Bolide is a new racing game from Italy whose main claim is not using dice to determine movement. For a lot of racing game fans, this is an attractive aspect, since one of the complaints about Formula De is the random factor that feels a bit unrealistic.
The box contains a sectional board with two tracks on either side of the board, 8 plastic cars, 8 pawns for each of the cars, a sand timer, a twelve sided die (not used for movement), a note booklet for keeping track of car conditions, a transparent ruler, a pencil, and a rules booklet written in English, Italian, and German.
There are two tracks included with the game, one for the French Gran Prix (La Coquille) and for the English Gran Prix (The Hawk). The pieces of the board fit together nicely and we never had any problems with the board coming apart during the race. The board itself is divided up into a grid. The track has dotted lines which divide it up into sections, with a red arrow indicating what direction the leaders are decided.
Gameplay is pretty simple for the base game. Players decide on the start order and place their cars on the starting spaces. Then each player roles to see if they got a good start or a bad start, where one can get some extra speed, or get held back.
Mechanics are pretty simple. After your initial move, you place your pawn with the same movement that you did with your car. For example, if you move your car one to the right and two forward, starting with where your car currently is, you move the pawn one to the right and two forward. This establishes the current speed and direction of your car. The farther away your pawn is from your car, the faster your car is moving.
After the initial move, further moves are made by moving your car within two spaces of your pawn. After the move is made, the pawn is again moved in relation to your car. This system seems to work quite well, and feels very elegant. When you are going into a turn hard, it is very soon apparent that you may be in trouble. Cars tend to bunch in the corners, and spread out on a straightaway, as you'd expect in a real race.
There are some options in the basic game that a driver does have. One is to perform a "hard break", which allows the driver to recover from going into a turn too hard. It reduces your speed to 2. You are allowed 3 free ones per race (or until you pit), and any further ones have to be rolled for potential mishap. Another is to perform a "boost". This allows you to have one more movement beyond your pawn's range. This also needs to be rolled, and can cause engine damage if you fail.
You can also "engage" another car if you move into the same space as another car. Here, you also roll to decide the outcome. Results can be that one or both cars are damaged or spun out, and one or the other takes the point.
Placing pawns are not much of a problem. They all stack on each other, and they do alright on top of another car if that is where they fall. The only issue there might be is if the pawn falls off the board at some point. (This can happen on the turns on the edge of the board.) The maker of the game provides for board extensions, which can be downloaded from their site.
For players who get the movement down and want more of a challenge, there are various advanced options that can be introduced to the game, like different tires, different car setups, the amount of fuel in the gas tank, drafting, and weather conditions. I didn't play with any of these, but it could add some depth for those who want it.
We played one lap around the English course with 7 players, and it took us about 2.5 hours with the basic rules. I expect that more experienced players can tighten things up somewhat, but the time is somewhat unavoidable with a game like this. This game definitely seems to be the type of game that you can spend all day playing, if you chose.
I'm not one who has played a huge amount of racing games, but I came off with a very positive opinion of this one. The basic game is very simple to learn, but can take a bit to master. Once you do, there are options to continue the challenge. I have to hand it to the designers of this game. The only issue I see with it is the time factor, which can be intimidating for the casual gamer. I think for people who are looking for a good racing game, and really get into things, this game should be toward the top of their list.
Ralph H. Anderson
I got a chance to play this at Tom DeMarco's CinnaminCon last weekend. Rodney Somerstein was kind enough to bring and teach the game. Very cool mechanic - major points for that alone. IMHO the die rolls for when you brake, burst or engage are a bit too harsh. We had half the people out of the race before we finished half the first lap. Easily fixed by substituting a bell curve roll (2d6) instead of a single d12.
After one game it is hard to tell, but the vectors on this game are devilish which led us to ponder going to a hex grid rather than a square grid. Maybe that was more our inexperience, but the game did make a very good impression over all. Be warned - longer than Formula De. On the other hand, much more instersting choices.
Great fun. After Bonaparte at Marengo, my favorite new game mechanic in the last year. Antike's Rondel comes in third.