Our friends Jared and Becky were visiting for the weekend (from Dallas) for a fish-fry that Dwight was hosting. Needless to say, we can't get together without playing games
First Game: Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix
They arrived early enough that we could get in a game before heading out to dinner. Jared has recently acquired this game after having a good time playing it. I've had its relative, Daytona 500, on my try / buy list for a while. I've recently become enamored of Formula De, so I wanted to see how this one stacked up. Jared obliged by bringing this game with him. In this game, each player is dealt a hand of cards. Each of these cards has dots representing the six available car colors or white dots that are wild. Each card has from one to six dots on it (no color repeats). Each dot has a number beside it from 1 to 6. This represents the number of spaces the corresponding car can move. For cards with multiple dots, the higher number is always at the top. Cars are moved from fastest to slowest by the person playing the card. Wild dots may be applied to any car that does no already appear on the card. After receiving their hands, players then bid money on the car they wish to race. These are represented by cards that are turned up one at a time. Bidding goes around the table until there is a highest bidder. Once you drop out of the bidding for a given round, you may not re-enter. In addition, the order that the cars are chosen in the auction is their starting order on the track. Once you win a car, you also get the 10 point card for that color. Once each player has a car, they rearrange themselves in the cars running order. From then on, play proceeds around the table. Each turn, you must play a card from hand and move the corresponding cars the corresponding distances. Whoever plays the card get to move the cars. You do not have to be able to move the cars the maximum distance. The exceptions to this are the wild dots, which can only be applied to a car that can move the full distance. To make life more interesting, there are three swap cards. When played, you do not move cards, but until the end of your next turn, the colors on the card are swapped. For example, if the black - yellow swap card is played, all black dots now affect the yellow car and all yellow dots now affect the black car. Players race around the track to the finish line and earn money depending on how they finish. A full game is three races -- one Detroit, one Cleveland, and one track chosen by the person in last place. The winner is the person with the most money after three races. As a side note, there is a wild 10 card in the game. However, it apparently is considered "broken" by many players and is thus left out of the game. This is the way we played.
Our first race was on the Detroit track. I was orange and was starting in the second position. I was only nominally better in this car than any of the others, so I would have let it go if anyone had bid against me. No one did. Not knowing anything better to do, I used my orange 10 to jump out to a lead. Alas, this was very short-lived. My wife managed to clog the first narrow chute on the track, leaving me with a shortened move and allowing everyone else to catch up. From here on, we all pretty much stayed together. In the last set of narrows, Jared managed to set himself in front. He then played a swap card to get away without playing anything. Becky finally moved him forward a fair amount. The lead he received here was enough to push him ahead of everyone to the finish line. Christine finished second, followed by Becky, and then myself.
The second race was being held in Cleveland. This time around, my hand was leaning heavily toward yellow with red a distant second in strength. In the first auction round, no one bid against anyone else. Silly me to believe this would continue. I let the red go by to Jared. Then Christine and I fought over the yellow. When the bid reached 60,000, I got tired of it and jumped to 100,000. She let me have it. As before, this race was close most of the way through. As we reached the last set of narrows, Becky was in the lead. Jared and I both played swap cards to avoid moving her. Christine was then able to catch up to us without moving Becky. Unfortunately for Becky, this proved to be her undoing. All of us were able to zoom on past, with my yellow car taking the checkered flag. I was followed by Christine and Jared. Becky limped in far behind without any cards that continued to move her car.
Since Becky was now in last place, she chose to race the final leg of the series in Detroit. This time around, no one bid anyone up again. Yellow was by far my dominant color with black not too far behind. This time around, though, I started in last place. This race was a lot tighter and nastier than the first two. Jared blocked me in the very first narrow section. I only had one card that moved his green ahead of me, so I played that. Fortunately, it gave me enough movement to catch up a little. Unfortunately, Christine was not behind him and simply used the clogging to extend her lead. Jared then blocked me in the second narrows. Now, the only cards I had that moved him, were cards that moved his car after mine. There was no way I was going to move him four or five spaces and not move my car -- thus wasting one of my sixes. I told him this, but it didn't phase him. I think I played my switch card at this time just to keep from playing anything else. It was the orange - blue swap card, so it had no effect on the game. By now, Christine was well ahead of us, so we both had to use our 10 card just to get close. Once again, Jared blocked me. I'm really not sure what his motivation was as Christine was already ahead of him in money and I was behind him in money. At any rate, I wasn't about to waste one of my sixes to move him or Becky ahead. The only other cards I had moved only him or Becky -- except for a wild 5. Since Christine was already far enough ahead that we couldn't catch her, I played it on her. Jared and Becky were not happy. Well, too bad, it was the move that hurt me the least. Christine won the race, followed by Becky, Jared and myself. Becky still had her 10 at the end and used it to cross the finish line, though she didn't have to.
Final Result: (in thousands)
Christine -- 670
Jared -- 570
Becky -- 470
Stephen -- 400
I'm not really sure how I like this game. Dealing out the cards allows the strength of your hand to vary widely. In addition, other players' cards can have a great impact on how your car runs. It just doesn't feel right for Formula racing to me. I think it might work a whole lot better in a Nascar theme as in Daytona. In fact, that game is still on my want list. In addition, this game is really light. There is not that much decision making and, due to your opponents' cards, there is not very much long-term planning. It would really be more accurate to think of this as a "climbing" type of card game where the board is simply used to keep score. While it's a neat idea, it just doesn't give a lot of substance. At any rate, it pales in comparison to Formula De. So, while I had a good time, there was precious little skill involved in either victory or defeat. Because it was fun, I'll still try to track down Daytona 500, but I'll give this incarnation of the system a pass. Total playing time was about 90 minutes.