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Back in 1975, cinema schlockmeister Roger Corman released a film called Death Race 2000. The story was set in a dystopic future America where cross-country racing that involves running over pedestrians for points is the favored entertainment of the masses. The New York to Los Angeles Death Race is the Daytona 500 of this grisly sport. The darkly humorous tone of the film has helped make it a cult classic. So it was hardly surprising that Z-Man Games (a company known for developing titles with movie themes) decided to model a game after it.
While Death Race 2000 is the primary inspiration, a bit of Autoduel has been thrown into the mix, as you can trick out your ride with a variety of weapons, defenses, and other modifications. The Weapon Accessory cards offer a nice variety of attack options, each well balanced against the others in terms of power, range, and ammo consumption. Defense Accessories are more iffy, as they tend to have a narrow focus in what they’re effective against. The supplemental modifications are not so well balanced, as some are clearly superior to others (most notably the ones that improve your chances of scoring pedestrians).
Rally cards are the lifeblood of the game. While their most obvious function is to provide a variety of one-off effects when played, there’s a lot more to them than that. Among those functions are increasing speed adjustment, improving the odds of scoring pedestrians, providing ammo for your weapons, and serving as your vehicle’s hit points. With all the ways that you can use them, it’s easy to spend them faster than you can draw new ones.
An aspect I particularly love is the tile-based board. In my experience, car racing board games tend to be real table hogs. The ability to add on the track as needed while removing those parts which are no longer in use helps keep things compact. It also provides some replay value by allowing a different track formation for each game.
Perversely for a race-themed game, taking the lead and going fast is a recipe for defeat. There are some advantages to the former, such as getting first crack at pedestrians and an improved chance of getting the 100 point bonus for crossing the finish line first. However, the leader also has less time to react to obstacles that may crop up when a new tile is drawn. More important, other players can attack the leader and (unless he has a turret-mounted weapon) he can’t attack back. While that 100 point bonus is nice, it’s a far cry from being a Golden Snitch. Speed is also frequently your enemy, as you risk taking damage or even wiping out (the latter of which deducts from your final score) when you take curves too fast. As with the Hare and the Tortoise, slow and steady wins the race.
The biggest issue may be getting a game started in the first place. Like the movie that inspired it, Road Kill Rally requires a stomach for tasteless humor. Many of the themes present in the game may not go over well with some of your gaming buddies. So it’s a good policy to ask them about such feelings before you haul it out on Game Night. It’ll save you from the awkward silences that could occur when the Euthanasia Day tile is drawn or someone plays a Loyal Fan Rally card.
But if the game themes are not an problem, it’s a great way to indulge in your Inner Road Rage in a safe manner. The only significant gameplay issue is that the supply-to-demand ratio for Rally cards feels a bit off, it often being too easy to run out and difficult to replenish quickly.
Originally posted at The Gamer's Codex
I wish I could play more games.
Collecting games is not playing games.
This is one of those games that is on my shelf, picked up ages ago and have not played. I know my nephew would love the subject matter as a teenage boy but I just haven't played it. I talked to him and he wants me to bring it next time I see him. Thank you for reminding me of this game.