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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Grand Prix
A game for 2-11 players designed by Jeff & Carla Horger


"IF is a very long word in Formula 1; in fact, IF is F1 spelled backwards."

Murray Walker


Introduction
Grand Prix is an F1 racing game, and both a mechanical and spiritual successor to Thunder Alley. When I reviewed the latter two years ago I concluded that I was keen for Grand Prix. I even went as far as to sponsor one of the teams.

Components
Grnad Prix comes with two double sided mounted map boards for a total of four tracks, but they are fully compatible with both Thunder Alley and the Thunder Alley: Expansion Tracks, so if you already own TA or the expansion tracks, you have an awful lot of variety available to you.

Image credit: Beatrix Schilke (HedgeWizzard)

Along with the map board and team cards there are rules, cars, damage markers, and two decks, one for the event cards and one for the movement cards.



Rules & Game Play
Grand Prix puts you in the driver's seat of F1 cars and abstracts a long race into about 3-4 laps (depending on which map/track you use). For the purpose of your team and your opponents, all cars are essentially the same. It's not team Honda vs. team Ferrari vs. team Mercedes, and there is no car construction, save for the selection of tires. Soft, regular, or wet (for rain).



No matter how many players there are, your team, insofar as vehicles you care about, is two cars. However, depending on the number of players, there will be a certain number of non-player cars (NPCs). At lower player counts some of the NPCs will be yours to control, but there will also be a few that are free for all to control on a first come first served basis.

Each player receives a hand of cards for the turn and in player order around the table, starting with the player whose team is pole position, everyone will activate a car, either one of theirs, an NPC they control, or a neutral NPC, play a race card, move it and probably others, and then flip the car over to show it's done for the turn.

Race cards show four kinds of movement. Along with the activated car, the other that may get moved depend on which type of card you used:

Line movement means you're moving cars both ahead and behind you.
Pursuit movement means you're potentially only moving cars ahead of you.
Lead movement means you're the head of a conga line and pulling everyone behind you.
Solo movement means just that. You're out for yourself.

When you enter a curve the number of lanes shrinks, often down to one, and vice versa when exiting. There is a lot of room for tactical maneuvering, and key here is that the active player makes all the decisions about how to move any cars they are affecting. This is especially important with conditional linking, which I won't attempt to explain save to say that it's the one thing in this game that can cause a little analysis paralysis, and I'll talk about it more in my conclusion.

Each race card has the potential to add damage to the activated car, and has a value associated with it. The value indicates how many spaces you'll need to give up in the pits to remove that specific damage. A tire marker might only be 1, but a damaged wing is 5, and an engine problem is 10. I note here that there's one very interesting design decision about this game, which is that NPCs take no damage, ever!

Damage can also affect the speed of your car. Once you get more than two damage, you reduce the speed on the played card by the damage on the car. If you activate a car with six damage on it, it is immediately retired from the race.

Once everyone has activated all their cars, the lead car gets a lap lead marker, and then a random event happens. Events range from weather effects to catastrophic crashes, just like regular F1.

After the event is resolved, players may choose (or not) to pit their cars. There's one important point about pit stops - in Grand Prix it's mandatory that at some point you change your tires, so you will have to pit at least once. Cars that don't pit are disqualified at the end.

I note here that I'm glossing over a lot of the details here, I'm just explaining the general feel of play, not the specifics.

Once a lead car crosses the finish line, the lap counter is incremented, and once a lead car crosses the finish line on the final lap, the game will end after the round robin portion, and any cars left on the track will earn finish markers in order.

Note that only the top 10 cars finishing the race will earn points, and only cars from your team count - the NPCs, whether controlled by your or neutral, don't count!

Conclusions
The one aspect of Grand Prix that is unlike Thunder Alley in its simplicity is the conditional linkage that chains of cars have. It means that when you're coming out of a curve, you get to decide which ones go left vs which ones go right. In the games we've played, this is the one thing that causes analysis paralysis than any other. It's not problematic and doesn't slow play that much, but I did notice it enough to feel it worth mentioning.

The other reason I mention is that in Grand Prix, there are way more ways to mess with the other players and their cars. For starters, the non-player cars never take damage and so never slow down. They're totally awesome for pushing your real team cars ahead and getting in the way of your opponents. And the neutral first-come first-served neutral cars are, simply, genius.

