I fight lost wars, see light, fear sight
I open my mind, need flesh, fear mine
I was looking for a new racing game to add to my collection. Luckily, for me at least, Powerboats just happened to be doing the rounds at that particular time.
Before I purchased it, I had a quick albeit disastrous race online at Mastermoves.eu, but that quick play was all it took to convince myself that this was the new racer for me.
The box is of a decent size, neither too large nor too small. Everything fits inside with little to no space left over, and features suitably fitting artwork.
Now, once the board is taken out you're in for quite a surprise, as once it's assembled it takes up a fair chunk of table space. The board is double sided and made up of six sections which are all held in a border frame. The combination of different layouts is staggering, so you'll be lucky to play the same course twice.
Luckily there are no card decks or other components that need to be placed adjacent to the board, as the individually coloured dice areas on the board itself (which match your Powerboats colour) conveniently hold everything you'll need. Namely your speed dice, as well as any damage markers you may amass during the race.
Once the board is assembled, you'll notice there are areas marked, A, B and C. Onto these letters you place the buoys, the first race beginning by covering the letters A the second race covering B and the third race covering the letters C.
The cardboard buoys require assembly, and are made up of a central circular piece, with three wings that slot on to form the actual buoy itself. These are somewhat floppy when assembled, and will possibly fall apart should they get knocked, I think the cut should have been a bit tighter, and I ended up gluing mine together to make them more sturdy, but I somehow wish the publisher could have come up with a better design. My preference would have been wooden discs with the numbers stickered on each side, and maybe an arrow strip which ran around the side. The cardboard buoys aren't really well balanced and have a tendency to roll should they get knocked.
I intend to make my own buoys using the wooden disc method, once I find some suitable numbered stickers.
As long as you stick to course A, B or C, how you place these buoys is your choice. You can flip them over so the Powerboats must navigate by them either clockwise or anti-clockwise, but players powerboats must always pass them in the order of buoy 1, then buoy 2, and finally buoy 3, before heading over to the finish line.
There's also a letter reserved for you to place the start/finish line with a buoy at each end. The chequered flag buoy having an arrow for the way home and the other having a 0 for your initial set off direction.
Once you've set up the course, you place your powerboats on or behind the start line and the race is on, with the player who placed last moving first.
Each turn players may either add or remove a die, as well as re-roll any that are already on their play area.
Once the game is under way you'll notice this is more than a basic roll and move game, as your speed pool calls for some clever die management to successfully navigate the course.
Failing to slow down in time doesn't always result in crashing. If available a longer route may be the only option, which will put your powerboat on a totally different bearing and can be very hard to recover from. There also exists a great opportunity for closely positioned groups of boats to act as a buffer for each other. If your finishing position is on the same spot as another boat, you don't crash in that instance, but are positioned behind the boat space you reached.
There will be occasions in which you do crash and gain damage. Your speed is reduced to zero, and you may need to spend the next turn or so rotating at speed 0 until once again you set off in the correct direction of travel. If you do crash you pick up a number of damage tokens equal to the remaining number of hexes you should have moved. Any more than four damage and you sink & are out of the race.
The damage markers have a special place on the board designated to them which we refer to as Damage Island.
Basically it's the largest island on the map, with a dotted line area surrounding it. It's only featured on one side of the map, but it gets the point across.
A maximum of one Damage per race is carried over from race to race, and a recommended three races is suggested before a winner is declared.
Points are awarded for the following:
A player sinking his craft nets the others 5 points.
Finishing points are awarded equal to the number of players minus one. So for example finishing first in a six player race would net you 5 points, second place would net you 4 etc. Each new race the points are doubled, so by race 3 finishing in first place would net you a whopping 15 points.
Finished players also get an extra 1 point when they're back on turn for each round that any other players are still buzzing around in the pond.
The scores are noted along the river track on the boards edge. You are provided with a set of cardboard score markers to keep count of scores and positions.
The scoring method is great, and sees the players change position drastically should they get into any trouble.
I really enjoy this game. If you do play it at Mastermoves.eu, and enjoy it, understand that you aren't even close to the pleasure of playing it in real time.
When there are a few of you close together racing around each buoy the tension and risk of pushing for that extra bit of speed to put your boat into position for the next turn really hits home.
Even if you've been reckless and pushed off course there are still possibilities that the new route will bring you back on track and back in front of your opponent(s) in some mad unintentional shortcut type move.
It's light racing fun with little to no downtime, and the races are surprisingly quick.
8 Bilge Keels out of 10
I enjoy Mastermoves.eu, but playing Powerboats "for real" is so much better. The bigger maps and larger number of players means that there are more paths and more decisions.
I mostly love the way that it manages to feel like a race and at the same time has almost no downtime. We can play 3 races with five players in about 45 minutes.
It's one of my favourite games of 2008, and has seen a lot of play over the past few months.
I call this Star Fleet Battles - Lite (SFB-Lite). The game uses a simplified SFB manuevering system. Its a good game.
Come back Bale...
In 'Arry we trust!
I personally play regular points for the first 2 races and double for the last other wise it kinda makes the first race pointless too often.