Racing Simulators. Review of my two favourites.
Boardgames can be divided in two main categories: kill something or race. Let us talk about racing in general. Pure racing is boring, both in games (roll and move) or real racing. To make a boardgame race fun and exciting, you have to add some elements –ref Ave Caesar. A great racing game, but not a simulation.
Real racing is a 99% boring lone experience and 1% excitement. I know this because I done some (very close to) real racing online in Iracing. Tracks are laser scanned down to smallest chewing gum hump, and cost a small fortune each. Car handling is of course extremely simulated and constantly modified. But Iracing is both time and money consuming and I have dropped it. The most important part in Iracing is the penalty point system. You are penalized for losing control, go off track, and scratch other cars paintwork. To advance in divisions, you must forget to try to win, just stay out of trouble. What this mean is a lot of practice driving alone on the track. Hundreds and hundreds of laps alone until you are driving consistently for 20 laps at the same lap time. Then hundreds of laps shaving off lap time.
In the race you aim for lap times a few seconds over your steady training lap times. Hold your lap times consistently are the only key to success, but be prepared for laps without action. Watching a car in your mirror, you must not increase your speed. At some moment you will do a mistake that cost you seconds that you will never get back. Let the car pass, he is a better driver than you. Catching up a car, you must be patient. Be on his bumper a few laps and he will do a mistake. Manage tire wear and fuel consumption according to pit stop strategy is more important than banging wheels in every corner.
To simulate this in a boardgame is difficult. This element is subtle and hard do discover in a racing game if you are not aware of it. It is easy for a designer to add elements to make it more interesting for a wider audience, but then you are moving away from simulation.
Real racing is divided in two categories: Multi lap on a circuit and staged (Rally). Multi lap simulations are rare. I am not talking about Formula D, but playable games with 200 laps in NASCAR and 30 laps in F1. It takes some tricks to make them playable. Other simulations are pure physics such as Bolide, and betting on the odds in the excellent old classic Win, Place and Show.
RASC. (REAL ACTION STOCKCAR CHAMPIONSHIP). - a nice NASCAR simulation. It handles a lot of cars, as it must in a NASCAR simulation. And it is playable with more than 40 laps. Guess diehard fans can manage more than 100 laps, and even 200 with practice and time. Movement is done with special dice. Each move is long, typical 20 squares. Rolling more dice gives you a slightly higher average speed, but a slightly higher risk. Rolling few dice means slightly lower average speed, but at reduced risk. It is all about drafting to make progress without risk. Cars behind must cooperate in drafting, and try to hook on the train that moves fastest. Cars up front may challenge more and try to break up the train behind them. But it takes concentration in book keeping to track cars lapped, especially around pit stops. And it ends up dry and repetitive after a few hours of play. But still one of the best racing simulations.
Race! Formula 90 is no doubt my best multi lap racing sim.
Theme is F1 racing around 1990. It is more a management type of game that even non racing fans may enjoy. You are not really racing all 30 laps, but it feels like it, due to a clever snapshot mechanism. Current round can be a snapshot situation in lap 12 or 13. Next round will be a snapshot in lap 14 or 15. It emulates a direct TV broadcast constantly swapping around the track for exiting situations. In that way, iIt feels familiar to a regular racing fan. This also eliminates special rules for pit stop. Just declare pit stop and move your car back some distance, and reset your car status. In next round snapshot, your situation reflects the pit stop done a couple of laps ago.
Pre race is a major element as a simulation at this level. Tires, car set up and qualification must be performed. Figure out your driving strategy along with a sound pit stop strategy up front is essential.
Movement is done by playing movement cards from hand. Racing along the track is not simulated in detail, such ideal line and hitting the apex in corners. Just as in real race, you must obtain a steady pace. If you use every opportunity to burn cards just for an extra single square advance, you will soon run out of cards and tires, and depend on pure luck of your card draft during race. This simulates very well a noob in real racing pressing hard with fluctuating lap times. Conserve cards and aim for the bonus movement points on track, and plan how to handle traffic ahead. This gives you the same feel as in real racing – aim for consistent lap times.
The need for more traffic is done by robot cars with some variation in performance. They will certainly often slow you down, or you feel the urge to pursuit the fastest of them.
The finish is often exciting. No need to race consistent now. Spend your last cards and cross the finish line with nothing left. You regret not to doing a last pit stop, limping around, – or the opposite, after a late pit stop, you have a fresh car, but no time left to go fast enough to catch the leader.
Basic rules are simple. You can add more advanced rules if you want to. More kind of module type rules are found in the expansion. The components are excellent. Except the cars itself. The game really deservers metal cars. Do not buy pre painted. Save money with spray can painting. It takes literally seconds to paint them all. Add detail such as black tires (use gray on black cars) with acrylic paint.
A great game, even for ordinary euro gamers, with the management mechanism. But they will complain on playing time. Be prepared for 3 hours, only racing fans will enjoy playing this long for a management type game.
Next up is staged race.
One obvious choice is Rallyman. It seems to be a nice simulation. I admit I never tried this. What I heard it has some limited replay value.
Leader 1. A bicycle simulation that is really great. It really feels like a simulation with rewarding mechanisms. The bad thing is the finish. The finish should be a climax sitting on the edge of the chair. But it ends with a boring counting, counting, calculation, counting and recalculations. Add the fiddliness of knocking over cycles at the finish line, and that is why this is not my favorite racing simulation.
Finally introducing my favorite race sim in the stage category:
Legend: History of 1000 Miglia.
