This review was originally written and posted by me on Ameritrash.nl
The clock is ticking....Time to choose your final two actions. Two turns to the right and then perhaps the nitro to shoot straight ahead and crash into the yellow car. Or will the blue car crash into you before you reach the yellow car? Find out, in Crash'em!
Grid movement, Hand Management, Movement Programming, Simultaneous Action Selection
English, Dutch, German, French rules
Components are language Independent
I don’t know how other people experience this, but being Dutch I pay extra attention when games from Dutch designers are released. Even though the Netherlands is quite a small country, we’ve got quite a few game designers. One of these authors is Michel Baudoin, author of Space Maze (link) and more recently Robot X (link).
A couple of years ago I first noticed the entry on Boardgamegeek for another game which was being designed by Michel Baudoin. In the game that would become Crash’em, you were a race car driver and aim do as much damage as possible by crashing your car against others! Being a fan of the old videogame Destruction Derby, I waited patiently for the game to arrive. When I was given the opportunity to playtest a prototype of the game for a preview I jumped to the opportunity. Crash’em is currently on Kickstarter. What did I think of the actual game after all those years?
I was quite surprised when I read the rules. The actual goal of the game didn’t turn out to be damaging as much cars as possible or to remain the ‘last car driving’. Instead you need to score the most points.
You can score points by crashing into the cars of your opponents. However the number of points per hit depends on the number of opponents you’ve damaged. This way we have to ‘tactically’ crash into opponents..
Crash'em does not require a lot of preparation. The board -a hexagonal car combat arena- is placed on the table with the right side up. There are two sides of the board, depending on the number of players. Each player chooses a color and receive a miniature car and cube in their colors. The car is placed on one of the corners of the arena and the cubes are placed on the speedometer on the board.
Additionally each player receives a stack of damage tokens. These are shuffled and placed in front of the player. Finally, the race cards and the Power-up cards are shuffled and placed face-down.
The first time you play the game, you’ll also need to download the (free) Crash'em Timer app on your phone, tablet or laptop (both Andoid and iOS). Of course you will also be able to use a different timer.
Crash’em is played over a number of rounds. Each round consists of two phases. In the first phase, players plan the maneuvers they want their cars to make. The players start each round with six race cards. On the top and bottom of the card images represent two different actions you can take. You select actions by placing cards face-down in front of you, before the timer signals the end of the phase. The Crash’em app has timer settings for 20 seconds (easy), 15 seconds (average) or 10 seconds (difficult) to pick up your cards, look at them and choose which cards to play. Each card then has to be placed with the right orientation on the table.
The cars have quite a range to maneuver. You can steer (1 or 2x right to left), drive in reverse, make a U-turn, turn up on your speed or use nitro to rocket yourself further.
When all players have chosen their actions, the first card of each player is revealed.
Above each action on the race card the reaction time of the maneuver is mentioned. This represents how fast the driver of the car reacts to certain situations. All revealed racing cards are executed in order of reaction time. When executing a race card you first execute the movement mentioned on the card (steering, nitro or making a U-turn) after which you move an amount of spaces equal to your speed (as shown on your speedometer). This is the same for all cards with exception of the reverse-card. When playing the reverse card, you only get to take one step back. After all the first race cards have been executed, the second race cards are revealed etc.
While driving each player may encounter some situations. For example you may drive over or land on a power-up field (shown on the board). If you do this voluntarily (not due to crashing) you get to take a power-up card. These cards contain bonuses that you can use during the game. The power-up cards may contain shields (which lets you ignore damages), a rocket (which you can shoot at other cars) or an energy drink (which you can use to turn your race card upside down after it has been turned). These cards can be used at any given moment except during the turn you first get them.
