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Subject: Why I think this game is overrated and unsatisfying rss

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Mark Sautman
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Other posts already describe the mechanics of this game so I'm not going to bother repeating the rule. The purpose of this review is to provide my impressions about game play. My gaming group set up a Formula D league so we play a 2-lap race every month. I've played this 8 times so far with 6 to 10 players, although we usually have 5 teams of 2. We've also played with 6 different tracks using a variety of optional rules. Although the downtime increases with more players, there is more interaction.

I'll start off by admitting that this game is a very social one and there usually is a lot of cheering and discussion about each person's move and die roll. Much of this interaction usually involves egging players on other teams to take on more risk than they should or cursing/cheering your latest die roll, or complaining when somebody cuts you off. If it was not for this high degree of social interaction, I probably would not play the game at all. That being said, I usually leave the game feeling unsatisfied for several reasons.

There is the illusion of choices When you hear the rules and first play, it appears that you have a lot of decisions to make. However, after playing this for a while, you realize that the decisions become very predictable. Whenever you come out of a turn, everyone automatically goes to a higher gear. When you are coming into a turn or are trying to make the required number of stops you usually have 3 choices:

a) The suicidal one - This is the very aggressive choice driving in a higher gear than you really should. You can get away with this a few times if you roll lucky, but anybody who does this consistently usually crashes within a lap or two.

b) The overly conservative choice - Yes you can be sure you won't lose any tires by going to 1st or 2nd gear, but you will quickly fall way behind everyone else.

and finally

c) The choice that nearly everyone makes in the same situation. This is what becomes unsatisfying. At times, I feel I could write a short computer program and predict what decision 95% of the people would make.

You have limited ability to really influence the game It all comes down to what you roll. Some days the dice gods look down on you favorably and you always just make it to the beginning of the turn and roll low during curves. Other days, you are simply going to roll low on every straight piece of track and high on curves. I've tried playing more aggressive or conservative to see if my performance changes and it really does not matter what I do. I've noticed the other gamers increasingly gripe that it does not matter what they decide to do, it all comes down to the dice.

The first die roll has way too much influence on the overall game The first die roll determines what position you start. If you start up front, you will probably have a fun game. If you start in 9th or 10th, get prepared for a long, frustrating game as it is nearly impossible to get around the pack. After several games, it looks like you can improve your position by 1 or 2 positions and maybe three if you roll good, but that is about all. There's more mobility on the downside as bad dice rolls can allow you to fall 6 positions relatively quickly.

The game seems to always fall into the same repeatable pattern Every game we play ends up with 2-3 players fighting for first place. These players quickly get a sizable lead and have lucky rolls for much of the game. The game can be a lot of fun if you are one of these guys as you take gambles and drive aggressively fighting for first place. Then there is usually 1 or 2 players trailing at the back. These players can't roll anything good and they may come close to be being lapped. The end cannot come soon enough and there is often little you can do other than hope other players crash and you move up in position by default. Then in the middle are the other 5-7 players in the pack. These players spend much of the game in a pack that can be hard to get out of. You are constantly making collision rolls. When you go into a curve, the lane you want usually has somebody else already there so you have to slow down and stay stuck. You may jocky around a few positions, but you are usually here to stay.

The last issue is downtime, which can be considerable if you have 9 or 10 players. When you have slow players or people who do not know the rules, people start to wonder off which further slows down the game. My strong suggestion is to get two sets of dice if at possible. In addition, always try to have one person moving while the next person is rolling his die. If you follow these two suggestions, the downtime can be reduced a good bit.

My overall rating for this game is a solid 5. I find it slightly boring since you sometimes seem to have about as much control over your fate as you do in the Game of Life. In my gaming group, there are a wide range of opinions. The more analytical ones who really enjoy Euros are neutral to negative about it. I am easily the most negative. On the other hand, there are other players who absolutely love it. They tend to prefer luck based games that require fewer decisions or analysis. I realize that my opinion is in the minority here, but felt others might find my perspective useful in determining whether they want to buy it or not.
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Grant
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Agreed.
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Ed Browne
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Good review. I like the game, but I can't argue the points that you make that make the game unenjoyable for you. We just put it in the "light" category of games for when we don't want to think too much. And it's a great game to get non-gamers to play.

Thanks for the review. I really appreciate a good, negative review that isn't just a rant.
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Bart de Groot
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Like Grimstax says, it is a 'light' game. If the players know the game, play can proceed at a steady pace. I think you will find with most games that if the players don't know the game/rules that they will play slower. But indeed people playing this game slowly makes it very frustrating.

If you look at other games that depend a lot, or completely, on luck like Talisman, you find that a lot of people can have lots of fun with randomness. I guess it depends on getting into the mood of the game. Formula D(é) gives you a nice 'feel' of driving in a formula one race, even if your choices on the outcome are limited.