The backdrop and theme the designer got for free. Not much work needed. Mille Miglia gives goose bumps on any racing fan with some knowledge to history. Mille Miglia means 1000 miles. A race from Belcia in Northern Italy down to Rome and back again. Mille Miglia started in 1927 with last race in 1957. It was terminated due to all the fatal accidents.
Legend race game is set to the period of 1927 t0 1933. We all agree that a teenager girl is beautiful. Cars around 1930 were beauty as teenagers, the peak of beautiful design. Listen to the names: Alfa Romeo 1750 Sport, Bugatti Type 43, Maserati 26 1700, Mercedes SSKL 7000. A Mercedes SSKL was recently sold for 7.4 mill USD. But in this game you are driving it to a wreck as it was meant to be. 21 hours, 1000 miles on dirt roads, over gravel and curb stones in the villages. The cars are researched and of course they are all different, some better than others. But in a simulation like this you are not picking your car with your brain, but your heart. If you love the Mercedes SSKL, you pick it despite lousy brakes. It is all about driving a bit harder than the other players with better cars.
Alfa Romeo Performance Card
No doubt a lot of the track design is stolen from Leader 1. Different stages are built with hexagon tiles modeled with straights and hills. Of course there are a lot of differences too. Curves have maximum speed numbers and an ideal track line allowing higher speed.
Car damage is tracked on a Status sheet. A typical old fashion Avalon Hill style mechanism. You tick off boxes as the damage progress on various parts of your car. Works great as you usually have to continue the game over several sessions.
Movement is extremely simple. No dice rolling. Pick a number of spaces you want to travel within limits of your car performance. If you are picking a number much higher than previous speed, your acceleration will be too high, and you have to check for damage on gearbox and motor. The same with braking. Dropping speed too fast and you have to check damage on tires and brakes. There are different levels of damage risk. To win, you have to drive slightly over limit, and minor damage/wear will occur. But often you will hit the curve too fast, and it is a hold your breath moment while you are checking for major damage. Damage is checked with special dice. A blue die has more damage symbols. This represents wet condition, and used in rainy weather. You should drive more carefully in the rain, but you do not have to….
You keep track of your speed on a sheet; write down number of spaces moved in each turn. This is used in the part of the game I do really, really like. After the stage you are calculating your real world speed and time used. You have to fill in a form and use a calculator to make this right, but each step is simple, and takes just a couple of minutes. With total speed numbers and game turns used, you find average speed. This is converted to real speed in km/hour. As the stage length is known, you find the time used. This is so real! You start in intervals, and you have to wait for the results. Maybe your opponent is on the lead on you with 46 seconds, next car is just 5 seconds behind you. You know what you have to do on the next stage. But it is night and raining……
This element makes Legend perfect for solitaire. Check wiki for the 1927 race. Winner average speed was 77 km/h. Total time 21 hours 2 minutes. Use the same car and try to beat it.
The last thing you keep track of is the time of the day. This is done by ticking off boxes hours used. Night has special rules, and starting time varies in each year.
Playing time varies. Each of the 15 stages length varies from 41 km to 244 km. Everything is written down, and next stage must be built anyway, so breaking the game into several game sessions is not a problem at all. First stage, Brescia to Parma (101km) is easily done in less than hour.
A lot of work as been put into historical research. However, some parts of the game feels not properly developed. The designated ID on hexagons is a leftover from the developing stage and makes no sense when searching for correct tiles- it is faster to just look for the image. The math magician Darrel Hanning has done some tweakening on the calculations to make it more correct.
Components are very good. Excellent box design. Even the cardboard cars work surprisingly well moving around the track. But I wish the white background should have been grey as the track.
The game really deserves special cars designed for this game. They are plastic 3D printed – manufactured by Shapeways. Give them several layers of primer prior to paint them. And use the main colors found on each Car Performance Card. Add some details, such as black tires, and a drop of metal paint on headlights, bumpers, and you are well off. No need to paint needles on instruments or red lips on drivers, You don’t have to be a trained miniature painter or spending weekends on details to make a great appearance of those epic classic beauties.
Cars beautifully painted by David Briel. The blue Bugatti in hot pursuit of the red legendary OM _Edit: Not painted by David, but still a great pics of his race.
Hope you see why Race! F90 and Legend: History of 1000 Miglia is my favorite race simulations. It is impossible to select a single one, as they are totally different in historical context.
Is it a coincidence that both designers have Italian names in designing race simulations? Carlo Amaddeo for Legend: Mille Miglia and Alessandro Lala for Race! F90.
Thank you both for the games!
Link - Legend
Link Leader 1:
- Last edited Wed Feb 17, 2016 7:42 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sun Feb 14, 2016 4:14 pm
For ease to find the games you write about, you should have linked to them.
Under NASCAR simulations I really recommend Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game.
This like Race! Formula 90 uses abstracted laps and race tracks. At the start of the game you choose a race track type and number of laps.
Each turn you flip a track card to see how many laps have passed and if there were any incidents.
Controlling the car is done via hand management and the cars do not move on a track, just relative to each other. You can coordinate actions with other players and advance your car and theirs. You can try to make the big move on your own at the risk of burning out your hand.
Tires and fuel strategy are neatly simulated in the advanced rules. Your draw deck represent your fuel tank, burn lots of cards, burn lots of fuel. The pit window rule prevents players from sandbagging play.
So you need to optimize your play to your draw deck. I also use the on table track variant, this allows a more realistic cost for pitting vs non-pitted cars.
Many game, have come down to one side praying for a yellow flag, with the other limping along trying squeeze out the last drop of fuel.
I think you would like it. It is hands down my favorite in the drivers seat NASCAR game. Best with 6 plus players.
I used to own SCCRCG but the lack of circuit for a racing game was too abstract to me.
Sold it after a few games.