Mille Bornes and Copy Cat Games – Flattery or Great Improvements?

mille borne blue tin with cardsEarlier today I had an interesting conversation with the owner of the Chicago toy and game store Cat and Mouse about how there are tons of games that ”borrow” the play patterns of other games.  Some even look the same: Bananagrams and Scrabble Apple (both which are similar to Take Two), Yahtzee and Kismet, Connect Four and Toot and Otto to name a few.  Now my mother always told me that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so I guess that the duplication indicates that the initial product had a level of success that the new game would like to attain.  And that got me thinking.

As an inventor I’d like to believe that the original version is always the superior one; for how could anyone improve upon my idea?!  Well, after quickly glancing through my games when I got home I found the perfect example of when the newer version improved upon the initial game and believe it or not the NEW version had been out since 1954.  (My copy is from 1962 & it’s seen a lot of games.)

Mille Bornes was developed by Edmond Dujardin and was very, VERY similar to the game Touring which was invented around 1906 and then picked up by Parker Brothers in 1925.  Touring was manufactured until it was replaced in their line by Mille Bornes sometime after 1954 which makes sense because who really needs two automobile racing card games in their line?  (2015 update: Touring has been brought back by Winning Moves, details below if you want to check both games out.)

So what was the improvement that made all the difference?  The coup-fourré.  This is when a player earns a large bonus for stopping an opponent from playing a hazard card such as a flat tire or an accident that would impede their progress.  You do this by having “Safety” in your hand when the hazard is played.  This little difference made the game so much better.  Now when you go to play a hazard on an opponent your actions could be very costly.  However once a particular safety has been played (there are four different ones, seen below) it’s kind of a free for all.  Sounds a little complicated, but really Mille Bornes is a very easy and fun game to play.  Hence the half a century — and then some — this game has been on the market.   In fact, you can still find it at Target and Toys ‘R Us today for right around $5.99 if you don’t already have a copy.  Look in the card game area, it’s manufactured by Winning Moves now. (2015 update: this game is now manufactured by Asmodee)

Mille Bornes Safeties Cards with French writing

Now I know that this one example should not indicate the rule, but I think it goes to show that sometimes game play can be improved upon.  But more often I think that the copy-cats are reusing a particular style of game play so that it is familiar, fun and easier to learn – something I guess we should chalk up to flattery.

Mille Bornes Stats:

~$12 and up at Amazon Mille Bones and at your local game store
2, 3, 4 or 6 Players (commonly played as a partnership game with 4 players, 2 per team)
35-45 Minutes
Ages 8 and up

Touring Stats:

~$8 and up at Amazon Touring and at your local game store
2, 3, 4 or 6 Players (commonly played as a partnership game with 4 players, 2 per team)
35-50 Minutes
Ages 7 and up

**Cat and Mouse Game Store is located at 2212 W. Armitage in Chicago and is absolutely worth a look.


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  1. Stefanie Summerer

    My in-laws love this game. My father-in-law says that coup-fourré means “Ha ha, you can’t do that to me you sucker!” in French. It’s a fun game if you don’t take it too seriously.

  2. filmbeats

    Have you ever considered a feature where you do a comparison of very similar games? I find that when searching for board games that a lot of games seem similar to each other and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference like for example “win lose or draw” vs “pictionary” or “the game of things” vs “what?”.

    You could possibly start out with briefly mentioning what all the games have in common followed with more detailed breakdowns of the slight differences in rules concluding with which differences end up working out better.

    Maybe you could call the feature Copy Cat Comparisons? I think you’d be very good at doing this sort of feature.

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