I love roll and writes and flip and fillers. They’re portable, versatile, accessible, easily scalable, and can be fast and fun or chunky and crunchy. Boomerang Europe from one of my favourite designers, Scott Almes, is a pen and paper game for 2 – 4 players with a bit of a twist. Instead of rolling a dice or flipping a card to determine your action, you have a hand of cards which you will be picking and passing. Yep, it is a closed drafting-writing game of a kind we hadn’t seen or played before.
The objective of the game is to tour around Europe on different methods of transport, visiting as many countries as you can. Whilst doing so, you’ll be trying to visit national treasures and sample their finest cuisines. Played over 4 rounds, the traveller with the most points at the end is declared the perkiest passenger!
Set Up And Play
Easy peasy Europe squeezy! Everybody gets a sheet and a pencil. The 28 country cards are shuffled, and each player is dealt 7 as their starting hand. Each card has a bunch of symbols including a number in the top left hand corner. The rest go into a pile ready to be added back in just before the next round.
Your first card pick is called your “Throw card” and goes face down in front of you. The difference between the number on this card and the 7th card you draft (“Catch card”) is important as you get that number of points at the end of the round. The rest of your cards are then passed to the next player.
Out of the new hand of 6, everyone simultaneously picks a country card and this goes face up in front of them. The passing and picking is then repeated until everybody has only one card left in their hand aka the Catch card.
At the end of the round, it’s time to score your first of 4 holidays. You get points for lots of different things:
- Throw/Catch differential
- Countries – 1 point per unique site visited
- Cuisine bonuses valued up to 7 and then rounded down to the nearest half for anything 8+
- Transport bonuses for pairs of matching vehicles used
- National Treasure bonuses (optional and based on the number of matching treasures collected by every other player that round)
- First player to visit complete region bonuses
- First/second/third player to visit one country per region bonuses
Once your score sheet has been marked, shuffle all 28 cards and deal a new hand to each player. After the 4th trip round Europe, the game is over.
We are enjoying Boomerang Europe. It plays super quick and is very generous in terms of how many different ways there are to score. But balancing them all against each other is where the challenge lies.
Pushing your luck comes into practically every choice and starts with the Throw/Catch dilemma. You are likely to have a low 1 or 2 value card at the beginning of the round. But, as the game goes on and you know what other players are collecting, letting a key country slip into the hands of your opponents could be a bad idea! Particular as you have no idea what your final Catch card is going to be. That could be worth a big fat zero if you end up with an identical value card at the end.
Same with food and drink. You could be hovering around the 7 mark point for maximum scoring (yes!). But then receive a round ending Catch card that tips you over into 8, thereby reducing your points down to only 4 in total.
Thankfully, the game is flexible enough that your scoring strategy can boomerang back and forth too. You might start off laser focusing on certain regions hoping that all the countries you need will come up. But then, if that doesn’t play out, you can then switch to a more scatter-gun approach to be first to visit lots of regions.
If countries just aren’t coming up roses, smart picking in transport, treasures, and food points might just keep you in the game. The fact that the different transport types are worth different point values adds another dimension to your decision making. And if none of those are working for you, you can always just hit the nuclear button and block everyone else’s journey planning!
Admittedly, luck of the draw plays a big part, particularly at lower player counts. We play mostly at 2 player and some country cards never come into our hands simply because they aren’t in play during the 4 rounds. And that can be frustrating in terms of planning, plus some of the region bonuses are never available during those games. With 4 players, all cards are in play each round. You might not get to pick them of course, but at least there’s a chance!
The game is super simple to learn, and the rule book reflects that – very straightforward to follow. No solo mode I’m disappointed to say, but no doubt a clever gamer will come up with some fan rules at some point. It’s also trying hard to be thematic.
The food bonuses go up but then reduce if you overindulge. Likewise, the transport points differ based on the mode being collected. Having the name of each country printed in the local language is a nice touch, and I like the artwork depicting each place.
The only negative thing we have found with the components is that the double sided score pad is very small. The box could have definitely accommodated a larger version. As victory depends upon keeping tabs on what other players are collecting (not to mention national treasures where you gain points based on their choices), the meagre pad size makes this difficult to do.
I know Boomerang Europe is classed as a roll and write/flip and write game. But it feels more like a close drafting, hand management game that you happen to score on a sheet as you go along. Which is cool because that works well. Trying to keep tabs on all the symbols and end of round scoring on tracks would definitely be less elegant.
Overall Boomerang Europe is a quick, budget friendly fun filler that we are glad to have in our collection. It’s full of simple decisions presenting lots of different potential ways to score with some hate-drafting encouragement thrown in for good measure! We might just need to blow up the size of the sheets for our ageing eyes!