Out of Italy from first-time game creator Coralie Pelissier, with Alessandra Belgio doing art and graphic design, comes a card game trying to teach you about the world. TrikyTrail is currently on Kickstarter, and comes in different decks with one or two continents each: Americas, Asia, Africa, and Europe/Oceania (which includes Australia), plus a bonus deck that focuses on the states and territories of the USA and Canada. I was kindly given an Americas deck for review which covers North, Central, and South America.
The card play is relatively simple. For each country there are three cards: one showing its location on a map along with sketches of a couple of interesting features, one with the capital city along with a word shown in multiple languages, and one with the country’s flag and a handful of information (language, currency, time code, population, etc.). Each of these cards has the country name of course, and in the top left corner a number corresponding to the country and a symbol corresponding to the card type. There are also several types of Joker card, each one starting a challenge of some kind or creating some other cheeky disruption. A hand of seven cards is dealt to each player to start, while the rest are put down into a draw pile with one being put down separately to start a face-up discard pile. Each players turn involved merely placing a card from their hand onto the discard pile that matches the current top card in the pile in either number or symbol while saying the name of their card’s country. If you don’t have one, you pick a card from the draw pile (which can be immediately put onto the discard pile if it matches). Alternatively, a Joker card can be placed if you have one, triggering a challenge such as identifying a country, having specific cards to use in return, answering a quiz question, or whatever the card demands .The loser of a challenge must take extra cards. As you may have guessed, the winner is the first to have no more cards in their hand.
It’s a fun little game, though I use the word ‘little’ ironically considering the 140-card-strong deck. That large deck is actually used to its advantage in another way, by incorporating other card games too. The Americas deck for example uses 54 of the cards to create a standard French/Anglo-American card deck by including a suit symbol and number/court card letter upside down in the bottom corners, so they need only be sorted from the rest of the deck and turned upside down to be a useable deck of standard playing cards complete with two jokers. Other TrickyTrail decks include the functionality for French Tarot cards and Neapolitan cards (Australian players may not be familiar with these, but games using them are popular in some European countries and other places). Importantly, the aim of helping you learn a bit about the countries of each deck of the game works too; while only basic information is given, it only takes a couple of rounds to start getting familiar with flags, countries, and locations. Using a card game to help retain information is a classic tactic, as I’m sure we all remember from stories of how military combatants were given card decks with silhouettes of planes and such to help remember and identify them. The TrikyTrail game booklet makes a bit of a deal of its potential for learning, and the website/Kickstarter page spruiks it heavily as ‘the easiest way to learn geography’, and it will no doubt be heavily marketed to schools if the publishers are smart. My impression is that the main audience for this is students of all ages, not just schools but also young adults who are looking to travel and learn more about the world; as a backpacker, what better way to help familiarise yourself with the countries of the continent you’re travelling while also having fun with fellow travellers and/ or friends?
The design of the cards is relatively simple but effective. While the amount of actual information about different countries is extremely limited, the basics of name, flag, capital city, and geographic location are the main points and any more would likely get lost in the quick game. As those military silhouette games showed, keeping it simple is how it’s best remembered. The sketch nature of many of the illustrations gives a charming look, while the flags are clear graphics, and one type of Joker ‘Amazing Places’ uses full colour photos. The different decks of TrikyTrail are easily distinguished thanks to their colour scheme: the Americas one I used has a pinky-red blush to the face of the cards and red on the back, while others used other colours. I really admired the style of the card backs – they’re designed to look like a generic airport boarding pass, which also means that a QR code square is incorporated while staying completely in theme with the look.
There’s a relatively discrete, but surprisingly not overwhelming, plugging of Pelissier’s Volunteers Into The World travel organisation and associated charity; appearing once or twice as part of joker card illustrations, and the QR scan code on the back of the cards leads to it’s website – not the TrikyTrail website as I’d initially assumed. On the one hand it feels like slightly bad taste for the creator to plug their own other ventures in the game rather than just linking to it on the game’s website, but on the other hand why wouldn’t you interconnect your properties for maximum exposure? I can’t exactly fault that. There is also some hyping of an associated Augmented Reality app for the game, played up on the website and players booklet, but it hasn’t been developed yet; I think it will be a big entertainment draw for kids once ready though. Features like this are likely to be an increasing part of games in the future, incorporating at least a bit of digital extra content or crossover, so it’s interesting to see here and I hope it works out well.
There are a few teething troubles with the deck I used, of the kind which should be smoothed out by final product. The usual issues with a translated version exist, such as a couple of spelling/grammar irregularities, and those photos I mentioned on the ‘Amazing Places’ Jokers still have watermarks. Like I said, that shouldn’t be an issue by end purchased product though, if the quality put into the game so far keeps up. As far as I’m aware, no major differences should happen between the deck I’ve used here and what you’d buy though. I received this review copy of the game later than initially expected and the current Kickstarter campaign is about through, and doesn’t look set to reach it’s goal; however I think the game is a good idea and enjoyable so here’s hoping it’s either picked up by a publisher who’ll see it through, or they have another try at crowd sourcing in the future. Check it out, and sign up to follow updates about it if you’re interested, to encourage another try in the future if the current campaign is unsuccessful.
TrikyTrail is on Kickstarter now.