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Subject: Yellow Jersey - Creaking Shelves Reviews Flamme Rouge rss

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Creaking Shelves
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“And the breakaway is past the Flamme Rouge! Into the final km of the race and a select group has formed, it’s going to come down to who can make the calculation, who can turn themselves inside out for the bonifications. Everyone is looking at each other, green looks to be turning himself inside out! Red is dancing on the pedals whereas blue is going backwards! This will be the race of the Tour! Isn’t that right Sean?”

“Yep.”

“Thanks Sean.”

Bicycle races are coming your way

If none of that intro made sense then don’t worry because even though Flamme Rouge is a game about cycle racing, you don’t need to know anything about cycling to enjoy this game, although if you do you’ll probably appreciate some of these mechanisms that little bit more. No, there’s no doping. This is the 1930s.

So why, WHY, should you spend your time looking at a game of cycle racing this Essen when there are so many exciting games coming out? Well why don’t I give you some compelling reasons before I jump in and explain why this game is fricking awesome.

d10-1Elegantly ingenious mechanics – and I’m not just talking about the carbon fibre frames and perfectly oiled chainset
d10-2Tiny rulebook – the rules fit on a single page for the main game. ONE PAGE!
d10-3Designer pedigree – this comes from Asger Sams Granerud who is a pretty new designer, but is responsible for the exceptional 13 Days that I looked at recently. This is a designer to watch!
d10-4Art – A beautiful pastelly art style that really captures the 30’s spring/summer time aesthetic they’re going for. Just look at those player boards:



d10-5Fitness – cycling is proven to get you fit… have I got that right?

Hopefully that’s grabbed your attention. Read on to find out more!

On your marks, get set, go!

Each player is in control of a pair of humorously moustached cyclists, each of which is represented by a little plastic model and a deck of numbered cards. These cards determine the distance your cyclists will move on a given turn. One cyclist is your sprinteur, who sprints, the other is your rouleur, who… rolls? And their two decks have a different card distribution (your sprinteur has 2s and 9s, your rouleur has 6s and 7s, and they both have 3s, 4s and 5s). By the way, I’m so glad this blog is written so I don’t have to try and pronounce those words over the internet…

Each turn you’ll draw 4 cards from the top of your deck, play one face down and discard the rest face up below your deck (so that when you get down to a face up card you know to shuffle the deck afresh). Then you’ll do the same with the other deck, forcing you into your first choice: which cyclist to move first, an actual decision at times since good coordination of your cyclists can be important to doing well. Once everyone has chosen their cards, you simultaneously reveal your chosen cards and move the cyclists on the board. A process made a little clunky by the hard to distinguish bicycle models but you do get used to it by the end of your first game. Then those cards you played are gone. For good. That’s right, cycling just got serious.



Every card you play is a key decision for the very simple reason that you’ll never see it again. There are 3 of each card in your deck, so when do you play those high value cards? When do you play those awfully slow 2s and 3s? This “deck deconstruction” mechanic is perfect at capturing how you need to manage your energy over a long, intense race. You might not play every card over the course of the race, but it might come close and it’s certainly possible to run out entirely and just roll to a stop, exhausted, just short of the finish line…

I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle

The first player to move each turn is the front most cyclist and then resolved one bike at a time, meaning the closer you are to the front the more flexibility you have. While you can smoothly move through characters, once both lanes of a space is filled you cannot stop in that space, resulting in the trailing cyclists occasionally wasting effort by not getting the full distance from their card and running into the backs of other cyclists too often is how you end up running out steam before the finish.



So everyone wants to be at the front right? This is a race after all? Well, no, because as any cyclist knows, air is hard to move. The front most rider(s) of each pack (cyclists hunt in packs) takes a rubbish exhausted card and adds it to their discards, clogging up their deck with worse cards, as they do the bulk of the work against air resistance while the rest of the riders use them as a convenient wind break. The longer you stay at the front, the more of these you get and the worse and worse your deck gets. You can play them in the same way as other cards but you’ll rapidly lose ground if you need to play too many.

Even better, if you have a single space between two packs of riders, the rear packs get free moves to close up the gaps thanks to the “slipstream” generated by the leading riders! Thus, with clever card play or a little luck, you can get free moves at the back. This is a real effect used in proper cycling races for strategic effect. Making good use of this in game is hugely satisfying! So now you have a good reason to be at the back of the pack too! But don’t fall too far behind. If you’re left two spaces away from the next pack you miss out on the slipstream and you end up with an exhausted card and are looking at having to play a big card to catch up… not a good place to be! You’ll have to look deep into your suitcase of courage to make up for that error… but even if you can’t, its not the end of the world. You only need to cross the line first with one of your riders to win.



I want to ride it where I like

The track is fully modular, and the individual sections are themselves double sided offering a whole bunch of possible tracks to be racing over. The box comes with 6 tracks to build, which offers a fine degree of replayability, though I can’t help thinking there could have been more, I mean, they only require a card each.

Flipping over some of the sections opens up the mountain sections, which really bring the game to life. The ascent sections slow you down: no matter what card you play, the furthest you’ll travel is 5 spaces if you spend any amount of time on the slope. Ensuring you get off the hill when you try to is so important, so if you get blocked at the top you’ll scream with frustration! Needless to say I always try and block off the top of any hill I’m on. You’ll also not benefit from slipstreaming when on the hill, resulting in the group fracturing.



