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Grand Tour USA by Helvetiq Review

This game is fun, friendly, easy to learn, and easy to teach!

Theme and What is it?

Grand Tour USA is a family-friendly trivia game that treats players to interesting tidbits about the United States and its geography.

Gameplay Mechanics

Each player selects a car shaped wooden token as their playing piece and lays it on the board (a map of the United States) in a state that matches the color of their car. Each player also takes the matching color answer deck. Each answer deck has 50 cards, one for each US state. Question cards, chance cards, and travel cards are all shuffled. The youngest player selects a travel card and places Monument (worth 5 Victory Points), Image (worth 2 to 4 Victory Points), and Chance tokens according to the card’s directions.

The oldest player inserts a stack of Question cards into the provided sleeve so that the answers are covered up. There are two types of questions: knowledge and flash. Knowledge cards (indicated by a gear icon) allow you to take your time to answer and you are not penalized for wrong answers. If you happen to answer 2 out of 3 correct answers, you’ll be allowed to move your car up to 2 states away on the board. Flash cards (indicated by a lightning bolt icon) are speed related. The first correct answer gets to move up to 3 states. All subsequent correct answers may move just one state. An incorrect response to a flash card means you get to move zero states on the map. Players want to move to the tokens placed on the map so they can collect them to add to their score.

All questions are answered nonverbally using each player’s answer deck. For example, there’s a Knowledge question: “The Ramapo Fault, a Manhattan fault line, runs through which two other states?” The answers are New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so if you knew the answer, you’d select those two state cards out of your answer deck, place them facedown in front of you, and put the lowest numbered Seal Token on your answer to “seal” it in place. No changes after this. The number on the Seal Token indicates the order in which players take the moves they’ve earned that turn.

The object of the game is to get the most victory points by collecting Monuments and Image tokens. Once the first set of Monuments and Image tokens are all collected (this is called a “Journey”), you play two more Journeys with two more Travel Cards. For shorter games, you can choose to play just one or two Journeys. We played a single Journey and it took us about 45 minutes. Next time we play it will go faster though.

Initial Impressions

I was looking forward to playing this game because of the educational facet. I liked the idea of getting my ten-year-old more familiar with US states and geography, and thought the trivia would make for a fun family game night.

Game Build Quality

I have a few concerns in this category, but it was also a first printing run, so most of these issues have probably already been noticed and fixed. The issues: the game board doesn’t lay completely flat, there was a leaflet inserted into the box with a couple edits to the rulebook, and the game board, instructions, and components fit kind of awkwardly into the box. I know, I’m nitpicking here.

I love how sturdy the cardboard components are, and the little stands for the Monuments make the game more visually interesting. The cards are durable and the car-shaped playing pieces have smoothly cut and finished lines.

Artistic Direction

The board is beautifully rendered, with all the states having the capitals labeled and images printed that relate to the state. Florida, for example, has pictures of alligators, rockets, and beach umbrellas in addition to the capital city being labeled.

The answer cards have the state’s name spelled out, the state flag, the postal abbreviation, and an outline of the state complete with the capital marked and named at the bottom. I like how they fit all this information onto each card, so as the players flip through their decks, they’ll start to learn the information without having to memorize by rote.

The one big issue I have with the game is the iconography on the chance cards. (See photo below.) The images they chose to print (with no words) are confusing. Thankfully, each chance card has a letter printed in the corner, which corresponds to a list in the back of the instruction book. This lists all the cards and spells out what each card means.

Fun Factor

My ten-year-old and I had a good time setting this game up and exploring the map through the trivia questions. Some of the questions were really quirky and fun, while others had us scouring the map for clues to the right answer. We enjoyed navigating the United States in our little wooden cars and racing to that last Image token to see who would grab those points.

Age Range & Weight

The game suggests players be age 10+ and I think this is appropriate. Younger children may not have the breadth of knowledge to be able to answer correctly. My ten-year-old struggled at times. Heck, even I struggled at times. I know nothing about which states have good basketball teams! (Pro Tip for other non-athletes: Kentucky is a good choice.) That being said though, it’s a lightweight game as far as strategy is concerned.

Conclusions

This game is fun, friendly, easy to learn, and easy to teach. Kids and adult alike will enjoy the trivia (there’s a state with a town named Popcorn?!?) and teachers may even want a copy for their classrooms for students to have a fun way to study a bit of geography. I’d definitely recommend checking it out and trying it with your family or local gaming group. I hope you enjoy it like we did!