Driving in My Cards


One of my favorite games as a kid was Mille Bornes, which is also the source of pretty much all the French I know. I’m not even sure how accurate it is, since the French for the red light is just “stop,” but the signs in Quebec Province said “arrête.” Apparently a lot of French stop signs do use the English word, though. “Crevé,” the term for a flat tire, can mean either a puncture or to be exhausted. I guess it’s sort of like kaputt in German. The name of the game means “one thousand milestones,” and reflects the fact that the goal is to drive 1000 miles by playing cards. Mileage cards range from twenty-five to 200 miles each, and you can also play cards on your opponent to slow them down. If your opponent plays a flat tire, an accident, or a flat tire card on you, you have to get both the remedy and another green light. There are safety cards that make you immune to certain hazards, and while you can play them right away it’s often best to wait until someone uses the relevant bad card on you, because then you can play a coup-fourré for extra points. Apparently this is a fencing term meaning “counterthrust,” and I’m not sure I knew that before now. Now you have something else other than “en garde” to yell out if you’re pretending to fence. The Right of Way is the best of the safety cards, as not only does it protect you against red lights and speed limits, but also you don’t need to play green lights at all. The winner is the first person to reach 5000 points. We had two different sets during my youth, and I was disappointed that the second one didn’t have the animals on the mileage cards. I’m not sure where you’re going to find a duck that travels fifty miles per hour, but the cards are cute.


Looking a bit into the history of the game reveals that it was first made by Edmond Dujarin in 1954, and licensed to Parker Brothers in the United States. It was not an entirely original product, though, as it appears to be based quite heavily on the 1906 game Touring, invented by William Janson Roche in 1906.

Instead of just trying to reach a certain mileage, Touring players had to gather mileage cards in specific combinations. The largest mile denomination in the original game was ten, but later versions increased this, as well as updating the artwork.

It was more or less replaced by Mille Bornes once Parker Brothers got the distributing rights to that, but I understand that now you can buy both.

An interesting note on the Wikipedia page mentions that you can see Touring cards in the video for the They Might Be Giants song “Ana Ng.”

John Linnell apparently finds the game quite stressful.
From what I understand, the Country and City Limits cards determine which mileage cards you can play, sort of like the speed limits in Mille Bornes. The safety cards are not present in Touring. As a genre, games like those two are known as Take That! games, for obvious reasons. In between Touring and Mille Bornes came two different 1927 games of the sort celebrating Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic by using airplanes instead of cars.

The page I linked to also mentions a 1967 Take That! game called Nuclear War, which might have actually better fit the theme of TMBG video. And the 1979 Grass, which has its own Wikipedia page, uses the same structure for a game about marijuana trafficking. You know you’ve made it when someone makes a pot-themed parody of your product.

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