A sightseers’ guide to a remote island. (a Mitä Pelataan? review)

You can find this review also at BoardGameGeek, if you rather read it from there (easier to comment and react to there!).

Trails of Tucana is a game from 2019 by Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Østby, published by Aporta Games. It is for 1-8 players and according to the box plays in 15 minutes.

You can find rules for Trails of Tucana at BoardGameGeek, uploaded by one of the designers, Kristian Amundsen Østby here.

From the Journal of J K:

Entry I.
Where am I? What’s happening? How did I end up here? I better look around and try to figure out where I am and figure out what I am doing…
What a lovely white cat on that mountain! I’ll take a closer look …
Wait, what? It has a club! …and, and it’s not a cat, it’s a Yeti! And it’s coming at me, oh dear, I better run! There’s a village in that Forest, I’ll tell them there’s a Yeti in case they don’t know!

Entry II.
So they want me to go to the other village north from here that’s inhabited by the same tribe, A tribe. They gave me a map and told me to trace my route along the way and record what I see, so everyone will know. They also told me there are eight more villages at the shores of the island inhabited by different tribes, and each tribe inhabits two villages! Interesting!
Let’s see, I’ll go through this big forest here towards that lake by the desert. Hey, there’s a Book! Why would someone leave a book in the forest? Oh well, better leave it here and mark it on the map along the track!
There’s the desert and there’s the lake, how nice it is to feel the breeze in the desert, the breeze from the lake, bringing about the smell of fish… That’s a big fish there! I’ll just dip my toes in to see it a bit better… Many big fishes! …or, wait, those are not other fish, that’s one creature, those are parts of its body, it’s a sea monster! …well, a lake monster, as it’s in a lake! Ha! I’ll just step away from the water so it can’t catch me! Better mark this too!
Maybe I go to that mountain to look at the surroundings, I only see forest at north from here! …Or maybe not, there’s a yeti again it seems, I won’t mistake it for a cat again! Better go through the forest and forget the mountain…

Entry III.
Oh what a lovely toucan! I have to mark this place well to the track, everyone should see The Magnificent bird, it’s the prettiest I remember seeing! And that beak, wow, what a sight to behold! And what is that? An obelisk on the other side of this lake? Wow, what an amazing island this is. I better mark it on the map too, but I must head north towards the village, so I can’t go and take a closer look… But I trace the way anyway! I hope that mountain in front of me does not have any yetis, for I must go!

Entry IV.
A Tribe was very happy when I brought them greetings from their southern fellows. They were even more pleased that I was the first person to show them a map with a route traced between the two villages, and they praised me for marking the sights on the map as well! They also told me this island is called ‘Isla Petit’ and that there is another island, ‘Isla Grande’, even more rich in sights to see!
I have been given a boat to set to sea, traveling Offshore, to find this other island. The villagers asked me what these tracks should be called as I was the first to trace them. Still in awe of the bird I saw, I named them Trails of Tucana.

Trails of Tucana is a flip-and-write/draw game where players are given a sheet of paper with a map of an island to trace routes on. The game lasts 2 rounds on Isla Petit, and 3 rounds on Isla Grande side of the map. Each round has 13 turns where two cards are flipped and a route is drawn between two hexes on the map. Each card shows a terrain, and the route drawn has to be between these two terrains show on the two flipped cards.

If a player connects a sight to a village (or vice versa) they score points according to the sight and mark it on their sheet. There are 5 types of sights on the map – 2 of each on Petit and 3 on Grande. When a player traces the last sight of the same type to a village, they gain points and a free route to draw between any two hexes. This can combo with bonuses, making it possible to gain multiple free routes by placing one route. If you trace a route between two A villages, you gain most points for a route between villages, for two E villages you get the least. However, the bonus for connecting E villages first is highest, with A villages being lowest. In a game for 2-4 players one bonus is available for connecting first, for 5-8 players there are two (second being lower scoring than first).

At the end of a round, you total the points for sights you’ve connected and play another round, unless you’ve finished 2 rounds on Petit or 3 on Grande. In that case you sum all the points described above and see who gained most points – Surprise! They win!

I tried to play this game without any prejudice. Why? Because I backed Kokoro from Kickstarter when it was there and the artwork was nice and the boards were nice, and it was basically Avenue, the earlier hit of a flip-and-write from the same guys. So? Well, it is the only game ever that The Wife told me after one play that “What a stupid game, I will never play this again”. That’s why. And I agree, although I’d put it a bit milder! I tried to play it solo, but I didn’t not understand why people like it as much as they do, and it had to go, and quick.

I originally wanted The Magnificient and Offshore and not necessarily Trails of Tucana from Spiel’19, but as Offshore sold out during Saturday, I was left with this one as I had budget reserved for Offshore already (The Magnificent I got also). Oh well, Zee Garcia of The Dice Tower seemed to be super interested, but well, he’s interested in strange things every now and then, like Avenue. So, how is it?

Let’s set this straight right away: I like this one a lot more than Avenue. I don’t even want to compare them as this is way more flexible and has many things in it to keep it fresh. And you do not need to score more in each round! Freedom! The flipping of two cards and tracing a route between them, anywhere on the map, works very well. You do not need to connect to your previous trails, but you may do so. This provides a myriad of planning possibilities! You can trace a bit here, a bit there and at one point, boom boom boom boom, you connect everything and combo the bonuses from sights! I saw one player do this, and we others had to wait a while when he marked his 4 free routes one after another – that was the downside! But for it to be possible, I like it!

I have not yet tried the Solo-mode or the other variants of Isla Grande or Variable bonuses, but I will as I want to play this game more. I am not the biggest fan of Roll/flip-and-writes/draws, but this is easily in my top 50% of the ones I’ve played. It’s not the best, but it’s far from worst, which co-incidentally is by the same designers! Guess which?!

I usually evaluate games according to if they have space in my collection, and this does. It has small enough box and it is portable as all you need are the cards and a few papers (and a pencil, this comes with 8!).

Will this be a game for you? I would maybe even consider blind-buying this (as I did) if you like this type of games with freedom of choosing yourself what to do (I didn’t know I did). This really feels free and is very easy-going to play and enjoy. It’s not even close to as thinky as either one of the So Clever -games, and you also don’t write numbers, you have a grid of hexes to draw lines on. If you enjoy freedom in these kinds of games or have yet to try, I suggest you try. If you don’t like freedom or the amount of choices you have, all of which will eventually affect your score at some point, or if you dislike this style of games in any case, don’t even consider this! Maybe try it, but don’t buy it. Maybe even avoid trying unless you feel like it.

I have rated this 7.5/10 now, but if the Solo mode and variants are as I expect, the rating will increase. I expect the rating to land at 8-8.5 if my expectations are not trashed as happened with another game mentioned before. If it happens, this will drop a bit, maybe to 6.5 and go to the trade pile. For now though, no fear!

Here are some pictures of the game!

The copy of the game was sold to me with a “review discount” at Spiel’19, with no promises, besides an honest opinion on the game from me.
Thank you Eilif!

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