The tracks are very important in this game. There are many race tracks available, but the quality differs wildly. Some tracks are much more deterministic than others, by having corners that don't really make it possible to make risk/safe choices. As you said in your review, this game can get into a 'groove' of determinism, but some tracks less than others.

If you like the genre of racing games maybe you can try some other types. If you like simpler maybe something like Ave Caesar. If you like less random, maybe something like Speed Circuit. Or maybe some racing game with more of a betting focus (Jockey perhaps). I've seen a lot of hype about Snow Tails, maybe it's more to your liking.
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Aaron Silverman
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I agree with you -- you might want to try and track down a copy of Das MotorsportSpiel, since that's probably my favorite racing game, and if we agree on FD, maybe we'll agree on that too.

Leader 1 also seems pretty good, although I've only played it once so far.
You have a lot more control than in FD.
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Juan Pardo
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Well, have you seen a F1 race?, I think the game is very fun although predictable some times, but thats how F1 is.
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Mark Sautman
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I was going to mention some other racing games, but forgot to. I've played Snow Tails and Breaking Away. I found Snow Tails a bit better because there is some strategy involved with choosing what combination of cards to play and how to move around obstacles. Breaking Away is by far my favorite racing game. There's no dice, it actually plays faster and better with more players, and there's much more strategy involved. I like the fact that your decisions have a high correlation with your performance.
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Stig Morten
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A very well written review.
Nice to read a negative review that is serious and thoughtful.

But I must say I love to play the game so I don't agree with everything you said.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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I don't agree either. I think they are a lot of choices to be made. Conservative with no pit stop works on same tracks better than others. The trick is to max the resources without running out of them. I don't believe there's a lot more luck involved in this game than amny other dice games like Settlers for instance. I've run several long seasons with an eight-player group. If luck were the primary factor then the wins would generally get spread out over the course of that season, but that rarely happened. For me, three or four of those eight usually amassed most of the wins and to me that signifies some skill involved.
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Kyoko Steeple
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Spot on. Thinking about dragging out FD? Here's a way to save quite a bit of time without sacrificing much of the gameplay:

1) Each player rolls every die in the game and sums their rolls.
2) Highest total wins.

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Michael Schwerdtfeger
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Totally agree. I've never been able to see the attraction that this game has.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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SleightOfHand wrote:
Spot on. Thinking about dragging out FD? Here's a way to save quite a bit of time without sacrificing much of the gameplay:

1) Each player rolls every die in the game and sums their rolls.
2) Highest total wins.



Here's a way to save yourself a lot of time with over half of the games on this board: buy yourself a deck of cards and play solitaire. If you think that your method maintains most of Formula D's gameplay then virtually any game with dice as a central ingredient will be out of your element.
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William Boykin
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For all those who say that Formula De is either
-Too Random, or
-No 'real' choices

Feel free to come by sometime if you're in Austin, and you can play with some of the sharks in my local club.

If the game truly is, as the OP implies, too random and lacking in decisions, then there should be no consistent winner of the game.

Which, after 10 years of playing this game, over a couple of hundred plays over 20 different tracks, isn't the case. The better players, consistently, do better than weaker players.

Why is this? What 'real decision' is there to make in the game?

Gearing. People who don't really understand how auto racing works, think that the game is just a matter of getting into the corner, or going as fast as possible in general. This is wrong.

Its all about being in the right gear, so you can be in the gear you want to be in NEXT turn.

Case in point- Loewe's Hairpin on the Monaco track. The infamous 3 stop hairpin.

Time and again, especially in the first laps, I see people make this fundemental mistake.

They enter into the corner in 3rd gear, or even sometimes 4th- because they feel they 'Have' to get into the corner this turn.

They go to far into the corner, and have to gear down, going to 3rd or even 2nd gear for their second stop, and usually taking thier last stop in 3rd gear.

What this means is, as they are leaving Loewes, and enter into the 'Tunnel' straightway, the best gear that they can do it in is 4th gear- a die that only goes from 7-12 spaces.

FAR, FAR better is to realize that in auto racing, its almost always better to brake EARLY, and then accelerate through the corner. In this case, I'll usually enter Loewes in 2nd gear. Then move to 3rd. Finally, I go into 4th gear, even if it means losing some tires, because I WANT to be in 5th as I leave. The 5th gear die ranges from 11-20, meaning that I have a REALLY good chance of blowing by people who have messed up the corner.

In Formula One, most passing is done in places like the Tunnel right after Loewes at Monaco, or the back straightway after the Hairpin at the Canadian Formula One track, and the like. And, speaking as someone who has done some actual racing (mostly rally racing), I can tell you- you're ALWAYS thinking about gearing. (specifically, RPM's, but now we're getting picking).

