$18.00
GeekGold Bonus for All Supporters: 131.4

7,719 Supporters

$15 min for supporter badge & GeekGold bonus
48.6% of Goal | left

Support:

Recommend
19 
 Thumb up
 Hide
6 Posts

Chariot Race» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Chariot Race – Why Ben Hur is rotating in his grave rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Alexander G.
Germany
Frankfurt Area
flag msg tools
“Truly I was born to be an example of misfortune, and a target at which the arrows of adversary are aimed.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
mbmbmbmbmb
First Impressions – Chariot Race

The ancient time racing game from the famous author Matt Leacock (Forbidden Island, Pandemic, etc.) should be a smashing success by nature. Matt has already designed a successful dice game with Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age. So what could go wrong when players race with Roman chariots like good old Ben Hur while fighting with their competitors on the track… Major e longinquo reverentia (all looks nice from afar), so let’s have a closer look!

This review is based on first impressions resulting from a limited number of games with a mixed group solely intended to describe personal experiences allowing you to decide whether you may want to enter the race yourself (or not).


Game Play & Mechanics

Each player has a chariot with three values (hit points, speed and Fortuna points) and wants to cross the finishing line first after two rounds in the Roman racing arena. However, it’s not only a question of speed as you can eliminate other players by punching the hit points of the other chariots down to zero.

The game mechanism is very simple. The player order is determined each round beginning with the most advanced chariot, then the second one etc. in line with the order of spaces on the game board. The determined player gets initially five dice (but later on less in case of higher speeds) to be rolled plus the option to re-roll selected or all dice once. The rolled dice determine the actions to be executed thereafter:
- Increase or decrease speed by one;
- Increase speed by two, but get one hit;
- Change the lane by one (there are three lanes) - you find this symbol two times on the dice;
- Throw a spear to another player within range 2 for one hit or place a caltrop on a crossed space leading to one hit for the next chariot entering that area; or
- Getting a favor of Fortuna point which can be spent at the beginning of a round (3 points to repair 3 hits) or to get another re-roll of several dice or choose one dice option (each for 2 points).

The player has to adjust the chariot speed immediately and is then moving forward one space per point of speed while changing a lane would require a respective dice symbol. However, your speed may possibly never be higher than your corresponding hit point area. The right lane is critical as you have to check the speed each time when entering the 180-degree corner (i.e., two times per round). The inner lane allows 3, the middle lane 5 and the outer lane 7 speed maximum. Each speed point above that limit creates one damage. You can also charge other chariots in your way, but this ram maneuver will lead to two damage points for both players each.

As advanced options, players could select chariots with varying starting values and/or switch the board to have stones on an alternate race track which would lead to an immediate crash taking a chariot out of the game.


Strategy & Difficulty

Chariot Race contains player elimination elements. With the right starting position and dice rolls, it’s an option to leave the pack behind, while the remaining players will hit each other (as, depending on the dice, the play order may leave the remaining players as targets only). If you are the last player, you may also see more caltrops in your way than the first player. As you can only repair at the beginning of the turn, other players may like the idea to cooperate and actually hit a damaged chariot to take it out of the game while you can only watch and whine.

It’s difficult to talk about strategy in a dice rolling game where your influence about the available options and the behavior of the other players is rather limited. It seems to be healthier to take some hits being beyond the speed limit of a corner. Being in the lead could be better than in the middle of a rampaging horde of the other players or, even worse, breathing the dust of the other chariots being last and thereby collecting their "contact mines". On the other hand, it’s even more difficult to slow down that to increase speed, so it’s key to find the right balance as unexpected dice rolls could lead to interesting results like even more additional speed.


Presentation & Rule Book

The multi-language Pegasus version of Chariot Race is not very impressive. It contains a small, rather boring game board design printed on both sides with thin, “functional” cardboard player sheets where you keep track about your values with, well, black paperclips. Your chariot is represented by a little cardboard marker. To be fair, the game has an average retail price well below 20€ (in Germany), so you can't expect any miracles in such a box. However, a chariot race cries for some glamor and a visual experience to capture the smell of horses, dust and blood, doesn't it?

The rule book is o.k., but still leaves some room for interpretation which is a bit surprising for this little game. For example, the rolled changing lanes dice symbol seems to be optional (“may”), while the speed dice are always mandatory (“must”), but I'm not sure whether this is intended as forced lane changes would fit into the scheme. It’s also not clearly described whether the speed limit caused by damage can be temporarily bypassed due to the (mandatory) speed dice and speed then reduced again to the limit at the beginning of the round or whether you can never go with your speed above the damage limit.


