It will probably come as no surprise to observant readers to learn that Travel Go is a game based around travel.
But the thing to remember about it is that Travel Go was a game produced originally in the 1960s (by Waddingtons, but the version we have is Gibson Games under licence from Waddingtons) when travel was a pretty complicated affair – especially when compared to current Covid lockdown rules!
There’s so much to say about Travel Go that it’s hard to know where to start. I’m also somewhat unsure as to whether I absolutely loved the game, or hated it with a passion. Let me explain…
Travel Go – Aim of the game
I’ll start by explaining about the aim of the game and the playing board. All players in Travel Go aim to travel around the world, buying souvenirs from major cities they visit and then return to London. The first player to do so is declared the winner and the number of souvenirs required is dictated by the number of players.
Sounds relatively simple, but it isn’t.
For starters, to travel anywhere you need to buy a ticket. Being the 1960s this can only be done at an authorised ticket agent (British Airways, the International Railways Booking Office, etc) or by going to a travel agent (remember them?). And as people didn’t have credit cards you had to pay for any tickets in the local currency, which you had obtained by going to either the Bank or the Bureau de Change with your trusty travellers cheque or notes of another currency. It may all sound rather antiquated, but this is the way things used to be before internet bookings, credit cards and smart phones came into being.
The Travel Go Board
The way all this happens in Travel Go is that the board has two parts – a map of the world in the middle with the cities and routes between them marked, and a regular track around the outside which contains places like the ticket office and the Bureau de Change. Players have two counters, one on each section of the board and they start off on the outer track trying to buy a ticket to be able to move on the inner map section.
All players start in London with some Sterling and from there they have to decide where they want to go to buy a souvenir first and then try to land on the right squares to buy their ticket. Once their ticket is purchased they then start their journey and when their turn comes about their die rolls instead move them along their route on the map.
Once a player has reached their destination (which frustratingly has to be done by rolling an exact number to land on it!) their turns then revert to using the outer board to get to a Bureau do Change, Bank or Thomas Cook travel agent to change some of their money into the local currency. Once they’ve done that they can then buy a souvenir and continue along the outer track until they land somewhere where they can buy a ticket to their next destination. And so play continues.
Currencies of the world
With the need for local currencies comes the need for what feels like a million and one different bank notes! I’ve never played a game where the banker has such an important role before. It’s one of the few games where I genuinely believe that someone just having the banker role alone could still feel involved and busy during the game.
Obviously many of the currencies that were in place when the game was produced are no longer valid. Especially in Europe. It’s also worth noting how some currencies were only valid in one city, whilst others could be used in countries with more than one city to visit, or even in multiple countries. It was like a currency history lesson as we went off to look up some of the less familiar ones.
As well as swapping one currency for another constantly, there’s also the job of looking after the fare tables to tell everyone how much it costs to travel between places. When tickets are sold in the game you’re supposed to fill in a little paper ticket slip. We didn’t bother when we played, but I wish we had as quite often you would simply forget where you were and what you were doing. Especially when you’re trying to be the banker as well.
I’ve heard people say that some children have really enjoyed taking on the banker role and I can definitely say that it would have appealed to me as a child. It would certainly be a good way of them practicing their maths!
Luck and risks
When you’re travelling round the outer ring of the board, some squares tell you to pick up a luck card. Doing so results in either being rewarded financially, or by receiving a card that could help them with their journey later in the game. But depending on where your journey takes you, some luck cards are more helpful than others.
Whilst players move around the map section of the board, if they land on a point denoted by a red circle they have to pick up a risk card. Some risks only apply to certain modes of transport, so picking one up isn’t always dangerous. But on other occasions you can end up sent somewhere like Christmas Island and suddenly find yourself with no local currency and no ticket out!
There’s another hazard in Travel Go. Each city only has two souvenirs available to purchase. So, if you’re the third person to get to a city and haven’t realised, you’ll find yourself leaving empty-handed.
That’s if you actually manage to get to your destination. The rules state that when you’re on the map section of the board you have to throw the exact number required to reach your destination. When you’ve got places close together (or if you’re just one stop away) this can mean players trying for ages to roll a one. We often had a player stuck for a number of turns trying to get somewhere and it became incredibly frustrating!
What we thought of the game
Travel Go is a funny old game really. Incredibly accurate for what travel was like in the 1960s when it was produced. Lots of faffing about to buy tickets, and the hassle of having to change money wherever you go.
Should a modern version ever be produced I think it would actually remove so much of the vintage charm. Flashing a credit card anywhere in the world and booking things online might be convenient in the modern day, but it wouldn’t make the game quite as interesting. That’s not saying that there isn’t scope for a modern day version. I just think it would need something to replace all the money changing that goes on.
For those of us old enough to remember when travel was like this, it’s a wonderful look back at that time. The Gibsons version we played (which I think was published in 1978) had British Airways on the board as the place to buy air tickets, but looking online I see that older versions (I think just the ones branded as Waddington’s Go, but I’m not totally sure) had those squares occupied by BOAC instead – really showing the age of the game.
Travel Go House rules
Reading up online about Travel Go it seems that some people play some interesting house rules. One that we all agree would be good is removing the need to throw an exact number to get to a destination on the map section of the board. This would certainly remove a lot of the frustration that we all felt when playing.
A second popular rule is to deal out the souvenir cards at the start of the game and players have to go to around the world to buy and collect the souvenirs that they have been dealt. I guess it’s a bit like having a mission for the game. It would remove that risk of arriving somewhere and finding that all the souvenirs have already been bought I suppose.
Are you a fan of vintage board games?
If you’re interested in vintage board games then why not head over to Facebook and join our new vintage board games group.
For more vintage board games and toys here on Penny Plays take a look here.