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Subject: GEAR HEAD - Build the Best Race Car rss

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Chad Smith
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GEAR HEAD

Race to build the most powerful car you can.

At a glance:

2-6 players (up to 12 players with 2 decks)
15 minutes
Ages 12 and up
Complexity: Low-Medium


Components used:

All 54 cards


Setup:

Shuffle the cards.
Deal each player 6 cards.
Place the remaining cards in a single stack, face down in the midst of the players. This is the "Parts Deck" (Draw Deck).
The top card is removed from the deck and placed next to it, face up, to begin the "Scrap Heap" (Discard Pile).


Goal:

The goal is build the most powerful race car possible, as quickly as possible. To do this, each player seeks to get one of each of the 6 Parts needed to build a race car.

The Parts includes Fuel (the Raindrop), Pistons (the Hammers), Battery (the Circles - they are "atoms" here, and thus electricity), a Driveshaft (the Bricks), Tires (the Cog), and a Gearshift (the Arrow). To build a functioning car, one of each Part must be present.



However, the goal is not simply to complete a car, but to build the most powerful car. The part's power is determined by the number on the card. The higher the number, the more powerful the part. The more powerful the parts, the more powerful the car.


Play:

Players take turns either (a) drawing a card from the face-down Parts Deck, or (b) taking the top card from the Scrap Heap. The player then either discards a card to the Scrap Heap and ends their turn, or "Pulls up the the Starting Line". The next player begins their turn.

Pulling up to the Starting Line means discarding one card from their hand - and then placing their cards, face down on the table and declaring "Start your engines!". Once a player is at the starting line, they are no longer drawing or discarding.

The player who pulls up to the starting line first gets 3 bonus points added to their vehicle's power rating. The second player gets 2 bonus points. The third gets one. After the 3rd player, there are no more bonus points.

Players can continue to take their turns as long as there are at least 2 players not yet at the Starting Line. When there are only 2 players left, the final player only gets one turn after the other player pulls up to the starting line.

If the final player does not have a completed vehicle (meaning one of each part) in their hand. They are out of this race.

If the Parts Deck is ever exhausted during a race, the Scrap Heap is turned over, shuffled, and then becomes the Parts Deck. The top card is turned over to start the new Scrap Heap.


Winner:

After every player is at the starting line, they declare (in order of pulling up to the starting line) the point total for their vehicle. This is calculated simply by adding all the numbers on their parts, and whatever "Pole Position" bonus they may have received by being 1st, 2nd, or 3rd to the starting line.

The player with the highest score wins.

In the event of a tie - the player with the most matching colors on their cards comes in first, and wins the race.


Advanced - "Race Circuit":

If players want to play more than one race, they can play a "Race Circuit" - which consists of a number of races (hands) played in a given time.

Scoring for overall winner of the Race Circuit (game) would be determined based on the position of players in each race (hand). This is calculated by giving each player points based on their position in each race.

The score is based on the number of players per race, with the first place racer in each race receiving the same number of points as players in the race. (Players who do not complete their vehicle in a given race are still counted towards that total.)

So if there are 4 players in a race, the player who got first place in that race would receive 4 points, the first runner up (second place) would get 3 points, the next player would get 2 points, and the final racer would get 1 point. If a player is unable to complete their vehicle - they receive 0 points for that race.

This can be calculated per race, in case the number of players changes throughout a race circuit.
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Jørgen Brunborg-Næss
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Cool! I really like the way you have themed all the symbols to a car/engine setting.

The game is about as simple as card games can get, I guess, and I almost feel it doesn't do justice to the rich setting you have created around it.

Perhaps a few twists could make it a little more interesting:

- Say that instead of adding up the total value of all the car parts, you go through part by part to see who wins each. So you start with fuel, and the winner gets one point. Then you move to pistons. But to allow for a little bit of choice and risk management: The highest card wins, unless you hold a 1, and yours is the only 1 for that part. There are three 1's in the deck for each symbol, so you will need to gamble.

- Maybe add some drafting of cards, either at the start of the game or each turn. This will give some information as to which cards the other players might have, and combined with the "single 1 wins" rule it adds a little bit of depth.
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Chad Smith
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The risk/reward aspect is choosing when to start the race. If you have once of each part, but your total is only 10 - do you keep trying to get better parts - or do you hope that the 3 bonus points for being first will put you ahead. And since the completed cars are face down - the remaining players have to decide if they jump on the next bonus or keep trying to get better parts. The first player could have 36 - or they could have 6.

