With how many board games are released nowadays, many games end up using the same types of themes. Therefore it is refreshing when a game tries to utilize a different theme. Today I am taking a look at the board game Zoom In Barcelona. In the game you are competing in a photo contest held in the city of Barcelona. You and the other players will race around the city in order to take pictures of locations chosen by the judges to score points. While there are a few games that utilize a photography theme, it is refreshing when games actually try to do something unique with the theme instead of resorting to the tired old themes that every game uses these days. Zoom In Barcelona is a simple and fun adventure in Spain that families should enjoy even if it may be a little too simple for some players.
How to Play Zoom In Barcelona
There are two different versions of Zoom in Barcelona that you can play. There is a simplified version of the game that plays faster, and one that is a little more complex and features more strategy. The rules for both will be detailed below.
- Place the game board in the middle of the table.
- Place a number of Skyline building tokens on the gameboard on the corresponding spaces depending on the number of players.
- 2 players – 1 token of each building
- 3 players – 2 tokens of each building
- 4 players – 3 tokens of each building
- 5-6 players – 4 tokens of each building
- Shuffle the Transport cards and deal three to each player. Players can look at these cards at any time, but they should keep them secret from the other players. The remaining Transport cards form the draw pile.
- Shuffle the Landmark cards. Place four cards face up in the Judge’s Picks section for 2-4 player games and five cards for 5-6 player games. Place the rest of the Landmark cards face down next to the board.
- Mix up the Theme tokens and randomly pick two of them. As the tokens are double sided, randomly choose a side for both of the chosen tiles. Once the tokens have been chosen, place them on the corresponding section of the game board.
- Each player randomly chooses one of the camera boards. Pictured on the camera board is a location which becomes each players’ starting location. Each player will place their camera board face up in front of themselves.
- All of the players will choose a color and takes the pawn and Zoom Selector token of that color. The pawn will be placed on the player’s starting location. The Zoom Selector will be placed on a player’s camera board based on if you are playing the basic or advanced game.
- Basic game – Turned blank side up
- Advanced game – Turned with the number side up. The arrow on the camera board should be pointed towards the three on the token.
- If you choose to play the advanced game a number of additional steps will be performed.
- Place four Landmarks cards face up on the Natural Light Track at the bottom of the board. If two or more cards feature the same area icon (top left corner), discard one of them and draw another until all four cards have a different symbol.
- Each player takes a Natural Light tracker (colored cube) and places it to the left of the first card in the Natural Light Track.
- Shuffle the City Skyline tokens. Each player will take one of them. Each player should look at their sequence, but shouldn’t show it to the other players. After looking at it you can place it face down on the corresponding section of your camera board.
- Draw the top card from the Landmark deck to determine the starting location for the Dragon token. The location symbol of the drawn card will indicate which zone of the map that the Dragon token will be placed in. The Dragon token will be placed on the Dragon space in that zone.
- The player who most recently took a photo will start the game. Turn order throughout the game will move clockwise.
Playing the Game
On each of your turns you will take two actions.
- Take an action
You will begin each of your turns by moving your pawn to a different location. Each connected symbol on the board counts as one space. Players can move in one of two ways.
You can choose to walk and move up to two spaces from your current location.
Otherwise you can choose to play one of the Transport cards from your hand. Each of these cards will feature a number. By playing the card you can move your pawn spaces up to the number on the card. Once you play the card it will be discarded. You will not draw a new card until you take the corresponding action.
While moving you cannot end your turn on a space occupied by another player.
Take An Action
After moving your pawn you will choose an action to take on your turn. You can choose to take one of the following actions:
- Take one photo
- Visit an Information Point
- Take the Metro
Take one photo
Normally to take a photo you need to be on the exact space corresponding to the thing you are taking a picture of. If you choose to play with the advanced rules though, you were given three Zoom points during setup. Instead of arriving on a space by exact count, you can use some of your Zoom points to take a picture from a further distance. For each space away you will use one Zoom point. For example if you are two spaces away from the thing you are taking a picture of, you will use two of your Zoom points. Once you use Zoom points they are gone for the rest of the game. To keep track of your current Zoom points, whenever you spend points rotate the Zoom Selector on your camera to show the points that you used.
You can take a photo of three (four in the advanced mode) different things.
During setup you placed cards in the Judge’s Picks section. Each of these cards have a number and icon in the top left corner which indicates their location on the map. If you choose to take a picture of one of these locations, you will take the corresponding card from the board and place it face up in front of you.
A new card from the Landmark deck is drawn to replace the card that you took.
If you choose to take a picture of one of the Skyline buildings, take the token from the board corresponding to the building you took a picture of. You will place the token in front of you. You can collect the tokens in any order, but can only take one token of each type. If all of the tokens are taken from a Skyline building, you can no longer take a picture of that building.
Natural Light Track
This only applies if you chose to play the advanced game.
Along the bottom of the board you placed four cards. Throughout the game you will have to take pictures of the corresponding locations in order to score points for the Landmark photos you collect throughout the game.
