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Subject: Shake and Bake rss

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Matt Drake
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I'm not usually a fan of racing games unless they're video games. It's my personal opinion that racing is the kind of thing that should be done with lightning reflexes, not careful consideration and planning. Racing is all about going hell-bent for leather, screaming through turns like your ass was on fire and your balls were catching. Card games and board games about racing don't generally leave you feeling like you're behind the wheel of a powerful vehicle with the pedal to the floor and a white-knuckle grip on the wheel. Usually, if they do make you think you're racing, they feel like you're geriatric oldtimers with portable oxygen tubes doddering around a mall parking lot in battery-powered wheelchairs.

But Formula D is different. When I play this gorgeous new game from Asmodee US, I can almost hear the grinding gears, the revving motors, and the squealing tires. I can almost smell the burnt rubber. When you throw your transmission from fifth to third to make sure you don't overshoot a turn and wind up parked upside down in a hotel lobby full of vacationing tourists, you can really feel the inertia slam you against your safety belt and hear the engine scream (you'll have to add your own sound effects, though. Try red-lining the RPM meter in your mom's minivan and then popping the clutch. Just don't tell your mom I told you to do that).

This is all managed by a pretty darn brilliant gear system and a three-lane race track. Cars have six gears, corresponding to one of six dice you roll for movement. In first gear, you roll the die that lets you move one or two spaces; by sixth gear you're rolling a die the size of a huge shooter marble that might send you hurtling forward 30 spaces at a time. And these dice are unique to the game - the 12-sided die for fourth gear will only roll 7-12, for instance, so you always have a range of possible movement depending on your choice of gears.

The reason Formula D isn't just Candyland with little plastic cars is the turns. Each turn has a rating - a shallow turn will have a 1, and a really tricky series of cutbacks will have a 3. This is the number of times you must stop within the borders of that turn to avoid shredding your tires to confetti and leaving you running the race on dented rims. Shooting through a turn too fast will cause damage to your car, so you have to downshift to try to make sure you don't rip off your tires. In fact, the trickier turns don't just wear out your tires if you overshoot - they flip your car, sending you flying over the guard rail and through a crowd of onlookers before running around like Ricky Bobby screaming, 'Help me, Baby Jesus! Help me, Tom Cruise!'

And turns are wicked fast, as they should be in a racing game. You choose your gear, you roll the die, you move, and then the next driver goes. And yet there are still lots of important decisions to make with every move - do you downshift to make sure you don't blow out a tire on this shallow curve, or try to keep momentum to be in a high gear going into the long straightaway? Do you hug the inside of the curve to get through in a hurry, or do you drift to the outside because you're trying to bleed off some speed without having to smoke your brake pads? It wouldn't seem like there's much to do, but when you're trying to decide if you can risk throwing it into fourth or if you really need to downshift to keep from flipping your car like a stack of flapjacks, those decisions seem pretty important. Where you put your car can be important, too - if you don't set up for the turns, you might wind up ahead of everyone else with one tire hanging on by a shred of chewing gum, or you might just drive safe through the turn and enjoy the sweet aroma of everyone else's exhaust fumes.

One thing that really helps this game come to life is the incredible quality of the pieces. The board is huge - like four feet by two feet - and the cars are awesome. They could have let you play this game with cardboard counters for cars, but instead you get a baggie chock-full of little painted plastic cars (do yourself a favor and try to find the promo car - it's a little yellow Porsche. It's awesome). The dashboard you use to keep track of what gear you're in could have been a sheet of paper with one of those glass beads that game companies like to pretend are game components, but that are really just crap you use to decorate a fishbowl - but instead you get a die-cut gear box with a little plastic lever. I can't imagine how the components for this game could have been any better.

The rules are awesome, too, with plenty of pictures to explain things if you're a little slow on the uptake. For the uninitiated, this is a reprint (with improvements) of the original Formula De, and in fact is so similar that you can use all the tracks for the old game when you're playing the new one. But the new version adds more stuff, including an incredibly awesome set of optional street racing rules. Now you're not just driving Formula 1 cars around a predetermined track with pit stops to change your tires. Now you're flying through city streets in illegal hot rods, firing off nitrous oxide while irritated citizens shoot at your from their apartment buildings. You get to speed past the police station, with points going to the player who goes the fastest. And even better, each car is unique - one driver might be really good at controlling his car through the turns, while another just gets mad at his stereo and pitches it through the windshield of one of his opponents. One street racer is just a pretty girl, and every time someone else passes her, they have to slow down to stare.

