Recently Tony reached out to the BGQ team and said, “Who wants to review Zoom in Barcelona?”
No way dude, I’m totally Zoomed out…
“Okay. Anyone interested in a map-based game where you’re chasing dragons around a city?”
Being a figures-on-a-map-chasing-dragons loving gamer I responded “of course!”
He sent me Zoom in Barcelona. I feel duped and to add insult to injury—there weren’t even any dragon miniatures in the box.
Okay, so that story was a figment of my imagination to try and spice up the introduction. Blue Orange had sent BGQ the game to review and he asked the staff if anyone wanted it, AnnaMaria said it was really good, and here we are. Reality is rarely as fun as fiction but truth in “journalism” and all that noise.
The goal in Zoom in Barcelona is to collect the most points for taking photos around Barcelona. There are areas where you can take photos of the skyline and different buildings in the city.
Each turn a player can take two actions. Move and then take one action. An action can be taking a photo, visiting an information center, or using the metro. The photo you take can be of a Landmark, a Skyline building, a natural light location, or a dragon.
With moving, you have two choices. The first is to move up to two spaces by hoofing it on foot and the second is to use one of your transport cards which have values of three through six.
One of the actions is to visit an information center like the lost tourist you probably are. But instead of asking for a map, you get to refresh your transport cards up to three cards by taking this action.
If you run out of transport cards or really want to get across town, you can take the metro which allows you to move from the current Metro to another unoccupied metro. It’s important to note that any remaining movement from a transport card or walking is lost because taking the bus you rode to the station on the actual train would just be silly.
The last action is the most involved but also the core of the game and that’s taking photos.
To take a photo you must be in its location, or you can use your three zooms to take a picture of something at a cost of a zoom per location away.
Landmarks each have a symbol and a number on them. They also have additional symbols that may or may not be part of the two theme tokens. As you take photos of landmarks, you collect the card, and it gets replaced by a new card.
At the beginning of the game, each player is given a unique skyline card that shows the various skyline tokens in a different order. Your goal here is to collect these so you can display these consecutively with longer runs being worth more points. There are fewer of these tokens than players playing creating both a sense of FOMO (many gamers should be used to that) and a race to capture these limited objectives.
The third picture type is natural light locations. The rules suggest ignoring this for beginner games. This is a secondary track where you must take photos of specific areas, in order, to advance to the next location. While these don’t inherently provide points towards end game, this limits how many photos you get to score as you can use two photos per level of the track up to all eight photos.
Lastly, players are trying to catch photos of a dragon in its lair. The dragon is represented by a standee and will move around the board as players take photos of it by drawing the next landmark card. Taking these photos act like a wild card where you can collect any one of the above three photo types (collecting cards, tokens, or moving up a track as appropriate). There’s also a fourth option of clearing all the landmark photos on the judge’s picks.
Play continues until someone has collected eight Landmark photos at which point the game immediately ends and scores are tallied. Points are gained from Landmarks and skyline photos with the optional natural light track acting as a possible score limiter for Landmarks.
At its core, the experience in Zoom in Barcelona is running around a city taking photos. Chasing dragons just sounds more fantastical and, according to the rulebook, there are over 400 dragons represented in art and architecture in Barcelona. Suddenly, the old World League of Football team name makes so much more sense to me.
Zoom in Barcelona sort of reminds me of being in a city for a day and trying to see everything from a hop on/hop off bus tour and even the board reminds me of a tourist map with different colored districts. There’s a little bit of pressure of trying to get to things, especially skyline buildings before other players, but it’s still relaxing. And with plenty of different short-term goals to work on, it’s easy to switch directions while cursing at the tourists ruining the city.
The starter kit version of the game, which skips the natural light track, still has enough going on to be enjoyable while also being accessible for families and non-gamers. The theme of Barcelona adds to the accessibility by presenting beautiful artwork and a non-offensive theme about a country that, in modern times, seems to get along with almost everyone.
The game is elegant and streamlined with gorgeous art and intuitive rules. Move and take one of a limited numbers of actions is something almost anyone can gronk within a few turns. Additionally, the game is fairly fast to set up and turns go pretty quickly giving the game a great pace with limited downtime (this obviously goes up with additional players). But with players taking photos, your plans may need to change which can keep you engaged between turns.
In trying to find criticisms, I came up with a few minor issues. The first is that you can run out of zoom like you bought the cheapest aftermarket knockoff lens you could find and it falls apart like Hunt’s car at the end of Gung Ho after a few uses. The second is likely only an issue in a high player count game as the pink and the red colors may be hard for some people to quickly differentiate at times.
The last nitpick is that the game ends when a player gets their eighth Landmark photo possibly leading to an uneven number of turns for players. This hasn’t seemed to make a meaningful difference in the games I’ve played but it still felt weird. There’s an obvious house rule available if this isn’t to your liking.
The most significant issue is long term replay value. The game arc will be similar every game while it’s unlikely you’ll see the same cards or be looking for skylines in a similar order. The low amount of discovery after the first few games will give the game a familiar vibe with limited room for finding new paths to victory.
But with that familiarity is where I think this game may shine. As the holidays approach, I tend to try to find games that I can play with my parents and other family members. Zoom in Barcelona is perfect for this purpose as it’s easy to play, can play up to six players, is inviting in its presentation, and is simple to teach. I could see Zoom in Barcelona as another good game to introduce others to this hobby.
So, was AnnaMaria right? Yes; Zoom in Barcelona is really good. The mechanics are easy to understand and the consistency with how things work will help the game flow smoothly after just a few turns. The artwork and accessible theme should appeal to a broad range of people.
I could easily see this game being re-skinned for other cities like Paris, London, Venice, Tokyo, Shanghai, etc. If there have been over 40 different skins on Fluxx, this world can handle a few more Zoom in [City] games.
Final Score: 4 Stars – Zoom in Barcelona is an accessible and beautiful virtual trip around Barcelona
• Streamline and intuitive game play
• Snappy turns keeps the game moving along
• Gorgeous art depicting Barcelona
• Game arcs will be similar, possibly limiting replayability
• Players may not get the same number of turns
• Unfortunate name in a time of too many video conferences