Andres F. Pabon L.
This is one of my series of online game reviews. For more information on these, please read the Introduction in my Tally Ho! at Yucata.de review.
I must start by saying I pretty much enjoy Formula Dé. I know it has a large amount of luck, but it does simulate the thrill of racing quite a bit. That said, turns can actually take a bit too long, even when you're only rolling a single die, as people try to decide what risks they should take. This is especially true with new players, who don't yet grasp the myriads of options available. A very fun experience, with some downfalls, I would say.
Enter Powerboats. This game can be thought somehow as a "Formula Dé light", but with speed boats racing around a lake. The game mechanics are so simple you won't believe them, while retaining the thrill of throwing dice to determine your position.
But it all comes down to this: is this a good experience?
The components of this game are awesome. It comes packed with 6 lake tiles (but not the ones you're thinking of... these are very large tiles) and 4 lake border tiles (long, narrow tiles that fit just perfectly with the lake tiles). All in all, you're able to build your lake anyway you want with these components.
These tiles are formed up by several hexagonal spaces, where your boats will be at any given time.
Once built, this lake will be used in a total of 3 races, each one becoming a bit tougher than the previous one, and each one providing some more points than the previous one (I'm not going into too much detail here, but suffice it to say better positions in later races give more points... you get the idea).
Also, there are 5 cardboard 3D buoys, indicating a direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) that the boats must follow around them. You may follow some very simple rules to place the buoys for each of the 3 races: but essentially, there will always be 2 buoys delimiting the start/finish line (a 4-hex long tile) and 3 other ones scattered around the lake.
Additionally there are, obviously, your powerboats (6 of them), and some scoring markers with smaller boats depicted (used at a score track in one of the lake border tiles, increasing (possibly) at the end of each of the 3 races).
You also get some damage counters, placed at your section of the board (again, there's one section for each color scattered in the lake border tiles). And finally, you get the coolest-looking dice ever: 18 3 sided dice. Yes, you read it well. 3-sided (I've never seen such dice before, but they're quite oddly shaped). These dice will eventually also get placed at your colored section of the border.
The game play is absolutely simple: your goal is to make it to the finish line (the same where you start) before the other players do. In order to do so, you must first circle the 3 course buoys. Now, circling can be done from any distance at all, but it must be done in the direction of the buoy (clockwise or counter-clockwise). Also, the buoys must be circled in order (first 1, then 2 and then 3). After circling all 3 buoys, you must bass the finish line facing in the right direction (the same in which you started the race).
Your boat will always be occupying a lake space (never a land space), and it will always be facing one of the 6 possible directions (remember, they're hex-shaped spaces).
On your turn, you first determine the dice, and then move. On your first turn, you'll just roll a single die, and then keep it on your section. From then on, you may add or remove one die per turn, re-rolling as many dice you want (but you may keep already rolled dice at their current value). Rolling phase is as simple as that.
To move, after you roll your dice you add up the total, and you have the chance of first turning your boat 60 degrees, either clockwise or counter-clockwise. 60 degrees means just an adjacent side, by the way. Then, you must move the total rolled. Then, one of 3 things might happen:
1. You get to an empty lake space. Nothing else happens.
2. You reach a space occupied by an opponent. You just place your boat one space behind (or more, if there are more opponents standing in line), and nothing else happens.
3. You get to a land or buoy space, in which case you must take damage equivalent to the number of spaces you must reduce in order to stay at a lake space.
Whenever you take 4 damage tokens, you're out of the race. What's more, for the next race you keep a damage token, reflecting your boat has been repaired, but it's not as stable as it should be.
And that's it! You score points after each race, and at the end, the player with the most points wins the race.
I absolutely loved this one. It provides just what Formula Dé does, but it plays much faster, and can be understood by any person (yes, your grandma and little kids included). It's full of luck, sure, but it plays so fast that's not a serious issue.
Plus, knowing when to add, remove and re-roll dice is a fundamental part of the game, requiring some risk-management skills (and some probability, of course). I find dice-driven games using these choices are my favorite type of dice games. I just love that "push-your-luck" element.
Now, the only downside is that, being so much luck-dependent, it can get frustrating for some players at times. And when a player gets frustrated, he'll probably not make the better choices possible in future turns, leading him to a catch-22 situation (and a profound dislike of the game).
Other than that, and once warned, it's a game I believe anyone could enjoy!
Pros: Plays fast. Lots of plain fun. Push-your-luck elements. Really nice components.
Cons: Highly luck-dependent, which could deter some players from liking it.
The Mastermoves implementation is very easy to use. The game assumes you always want to add a die, and keep the ones you already rolled at their current value. Each die already rolled has a "remove" button above it, though, so it's really easy to specify the die you want to remove (and if you do so, the game assumes you won't want a die added, of course). Also, there are some boxes below each die to re-roll them (just the ones checked will be re-rolled). You may play with these dice until you click the "roll" button, at which point there is no turning back. Other than that, you can always "undo" any action.
After you roll, the interface shows you clearly your possible ending spaces (including the ones on which you must end even if you crash). It's all quite nicely done.
Plus, you also get a whole history of moves (as if it was a chess match or something) at the right part of the screen. I've never seen any use for it, but it's there (and probably someone else would enjoy it... and I don't mind it being there).
That said, the game graphics are not very nice. They seem like extracted from some obscure Windows 3.x game, ages ago. Which of course does a great disservice to such a nice-looking game (talking about the physical stuff).
Also, you play for only one race, and then the winner takes all. I'm not going to argue much about this point: the game turns take quite a while for such a light game, and it some times becomes boring, even with the time limits imposed by the engine ("if you don't take your turn, you lose it" kind of control). Still, it would be nice to go for all 3 races.
Finally, a comment that is not Mastermoves' fault, but still... the number of users is so small, you will be hitting a jackpot if you manage to be in a game with more than 2 players. Which is very sad, as the interface is good, and the game is better.
The game is not very expensive, but it's not cheap either. So do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor, and register at Mastermoves. Play it. You can easily decide if the game is for you after a couple of plays, and the rules are so dead simple you just have no excuse.
Where to Play
Thanks for a good review.
I haven't played in person but I'd like to add what I like about the online play.
For me, playing at Mastermoves is rewarding and interesting for the tournaments which can present opportunities that you wouldn't have in playing games in person.
There are various formats such as "The competition" which has you starting 10 games vs. 10 different opponents. Also, "The Pyramid" has you clawing your way slowly to the top in single player games, and as soon as one finishes, the next begins.
Its also a great game for their semi-play-by-email system because the game is very tactical, you can look at where you just came from and where you want to go and make a move. Your last dozen moves, or the opponents overall strategy is not going to affect you in a way that you can't analyze from the current board.
- Last edited Fri Feb 6, 2009 8:02 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Feb 6, 2009 8:01 pm
I love the fact that the game plays really fast. Even with a 5 or 6 player game, there's almost no downtime. One of the problems I had with Formula De was the amount of time players spent counting their available movement, before or after (sometimes before AND after) rolling the dice. In Powerboats, it's easier to count (because you're rarely moving more than 9 spaces), AND crucially most of the counting is done during other people's turns. By the time it's your turn, you know where you want to go; you just have to try to get there with the right throw. And a lot of the time, by reaining the dice from the previous turn, you don't even have to do that; you go will only take as long as it takes to actually pick up and move your boat. And because it's fast, it actually feels like a race.
♫ As the masters rot on walls ♫ And the angels eat their grapes ♫ I watched Picasso Visit The Planet Of The Apes ♫
I'm sold on Powerboats.
Sounds like something my family and I would enjoy.
Thanks for the review, Andrés F. Pabón L.