To take pictures of these cards you must start with the location on the left side. When you take a picture of a location, you will move your cube onto the card to indicate that you took a picture of it. You will then move onto taking a picture of the second card on a future turn.
When you take a picture of a Dragon in its lair you will get to choose one of four special actions.
- Take one of the Landmark photo cards from the Judge’s Pick section as if you took a picture of the corresponding location. Replace the card with the top card from the Landmark deck.
- Take one of the Skyline building tokens from the board (has to be one you don’t already have).
- Move your Natural Light photo tracker onto the next photo on the track (only for the advanced game).
- Discard all of the cards from the Judge’s Picks section and draw new cards to replace them.
After you have chosen your action, draw the top Landmark card from the draw deck to determine the next location of the dragon. You will move the Dragon token to its spot in the corresponding section of the map. If the new section is the same location that it is currently on or if a player is currently on the Dragon location that it would be moved to, you will draw a new Location card to move the dragon to.
Visit An Information Point
When you end your move on one of these spaces, you will get to draw new Transport cards.
Before drawing cards you can choose to discard as many Transport cards from your hand as you want. You will then draw cards from the draw deck until you have three cards in your hand.
If the Transport deck runs out of cards, you will shuffle the discards in order to form a new deck.
Take the Metro
When you end your movement on a Metro space, you can choose to move to any other Metro space on the board. Players can land on an occupied Metro space, but they can only move to a space that no other players are currently on.
End of Game
The game ends immediately after a player has collected their eighth Landmark photo card.
Players will then tally up their scores. The player with the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, the tied players share the victory.
Players will score points in two ways.
Players will score three points for each Landmark card they collected during the game. Each card can also score an additional point for each of the two chosen themes for the game that match the card.
The themes are as follows:
For these two themes you will look at the illustration on the card. If the corresponding element is visible on the card, it will score you one point.
If the name of the Landmark matches the word shown on the tile, you will score one point.
Each Landmark card will feature symbols in the top right corner. If the card has the symbol that matches one of the themes chosen, you will score one point.
If you are playing the advanced game, during the game you will taking pictures of the locations on the Natural Light Track. For each of these pictures that you took, you will be able to score two of your Landmark cards. If you have more Landmark cards than you can score, you will choose which cards that you would like to score. The rest of the Landmark cards will score you zero points.
Scoring the Skyline
How you score the Skyline depends on which version of the game you chose to play.
If you played the basic game, count up the number of Skyline tokens you collected. Compare the number to the chart on your camera board. You will score the corresponding number of points.
If you played the advanced game, you will reference the City Skyline token you were given at the beginning of the game. Sort the Skyline tokens you acquired in the game by the order presented on your City Skyline token. You will then score points based on the number of consecutive buildings on your City Skyline token that you acquired. You can score points from multiple groups if there are breaks between the tokens you acquired.
My Thoughts on Zoom in Barcelona
After playing Zoom in Barcelona I am not sure if it fits firmly into one of the traditional board game genres. Instead it takes elements from a number of different genres and mixes them together. The game has some elements of a set collecting game. In a way the game also kind of feels like what I would consider a designer’s adaptation of the classic roll and move game. A lot of the game is centered around moving throughout the city in order to obtain pictures of various landmarks. This in some ways is similar to your typical roll and move game.
Instead of relying solely on luck though through the roll of dice or drawing of cards, the game actually gives players quite a few choices in the game. There are times where a couple destinations could be near one another. Most of the time the destinations that you are trying to reach will be spread throughout the board. As you are competing against other players to acquire the pictures, there is no way you can get everything. Therefore you need to prioritize the things that matter most to you and try to figure out the most efficient path possible to get to them as quickly as possible.
The game allows you to move up to two spaces for free or use one of your Transport cards to move further. Unless your destination is within two spaces you are usually better off using a Transport card as you can get to your destinations quicker without wasting turns. You need to be aware of the Transportation cards that you have available to you though. You don’t want to be left with no cards in your hand as your movement options will then be limited. Preferentially you would want to end your turn where you use your last card to end on a space two away from the nearest Information Point so you can then use your next turn to draw three new cards.
At times it can be pretty obvious what you should do. If a Landmark card features one or both themes, it would be nice to collect it as it will be worth more points. If you are near a Skyline token that you really need, you probably should pick it up. Finally if the next Natural Light Track cards is nearby you should probably snap a quick photo in order to increase the number of cards that you can score. While these decisions are pretty obvious, you need to also be aware of what the other players are doing. If another player can beat you to a location, it might be better to just forget it and go after something else. The locations you choose to go to and the route you plan between them plays a pretty big role in the game. Players with the best strategy will have an obvious advantage in the game.
