * Fun * Flip and Fill * Network Connections * Replayable * Accessible * Versatile *
Exploring uncharted islands armed with only a deck of cards and a trusty pencil? Sounds like my kind of adventure!
Straight off the bat, Trails of Tucana is a quick, fun, flip and filler. Taking on the role of intrepid explorers, you will be creating trails to link up a bunch of different villages, archaeological sights, and exotic creatures.
Sunny Set Up!
Having decided whether you’re all going into the smaller blue “Isla Petit” or more challenging red “Isla Grande”, everybody gets a single use, double sided paper map, and a pencil. Having nominated one player to be “the Mayor” of Tucana, the set up cards are shuffled, and the Mayor chooses one at random.
In a neat twist, you then prepare your own map by filling in village hexes with the letters in the order printed on the set up card (going in a clockwise direction). And, cleverly, everybody starts from a slightly different point so that each map in each game has a unique layout. Replayability Gold Standard!
After the maps are prepped, the set up cards are discarded. The terrain card deck is then shuffled, and placed in sight of all players. The blue/red village bonus cards are also laid out (using only those marked #1 for game with 2-4 players but all for 5 or more).
Thereafter, with the fate of your trails in the Mayor’s hands, the game is on!
Twice around Toucana!
Played over two rounds, on each turn the Mayor flips over two terrain cards – these will depict either water, mountains, desert, or forest (or, if you’re lucky, a wild terrain!). You must each then draw one section of your trail across the revealed combination (from centre hex to centre hex). The line drawn can be anywhere and need not link to previously drawn trails. If you don’t have enough free hexes of the required type though, you’ll be filling up your water bottle as you wait for the next turn.
As the aim of the game is to link up as many villages and sights as possible, players need to take note of the positions of the villages on their own maps; both as they relate to each other, as well as the printed sights and creatures.
Given the number of villages and sights, scoring can kick off quite early into a game, which is exciting and encouraging! And with points awarded for linking villages to sights as well as bonuses for matching village to village connections, games can be pretty rewarding!
With the first round ending when only one card remains in the terrain card deck, everyone stops to tot up their village/village and village/artefact connections before shuffling the terrain cards and beginning the final round.
Importantly, artefacts are counted in both rounds. So, if you can link one type (e.g. a toucan) to a village, you circle the no.1 next to the corresponding sight icon in the scoring box and core those points at the end of each round. If the second matching artefact links to a village later in the game, however, you get to circle the higher score value and draw a free bonus trail segment across any two adjacent terrain hexes on the map. Note that village connections and bonuses only score at end-game, however, and the extra village bonuses are only available to the first player who achieves the relevant connection.
With easy to understand rules, a mixture of instant scoring gratification, and delayed bonuses, this game is simple, relaxing fun. With the ability to play just as well over video conferencing as around the table, it is also a fantastically accessible and versatile option. Coming in at a low price point too, means that it doesn’t require a huge investment in either time or money, but will leave you with a smile on your face for some time.
With luck of the draw determining terrain availability, the use of asymmetrical maps, different islands, and extra special red cards, replayability is definitely high. Plus the presence of a beat-your-own-score solo mode using a slight variation to the multiplayer set up keeps the game a viable option regardless of the size or age of your current gaming group.
Admittedly this game isn’t going to give your brain serious burn, but I don’t think it is meant to be that kind of experience. Some games crunch like sand in your sandwiches, but this one is simple honest to goodness fun. Indeed, whilst the box states a suggested age range of 8+, our 5 year old Mini-meeple was able to pick up the basic rules quite quickly. The race to secure one-off bonuses and the unequal distribution of terrain types does mean, however, that for more experienced players, there is always a sprinkling of strategy, thereby maintaining a challenge regardless of group dynamic.
I would say that players with colour vision deficiency may find differentiating between the desert and mountain terrain types tricky (although there are unique (albeit faint) patterns), and the printed symbols on the player sheets are also quite small.
Overall, Trails of Tucanais a fast, fun game, and a great option for when you want to get into something that will make you smile, but leave you with enough mental energy for……well, more games of course!
Please note that the publisher has recently announced an expansion to Trails of Tucana – Ferries – due later in 2021!