I observe that in Grand Prix, only the top 10 finishing cars get points, and 1st place at 25 points vs. 1 point for 10th means that if you get behind you're unlikely to win. In contrast, in Thunder Alley your team's aggregate score determines the winner, and you'll have at least three cars to do it with. And the point spread between first and last is less harsh. I feel this has the potential to make Grand Prix better for keeping score over a season of play over a one off evening's entertainment. That said, that matters only if you're only in it to win it. There's a lot of fun to be had by interfering with everyone else on the track.

Just like Thunder Alley gave the feel of NASCAR racing, Grand Prix does great job of giving the feel of F1. This sequel is more interesting in some ways, yet different enough to stand alone without detracting from the appeal of its predecessor.


Thank you for reading this latest installment of Roger's Reviews. I've been an avid board gamer all my life and a wargamer for over thirty years. I have a strong preference for well designed games that allow players to focus on trying to make good decisions.

Among my favourites I include Twilight Struggle, the Combat Commander Series, the Musket & Pike Battle Series, Julius Caesar, Maria, EastFront, Here I Stand, Napoleon's Triumph, Unhappy King Charles!

You can subscribe to my reviews at this geeklist: [Roger's Reviews] The Complete Collection and I also encourage you to purchase this very stylish microbadge: mb
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Chris in Kansai
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leroy43 wrote:

The one aspect of Grand Prix that is unlike Thunder Alley in its simplicity is the conditional linkage that chains of cars have. It means that when you're coming out of a curve, you get to decide which ones go left vs which ones go right.


This sounds like you're not playing conditional linking correctly. When coming out of a curve, the active car can push all the cars in front of it into one particular exit lane then unlink and take another exit lane. It can't push some cars into one lane and the rest into another. (See this thread for Jeff Horger's comments.)
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Chrysm wrote:
leroy43 wrote:

The one aspect of Grand Prix that is unlike Thunder Alley in its simplicity is the conditional linkage that chains of cars have. It means that when you're coming out of a curve, you get to decide which ones go left vs which ones go right.


This sounds like you're not playing conditional linking correctly. When coming out of a curve, the active car can push all the cars in front of it into one particular exit lane then unlink and take another exit lane. It can't push some cars into one lane and the rest into another. (See this thread for Jeff Horger's comments.)

Aha! Well, I was basing out play on his prior response here - https://boardgamegeek.com/article/23845350#23845350 which says the opposite.
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Darrell Hanning
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Okay, so the cars look like F1 cars, but the system doesn't give me any "feel" of F1 at all. It's essentially an evolution of Wolfgang Kramer's system found in Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix - cards dictate movement of (usually) more than one car.

It's a system so abstract in comparison to the sport that it amounts to just a card-playing game with a racing theme.

Don't get me wrong - I think the system is fun, and I enjoyed it in Thunder Alley. It's just that I still can't see the merit of owning both. They're too much like each other, and both too little like the actual sport.
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Brian S.
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DarrellKH wrote:
They're too much like each other, and both too little like the actual sport.
I think Thunder Alley captures the chaos of NASCAR nicely. Only have played Grand Prix once, but my experience was that there was too much passing to feel like F1. That said, a game that truly felt like modern F1 probably would not be a very fun game.
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John R
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DarrellKH wrote:
Okay, so the cars look like F1 cars, but the system doesn't give me any "feel" of F1 at all.


Totally agree. If you are looking for an F1 simulator this is not it. But, I like the game for what it is - fun. I wouldn't participate in a season campaign but to be used as a one off filler game this is perfect.

Also, have recently picked up Thunder Alley. Haven't tried it out yet.
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Aaron Silverman
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I'm not that familiar with F1, but IMO Thunder Alley definitely has the feel of NASCAR racing. Is it a detailed simulation? Maybe not, but most "detailed simulations" of sports are more dice-rolling or card-drawing exercises than they are real games.
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
I'm not that familiar with F1, but IMO Thunder Alley definitely has the feel of NASCAR racing. Is it a detailed simulation? Maybe not, but most "detailed simulations" of sports are more dice-rolling or card-drawing exercises than they are real games.


And chart consulting.
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Darrell Hanning
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
I'm not that familiar with F1, but IMO Thunder Alley definitely has the feel of NASCAR racing. Is it a detailed simulation? Maybe not, but most "detailed simulations" of sports are more dice-rolling or card-drawing exercises than they are real games.


Neither of these games warrants being called a "simulation", detailed or otherwise. They are simply racing games, with mechanisms that cause cardboard counters to move around a track. They always go in the proper direction, but never exhibit braking behavior, loss of grip in corners, etc. Nothing from real life is being modeled save appearance from a distance.
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Alex
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I think a proper game about F1 would involve economics, technological development, intrigue, and luck.

