Bumper cars, that is the theme of this game as each player tries to maneuver their scooter around a small space gaining points for hitting others, but losing points for getting hit. The board is nice piece of wood with 38 hexes (5-6-5-6-5-6-5) carved into its surface. Each of the 2 inch hexes can hold 1 scooter. The scooters themselves are nice wooden pieces with a nail stuck in the back - both to represent the connecting rod to the power grid above the scooter arena and to hold chits that represent the scooter's speed. A game consists of 11 turns. Each turn consists of 2 phases - planning and action.
In the planning phase, each player simultaneously (and secretly) decides their cars motion for that turn. Movement ranges from a slow, but nimble 1 hex move, to the fast, but straight, 3 hex move. For a 1 hex move, the scooter moves to the hex ahead of it and then can make a sharp turn of up to 2 hexsides. For a 3 hex move, the scooter can only move through the 3 hexes in front of it without turning. A 2 hex move allows the scooter to move forward 2 hexes, but is limited to gentle turns of 1 hexside. Furthermore, a player may increase or decrease speed by 1 each turn (but may not come to a complete standstill (movement = 0) voluntarily. Each of the possible maneuvers is matched to a letter from A ~ P. A player selects the letter for the corresponding maneuver and enters it on their maneuver log.
The maneuver log lists each turn for each player. As the game can play 8 players, there are 88 turns listed. Each turn is numbered from 1 to 88. The numbering snakes back and forth, so that players that have low numbers in the first row will have higher numbers in the second row. What is the importance of the number? Each turn, the person with the lowest numbered maneuver goes first and proceeds in rank order until the person with the highest numbered maneuver moves last. Therefore, players not only have to decide how to move, but to try and guess (or strategize) when to move. Timing is critical as collisions might change the facing of the scooter and they are forced to make their programmed move in a direction that was not originally intended by the player.
After everyone has selected their maneuver, the scooters are moved in order as indicated above. If the scooter moves unimpeded to the end of its plotted move that ends that players turn. But if the path is obstructed by another scooter (or a barrier such as the edge of the playing field) a collision occurs and the effects of the collision resolved.
A head-on collision will score for the FASTER scooter victory chits equal to the difference of the two speeds but both scooters have their speed reduced to 0. A rear-end collision will score the ramming scooter victory chits equal to the "ramming speed" of the scooter. A side impact will score victory chits equal to the sum of the speeds for both scooters and rotate the rammed scooter 60° (1 hexside) away from the impact. Each player starts with a set number of victory chits and owner of the rammed car pays the victory chits from their stash to the owner of the ramming car. The game ends after 11 turns and the player with the most victory chits wins the game.
As we had only 5 players, we opted to use the additional rule of a "wild car" on to board. Each player programs a move for this 6th car and the player who moves last also moves the "wild car" the programmed move they had selected. The "wild car" can earn and lose victory chits also, but these are supplied from the extra chits in the game.
We each jumped into our scooter sitting stationary on the edge of the board and proceeded into the game. The first 2 moves were relatively modest as each player could only move 1 space, so in general people started to move towards the center. On Turn 3, Sterling scored the first points by hitting the "wild car" in the side for 5 points. Dave W had also had his sites on lucrative side impact, but the impact of Sterling's crash turned the "wild car" and Dave W ended up with a head-on collision for only 1 chit. Furthermore, Dave W suddenly found himself stopped in the middle of the board.
On Turn 4 Rich had planned an elegant move to get behind a few cars on the side, but didn't choose a high enough turn number. As a result, Rich moved before the other scooters and presented his side wide open to Jeff who promptly hit it to score 5 points from Rich. For the next turn, Rich had not had the opportunity to move (or adjust speed), so Jeff got another 5 points from Rich while Dave managed to get 3 points for hitting the "wild car".
As Jeff hadn't really moved hitting Rich a second time, he was a prime target for Sterling who not only collected 4 points from Jeff but also turned Jeff into the wall which Jeff's programmed move promptly hit. Dave W. took his turn hitting Rich to take the last of Rich's chits at this point in the game. With no more chits to pay, there is no incentive to hitting Rich. But Dave W.'s hit lines Rich up nicely for a hit on Sterling to give Rich 5 chits. Thinking that Rich was not a worthy target, Dave W had plotted a move to just end behind Rich, so Rich at least held onto chits for the short term.
By now (Turn 8), the cars were all clustering into one area of the board. The amazing thing is that very little head-on contact was made, so no one dropped to stationary. But it would start to trigger cascading hits for the next three turns as chits were won and then lost in a series of chain collisions. Rich managed to avoid this mayhem by virtue of being hit and forced into the wall. The mayhem started slowly, Dave W hit Dave. Dave W was then hit by Jeff who in turn was hit by Dave, netting Dave 1 chit. In turn 10, Sterling got into the act as the chain started with Dave hitting Jeff who turned and hit Dave W who was turned and hit Sterling who was turned and hit Dave. Just as Dave was getting his senses cleared, the "wild car" came and hit Dave again.
Everyone got into the act on the final turn. Dave W hit Sterling. Rich (who had gotten his scooter off the wall last turn) manages to hit Jeff who was spun and hit Dave. Sterling hits the "wild car" and Dave ends the game by hitting Dave W. A lot of mayhem at the end and the victory chit count was:
Dave W: 22
Wild Car: 6 (including the missing black chit which I did find on the floor post session)
So continuing the tradition started in "Black Rose" - Rich loses not only to the other players, but also to the "drone" player.
Having enjoyed "Wooden Ships & Iron Men" growing up, I tend to like simultaneously plot and move games. The interesting aspect of this game is that the moves are resolved sequentially, not concurrently. Robo-rally has much the same feel, but obviously more options and a longer play time. Therefore, Autoscooter fills a nice niche for a game that can handle up to 8 players and still plays rather quickly. Chaos is a part of the game (just like it is in real bumper cars), but with a group that doesn't mind that, this is a good game to add into the mix.
Length: 15 minutes rules explanation, 75 minutes game play.