Formula D is easily the most fun I've ever had with a racing game. I'm sitting here typing this and wishing I could go play it right now. It reminds me a little of those old Hanna Barbera cartoons where teams of cartoon racers would try to sabotage each other in long races, and Scooby Doo would be driving while Shaggy held the car together with his hands and his feet, and Grape Ape would be driving a ridiculously small car with his toes, and that creepy little dog would be giggling like a hyena while he threw smoke bombs out the sun roof. I get a wild look in my eye going into a scary turn, and my kids go, 'no, Dad! You'll crash!' and then I upshift and yell, 'Rooby Rooby Rooo!' and roll the die - and my car flies off the track to crash into a sailboat in the bay, and my kids laugh until they pee themselves.

Now that's fun.

Summary

Pros:
Gorgeous reprint that adds a whole lot to the original
Magnificent components
Really exciting - you want to do a victory lap when it's over
Great options for team play and tournaments and lots more kick-ass stuff
Just an incredible amount of fun

Cons:
May be habit-forming
Is costing me sleep
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Scott Everts
United States
Foothill Ranch
California
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"Nobody gets me. I'm the wind, baby!" - Tom Servo
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Great review! I'm getting the impression you liked the game.

Really looking forward to playing this baby.
 
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Phreaky Hamster
Netherlands
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Yeah it's a great game!

The only thing that bothers me is that I can't get into sixth gear most of the time, because of the corners! I want a new track with a lot of stretches for sixth gear! ;)
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Matt Robertson
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Regina
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As reviews should be: Entertaining and Informative. Kudos.
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Patroclus
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haha Great review!

I, too, come from a PC racing sim background (GTR2, GTR Evo, rFactor). I didn't expect Formula D to be so fun and engrossing. I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of what appears to be a game with some depth to it's strategy and tactics.
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Matthias Kortleven
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VixenTorGames wrote:
I get a wild look in my eye going into a scary turn, and my kids go, 'no, Dad! You'll crash!' and then I upshift and yell, 'Rooby Rooby Rooo!' and roll the die - and my car flies off the track to crash into a sailboat in the bay, and my kids laugh until they pee themselves.


I cannot think of any review that gave me a better impression of the 'family fun' that can be had by playing boardgames. Well done! laugh
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Latina Nakita
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Funny stuff, sounds like this is one worth getting!
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Thomas Tholén
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Rub it in... I just got a copy of Formula Dé, which indeed has a paper-and-pencil approach to the damage system.
 
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Matt Robertson
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Bad News [bnw] wrote:
Rub it in... I just got a copy of Formula Dé, which indeed has a paper-and-pencil approach to the damage system.


There are some great player aids in the files section. We printed off the dashboards that use poker chips to keep track of points and damage. Works well and no pen / paper tracking.
 
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Charlie Heckman
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Nice review.

As a long time Formula De player, I was a bit put off about dropping $60+ for the new components... especially when the rules were posted online and the new version is basically the same game with just a component facelift and a "Street Racing" variant that I'll likely never use... but I must admit the components are wonderful. I like the cars, I like the dashboards / gear selectors... I even like the way the components actually fit very nicely in the plastic box organizer insert!

It would be nice if the "dashboards" were made available as a separate component pack for the FdE players who have been enjoying this game albeit with paper "dashboards" for the last 10 years. I'm also hoping that new car packs will be released in the coming months / years... I'm a sucker for those little 6mm cars! Pewter OR Plastic!

My only recommended fix to the dashboard component would be to add a "stop" counter for keeping track of your progress in those pesky 3 stop turns. For now, a small d6 sitting on the dashboard is an acceptable work around.

- C
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Sheldon
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Great review, I actually added this game to a recent order as an afterthought due entirely to this review. The other game I got was Ghost Stories, just over 2 weeks later we have played this one half a dozen times and GS has only been played once.
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Gabe Alvaro
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Now this is a review with both substance and style. I've just discovered this game and have been absolutely thrilled with it. So simple, but so engrossing. Being VixenTor, I'm surprised you didn't mention how a dice tower would be a great addition to this game. In my first game we had people slinging dice straight down the middle of the board, knocking the little cars all over the place. I bet you guys could do a great racing tower/platform styled dice tower for this.
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Matt Boggs
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I really enjoyed your review. Makes me want to play!
 
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Ryan Heac0ck
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Bought and played this game last weekend, and had a blast!!! I didnt think you could have this much fun in a board game without tanks. We did make two additions to the components...

-Glass beads to help track 'stops'

-Small dabs of Plasti-tack (blu-tack) on the bottom of the cars to prevent accidental movement due to wild die rolls.

...goes off to hunt for yellow Porsche (damn you!)
 
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Kevin Perry
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This review just made me bump this up to a "Must Have" on my wishlist.
 
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carlos chow
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