Mille Bornes is a French, car racing card game created in 1954 where the goal is to be the first to travel 1000 km. The game can be played with 2, 3, 4, or 6 players, but was intended to be played as a 4-player partnership game.
Mille Bornes, like many classic games, has been re-published multiple times. The version I own is the Winning Moves 1999 Collector’s Edition. The game is just a deck of cards, and I love the 1970s-style artwork cards in the edition I own. Some editions came with a card holder, as mine does, but we just don’t use it as it is not necessary. I do wish my copy came with a stack of scoring sheets though.
Mille Bornes is a partner game at 4 or 6 players and a single player game at 2 or 3 players. Gameplay is similar for the different player amounts, but I will focus on 4 player gameplay as this is the optimal way to play the game. The deck consist of four types of cards: Distance Cards, Hazard Cards, Remedy Cards, and Safety Cards. The goal of the game is to go on a 1000 km trip by racking up the mileage with the distance cards.
Each player has six cards. On their turn, they draw a card from the draw pile. A card is then legally played or a card is discarded. In order to play distance cards, a “go” card must be played. A “go” card can’t be played if a player is currently stopped by a hazard. For example, if you are “out of gas” from a hazard card played previously, a “gasoline” card must be played and then a “go” card must then follow for a distance card to be played.
To summarize, distance cards add miles to your total. Hazard cards are played against opponents in order to prevent them from playing distance cards and remedy cards fix hazard cards played as needed. There are four special safety cards which, once played, prevent an opponent from playing certain hazard cards the rest of the round.
The round ends when one team has played 1000 km or when there are no cards left to draw and all cards have been played or discarded.
There is not much strategy to Mille Bornes. Most of the strategy comes from knowing when to play Hazard cards. Something not discussed in the gameplay section is a special play called the “coup-fourré.” If a hazard is played and the team it was played upon has the corresponding safety card in either one of their hands, they say “coup-fourré,” immediately show the card, and the hazard is removed and treated as if it were never played. Additionally, that specific “coup-fourré” will provide immunity to that sort of hazard for the rest of the round—making it extremely powerful. Playing a card in this manner is worth three-hundred bonus points. There are a number of ways to earn bonus points but this is the most common one.
Other strategy revolves around hand management in general. Things such as how many of each remedy to hold vs holding distance cards while being stopped. Mille Bornes is mostly luck though, unless you really play horribly. What little strategy there is will help a little.
I have a very fond memories of Mille Bornes in my heart. I played it many, many times as a child. I still, in fact, play it now, but I feel like I only play it now due for nostalgia’s sake. If there were none, I probably would not being playing this game. It isn’t that Mille Bornes is a bad game, it’s just a game that shows its age. At times it really is fun, but all too often you are just stopped, hoping to pick up one of a precious few safety cards needed to get going again. All the while, your opponent will probably have more hazards to hit you with upon your recovery.
Clearly the best part of this game is the “coup-fourré.” It feels great when someone tries to stop you and you just say those words, causing a complete reversal. I enjoy playing Mille Bornes every so often, but I would direct people to some of the more modern low-strategy games, (such as Circus Flocatti) to fill the same niche, unless you, like me, have memories that bring you back to it.