Each race would just be rolling a couple of dice because the team that manages all that other stuff is going to win.

Unless it rains.
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Aaron Silverman
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DarrellKH wrote:
DJ Kuul A wrote:
I'm not that familiar with F1, but IMO Thunder Alley definitely has the feel of NASCAR racing. Is it a detailed simulation? Maybe not, but most "detailed simulations" of sports are more dice-rolling or card-drawing exercises than they are real games.


Neither of these games warrants being called a "simulation", detailed or otherwise. They are simply racing games, with mechanisms that cause cardboard counters to move around a track. They always go in the proper direction, but never exhibit braking behavior, loss of grip in corners, etc. Nothing from real life is being modeled save appearance from a distance.


There are different levels of simulation that cover detail from different distances. Is OCS DAK not a simulation because it doesn't have a pasta rule?
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Darrell Hanning
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
DJ Kuul A wrote:
I'm not that familiar with F1, but IMO Thunder Alley definitely has the feel of NASCAR racing. Is it a detailed simulation? Maybe not, but most "detailed simulations" of sports are more dice-rolling or card-drawing exercises than they are real games.


Neither of these games warrants being called a "simulation", detailed or otherwise. They are simply racing games, with mechanisms that cause cardboard counters to move around a track. They always go in the proper direction, but never exhibit braking behavior, loss of grip in corners, etc. Nothing from real life is being modeled save appearance from a distance.


There are different levels of simulation that cover detail from different distances. Is OCS DAK not a simulation because it doesn't have a pasta rule?


Wow, what a strawman.

What "detail" is it that Grand Prix covers "from a distance"? Name one. Better still, name three. After all, you're arguing it's some kind of simulation. Surely you can come up with three.

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Jeff Horger
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Chill out all. Grand Prix is a racing game with some of the trappings of F1 racing. It is a simulation in that any game covering a theme is a simulation of that theme to some degree. Carla & I used the parts that made sense and ignored the parts that didn't work. We just kept the parts that we and the play testers felt was the most "fun". That is subjective for sure.

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Aaron Silverman
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DarrellKH wrote:
DJ Kuul A wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
DJ Kuul A wrote:
I'm not that familiar with F1, but IMO Thunder Alley definitely has the feel of NASCAR racing. Is it a detailed simulation? Maybe not, but most "detailed simulations" of sports are more dice-rolling or card-drawing exercises than they are real games.


Neither of these games warrants being called a "simulation", detailed or otherwise. They are simply racing games, with mechanisms that cause cardboard counters to move around a track. They always go in the proper direction, but never exhibit braking behavior, loss of grip in corners, etc. Nothing from real life is being modeled save appearance from a distance.


There are different levels of simulation that cover detail from different distances. Is OCS DAK not a simulation because it doesn't have a pasta rule?


Wow, what a strawman.

What "detail" is it that Grand Prix covers "from a distance"? Name one. Better still, name three. After all, you're arguing it's some kind of simulation. Surely you can come up with three.



Speaking of straw men, I wasn't saying anything about Grand Prix.
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Darrell Hanning
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
DJ Kuul A wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
DJ Kuul A wrote:
I'm not that familiar with F1, but IMO Thunder Alley definitely has the feel of NASCAR racing. Is it a detailed simulation? Maybe not, but most "detailed simulations" of sports are more dice-rolling or card-drawing exercises than they are real games.


Neither of these games warrants being called a "simulation", detailed or otherwise. They are simply racing games, with mechanisms that cause cardboard counters to move around a track. They always go in the proper direction, but never exhibit braking behavior, loss of grip in corners, etc. Nothing from real life is being modeled save appearance from a distance.


There are different levels of simulation that cover detail from different distances. Is OCS DAK not a simulation because it doesn't have a pasta rule?


Wow, what a strawman.

What "detail" is it that Grand Prix covers "from a distance"? Name one. Better still, name three. After all, you're arguing it's some kind of simulation. Surely you can come up with three.



Speaking of straw men, I wasn't saying anything about Grand Prix.


Then you posted to the wrong forum. Wargames are down the hall, on the right.
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Aaron Silverman
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Meet me over there! I'm on a serious Band of Brothers kick.

Maybe with a side of Maneouvre, since this is Jeff's topic. Always up for a side of Maneouvre. . .
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Nathan James
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abonosky wrote:
I think a proper game about F1 would involve economics, technological development, intrigue, and luck.

Each race would just be rolling a couple of dice because the team that manages all that other stuff is going to win.

Unless it rains.

I regret that I have but one thumb to give this comment.
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