Velonimo is a cycling-themed, ladder climbing and card shredding game by Bruno Cathala. Bruno must love the letters o-n-i-m-o, as he also the man behind both Kingdomino and Queendomino. Bruno has designed many award-winning games, my favorite of which is Mr. Jack.
Back to this game, “In Velonimo, animals of all stripes compete in a wacky cycling race” with the goal to score as many points as possible over the 5 stages of the race and claim the Leader of the Pack Jersey.
Gameplay is simple, although initially the way you count your score is weird. For each stage, players start with 11 cards with the goal of emptying their hand completely. On a player’s turn, they play one or a combination of cards, in an “attack.” Then, the player to the left has an opportunity to play (“counter-attack”) or pass. To counter-attack, a player must play one card or a combination of cards with a value that exceeds the previous player’s value.
Combinations of cards need to be the same color or the same number. The only confusing portion of the game is how you tally up the the total score of a combination, which is determined as follows:
Add 10 points for each card in the combination plus the lowest card number.
For example, if your combo is 3 Blue cards (where the lowest is a 2), your score is 32: 3 x 10 points per card plus 2 for the value of the lowest card. If your combo is a set of four 6’s, your score is 46: 4 x 10 points per card plus 6 for the value of the lowest card.
Play continues clockwise with each player having an opportunity to play or pass. Even if you have previously passed, once it is your turn you can again choose jump back in or continue to pass. Once all players have passed in a row, the attack ends. The player who played the highest total is considered to be in the lead of the race and starts the next attack. Attacks and counter-attacks continue until one player is out of cards, that player immediately records their score for this stage, as described below. If all players pass after a player has played their final card, this player selects which player starts the next attack and play resumes until all players have played their final card.
Scoring is based on which stage you are in and how many players are left when you play your last card. Stage 1 scores 1 x # of players remaining while Stage 5 scores 5 x # of players remaining. At the end of each stage, the player with the most points gets the coveted yellow jersey/Leader of the Pack card, which is a 10 point bonus to add to one card or a combination of cards in the next stage. The player with the least points starts the first attack of the next stage.
Once everyone grasps how to score a combination of cards, this game speeds along. There is more strategy to this game than you initially suspect. Cards with a value of 1 inherently appear to be of little value as it drops any combination to the lowest score of that card total (21, 31, 41 etc.), but they are special cards called Leaders. When you play any 1 value card or Leader, you can steal a card from a player and then give them one of your cards or their own card back. This can be extremely valuable, especially when a player has only a few cards left, as you may be able to break up a combination that they were planning on playing, or steal a Hare, which is a single card that can’t be played in combination, but has a high value (25, 30, 35,40, 45, or 50).
Determining your own strategy for choosing to counter-attack or pass can be fun too. You never have to counter-attack, but you should choose to when you think that everyone will have to pass after your last play. This way you can choose the starting point for the next attack.
My youngest son loves playing his highest cards and combinations to start. This strategy does not always work out for him, because it can get him stuck with single non-combination cards that he can’t play in later attacks. The escalation scoring based on stage number means that no one is out of the race, but the Leader of the Pack bonus does insure that early success can be rewarded.
When considering this game, I think it is more appropriate to compare it to card games like Phase 10 than to racing games like Flame Rouge. There is very little about Velomino that makes you feel like you are in a cycling race, aside from the art and naming convention: there are adorably drawn animals on their bikes, a Tour de France-inspired yellow leader-of-the-pack jersey, and game uses bicycle race terminology. Its minimal adherence to theme does not deter from the enjoyment of this very fun card game, one that is accessible for anyone in your family old enough to count. It is vastly superior to the aforementioned Phase 10 and I would even pick it over Uno. The game is also deeper than you’d think. The Leader cards can break an opponent’s chain… of cards they were planning on playing (You know I had to throw another bicycle pun in my review) and when you can select who gets to start the next attack, you can truly alter the landscape of the race. I would recommend this game for all families and to all players as a light game to play when time is limited or with friends who don’t want to listen to long rules explanations.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – I enjoyed this card game and will play it with friends who are not into longer board games and with my kids for years to come.
• The cards can be bent more easily than some other playing cards.
• Winning the first stage can occasionally feel worthless as it is worth 1/5th of the final round.