Drive is a set collection card game for 2 to 4 players with a collectible car theme. It’s designed by Michael Schacht, whose previous designs include Web of Power and Coloretto, and it’s published by SimplyFun. It’s basically a re-theming of a previous 2-player Schacht design, Crazy Chicken, only now it accommodates up to 4. Players score points by collecting the most valuable cars, i.e., playing melds. The player with the highest score after 3 rounds of collecting wins the game. Playing time can vary a bit, but most of our games have come in the 30 to 45 minute range.
Out of the Box
Drive is packaged in a sturdy little box along with a small board, 110 cards, a FunMemories booklet, and a rulebook. The small board, while really not needed to play, is well-made and illustrated to resemble a garage floor. It has spaces for two draw decks as well as two discard piles. The cards are made from good stock and also display a nicely illustrated classic car. Each card has a number which not only designates how many points a meld of that car is worth, it’s also the number of cards that are available for that car model; there are nine unique car models in all. The rules are short and to the point, and include a one-page “Quick Rules” for those that want to dive right in. The FunMemories booklet allows you to record a history of Drive games played.
Set up is short and sweet. Place the garage board in a central area. Shuffle all the car cards and deal three to each player as a starting hand. Divide the remaining cards into two equal draw decks and place them on the board spaces labeled “Draw.” Select a random player to start.
On your turn, you will draw two cards but they must be drawn from two different piles among the four available (2 draw decks, 2 discard piles). After drawing, you have 2 options: 1) Play one collection of cars, or 2) Discard one card face up to either discard pile. Play then passes to the left and continues until the round ends.
Only one collection of each model car is allowed at any one time. When laying down a meld that matches a previously played one, regardless of whether the previous meld was played by you or by an opponent, the newer meld must have more cards and the smaller meld is discarded onto one of the two discard piles. Also, you can never add cards to a previously played collection.
When discarding a card, if any of the discard piles are empty, the card must go there. Otherwise the card can go to either discard pile.
Scoring and Endgame
A round will continue until all nine types of cars are played as melds or until one of the draw decks is empty. When the round ends the score for that round will be tallied. For each meld you have in play, you get the number of points displayed on the card for that model car. Total the points for all your melds and record them. Play the next round.
The game will end after the third round. Add the scores from all three rounds to get a total score. The player with the highest total score is the winner.
Being a rummy variant, you’d expect this to be a fairly random game, and it is; the luck of the draw can have a significant impact in Drive. However, you do have some options that can increase your odds somewhat. First and foremost, be aware of the cards that have been played and discarded. Since you know how many of each card is initially available, you should be able to figure the most opportune times to play each meld. For example, if you have 3 cards in your hand of the “7” value and you recall that a “7” card has been discarded previously, you can play that meld and be pretty sure that no one will be able to play over it later. You’ll want to keep track of what your opponents are collecting as well and consider that when discarding; you don’t want discards that’ll help other players. Also, which deck you draw from can be significant. If you’re in the lead in melds played, it’s in your favor to get the round over quickly. If one draw deck is shorter than the other, you’ll want to draw from that one every turn; on the other hand, if you’re behind, you’ll want to avoid drawing from that one.
Drive is a pretty good set collection game. It makes for a decent filler in that it’s light, short, and has its fun moments as well. As a rummy variant, I like the uniqueness of not being able to add cards to melds and also being able to play over melds; those tweaks add a little more thought to the game. Although it scales fairly well up to four players, I like it best with two; you seem to have more flexibility and options with two. Although I haven’t tried it out on her yet, this also seems to be a game that I should be able to get my non-gaming wife to play with me. I currently rate Drive a “straight” 6.