Happily, what goes up must go down and when you move off the nasty red sections you reach the sweeping relief of the downhill blue sections. Even the most exhausted rider can free-wheel down the slope to achieve a minimum speed of 5 (I’m the rider that’s slumped over their handlebars leaving a trail of sweat like some part human part bike part slug hybrid by the way).

Needless to say the mountains are both an intimidating prospect and a magnificent opportunity. They rise from the table to dominate your horizon from the very start line. You need to prepare. As you get closer you’ll be counting the spaces and trying to judge your leap towards them. It’s perfectly thematic and mechanically challenging and after your first game I doubt you’ll ever play without them.

The one issue this game faces, in my opinion, is that the mountains are the only way of mixing up the tracks. All those bends and corners can create varied track shapes, but mechanically they have no effect on the game: you may as well be playing on a straight track, if you only had a large enough table. Additionally, every track uses all the tiles; your decks need to be balanced to the length of the track so that you can make it across the finish line most of the time (but leaving you with that risk of failure if you lose too many spaces of movement to running into your opponents). This drastically limits the freedom for future track creation. Even though it would complicate the game I’d love to see some rules that make the corners more challenging, after all it is most often at the corners that the exciting crashes happen. For the base game as it is I think you’re fine, and hopefully this gives scope for future expansions, but I was expecting more variable tracks than there currently is.



Flamme Rouge is a fantastically fun game. Simple to learn, easy to play, yet full of difficult decisions. The ‘deck deconstruction’ system at the heart of the game beautifully captures the challenge of managing your energy verses managing your position in the pack and the mountains jack this challenge up substantially. The reveal of cards is tense and exciting as you hope you’ve correctly predicted your opponents and not been out manoeuvred. Whether you get a slipstream bonus or crash into an opponent has an element of luck but it’s not so much that you feel out of control. Winning the race is all about managing your deck correctly and timing your sprint for the end, just as a cycling race should be!



Rating: Yellow Jersey



My copy of Flamme Rouge was provided for review by Wilderland Campaigns on behalf of Lautapelit.fi.

If you have enjoyed this review, you can read more of my reviews and other board game articles over on my blog, www.creakingshelves.com
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Pee di Moor
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Quote:
No, there’s no doping. This is the 1930s.

Hmm, it seems you need to update your knowledge of cycling history .....
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Asger Harding Granerud
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Early Flamme Rouge prototype
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moorwild wrote:
Quote:
No, there’s no doping. This is the 1930s.

Hmm, it seems you need to update your knowledge of cycling history .....


There is no doping in the game. Now lets leave the tedious talk about doping, and minor historical accuracy on the side of the road. Like a flat tire, spent and discarded.

One of the joys of gaming is that we can play wargames where we brutally murder each other, with a certain distance to it. Or even Mr Jack...

Thanks a bunch for the review Mr Creaking Shelves! Absolutely thrilled you liked it, and hope it will hit the table many more times

Happy racing
Asger Granerud
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Yani
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AsgerSG wrote:
moorwild wrote:
Quote:
No, there’s no doping. This is the 1930s.

Hmm, it seems you need to update your knowledge of cycling history .....


There is no doping in the game. Now lets leave the tedious talk about doping, and minor historical accuracy on the side of the road. Like a flat tire, spent and discarded.

One of the joys of gaming is that we can play wargames where we brutally murder each other, with a certain distance to it. Or even Mr Jack...

Thanks a bunch for the review Mr Creaking Shelves! Absolutely thrilled you liked it, and hope it will hit the table many more times

Happy racing
Asger Granerud


I agree with the OP Asger, you got to evolve the system to add more (but modular) complexity in terms of tiles and extra rules. Heck, you might even call it "legacy" and get away with it.. whistle
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Hardy
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coralsaw wrote:
[Heck, you might even call it "legacy" and get away with it.. whistle


There is already a "legacy" variant online.
Grand Tour Rules, where you keep half of your exhaustion for the next race.
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Creaking Shelves
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moorwild wrote:
Quote:
No, there’s no doping. This is the 1930s.

Hmm, it seems you need to update your knowledge of cycling history .....


Good grief, so I do! Maybe I can get away with it if I claim I was being ironic... Thanks for the clarification


AsgerSG wrote:
There is no doping in the game. Now lets leave the tedious talk about doping, and minor historical accuracy on the side of the road. Like a flat tire, spent and discarded.

One of the joys of gaming is that we can play wargames where we brutally murder each other, with a certain distance to it. Or even Mr Jack...

Thanks a bunch for the review Mr Creaking Shelves! Absolutely thrilled you liked it, and hope it will hit the table many more times

Happy racing
Asger Granerud


You're very welcome!


coralsaw wrote:
I agree with the OP Asger, you got to evolve the system to add more (but modular) complexity in terms of tiles and extra rules. Heck, you might even call it "legacy" and get away with it.. whistle


From what Asger said to me at Essen, he has plenty of ideas for expansion material! Fingers crossed there's demand.


actaion wrote:
There is already a "legacy" variant online. Grand Tour Rules, where you keep half of your exhaustion for the next race.


Ah yes! I'd seen those were around. I'll have to arrange an evening's tour at some point!
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Richard Dewsbery
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Creaking shelves wrote:
“And the breakaway is past the Flamme Rouge! Into the final km of the race and a select group has formed, it’s going to come down to who can make the calculation, who can turn themselves inside out for the bonifications. Everyone is looking at each other, green looks to be turning himself inside out! Red is dancing on the pedals whereas blue is going backwards! This will be the race of the Tour! Isn’t that right Sean?”

“Yep.”

“Thanks Sean.”


I like what you did there!
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