OK ... here's an unusual find. This game is marketed by Milton Bradley and sold at Toys R Us. That is usually two strikes against a game. Plus, I'm not a fan of NASCAR racing ... or just about any type of auto racing, for that matter. However, after hearing some positive comments about it on the 'net, coupled with the fact that it was being closed out at $9.95, I couldn't resist and picked up a copy.
I had the opportunity to play two games this past weekend with my brother in law and his 9 year old son Trey while on a family camp out in Mississippi. Trey loved it ... and I have to admit that the game isn't half bad. That's not to say it is wonderful and loaded with strategy ... it isn't. It is fun, however, and does have a bit more strategy involved than most games from Milton Bradley / Hasbro.
The game has some similarities with Detroit / Cleveland Grand Prix. Also, it does have some cool plastic stock cars, complete with an over-abundance of labels. The premise is familiar ... race your car to victory and capture the most prize money. The twist, however, is that players each are secretly sponsoring another vehicle. If your sponsored vehicle finishes in the top three positions, there is an additional bonus paid to you.
Movement is primarily controlled by the rolling of five special dice. Dice are numbered 1 - 5 respectively. So, dice number one has all 1's on it, each side representing one each of the five racers and a special side with a 'checkered flag' sticker. Dice number two has all 2's on it, etc., etc. On your turn, you roll all five dice and arrange them in numerical order. You then choose three of the dice to use for that turn and execute them in order.
For instance, if you rolled yellow 1, red 2, checkered flag 3, red 4, blue 5, you could choose any three of these dice. If you are racing the red car, you would certainly choose the red 2 and red 4 dice. Choosing the checkered flag dice would allow you to pick the top card from the appropriate deck. These cards allow a variety of actions, including moving various cars, causing cars to crash or spin out, giving you another car that you secretly sponsor, etc. Most times these cards are beneficial to you, but there are occasions where they can actually hurt your vehicle.
Once the lead vehicle completes the first curve, everyone receives a sponsor card, which is kept secret. It is possible to collect additional sponsor cards when one chooses the checkered flag on his dice and selects cards from the deck. This actually is a bit unfair as it is quite possible that one player will have an abundance of sponsor cards and thus be able to cash in on many more vehicles. I suggest installing a limit of 2 sponsor cards per player to somewhat dampen this possibility. We played with this option in our Westbank Gamers match and it worked reasonably well.
Players also each have one 'shift gears' card which allows them to re-roll the dice once per lap. This comes in quite handy.
A complete race is held in two laps, but prize money is awarded following each lap and racers are repositioned at the starting gate for the second lap in reverse order of their finish in the first lap. New sponsor cards are drawn, the 'shift gear' card is restored, etc. It's actually just a second race, but the pay outs are larger for the second lap.
Admittedly, this game is much less strategic or involved than Detroit / Cleveland Grand Prix, Nikki Lauders Formula 1, Formula De, or any of the other race games which are part of this family. Still, it is quite fun and much more accessible to younger gamers.
With still a bit of time before the rest of the crew arrived, I coerced Lenny Leo, Jerry Maus, John Moore and Darren Arnold into a race. Sure, there were complaints about the luck factor, and Jerry absolutely detested the card which moved the last place vehicle seven spaces, but everyone was laughing and taunting, so I think the guys actually had fun playing.
In spite of winning the first lap, I still trailed John Moore, the second place finisher, by $100,000 as he had sponsored Jerry's vehicle, which finished in third place. John completed the victory by capturing first place in the second lap and capturing a bonus by sponsoring my vehicle, which crossed in third place.
The finals: John 1,500,000; Greg 1,100,000; Lenny 900,000; Jerry 900,000;