Review: Detour!
Publisher: DeMert Company
Year: 1999
Tagline: The Ultimate Vacation Game Where Getting There Is Half The Fun!

Cover showing a cartoonish family in a yellow car

how we met

Yep, I bought this kids game at a thrift store for a couple of bucks recently. And then I made my friends play it. It was big and heavy, and I liked the idea of a board game that is based on a road trip where you collect small postcards.

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure why I bought this game. I was probably in a fugue state.

how it plays

Each player pawn is a small “Woodie” – a term I had not heard before. Detour! is basically a roll and move set collection game, but instead of dice rolling you press the button on a small, electronic gas pump that will light up a number between 1 and 6 or will light up with Detour. We’ll talk about what happens with a Detour shortly.

Close up of yellow woodie pawn

One of our Woodie pawns

The game board is large and shows roads with postcards at various points in between as well as four houses in each of the corners. The really interesting thing about the board is four different raised cylinders in four different spots that contain roads too, but can be turned so that the road goes somewhere else. In some cases this creates a loop that you can’t escape, sometimes a big one and sometimes a small one. When you press the button on the gas pump and it lands on Detour, you must turn one of the roads of your choosing.

Overhead shot of the board showing a mess of roads

This is what the board looks like from heaven

Each Woodie starts out at their respective house. The object is to make your way around the board, pull into parking spaces (does not need to be exact count) and collect each of the eight unique postcards then return to the safety of your house. Then you win!

A shot of play showing pawns on the board

A shot of our play

how it went

Props to my friends for all the dumb games they agree to play. This one was a hell of a grind. The game begins okay, but then you have been playing for 40 minutes and look down and you only have 3 postcards. So you want to move more quickly but you can’t roll a die, you have to let the dumb gas pump go beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-4.

Small red electronic gas pump with numbers

My Detour! enemy, the gas pump. If it hits Detour the top lights up and it honks at you

We didn’t let the tediousness bring us down, or stop us from fucking each other over with those turning roads whenever we could. Keri spent about a quarter of the game trapped in that small loop. Three of us were trapped in there at one point.

Showing road with open and closed loop

Keri’s favorite loop

It probably would have paid off for us to be more strategic in a game that did not appear to require any strategy. The larger loops are harder to notice, but no less of a struggle if you need to get out of one. But why set yourself up for success when you can set up one of your friends for failure?

Detour! took us over an hour. In all that time I only collected five of the postcards. 🙁 I would normally say it would be a decent game for kids, but I think it’s too long and they would lose focus. That is an easy solve by, say, collecting any four postcards.

Eight postcards, four showing front and four backs with facts

The postcards have cute fun facts on the backs of them. You can read them while the gas pump beeps

I talk occasionally about John’s bad luck in our games. It’s a real thing and it’s fascinating. Let me tell you how it manifested during our play of Detour! He collected all eight of his postcards and got to the last space before the edge of his driveway, meaning he just had to roll 1 or more to win the game. Then he got Detour for his roll three times in a row. THREE TIMES!

Orange Woodie pawn at edge of driveway for orange house

John at the edge of his driveway, beep beep beep

Fourth time was the charm though, and John won Detour!

I like the idea of a road trip game with adorable postcards containing fun facts. The spinning roads were a very cool idea. But it was just too much, took too long and beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.

play or pass

Pass. The clever roadways didn’t make up for the monotony of game play. The gas pump was cute for a turn or two and then caused irritation by contributing to longer-than-necessary play. A good children’s game can usually be enjoyable to adults, especially if it’s just for one play through. But I would detour the whole family right around this one.