Formula De picks up on this very well, in a very accessible game. By focusing on the risk management of gearing, it puts the player in the position of the driver in a very nice, playable and fun game. Its not just selecting the right gear for the corner and never overshooting the corner- its knowing when you WANT (or will accept the damage) of overshooting, because it puts you in a superior gear than your opponent at the right place, at the right time.

I see this type of newbie mistake all the time- newbies will go for a higher gear and not think about what gear they want to be in NEXT turn. For instance- imagine you're approaching a one stop corner (Corner A) that is 7 spaces away, and the furthest you can go before overshooting is 15 spaces. Further, suppose that the NEXT corner (corner B) is 11 spaces from Corner A, and is 8 spaces long.

I'll see people reach for the 5th gear die, thinking they HAVE to go faster. Why? Fourth gear gets you in, and you can then gear up to Fifth for Corner B. Brake early, accellerate late. There is no reason to be in 6th gear for Corner B, so don't take the risk.

Now, sometimes there are exceptions- like when you're doing a 'shootout' on the last corner before the goal line- and thats what makes Formula De so interesting.

An experienced player in Formula De, however, is usally going to do a LOT better than the average Joe Geek who doesn't understand how to go around the track- no matter how 'lucky' his die rolls are. There are enough die rolls that your bell curve is going to even out.

Thats why I enjoy De so much- because the game simulates an aspect of auto racing (gearing) in a very nice and elegant manner, that, for me and my friends, it re-creates the 'experience' of auto racing in a way that I'm not able to do except by either going to a track or playing on my computer.

Some might disagree- and will. But in my experience, about 2/3rds of those complaining about De do so because they just don't 'get' how to be successful at the game- and dismiss it.

(The other third don't like it because some people take too long for their moves- thats another rant.)

But for anyone who says that there aren't any 'meaningful' choices in De, I'll take your challenge. If the game is that 'simplistic', then you should have an equal chance of winning. Care to put some money down?

If you're ever in Austin, let me know.

Darilian
Formula De Fanatic since 1995
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Rick Teverbaugh
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Very well said.
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Kyoko Steeple
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rickert wrote:
Here's a way to save yourself a lot of time with over half of the games on this board: buy yourself a deck of cards and play solitaire.


There are not enough words in the English language to describe how wrong this is.

Do not presume to tell me that games with dice are out of my element.
 
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Rick Teverbaugh
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SleightOfHand wrote:
rickert wrote:
Here's a way to save yourself a lot of time with over half of the games on this board: buy yourself a deck of cards and play solitaire.


There are not enough words in the English language to describe how wrong this is.

Do not presume to tell me that games with dice are out of my element.


Do not presume to tell me what I may not presume. You made an inaccurate wiseacre comment about a game you obviously have no appreciation for. You got back exactly what you gave. Live with it.
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Kyoko Steeple
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rickert wrote:
SleightOfHand wrote:
Do not presume to tell me that games with dice are out of my element.


Do not presume to tell me what I may not presume.


 


Job there, ace face.

If you wish to chide me further, please respect the OP and take it to private messages. I will no longer respond in this thread.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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SleightOfHand wrote:
rickert wrote:
SleightOfHand wrote:
Do not presume to tell me that games with dice are out of my element.


Do not presume to tell me what I may not presume.


 


Job there, ace face.

If you wish to chide me further, please respect the OP and take it to private messages. I will no longer respond in this thread.


I love the hit-and-run poster. You get your last shot in (I assume that's what that was but I failed to see how it applies to this discussion) and then say to respect the OP and not respond here. Please!
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Agree with the review... but it is the simplicity of the decisions of the basic game as well as the theme that appeals to me.
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Genghis Ahn
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The BEST and ONLY way to play Formula De or D is in a league where the race standings DO COUNT over the season so there is no artificial DNF regardless of risk.

This is a skill based game with randomness and there is alot more to driving and gearing than meets the eye. The track, pit selection, and car set-up is very important.

Try building three completely different cars then drive them around the track and you will immediately see that one size does not fit all in terms of how you need to optimally drive them. Then try racing, er rubbing, in a crowd.

We had a similar experience in Dallas to Austin in that the cream rises to the top year after year using random tracks.

Great game. One of my ATFs.

Not everyone's cup of tea but to say this game is rote is far from the truth.
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Markus Rathgeb
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Very good review, earned one thumb, although it doesn't match my opinion in some points (I'm playing Formule De since early 90's).

I think, your most of all right, if you take the standard one or two lap races. Everyone has the same car, ...

If you build your car from scratch, you tune your car depending on your race tactics (more fuel, more "tires", ...) Therefore you will act different from a player with a different setup. Go and give it a try.
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This is obviously a great review that doesn't change my positve impression on the game.

I just have a suggestion for the op. You are playing fd in the best situation - a league. It has the capability to mitigate one of your great frustrations since the game is not the race but the championship. So, even if you are not in front, you are playing for something. Keke Rosberg in the 80s won the championship and only won one of the final races.

