Welcome to Milles Bornes (pronounced Meel Born). An early version of a turn based card game that was distributed in North America by Parker brothers. Before we dive into this game, let me give you a bit of a back story.
It may surprise you, but turn based card game existed before Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon became all the rage in the early 1990's. They have been around a lot longer then you may think. I know CCG's like Magic and alike are different from this game just go with me here...
In 1954 Frenchman Edmond Dujardin created a turn based playing card game called Mille Bornes. The goal of the game is quite simple, first person to 1000 miles wins. It sounds simple enough but there is always a twist. Your job is to make sure that your opponents never get there.
The game is actually quite similar to an American turn based card game from 1906 called Touring by Wallie Dorr Co. That particular game was produced from 1906 until 1976 by Parker Brothers. The major difference between Touring and Mille Bornes was the addition of coup-fourré (pronounced Cou-Foo-Ray). A player earns bonus points if they hold off playing one of their "Safety Cards" until another player gives them the corresponding "Hazard Card" (holding off on playing the "Extra Tank" card until they are given an "Out of Gas").
I have always loved cars. Like most people here on Jalopnik I collected models of cars, hung posters, saved pocket money for issues of car magazines, bought and traded Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, pretty standard stuff really. When I was about 7 years old my parents introduced me to this card game and it instantly added another level of car love to my life. Whenever it would rain, or we were bored on cold winter days in the frozen north, my brother and I would break out this fun card game and it would keep us occupied for a while.
My parents still have their copy of Mille Bornes and I was lucky enough to stumble across a 1971 copy of it at the local Value Village for $3.99. When I saw it I knew I had to have it, and my first thought was that I should show it to my fellow Jalops.
For 2, 3, 4 or 6 Players
When the game is played with 2 or 3 players it is a one on one game, however when you play with 4 or 6 players you work together as a team. Team based play is the preferred method of playing the game. The object of Mille Bornes is to complete trips of exactly 1000 miles in a hand of play. The first time to complete enough hands to total 5000 points is the winner.
If you are playing with 2 or 3 players there are a few adjustments to the rules. First you shorten the distance traveled from 1000 miles to 700 miles and you remove 1 Red Light, 1 Accident, 1 Out of Gas, 1 Flat Tire, and 1 Speed limit. With 2 or 3 players you can call for an "Extension" of the game where when one player has reached 700 miles they can call "Extension" and have the game continue on to 1000 miles. The problem with this is that if you call Extension and you are not the person who reached 1000 miles first you don't get the 400 point bonus for completing the journey like you would have if you ended the game at 700 miles.
Each copy of the game should have a total of 112 cards, a plastic tray and score sheets. The cards break down to 4 categories:
Hazards - 5 x Stop, 4 x Speed Limit, 3 x Accident, 3 x Flat Tire, 3 x Out of Gas
Remedies - 14 x Roll, 6 x End of Limit, 6 x Repair, 6 x Spare Tire, 6 x Gasoline
Safeties - 1 x Right of Way, 1 x Driving Ace, 1 x Puncture Proof, 1 x Extra Tank
Distance Cards - 4 x 200 mile, 12 x 100 mile, 10 x 75 mile, 10 x 50 mile, 10 x 25 mile
After shuffling the entire deck of cards, the dealer for the round deals 6 cards out to each player and puts the remaining cards face down in section of the plastic tray with the open sides. The open sides are there to make drawing new cards easy for each player.
The player to the left of the dealer is the first person to play. They draw a single card from the pile and put it in their hand. After they draw the card they have to play one card from their hand. They have 4 choices for their opening move.
- If the player has a Roll card (Green Light) they can play that face up in front of them in their battle pile. Once played their turn is over and the next player begins
- If you have a safety card you can play that card face up. If you play a safety card you are allowed to draw another card from the pile and you can make another play.
- If you have a Speed Limit card you can place that card on your opponent's battle pile even if they have not played a Roll yet. This means you can hobble them right off the bat in the game not letting them put down any more than 50 miles maximum at a time. Quite devious.