Outside of choosing your route through the city, Zoom In Barcelona has a few other elements to consider. The game mostly gives you two main ways of scoring points. You can score points for taking pictures of the chosen Landmarks or the Skyline buildings. I personally see the Skyline buildings as the higher risk/reward choice. If you can collect a lot of Skyline buildings that are next to one another on your token, you will score a lot of points for them. They are limited though so you need to be quick to acquire them or the other players may take all of them before you can get one. Meanwhile the Landmark cards are the safer option as each will score you points and some can even score more if they match one of the themes. While you can’t solely focus on one of the scoring methods, you probably will have to prioritize one of them as you don’t have time to score a lot of points from both of them.
I wouldn’t consider Zoom In Barcelona to be the most strategic game, but I like this addition as it gives players a choice on what they want to prioritize. At the beginning of the game you should have an overall plan on what you are going to try and pursue, but you also need to be willing to change things up based on new cards that show up or other wrinkles that get thrown into your plan. The game even has a little wrinkle where players could purposefully try to shorten the game by collecting Landmark cards as quickly as possible in order to trigger the end game. This actually was implemented in one of the games that I played and it worked really well.
While Zoom In Barcelona has a decent amount of strategy to it, I would probably classify it to be more on the light to moderate end of the spectrum. The game has decisions for you to make, but there is no opportunity for some grand strategy. A lot of this is due to the game striving to be more of a streamlined game meant more for families rather than gamers that have no problem playing complicated games that last hours. The game does a good job in this area as the game is quite easy to play. It likely will take five to ten minutes to teach the game to new players, but there is nothing particularly difficult about any of the game’s mechanics. After maybe a turn or two players shouldn’t really have any issues figuring out what they can do on their turn. The game has a recommended age of 8+ which seems about right. I think the game could be played pretty easily by children and adults that don’t play a lot of board games.
On the topic of difficulty I want to quickly discuss the decision between choosing to play the basic or advanced game. Except for maybe your first game or if you are playing with younger children, I really don’t see any reason not to play the advanced game. The advanced game doesn’t add much complexity to the game, and it actually adds a decent amount of strategy to the game. I personally don’t plan on ever playing the basic game again because the advanced game is superior. The Natural Light mechanic in particular is quite interesting as you can wait to take the associated pictures, but you don’t want to wait too long or it can severely limit the amount of points that you can score from Landmark cards. While the advanced mode makes the Skyline scoring a little more random (as players can mess with you more), I liked it as it forces players to prioritize Skyline buildings that are next to ones that they have already collected.
I enjoyed playing Zoom In Barcelona and I think a lot of other people will as well. I will admit that the game likely won’t be for everyone though. The game has strategy to it, but it likely won’t have enough for some players. Gamers who require a certain level of strategy in their games will probably be disappointed. While a good strategy will help you in the game, it won’t necessarily win you the game. The optimal decisions most of the time are also pretty obvious.
Because of this the game does rely on a decent amount of luck. Luck can come into play in a couple of different ways. First you are always better off drawing the highest valued Transport cards as they just give you more options. The location of each new Landmark can be really important as well. No one knows where the next Landmark card will be located. If you end up getting lucky and it pops up right next to you, you basically are gifted free points. Finally what the other players decide to do in the game can have a pretty big impact on how well you do in the game. If another player steals the last Skyline token that you really need, it can really mess with your strategy. Players could also steal a Landmark out from right in front of you. At times it feels like the other players actions play as big of role in the game as your own actions.
Before wrapping up I wanted to quickly talk about the game’s components. Simply put I thought the components were great. For a game about traveling around the city of Barcelona it is not surprising that the game’s artwork is quite nice. Each Landmark card has an artist’s recreation of the landmark and they all look nice. The graphical design as a whole in the game is great. The game deserves a lot of credit for its use of symbols and colors. Having never been to Barcelona I wouldn’t be able to tell you where any of the landmarks in the city are located. Due to the use of colors, numbers and symbols though; it was a breeze to find each new location when it was revealed. On top of all of this the game actually has quite a few components as there are 86 different Landmark cards in the game. Unless you play the game a ton, your path through the city in each game will be different.
Should You Buy Zoom in Barcelona?
It may not be my favorite board game of all time, but I still really enjoyed playing Zoom In Barcelona. The game is designed as a simple and relaxing journey through Barcelona and it mostly succeeds in that task. The game plays pretty quickly and is also easy to pick up and play. The game has a solid amount of strategy as well. In a way the game kind of feels like a modernized take on your traditional roll and move game. The game is built around finding the most efficient way through the city in order to maximize your points. The game even gives you a couple of different ways to score points. Utilizing great components, the game does a good job giving you a board game representation of competing in a photo contest in the city of Barcelona. The game likely won’t be for everyone though as the strategy is on the simpler side and the best options are usually pretty obvious. This means that Zoom In Barcelona can rely on a decent amount of luck at times.
My recommendation for Zoom In Barcelona depends on your thoughts on the theme and light to moderate strategy games in general. If you generally prefer more strategic games or aren’t really interested by the theme, the game may not be for you. If the game sounds interesting to you though, I think you should consider picking up Zoom In Barcelona as you likely will get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it.
Buy Zoom In Barcelona online: Blue Orange Games
We would like to thank Blue Orange Games for the review copy of Zoom in Barcelona used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.