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Raceway 57» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Racing has already been done, so why is this one different? rss

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Tomello Visello
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Reston
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Movement by dice roll is way obvious, it is used for movement far outside the realm of racing titles. Budgeting resource points already exists, like in Formula De, so where does this game fit in or stand out?

That’s what I was hoping to find out from BGG before my purchase. That didn’t work out for me in a timely manner, so maybe it’s my turn to contribute by guiding others. The rules can be downloaded from the publishers site, http://www.frontporchclassics.com, so I am glossing over some things here.

The Name: The rulebook begins with a background story containing indirect references to NASCAR and reports some imaginary characters racing locally in 1957. So the title exists simply to be evocative of another era. You may or may not imagine the car on the box logo to be a 1957 Chevrolet, and similarly but somewhat less so the game pieces.

The Movement count: Yes, players roll a single die (even though two are included) to move the indicated number of spaces. There are also two special alternatives. The first is that once per game you are allowed to roll the die multiple times. You continue moving as long as each roll is smaller than the last.

The other special feature is that players can choose instead to move according a card they play from their hand. The cards display a number to indicate allowable space count. Players are dealt three cards.

The Deck: It contains cards that permit movement from 2 to 10 spaces. Four of each number exist in the deck, except that there are sixteen of the 10s. Additionally there are four wild cards. The wild cards are part of the deck but they relate to Resources, not to movement count.

The cards you hold may not be worth anything to you. A race leader may only play numbers 2 through 4. Anyone mid-pack may use numbers 2 through 7, while only those in last place may use the full range 2 through 10 (any ties for first or last all use the respective rules).

Again, players are dealt three cards. The used cards are only replaced during a pit stop. There is also an opportunity to exchange unfavorable cards (by reduced car movement or during a pit stop)

The Track: The track is a paperclip-shaped oval. It has five concentric lanes, to match five cars and five players. All players start side-by-side on the start-finish line. The surprise for me is how many more spaces make up each successive lane. The progression, from inner to outer, for a complete lap is 18, 22, 26, 30, and 34 spaces. I’d call that a heavy disincentive to stay on the outside any length of time while rolling a six-sided die. At the end of each straightaway there is a red line that allows maneuvering directly from the outside lane to the inside as a single space count. Five spaces inside the front stretch represent pit road.

The track spaces are colored in three shades; white, light gray, and dark gray. These are used to determine the Resource usage. The middle lane is always light gray. Like-colored pairs of white and dark gray cover the outside lanes and inside lanes. They alternate position, with white on the inside lanes for the straightaways and dark gray for inside lanes in the turns. White, light gray, and dark gray represent resource usage of fuel, suspension and tires, respectively.

The Movement direction: Another surprise comes in how the cars move. In addition to the standard of straight ahead and diagonally ahead one space at a time there is an unexpected option: cars may move one space sideways. They cannot make two consecutive sideways movements, but they can do so indirectly by executing a forward move in between; essentially a zig-zag.

The Resources: This took me a while to understand because the written information is inconsistent. Four resource categories exist, but the rules often seem to speak of only three. This is because three relate directly to the colored spaces on the track and something of them is consumed during every turn. The fourth, called Chassis, has different rules and comes into play only as an optional challenge between players who come in close contact.

In contrast with Formula De, where resources are typically reduced by non-standard, aggressive movement such as hard braking or excessive downshifting, here some kind of resource is consumed on every turn. However only one category of resource is consumed each turn. The type depleted is determined by the color of the track space upon which movement ends. Thus, you are not only moving your car to find competitive position relative to others, you may be choosing on the basis of which resources you have left.

A so-called Wild card may be played in lieu of reducing your resource count for that move (I quibble how that makes it “wild”).

Reaching a resource count of zero for any of the three track-determined categories means you have to limp back to the pits to replenish at the fixed rate of two spaces per turn.

The Components: I own the Discovery Edition. As best I understand, this mostly means that wood and metal items now migrate to cardboard. The shorthand description I would use is that the manufacturing quality is suitable for gift card stores (being a different market from toy stores). The cars are plastic rather than metal, but solid-bodied nonetheless. There is a cardboard representation of an instrument cluster (which they call a Dashboard) for each player that has spinning dials to track resource counts. I have no interest in this accessory, partly because I judge this system in general (regardless of the quality here) as too vulnerable to mis-indicating. While you handle it to modify one dial, another one might easily get nudged. But at least it does coordinate well with the theme. The game board is in six segments that fold neatly into a reduced size to fit a “book shelf” sort of game box shape.

That speaks well enough of the manufacturing quality. In terms of written quality, however, I have a whole list of aggravations about clarity and accuracy, both with text on the cards and with the rulebook. You need to compare items in more than one location of the rules to get a full picture (e.g., my earlier comments about 3 or 4 resources). Even then you may get a contradiction (e.g., the 10-move cards say use, “only [italics theirs] if you are solely in last place,” but the rules clearly speak to ties). The rules are not incoherent; you will figure them out. I just think of it as too many edits by people who already knew what it was supposed to say and thought that it did. It needed a fresh set of eyes.

So how does it play? First I give some background. This item comes at the intersection of two of my interests; boardgames and NASCAR. I have an assortment of racing games that is difficult to count (you might exclude Mille Bornes. But what if the same game gets a new name with Green, Yellow and Red flags replacing Go, Stop and Speed Limit and Darrell Waltrip’s picture on the box?). My relatives share only one of those interests with me, and they will play only some of these games with me. This isn’t going to be one of them. I can’t answer the question with experience.

I can only speculate that the playing ratio of die to card will be too much die for my tastes. I had earlier thought the cards might come in more often. Also, “resource usage” helped pull me in, but altering your path for resource reasons rather than race traffic reasons seems right now as unlikely to entice me.

Which makes for a long ride (read) so far without a full answer to the question in the heading for this segment of the review. I hope it is, however, responsive to the questions I asked in the subject line and the opening.



Update: 4/26/07
supplementary information can be found in the session report here http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/163388


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Doug Palmer
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Nice review.

I too have a weak spot for racing games (NASCAR, CART, F1, SCCA, you name it). I can see where I'd get this one to simply fill out a collection, but not for actual gameplay. There are far too many superior games out there(based on your analysis of this game).
 
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Steven Packard
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Thanks for writing this. Good review.

I've been tempted to get this a few times, and like you I was never quite sure about how it played based on what was on BGG. Reading your review is the first time I think I have a handle on the basics of it.

I also love racing games and I also am likely to pick this up. I understand your misgivings about the game, but I like games that are different, and this certainly sounds different from my other racing games. That doesn't mean that it's a good game of course.
 
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Todd
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Phoenix
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I picked up the deluxe edition at "Tuesday Morning" for a very low price and found it to be worth it.
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