As you pointed out - the lower numbered parts are more common, so getting a 6 part might make you want to head to the starting line right away. The idea did occur to me to make having a "6" car (all 1-point parts) be like "Shooting the moon" in Spades - but with 3 ones per part, I didn't think that would be good.

I did think about adding an actual race component - wherein the tiles would be used for a track, and the cubes would race around it, and maybe the points for the parts determined where you started, or how many dice you rolled - but that seemed like an unnecessary add-on since there are only 2 dice, and starting as many as 33 places ahead of someone basically guarantees a win.

(a 36 car that goes out first = 39 points. A 6 car that goes out 4th or later = 6 points ---- 33 point spread.)

Even with a smaller points spread - it would be difficult to build a "track" long enough that chance would consistently overcome those differences.

On top of all that - it would just be adding another layer of chance to the game, and not really adding any complexity. The dice-driven race would basically be busy work, and diminish the importance of the choices the players did get to make while building their car.


There can be more strategy than just "Keep drawing until I get a 6". You can do some card counting. If players are only discarding 1s, and you have one of each part - then you can probably still keep improving. If people are discarding 4s - then you might want to go for those bonus points as soon as possible. Also you can watch what people are picking up off the scrap heap.

With the "who wins each part" idea - you can run into multiple ties. With 3 players, for example, each player might end up with 2 parts that they win each. Or with 5 players, 3 might be trying for that "Lone 1" option, and the other 2 player each have a 2 part. What then?

TBH - I wasn't that familiar with the concept of Card Drafting. I had to look that up.

Yes, you could play the game that way. Have a central "Parts Shop" that has the same number of parts available as players at any given time. Then players could pick from the "Part Shop" or the top card from the "Grab Bag" [I'd need a better name, I think] - aka the face-down Deck - or the top card from the Junk Heap / discard pile. (whenever a card is removed from the Part Shop - it is replaced by the top card of the face-down deck).

I haven't play tested this at all - especially not with any proposed changes - but I feel like the card drafting option would make it too quick. You would have too many opportunity to get 4s, 5s, and 6s. And that would only add to the first player advantage.

---

I did have some vague idea about making it a more interactive game - using the cubes as money - and giving each player a starting amount of money - and then buying parts from the store - and even buying parts from each other - or trading. (E.G. "I'll give you my 4 Fuel and 10 cubes for your 5 Piston.") That would be a completely different game, and it would be much more knowledge based. The only luck aspect would be what parts come up when. So I would still want a reward for building your car first - otherwise everyone would just keep waiting for those 6's to show up.
 
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Jørgen Brunborg-Næss
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chad78 wrote:
The risk/reward aspect is choosing when to start the race.

Yes, of course. The game as you have described it is clean and simple, and can very well stand on it's own. I'm not a big fan of games of chance, so I probably won't play it much, but tastes differ :-)


chad78 wrote:

I did think about adding an actual race component - wherein the tiles would be used for a track, and the cubes would race around it, and maybe the points for the parts determined where you started, or how many dice you rolled - but that seemed like an unnecessary add-on since there are only 2 dice, and starting as many as 33 places ahead of someone basically guarantees a win.

Adding an actual race would be cool when the game is themed to be about building cars for a race.

But what if the "race" is simply a way to keep track of score, and doesn't have any additional mechanics on its own?

Sticking with the "who wins each part" idea, you can score each part as you originally suggested scoring the race, i.e. you get as many points for each part as the number of players you beat. So in a 4-player game the winner of one part would usually get 3, the second 2 and the third 1 point. Ties is not a problem, as in your 1-1-1-2-2 example, both players holding a 2 would get 3 points. These points move your car around the race track, and including bonuses for being the first to "pull up to the starting line". You could even join the race with an "incomplete" car, possibly with an additional penalty.

Then you play multiple hands, and the goal is to be the first around the track (i.e. score 36 points or more). You could have one race last three rounds to get a longer game, or just start over if that's more fun.

chad78 wrote:

TBH - I wasn't that familiar with the concept of Card Drafting. I had to look that up.

I see the definition of "Card Drafting" is any way you have a choice regarding what card you put in your hand, but I was thinking specifically of a popular mechanism where you start with a set of cards in your hand, but then you pass most of these to the next player.