Now the important part of the game, the crashing. If your car ends up on the same space as another car (during your movement) you stop the movement of your car on the space right in front of that car. You crash into the car and this car "bumps" one field in the same direction you were moving. The latter, of course, only if there are no walls or other cars behind the victim. The victim also reduces its speedometer with one point because he loses speed due to the crash and in addition you give one of your closed damage tokens (in your color) to your opponent. He places this in front of him. You cannot damage this player any further during this round (with damage tokens, you can however, continue to reduce its speed).
At the end of the round, all the damage tokens that players have been giving due to crashes are revealed. On each damage tokens a symbol is shown which corresponds with one of the maneuvers the players can make with their car (unless the token is blank, in which case you are lucky). The tokens represents the damage you’ve taken and this damage prevents you from performing the indicated action in the future.
Now, when you’re choosing your action whilst waiting for the buzz, you have to keep in mind that some actions cannot be performed anymore. Should you select this action in spite of you damage token you may only drive forwards (a number of spaces equal to the number of fields indicating your speedometer).
At the end of the round all used race cards are shuffled back into the stack and six cards are dealt to each player. Used power-up cards are discarded.
The game continues until one player gets his fifth damage token. His car is a total loss and the game ends immediately. If one of the players hands over his sixth damage token to another player (when damaging another car), the game also ends immediately. In both cases, only scoring follows. When scoring you get an amount of points for each token in your color given to another player equal to the number of players that have your tokens. So if you gave three tokens to two different players, you finish with 6 points. In case of a tie the player with the least damage tokens wins the game.
I played a prototype of Crash'em which is why I can’t make any remarks on the final artwork and components. I did see the final version of one of the cars and it looked great. It’s great that they’ve chosen to use miniature cars instead of tokens.
When it comes to gameplay Crash'em has become a fun and easy game that is not too difficult to learn and will bring a lot of laughter to the table. Using the Crash'em Timer app adds a lot of tension to this light-hearted game. We all know how long 20, 15 or 10 seconds last, but when you considering that you have to choose from 12 maneuvers, you want to choose 3 actions which bring your car where you want it and you try to anticipate what your opponents do at the same time you can imagine that even 20 seconds is a short period of time sometimes. Let alone if you have an opponent who (verbally) builds up some extra pressure. You can already feel your blood pressure rising!
Even though the game isn’t very complicated it does take some getting used to. Just like learning to drive (or when driving in a new car) you need to get used to the actions and the way they turn out. When playing for the first time your car will probably drive in the wrong direction a couple of times, especially when you get crashed into during your turn. No worries, because the rounds play quite fast which means you’ll be able to resume your course in no time.
The relationship between the various mechanisms in the game is excellent. Movement programming for me tends to create a sense of utter chaos and loss of control (especially in combination with a real-time element). Surprisingly, this is not the case with Crash’em. The pace of the game, using the power-up cards, but also the empty damage tiles and the fact that the players must focus on all opponents to win, ensures that the game as a whole feels like a nice mix of luck, a little chaos and then some tactical possibilities.
As a movement programming game the comparison with Robo Rally is an easy one to make. I personally prefer Crash'em. The pace of the game is much quicker than RoboRally, the theme has more appeal to me and the game will hit the table a lot easier with kids and casual gamers. This is the target group of a game like Crash’em, families with children in the range of 7-8 years old and casual players who want to spend their evening with a fun game and lots of laughter.
The game itself offers enough variety in terms of both the race cards as the power-up cards. Although the race cards are reused continuously, I never had the feeling of a bad hand, and each power-up card you get can be used during the game to give you an edge during that turn. Of course I can see possibilities for more cards (especially Power-Up cards) either custom made or as an expansion, but the game doesn’t need it.
In summary, I’ve played yet another great product from my home soil and a game which I think will appeal to a great number of different players.
Many thanks to Michel Baudoin and Bart Nijssen for making sure we had a prototype of the game for previewing purposes. Ameritrash.nl would like to emphasize that no payment in any form was made for this preview.
Crash’em can be found on Kickstarter right at this moment! Just check their Kickstarterpage