- If you are unable to play you discard a card face up into the other half of the plastic tray with the closed sides starting the discard pile
When the first player is done with their turn the player to their left gets their turn and we go around the table. If your opponent has started their turn by playing a Roll card you do have 2 other choices for your opening move. You can play a Hazard Card on them or you if you were given a Speed Limit card and you have the End of Limit card you can play that to remove that 50 mile restriction.
Since the preferred method of playing the game is teams of 2, when it is the 3rd players turn they do not have to start any piles of cards of their own, they just add to their partners piles. If your partner was able to get you started with a Roll card you can start laying down Mile cards right away.
You continue around the table like this until one of the teams has completed a trip of EXACTLY 1000 miles. When this happens, the hand comes to an end and you total the score. After that you shuffle all the cards and begin again this time with the person to the left being the dealer.
So the basics of the game are 6 cards in your hand at all times, play a Roll as soon as you can, and screw over your opponents as much as possible. Fun for the whole family!
Hazards and Remedy cards add an interesting twist to the game. If you give your opponent a Stop card for example, they can't add any more miles to their trip until the team plays a Roll card. It gets even more devious when someone gives you a more dangerous Hazard card like a Flat Tire. You can't put down any more miles until you get the Spare tire card played and then the Roll card after that. When you start to get to the bottom of the deck this means you can REALLY get screwed over waiting for that rare Roll card to come up so you can start racking up the miles.
Safety cards are played to stop your opponent from giving you some types of Hazards. For example the Right of Way card (one of the more powerful cards) means that no opponent can give you a Stop card or a Speed Limit card. It also means that you never need a Roll card either! So if someone gives you a flat you simply just have to get the spare tired played on it and you can continue on your journey.
Extra Tank of course means that you never run out of gas, Puncture Proof makes your tires immune to any flats, and Driving Ace, well they never get in accidents. These cards are really useful and you would usually want to get them out there as quick as possible just so you can prevent your opponent from slowing you down. There is however one reason to hold on to them until just the right moment…
Coup-Fourré is a French term for counter-thrust where one fencer parries his opponent's thrust and counter attacks in the same maneuver. So lets say that your opponent plays a Flat Tire card on you. In your hand is the Puncture Proof card and you have held on to it. When it happens, you call out "Coup-Fourré" and lay your Safety card down at a 90 degree angle in your Safety Area. You can make this play whether or not it is your turn but you MUST make it before you draw a card. When you make the play you immediately remove the Hazard card from your pile and discard it. You then draw a card to replace the missing card and bring you back up to 6 and you may then play additionally. So you draw again and play. It is really devious but potentially risky. If you leave any of the Safety cards in your hand at the end of the game you lose out on quite a few bonus points so you have to make sure that you play it before one team reaches 1000 miles.
Once someone has reached 1000 miles you must total up the cards played. The game is only over when one team has reached the 5000 point total. The points break down like this:
Base score + 1 point for each mile you traveled
+100 for each Safety Card you played
+300 if your team played all 4 Safety Cards
+300 for each Coup-Fourré (this is in addition to the 100 points you get for the Safety)
+400 for completing the 1000 mile trip
+300 if you complete the trip after all cards are played from the Draw pile
+300 if you complete your trip WITHOUT playing a 200 mile card
+500 if you shut out your opponents completing your 1000 mile trip without them playing ANY distance cards
That is it. I know it sounds complicated but it is a whole lot of fun when you get into it. The idea of screwing over your opponents while trying to get the furthest is a lot of fun.
One more thing I want to talk about is the cards themselves. Because they were designed in France in the 1950's they look quite stunning. Each card is just a treat to look at. It is part of what makes the game for me. There were later releases of this game under other names but the art design of the original just makes this game that little bit more special.
While I was researching this article, I ended up browsing around eBay trying to see what the average price is for a copy of Mille Bornes when I stumbled onto a complete 1926 boxed Touring card game. Insomniac me decided that it would be a good idea to buy said game and post a review of it as well. So a click here and there and boom.. I am now the proud owner of a copy of Touring. When it arrives I will be sure to play a few rounds with friends to let you know how it stacks up against Mille Bornes. If people enjoy this, I may do some digging around and find other car based board and card games to play and give a review of them as well.
I hope you enjoyed this review of a great little French card game that I have loved for many years. If you can find a copy I suggest giving it a try.
Now to wait patiently for my copy of Touring to arrive....