I think that defining grid everytime by rolling a die is a mistake. Since qualification takes long, I found great success in defining the grid in inverted order either with the championship standings or the results of the most recent race.
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Mike Walters
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My post deals with Formula De, and not with Formula D as our group prefers a Formula 1 style of race. I own the Formula De game and all of its expansions, as well as Formula D and its first expansion (I have also have a dozen hoembrew/internet tracks).


Quote:
My gaming group set up a Formula D league so we play a 2-lap race every month. I've played this 8 times so far with 6 to 10 players, although we usually have 5 teams of 2. We've also played with 6 different tracks using a variety of optional rules.


I would suggest trying the game with 3 lap races, car construction and weather rules.



Quote:
Although the downtime increases with more players, there is more interaction.

I'll start off by admitting that this game is a very social one and there usually is a lot of cheering and discussion about each person's move and die roll. Much of this interaction usually involves egging players on other teams to take on more risk than they should or cursing/cheering your latest die roll, or complaining when somebody cuts you off. If it was not for this high degree of social interaction, I probably would not play the game at all. That being said, I usually leave the game feeling unsatisfied for several reasons.


It the "social interaction" that is slowing the game. You could institute a house rule that has the next driver roll the gear dice within 15 seconds of end of the last driver's turn. It would depend on what you want from the game: a quick game or a more social one.

Quote:
There is the illusion of choices When you hear the rules and first play, it appears that you have a lot of decisions to make. However, after playing this for a while, you realize that the decisions become very predictable. Whenever you come out of a turn, everyone automatically goes to a higher gear. When you are coming into a turn or are trying to make the required number of stops you usually have 3 choices:

a) The suicidal one - This is the very aggressive choice driving in a higher gear than you really should. You can get away with this a few times if you roll lucky, but anybody who does this consistently usually crashes within a lap or two.

b) The overly conservative choice - Yes you can be sure you won't lose any tires by going to 1st or 2nd gear, but you will quickly fall way behind everyone else.

and finally

c) The choice that nearly everyone makes in the same situation. This is what becomes unsatisfying. At times, I feel I could write a short computer program and predict what decision 95% of the people would make.


With car construction rules (Formula De), I've seen cars with as many as 15 tires. With that many tires you could be "suicidal" in the turns and make it work to win the race. You build your car to match how aggressive you play.

Quote:
You have limited ability to really influence the game It all comes down to what you roll. Some days the dice gods look down on you favorably and you always just make it to the beginning of the turn and roll low during curves. Other days, you are simply going to roll low on every straight piece of track and high on curves. I've tried playing more aggressive or conservative to see if my performance changes and it really does not matter what I do. I've noticed the other gamers increasingly gripe that it does not matter what they decide to do, it all comes down to the dice.


Then thoughout my group's play, all players should have an equal number of wins. Looking at our data of 9 seasons of 12 to 20 races each; we see that two to three of the players win most of the races. With the rest of the field dividing the rest of the wins more or less equally.

Quote:
The first die roll has way too much influence on the overall game The first die roll determines what position you start. If you start up front, you will probably have a fun game. If you start in 9th or 10th, get prepared for a long, frustrating game as it is nearly impossible to get around the pack. After several games, it looks like you can improve your position by 1 or 2 positions and maybe three if you roll good, but that is about all. There's more mobility on the downside as bad dice rolls can allow you to fall 6 positions relatively quickly.


Again looking at our race data, starting position seems to have little to do with finishing position ( we also use a die roll to determine starting position).



Quote:
The last issue is downtime, which can be considerable if you have 9 or 10 players. When you have slow players or people who do not know the rules, people start to wonder off which further slows down the game. My strong suggestion is to get two sets of dice if at possible. In addition, always try to have one person moving while the next person is rolling his die. If you follow these two suggestions, the downtime can be reduced a good bit.


I do agree with this, Downtime can be a killer. How much move planning is down during each driver's turn. When we play with a large group, we have instituted a house rule that when it is your turn you roll and than move, immediately. No looking to see which move is "best", that should have been done while waiting for turn. Still a 10 player group on a 3 lap race will take about 3 hours to play.


I will say that if you are interested in Formula D/De find someone with the game first and play a few time to decide if you like it, before you lay out the cash for the game and its expansions.
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The Stig
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Thantos13 wrote:
With car construction rules (Formula De), I've seen cars with as many as 15 tires. With that many tires you could be "suicidal" in the turns and make it work to win the race. You build your car to match how aggressive you play.

I'd just like to note the car construction rules are the same from De -> D.
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Mark Robinson
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A good, negatively biased review by zautman, and a good positive counter argument by Darilian. Thanks guys!

Me? I'm an FD fan.

Diff.
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