J.F. Van Natta
I recently learned about Allen’s Dirt the Game through an advertisement on Facebook. Being an avid sprint car fan, I decided to have a closer look at the designer’s Facebook page. I then searched elsewhere online and found a little bit more about the game in the form of a couple of short “unboxing” videos and the game designer’s website. What I saw intrigued me since I’ve long been thinking about designing a board game that simulates the kind of racing that I love but have never had the time or the resources to move forward with such an idea, so I went ahead and ordered the game.
The game is available with several types of dirt track cars depending on your tastes. Available are, winged sprint cars, dirt late model stock cars and dirt modifieds. Currently there is also a limited edition dirt go-kart edition. There is also classic sprint car edition (without roll cages). I opted for the winged sprint car edition.
The game comes with a high quality mounted mapboard that appears to be hand drawn, 6 one piece sprint car game pieces of various colors, a pair of dice and a short rule pamphlet. I was especially pleased with the quality of the board since it is nicely rendered and should last a quite a long time. The game pieces are sturdy and are also well suited for painting should one desire to do so. The rules have some editing errors, but they do not detract from the game in any way. The dice are largish, but that is really trivial since what gamer doesn’t have a ready supply of d6 handy anyway?
Qualifying is achieved by rolling 2d6. The highest roll is fast time and so on down to the lowest roll. Fast qualifier starts 6th, 5th fastest starts 5th and so on. The qualifying is completely abstract, however, and the fast qualifier has no speed bonus so starting last can be a real penalty since in reality he is no faster than the others due to the variability of the dice. To correct this, I have implemented a house rule whereby the fast qualifier gets to add 1 to his rolls for the duration of the race. After testing this rule in several races, I have found that it really adds positively to the game.
Game play is simple and straightforward. One simply rolls 1d6 or 2d6 and moves forward the appropriate number of squares. Lane changes take one movement point and can only be done on the straightaways (with one exception). The turns have only two grooves, the high groove and the low groove. The low groove is slower but safer. The high groove is faster but has a couple of trouble spots. The middle groove is not playable. The trouble spots are in the middle of the turn and the exit of the turn, respectively. If a player lands on the middle one, he loses a turn. If he lands on the one at the exit of the turn, he must go to the pits.
Normally pit stops are not a part of sprint car racing, but the mechanic works for this game. If a player has to go to the pits then he goes directly to the pit entry at the beginning of the back straightaway. On his next turn he then rolls 1d6 and moves accordingly. There are 3 squares in the middle of the pit lane that cause him to either lose a turn, move backwards two squares or get another roll. The pit exit is at the entry to turn 3, or at the end of the back straight for you non racing folks. As I said, this mechanic works for the game, although if a player gets sent to the pits while exiting turn 4 onto the front straight, he is essentially out of the game.
There are also rules for contact between cars. If two cars land in the same space, they have to make a roll for contact. Each player rolls and the loser must go directly to the pits. Contact can occur by choice or by the slide-job space in the low groove in the middle of the turn. If a player lands on that space, he must slide to the outside groove. If another car is already there then the contact rules are used.
The rules suggest that the players use 1d6 if there are more than 2 players (cars). I have tried the game with both 1d6 and 2d6 and find that the 2d6 is more to my liking regardless of the number of cars. The racing is faster and feels more like sprint car racing to me. In fact, my friend and I were extremely impressed with just how well this game simulates sprint car racing. The game is fast moving, exciting and just plain fun.
Another aspect of this game that I really enjoy is its adaptability. The game is great out of the box using the rules supplied by the designer. However, it is also very customizable using house rules of our own design. For example, we have added a bit to the contact rules by adding the possibility of a crash or spin and making the pit stop subject to a subsequent DR and not automatic. A player could also conceivably create driver cards similar to Avalon Hill’s USAC Auto Racing game if one desired. I am not going quite that far, although I have begun painting the cars to resemble those of my favorite sprint car drivers, thereby giving the game a little more personalized flavor. I have also considered implementing some kind of personalized charge rule. Each driver may “charge” once per race. A player can announce that he is charging then he rolls and adds a bonus of 2 to his roll. If he rolls a 2 or a 7 then he consults the trouble chart on his driver card. Trouble can consist of car trouble, a spin, a crash or simply moving fewer spaces. I am also considering implementing special skill that can also be used once per game. The special skill would be randomly drawn prior to the game. An example of one I have considered is the "thread the needle" skill. The player who has drawn this skill can play it and pass through a blocked track without making contact. This option is still in the works, however.
In conclusion, I have found this game to be a great beer and pretzels game, especially for fans of dirt track racing. The game does a good job of simulating the excitement of dirt track racing while employing simple, easy to understand rules. Additionally, the game is readily customizable should a player have the inclination to do so. I recommend this game highly.
- Last edited Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:18 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:33 pm