A fan of new Knizia games
Jack, Steve, Doug, Julian
This game has been on my trade pile a while, however I wanted to try it again before sending it on its way. I'm glad I did, because behind the rather shabby components there lurks are very good racing game.
The looks are against this game from the start. Stand up cardboard cars (hastily replaced with some Micro-Machines Indycar racers), some rather cartoony board segements, 3 in number, can fit together in different combinations to form 8 seperate tracks. The number of spaces a race runs on each track (from about 70 to 80) determines the difficultly of the track. The rules recommend a series of races over different tracks, but we played just one.
Once the track is built, the players construct their cars from a deck of cards. The cards simply contain numbers from 1-6, which relate directly to the number of spaces you can move on the track. By leaving out certain numbers, you can build a fast, slow or medium car - each containing the SAME NUMBER of factors in the race. Fast cars have lots of 5/6's, slow cars have not so many, but a lot more 1/2's. Why not build a fast car each time? Well, you drive with a 2 card hand, and if you can't move your full compliment on the track you don't move at all - essentially going a turn down. It's important to keep making headway, and a medium car has perhaps the best mix of cards to ensure that happens.
After building your car, each player must commit a number of cards to the pits. Each deck contains 84 movement points, and around 3-6 points of this go into the pits. It's designed in such a way that if you drive the ideal racing line, you will just make it across the line, but if you are forced wide you burn movement points, and will have to pit to claim the pit cards and those extra points - clever.
The last step in car construction is building the "gearbox". You take your deck of cards and sort them into four piles, in any way you want. For example, you may place your 1/2 cards in one pile, then 3/4's in another, then 5's and 6's in the last two piles. When replenishing your meagre two card hand, you may draw off any pile. In this sense you are "driving" your car - if there is traffic ahead, draw low, if there is clear air, draw high, etc. The rule is, make progress.
Our single race took place on the Platfuss-Ring, a "medium" rated track. Steve was on poll and took off into the lead. This lead continued for a lap and a half of the three lap race, before Doug overtook him. Doug had pitted at the end of the first lap, and held up Julian in the pit lane as the track was blocked ahead. Jack was driving a slow early race but made great progress in the second half to take the lead halfway through lap 3. This allowed Doug to play a six to get ahead again (you cannot play a six card if leading - a bit fudgy), but that was it, Doug was left with a single six, and only his low gear pile of 1's and 2's. Doug crawled around the last corner, hoping someone would pass him, to allow him to play his six to cross the line.
Jack passed Doug and got to the last space before the finish line, and then stopped - out of fuel (ie. cards). Jack hadn't pitted, and fell one space short. Doug crossed the line with his six card for first place.
3rd. Neutral 1
5th. Neutral 2
I'm hauling this off my trade pile - a great driving game when using the Advanced rules. Very simple mechanics (play/move/draw), but it imparts a real feel of driving your car. Car setup, gearbox configuration, and staying on the driving line while avoiding "no move" turns really connected with me (then again, I am a bit of a racing game nut).
Other games played: Auf Heller und Pfennig, Ra, Hera & Zeus, Vino, El Grande