My Opinion

From my point of view, there is a reason why the current BGG ratings of Chariot Race are rather mixed. To be fair, the basic dice mechanism is solid and a smaller group of 3-4 players with the intention to play a little race game without spending too much time and without fear from randomness may have some fun.

For me personally, the prime game mechanic somehow feels a bit like being from the wrong century as Chariot Racer claims to be a short game, but you have a significant downtime (especially with 5 or 6 players) as a lot of players try to make the best out of the available dice maybe even counting spaces on the race track (these cowards). You are still strongly, strongly depending on the luck of the dice and can forget any own strategy when simply not being able to achieve basic key maneuvers. Having less dice with higher speed and maybe an additional Fortuna re-roll every second or third round only (unless you need these points for repair…) does not improve the situation.

My biggest issue with this game is, however, the game length of 30 to 45 minutes minimum (6 players with slow decision readiness may take up to an hour) in combination with possible early player elimination. I even played a game where I have been eliminated prior to my third turn thanks to a combination of a weak chariot (one of the advanced options), bad dice (avoiding any huge maneuverability or speed) and several players around me recognizing my low amount of hit points as an invitation to focus further damage on my chariot. It just does not feel like a modern board game of 2016 when you have to wait another 15-20 minutes (being occasionally joined by the one or other broken chariot) before the game finally finishes.

From a replayability point of view, I also have some doubts as the options for advanced games seem to be uninspired. The alternative game board with stones (drawn on the board and not even flexible) taking players immediately out of the game seems to be too exaggerated. Why not offer an alternative rule e.g. by just taking one or two damage when crossing that space? The individual chariots appear a bit unbalanced (which is still acceptable in view of the game randomness), but ultimately also uninteresting as you do not really get the feeling of you own specialization.

This brings me to my final point which is probably linked to the overall appearance. There is not really the game impression of a huge arena with thousands of Romans cheering to mighty chariot racers fighting with all kinds of tricks and maneuvers. To be fair, it would have been a different game when including more individual chariot options or track modifications or special maneuvers or a weapon arsenal or… but it isn’t – it’s a simple dice racer. On that basis, Ben Hur’s monumental race could have been over in some minutes and the winner, well, has most probably been determined by Fortuna.

If you can live with luck dependency and possible player elimination in a (still) rather short Roman chariot race, you get a reasonable racer game for a good price. Ben Hur would shout vade retro (back off) to everybody else expecting more strategy or deeper game mechanisms...
22 
 Thumb up
1.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Good analysis.

Driver elimination is helpful when advancing the plot of an epic film; it isn't quite so advantageous in a game.

Here is a movie quote from Sheik Ilderim:

"There is no law in the arena."

Lesson: In a chariot racing game, keep the rules to a minimum.

I don't remember Messala and Judah Ben-Hur consulting a player status display during the film, even one adorned with Ancient Roman paper clips.

Thanks for the review.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mitch Lavender
United States
Fort Worth
Texas
flag msg tools
You kids, get offa my lawn!
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Good review! Thanks for sharing your insight, Sir Bobo.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew P.
United States
Anchorage
Alaska
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for writing up your thoughts. How would you compare it to King of Tokyo with regard to length and player elimination?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alexander G.
Germany
Frankfurt Area
flag msg tools
“Truly I was born to be an example of misfortune, and a target at which the arrows of adversary are aimed.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
mbmbmbmbmb
It's actually a good choice to think about a comparison with King of Tokyo.

Objectively, the game length could actually be comparable as both games are in the same area of medium fillers with playtime of less than an hour which can be dragged a bit by players "over-thinking" their options, but are generally on the lighter side.

Looking from the angle of player elimination, it's clear that KoT has the mandatory goal to be the last one in the game, while Chariot Race is - in theory - still a racing game and several players may have survived in the arena when the first chariot crosses the line (and can still be killed afterwards).

Ultimately, I feel - on a subjective level - more engaged and having more control over my super monster than my chariot. It starts with the presentation, the options to individualize/equip your monster and ends with the amount of control and freedom to stomp around in Tokyo and tackle other monsters. So in a nutshell, my Gozilla just feels more "alive" than my somehow wooden chariot, although it may had to die much more often...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jeffery macguinness
msg tools
You definitely understate when you say the components are "not very impressive." The player cards didn't hold up to even a single game; they're bent up and ragged from the paper clips already. I chucked the clips for marker cubes (or three plays from now the game gets chucked).

No need to evaluate gameplay when the components are so poor they self destruct during a single game. Eagle Gryphon, be ashamed.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.