So: Deal 6 cards to each player. Each player keeps one card and passes 5 to the left. Then each player keeps one of those 5 and passes 4, and so forth. Or keep two and send the rest, so the cards don't make it around the whole table with fewer players. Then you have a lot of control over your starting hand, and some knowledge of what other cards are out there. After drafting is finished, your game starts normally by drawing and discarding until everyone is read to start. Maybe a full round of drawing and discarding is required before anyone is allowed to pull up.

chad78 wrote:

I haven't play tested this at all - especially not with any proposed changes - but I feel like the card drafting option would make it too quick. You would have too many opportunity to get 4s, 5s, and 6s. And that would only add to the first player advantage.

It will definitely be quicker to put together a complete car this way, but if the game is supposed to continue across several hands, then this is an advantage rather than a disadvantage. Drafting from an open set of random cards might increase the first player advantage, but not drafting from each players starting hand as suggested above.

All right, this may be a different game altogether, and as I said, your original game is really clean and good as it is :-)

chad78 wrote:

I did have some vague idea about making it a more interactive game - using the cubes as money - and giving each player a starting amount of money - and then buying parts from the store - and even buying parts from each other - or trading. (E.G. "I'll give you my 4 Fuel and 10 cubes for your 5 Piston.") That would be a completely different game, and it would be much more knowledge based. The only luck aspect would be what parts come up when. So I would still want a reward for building your car first - otherwise everyone would just keep waiting for those 6's to show up.

This sounds cool also, buying and trading is nice. So maybe we can have a whole family of car building games
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Chad Smith
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The more I think about it, the more the idea of card drafting seems to work for this game.

Somebody might get a hand of 4 fuels and 2 tires, only having 2 options - with only 1 of them known (the original way, deck and discard) - it would take a while in the best circumstances to even get a working car, must less a powerful one. With Drafting, there's far more of a chance.

Yes, it might speed up the game, but the game might need speeding up.

Also - a way to slightly offset the first player advantage would be they start the discard pile, meaning they have one less option on their first turn.

What do you think?
 
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Alexandre Santos
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I love the theme, and the idea of building your car!

It looks like a nice push your luck game, which could be interesting in the championship variant you mention.

But I would have to playtest it to have a better appreciation on how the game actually plays, and if it needs more work.

I would defenitely hold on to the idea of building the car while developing the game further!

A little suggestions«: why don't you use some tile draw to define the race conditions?

Let's say that for instance 5 tiles are picked face down, and every round one is returned (weather predictions are getting more precise, a change in the championship rules, etc).

When the first players is ready for the race, no more tiles are returned until the actual race, and the rest as to make with the info they have.

Once the race starts, all tiles are uncovered, and provide scoring opportunities depending on the tiles present (details on this scoring opportunities will require a better understanding of the game), for instance the number of tiles of each symbol is a multiplier for the car value for that symbol.

This suggestion beefs up the race part, while still reinforcing the goal of the game: build a great racing car!
 
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Alexandre Santos
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You could also increase the strategic depth of the game by picking five or six tiles per race, up to 30 tiles before completing the championship (so that 6 tiles are not part of the championship).

In this way people can start trying to infer what kind of car to build depending on which tiles already came out, and what is likely to come in the next race.
 
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Benson Wolfe
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I instantly liked this game when Chad posted it, and worked up a couple of thoughts to share. In my youth I squandered many an hour playing a computer game about building, racing, and upgrading a hot rod. It was set in the U.S. in the 60's. You started with a pretty crummy car and a little money, and the primary way you advanced was to work on your car and challenge other drivers to drag races in hopes of winning a little cash (or, if you were feeling really bold, you could bet pink slips and the winner kept the loser's car).

In order to address the "hand full of tires and fuel" problem mentioned above, I incorporated a premise from that video game: you begin with a complete car. It isn't great, but it runs. And then you have some choices to make about whether to take it out and race it, or stay in the garage and keep trying to improve it. (Also there's a slightly apocalyptic/zombie mechanism, to keep things moving. Call it what you will.) It needs refinement, but in principle this combines the "build a car" aspect (which has a good sort of rummy feel) with some time pressure and enough luck to reflect the fact that the guy with the best car doesn't always win.

Players: 2 (3 might work--I tested for two)
Components: 12 tiles (two of each symbol) + 12 more tiles (any); 2 different cubes; All the cards except the pink "1"s; one die
Time: 10-15 minutes

Setup:
1. Separate all 18 of the "1" cards. Put the six pink ones aside; you will not use them. Give each player one full set of "car parts" cards valued at 1. This is the beat-up pile of junk that you start with, but it runs. (Incidentally, I think of the re-vamped arrow symbol as the body, or frame of the car--it's shaped a lot like a drag racer to my eye).
2. Shuffle the remaining cards valued 2-6 and place them face-down in a draw pile.
3. Give each player one full set of car-part tiles and arrange them, symbols up, in front of each player.
4. Lay out the remaining 12 tiles face down in a track. Place the two cubes (one "car" for each player) on the fourth tile from one end. They'll be drag racing to the far end.


