Wow, yeah... it's been a LONG time since I last did one of these, yeah? Blame Covid for this. The last one I did was in December, but... my anxiety over the virus started in January, as early January was when I first heard of the blasted thing. Thanks to that, I havent felt like doing anything like this since. But lately, well, 2020 is over with, and I've had some nice mood boosts since, so... let's go for it!
Going to talk about some more board game stuff here, to spread the word about how amazing this hobby is. If you havent read my previous posts... do so.
Today, we're going to look at:
A racing game!
This one is very different from ones I've posted about before.
In modern board gaming, well, things are very different from the old days of bad Milton Bradley games that you'd find at toystores. Those older games... such as Monopoly or Trouble or whatever... utilized a type of mechanic called "roll & move". You'd roll dice, move forward that many spaces, and see what you land on. And... that was usually it. When people say board games are all boring, it's generally because they remember those, which involved no thinking whatsoever. Roll & move mechanics are usually frowned upon these days.
Unless, of course, designers get creative... which they do.
Lets see what it looks like:
Here's a track example.
First, notice that it is made up of seperate hexagon tiles. Many modern board games use modular boards... made of many seperate pieces, instead of a single main board (and some games that do use single-piece boards, will have more than one, even, or modular pieces that sometimes get placed ON the board to alter it). This game comes with many of these tiles, and each is double-sided, allowing for all sorts of tracks.
Similar to older games, you can see that some of the individual spaces have markings on them. In this game, it has to do with your current gear; go into a space marked with a 2 when you're at 3rd gear or higher, and you'll spin out. And there are a variety of possible symbols that can be on these spaces.
In a traditional roll & move, you'd just hope not to land on something at the wrong time. Well, that aint how it works here. You still need the dice to move and are still dependent on the rolls... but there's a bit more to it than that. This is where the devs got very creative. Let's see another photo:
What the heck is going on here?
Here's how it works:
There are a whole pile of different dice that you use for movement. Each black die has exactly one number on it, on multiple faces, as you can see. These dice determine your car's current gear. All dice, black, white or red, also have hazard symbols on them... if you get 3 hazard symbols in one turn, you spin out, which is bad. You dont want that. There is only one die available for each of the 6 gears, so you could not do it in an order like 2-3-4-3. Wont work because you only have one gear 3 die.
But also, the way these dice work means that you dont just roll and see how far you go. You take each individual die available to you, examine the board, and strategically set them up to prepare your move.
In this move, I am on the left there, starting my turn in 6th gear. The 1 on the right, is where I will end my turn, in 1st gear... provided nothing goes wrong. Before actually activating everything, you take the dice and place them on the spaces you intend on passing over. As you can see, diagonal moves are possible... obviously it'd be silly if lane-changes involved purely lateral moves. You can also see numbers on the track. If I enter a space with a number, at a gear higher than that number, I spin out. Bad. Cant do that. The space in the bottom center that the white die is on is actually a little more complicated than that, which is why I change lanes twice there, but lets ignore that bit for now. Focus on what the dice do.
Changing gears is pretty simple: the next gear die must be either 1 level higher, or one level lower, than the gear you are on as you hit that die. Except for the first die placed, which can be in the same gear you started the turn on.
So how did I do the bit in the photo? I started at 6, and then it goes: 3-4-2-1, with some white dice between them. Well, the red dice represent braking. Each red die effectively allows you to skip a gear level when gearing down. You usually have 3 available to you. So, going from 6 to 3 is possible, if I use 2 braking dice along with the 3. The white dice, on the other hand, represent coasting... staying on the same gear. So the full order here is: Start in 6, brake to 3, stay in 3, up to 4, stay in 4, brake to 2, and then down to 1 to end. By getting creative and strategic with your dice placement, you can be more efficient, and thus, go further.
But hey, what about those hazards? Rolling so many dice at once, you could spin out purely by sheer luck! So you dont do that. Most turns, once you've set your dice up, you're going to roll each individually. When you roll an individual die, you see what happens... either you'll get a good result or the hazard, and then you decide whether you want to keep going. Decide not to, and your turn simply ends. The further you go, the more hazard symbols you risk. So, this is about risk VS reward.
A little more to it though: Braking is difficult because brake dice must be rolled at the same time as whatever die they're affecting. So, double-braking into that 3 means I'm rolling 3 dice at once for that space. That's pretty risky... but I want to move really far on this turn, so dagnabit, I'm doing it.
Particularly since I have some focus tokens. Focus tokens can be used to sort of pay off the next die. If you're at 2 hazard symbols, and there's one more die in the line? Well, you can either take the risk... or simply use a token, causing that die to succeed without a roll. The more dice you "pay off" in one turn though, the more expensive the next die becomes. Try to pay off 3 dice for instance, and you'll pay a total of 6 tokens, since the price goes like 1-2-3.
GETTING those tokens means taking a bigger risk than mere braking. If I decide to, after I line up all my dice, I can decide to roll all of them at once... called "going flat-out". There is nothing that can mitigate this type of roll. If it goes bad, well... freaking tough, you knew the risks when you decided to do it. BUT, you get a token for each black or white die that is used in that roll. These are a very important resource, so you need to decide WHEN to flat-out, and how far you try to go, and with what dice, since each die has different numbers of hazard faces. You need to make sure you understand the risk before deciding to do a flat-out turn.
Because spinning out is real bad. You can lose your next turn... or two... and have to draw Doom Tokens out of the Sadness Bag. Well, okay, that's not what they're called, but they represent damage to your car (or can cause a weather change, which is its own screwball set of rules). Since you draw them from a bag, you dont know which forms of damage you will take. But boy can they ruin your day. If you have some, you can do pit-stops to fix yourself up... but that takes ANOTHER turn, or even 2 turns, to do. Of course, your opponents are doing the same spinning out and all that stuff, it's not like you're the only one this can happen to, so the longer the race, the more viable it is for you to manage to catch up after a bad crash. On short tracks with few laps, a single spinout will probably leave you dead last at the end.
Lastly, there are rules for dealing with other cars. Overtaking another car, particularly on curves, has requirements, as does ending your turn in certain positions based on the positions of nearby cars, or you can be blocked by cars in front of you, and so on. But, you can set yourself up to get in the way of your opponents too. What sorts of strategies will you use to get yourself to the finish line and claim the grand prize?
So yeah... the ancient concept of roll & move, but taken to a whole different level with ideas that are far beyond those old crap games. And there's still some extra stuff that I didnt even mention.
Now, the game's one problem is that while it does have a solo mode, that mode is a "time trial" sort of thing... you're not going up against AI cars (but it's still really freaking good). However, the community for the game... and there is a big one... came up with a couple of rulesets that add AI cars to the game, so you can do a proper race solo. Even the actual designer of the game later came up with a ruleset for AI cars. Meaning there are numerous types of AI to pick from. And they are VERY well designed and balanced. This is good for me, since I am purely a solo player when it comes to board games. Yes, that's really a thing. In the old days, solo boardgaming simply didnt happen. You cant play them without an opponent or two! But modern board games? Oh yes. Not all games are purely competitive. Cooperative games can be played solo (controlling more than one character/whatever at once), and some games are purely for solo only. But anyway, yeah... custom made AIs from the community.
This game in particular has an unusually large community behind it. You can participate in all sorts of challenges, tournaments, and other cool stuff... even if you're playing by yourself.
It really is a great game, and I say that despite only having had it for one day. It has expansions too, adding new track parts and car types. A sequel, Rallyman GT DIRT, is coming later this year.
On a side note, I hate the way this accursed blog interface handles image attachments. I hope someone got fired for that.
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