Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Zoom in Barcelona

Game: Zoom In Barcelona

Publisher: Cucafuera Games

Designer: Núria Casellas, Eloi Pujadas, Joaquim Vilalta

Year: 2019


Zoom in Barcelona is the fist published game from Cucafuera Games, but the design team comes with experience in the design and development of successful board games, such as Shikoku and Uxmal.

Zoom in Barcelona is a family weight board game, similar in complexity to Ticket to Ride with options to play a basic or more advanced game mode, both of which still fit into family weight. You play as a tourist in Barcelona, collecting photographs of well known sites, presumably to impress your Instagram followers. The game is enhanced by wonderful artwork, which really captures the colours and atmosphere of Barcelona, as well as picking up on certain features which will be rewarded by the game's mechanisms. It's a really eye-catching package.


Gameplay

Players will take turns moving, and then performing actions. The first thing you do on a turn is move up to two spaces along the marked routes. Should you want to move further then you can use a transportation card from your hand. These cards are numbered from 3-6 and let you move up to that many spaces instead, perhaps hopping on a bike, or into a taxi. After moving you may perform an action depending where you stopped. The most common of which is to take a picture.

You can actually take three different kinds of pictures when you land on the right space. Or by consuming one of your zoom points you can take photos from 1-3 spaces away. Standard photos can be found on the right hand side of the board. These photos are all assigned to a location on the board, but you are able to take any picture you want in any order. Whenever one of these four photos is claimed a new photo card is drawn to replace it. Each of these standard photos is worth three points at the end of the game, plus additional points if they match the two features chosen for this game.


The second type of photo is photos of the skyline. Skyline tiles are found in fixed places across the city, with a player who lands on them being able to take a tile form the stack. Each player has a private skyline target assigned at the start of the game. The longer line of skyline tiles you can make according to your target, the more points you'll earn. In the advanced game, the third type of photo is introduced - the lighting photos. Four cards are drawn at the start of the game, each of them assigned to a location on the board. You have to visit these locations in order to take their photos, when you do you advance your tracker onto the next photo on the line. These lighting photos are vital because you can only score two normal photos per lighting photo you have taken. 

On top of photos there are a few bonus actions dotted around the board. Public information locations let you refill your hand to three transport cards, so it's important to visit them frequently. Metro sites let you take public transport to any other metro site on the map. Finally the dragon acts as a wild card, should you take its photo you can treat it as any other location on the board. The dragon will then fly off to another part of the map.

The game will end once any player is in possession of eight standard photo cards, regardless of whether they can score them. All players will then score points for the 2 standard cards per lighting card they have achieved, and the length of skyline that they managed to complete.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Zoom in Barcelona feels like a strange addition to our game collection. Playing cards to move around the map a number of spaces is not a mechanic you see often in modern board games, being only a small step up from roll and move as a mechanic. And yet here, with the winding web of movement options and the huge number of objectives it manages to work in a way that doesn't put victory down to sheer luck alone. That's not to say luck doesn't come into it, sometimes you can be in an zone only to have perfect photos start appearing just down the street, and there's certainly something to be said for the despair when your visit to the public information gains you three move three cards. The openness of the game, and the inclusion of the metro turns this mechanic around and makes it fun.

However it's still not complex, Zoom in Barcelona is a family game at heart, even in the advanced mode there's nothing that a non-gamer would be particularly intimidated by. Would I have liked to have seen more advanced mechanics in the game? Sure, but then you wouldn't want to buy this game about the beauty of Barcelona for your artsy friend who went there on holiday last year. It's that wide-spread appeal that makes Zoom in Barcelona approachable and nowhere is this seen more than in the art.


The main board is designed with simplicity in mind, with zones clearly marked in colour and shapes around the numbers for the colourblind. Only a few details are added here and there, the major roads, train stations, docks and of course the skyline buildings. In other words it looks just like a tourist map. The photos themselves however are completely different, all with a hand-painted look showing locations in Barcelona at it's best. On a good day you would wonder around the city and recreate these photos yourself, and that's something special.

Overall Zoom in Barcelona was too simple to keep be entertained in the long run, but it still charmed me. The game looks wonderful and the ability to bust this out no matter who has come round for game night and have it go down well certainly speaks in its favour. I would have loved a 'super advanced' mode that added just a little bit more to the gameplay, but even without that it is still a charming route planning game that keeps you on your toes.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Zoom in Barcelona is a slightly simpler game than we would typically want to play when we are pulling a medium sized board game box off the shelf, but it has certainly charmed me. The basic game mode is very basic and I think it could probably be useful for families with younger children, but I'd be expecting to play the full game every time, even with infrequent gamers. The additions in the advanced game add to the theme and add a few new aspects to optimise. The camera zoom can be a life saver when you don't have quite the right cards in hand to travel, and the need to hit all four (I would never expect to win with less than four!) of the different photos that allow you to practice your skills in different lighting, mean that there are some constant objectives throughout the game that you need to weave into your route.


I like the game at two players because you can plan well, whereas with more players around the board you might be heading to take the same photo as someone else and end up stranded in a desert of photo opportunities if they get there first. On the other hand, building up your skyline of monument tokens is really hard at two players, so perhaps three is the sweet spot to have the most entertaining game, for me.

Zoom in Barcelona really captures travel round a city and my urge to be efficient at all times. You need to get to the tourist spots in the fewest number of turns, because this race to eight photos is over before you know it. Wasting time on a sub-optimal route will surely lose you the game. The optimisation aspect is definitely in my wheel house and although the simple gameplay doesn't get me really excited to play again and again, the theme and the amount of charm the game has are enough for me to want to keep it around and especially introduce it to my family. Its fate will be decided be whether my parents enjoy this game with us.


You Might Like...
  • This is a perfect gift for someone who has visited Barcelona.
  • Both the basic and more advanced gameplay are still good family weight games.
  • The artwork is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful city.
You Might Not Like...
  • You'll experience most of what the game has to offer in a single play.
  • Being consistently beaten to destinations is possibly frustrating.

The Verdict
6.5/10 Zoom in Barcelona is exactly the game that I want to gift to a family member or to find in a souvenir shop in Barcelona. Its beautiful artwork will attract an audience and the complexity of the gameplay is just right to introduce modern board gaming to an audience who might happen across the game in an unconventional way. I love how much the game shows off a love for Barcelona, on top of being a fun and thematic race around the city, having a tourist experience.


Zoom in Barcelona was a review copy kindly provided to us by Cucafuera Games. You can currently play on Tabletopia and you can buy a copy of the game direct from Cucafuera Games.

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