(Imagine the six cards held in hand. The near player is using the pink 1's in this picture, but later I decided it'd be easier to pull those out and use both sets of green.)

4. Deal three additional cards face down to each player. Each player then selects six total cards of the nine he holds to make up his car, and "installs" them by placing them face down adjacent to the corresponding tiles in front of him. The remaining three cards stay in his hand. A player can always look at the cards that compose his own car.

Play:
1. Each turn a player may either (a) work on his car, or (b) challenge his opponent to a race.
2. Working on the Car - Draw 3 cards, either from anywhere in the scrap heap (see below) and/or the top of the draw deck, in any combination. Replace any number of your installed car parts from your hand. Discard down to 3 and put the discards in the scrap heap.
3. Challenging to a Race - Roll the die. The number rolled represents the car part that will determine who wins the race. So if the challenger rolls a "5," the outcome of the race is going to depend on who has better tires. The challenger is stuck with the number he rolls. The player receiving the challenge can either accept it and race, or "chicken out."
3A. Chicken Out - The challenged player declines to race, and allows the challenger to draw one card at random from his hand. The challenger then proceeds with his turn as normal, drawing 3 (for a hand total now of 7), swapping parts, and discarding down to 3. Play then passes to the player who was challenged, who draws 3 for a hand total of 5, swaps, and discards to 3.
3B. Race! - Both players turn over the part card indicated by the die roll (then put it face down again). The player with the higher value moves his card forward by the difference between the two. So a player with "5" tires wins over "3" tires, and moves forward two tiles on the drag strip. In the event of a tie, no players moves. If a race is accepted, regardless of outcome, the player who issued the challenge does not draw or swap parts, and play passes to the next player.
4. End of Turn - Every round, after both players have taken a turn, remove one tile from the end of the track behind the cars. Imagine this to be an approaching swarm of zombies, or the earth's crust collapsing into a chasm, what-have-you. It's just something designed to get the gearheads to stop tinkering endlessly and DRIVE.

Here's the board after a few turns:



Endgame: The game ends when one player drives forward off the last tile in the track (winner, kisses his best girl), OR, when one player is on the rearmost tile in the track when it is removed (loser, dies horribly). If both players are on the rearmost tile when it is removed, you can either bump them both up one, or consider them both losers--just house-rule that however you want.

Notes:

The length of the track and starting position might need to be refined. If the track is too long the players work through the whole deck and everyone is driving 5's and 6's. If it's too short, one good race (6 v. 1) can all but end the game. I see no reason this variant couldn't work with three players, but the length of track may need to be different. Beyond 3 players and you'd run out of "1" cards to start with (unless you play with two GBOG sets).

The variant preserves the opportunity noted above to watch your opponent's hands closely, to see what he replaces, discards, or keeps. There's also some opportunity for subterfuge, "false swaps," and misleading discards.

Opting to race earlier is riskier, in that your car is undeveloped, but could pay off with a lucky roll (your opponent's car is undeveloped as well). Also, having that seventh card in your hand can make a big difference early in the race when you have a lot more room for improvement.

The natural tendency will be to discard the lowest possible values to the scrap heap (to keep them from being picked up for free), but the "chicken out" mechanism provides a counter-incentive not to hold too many rich parts in your hand.

Drawing from the top of the deck every time in hopes of pulling a 6 can be tempting. But given the short track, there can be real value to upgrading a "1" value slot to a 2 or a 3 from the scrap heap, if only to keep a losing race from being an absolute blow-out.
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Jørgen Brunborg-Næss
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captainexpert wrote:
I instantly liked this game when Chad posted it, and worked up a couple of thoughts to share. In my youth I squandered many an hour playing a computer game about building, racing, and upgrading a hot rod. It was set in the U.S. in the 60's.

Ah, Street Rod! 1989, those were the days :-D



It seems we've got a whole family of car themed games going on here, and that's very cool!

I like the concept of working on your car until you are ready to challenge. I think perhaps the incentives to issue a challenge are a bit weak, as you will likely often lose the race and end up pushing your opponent forward and losing a turn in the process. Maybe the challenger should get to draw an wxtra card or something to "sweeten the pill".

Also, you probably want to manipulate the deck to get the highest value cards near the bottom. Otherwise, a lucky player getting a couple of 6's in the first round is probably guaranteed a win.
 
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