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Tom Vasel
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It's hard to make a good racing game, yet that hasn't stopped dozens of designers and as many companies from attempting to do so. Most of the really fun racing games - Ave Caesar, Um Reifenbreite, have abstracted the race out to where it is a superbly fun, enjoyable game but doesn't actually feel very realistic. On the flip side, realism does not always a good game make, so maybe that's all for the best. Then, I received a copy of Bolide (Ghenos Games, 2005 - Alfredo Genovese), a racing game that had only one die - one that was barely used in the game!

Bolide is certainly the most realistic racing game I've ever played. The way the pawn/car mechanic occurs is a very physical depiction of car movement without being overly complicated. No dice are used to move the card, just a simple mechanic that slows the race down from being a frantic pace, but one that leaves little room for luck. The only problems I have with the game are that with some folk it can move fairly slowly, and that the charts in the game are too random to match the pure tactics of the rest of the game. However, the movement system is brilliant, and I quite enjoy playing a leisurely game - carefully maneuvering my car around the track.

(I'm going to go over the basic rules here - there are some more advanced rules…)

The game comes with two tracks, each of which is made up of eight large puzzle pieces put together. Players roll the twelve sided die to determine at which position their car starts, and then the race is ready to begin. The race track, and the entire board itself, are covered with a grid. The intersections on the grid are the spaces upon which the cards move. The car in first place moves first, and then play proceeds from the car in second position, etc.

Before players move their car for the first time, they must roll the twelve-sided die on the "Unforseen Start" chart to see if they get a slow or quick start. On a car's typical first move, they can move to any of the five points around their car (directly forward, diagonally forward right or left, or directly right or left). The player moves the car, and then takes the pawn that matches the cars color, places it over the car's new position, and then moves it exactly the same direction as the car just moved, placing the pawn on the new space. After all the cars have moved, the next round then begins.

Starting with the second round, and continuing on for each round hereafter, cars can move to any spot that is in an imaginary grid of the twenty-five space grid that is centered on their matching pawn. For example, a car could move two spaces in front of the pawn, directly onto the pawn, one to the right of the pawn, etc. In effect, a car can increase or decrease its speed by up to two spaces each turn, if a player so desires. The car moves to the desired space, and then the pin, starting from the car's new positions, moves the exact same amount of spaces in the same direction the car moved. A car can never reach a speed that is more than seven spaces (max distance from starting space to destination), and cannot travel in a way that the trajectory between starting and ending point crosses a border of the track.

If a player travels at ungodly speeds, they will soon find that their grid goes off the track in curves. This could destroy the car at some walls, but in most curves, simply causes the car to go off the track, where it must simply move one space at a time until it re-enters the track - at which point it acts as if it starts the race again - moving at speed one. During a race, a player has three tire points, which they can use to make a "sharp breaking", which effectively reduces their speed to two, with some other stipulations required.

There are several other features of the rules:
- A player can increase the speed of their car by one if they "slipstream" another car.
- A player can try to move their car into a space occupied by another car, causing an "engagement", which is resolved by rolling on a matching chart. Results can cause damage to one or both cars.
- Players can use boosters to gain an extra speed but must roll on a matching chart to use them to see any effects.
- Players can use brakes to slow the car down (if they use up all three sharp breakings) but must roll on a matching chart to see if there are any negative effects.
- Races are normally two laps. In between laps, players can stop in the pit lane to regain their sharp breaking points. In the second lap, a car has less fuel, increasing its maximum speed to eight.

The first car to cross the finish line is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The stark black box is rather large; and when first opening it, not much appears to be inside it. The cars are small plastic race cars molded in different colors with matching pawns for each. The pawns are nice, in that they stack, since players may often have them on the same space. More annoying is the fact that a pawn will often land on top of another player's car, in which case they don't stack quite so well. The racetracks themselves are very nice; although I don't believe, after a bit of internet research, that they are real tracks. The tracks are huge but fit on most tables that I've played; and since players don't need much room other than the track itself, it doesn't matter too much. Sheets of paper are included to track the stats for the cars (mostly used with the advanced rules). It's a nice setup, and I'm sure that some people will be painting car miniatures to use on the tracks.

2.) Rules: The rulebook comes in three languages (English, Italian, and German), with twenty pages dedicated to each to explain the game. Even though the rules are fairly well translated and include examples and diagrams, I still had to go through them a bit slowly. Using the game board and moving cars, I figured out exactly how the movement mechanic worked, then I studied on how everything else operated. The movement mechanic is second nature to me now, and I did grasp it fairly quickly. However, it soon became obvious that this wasn't the norm, as many players struggled to understand exactly WHY a car was moving a certain way each turn. The advanced rules add some more "realism" to the game, but I felt that the basic rules were good enough for most people. Once you understand how cars move, the rest is a cakewalk.

3.) Movement: Every time I play the game, I am blown away with how elegant the movement system is, and how well it simulates how cars should slow down at curves, etc. Now, I like the card movement of games such as Ave Caesar, or the dice movement of games such as Formula De. But the movement in Bolide felt realistic and made sense. I've seen a bit of griping on the internet about how the system isn't unique - apparently there's a game with similar mechanics that was around a score of years ago. However, the system is new to me, and I loved it! It only has two glaring problems - one, it's not intuitive to everyone; and two - slow people can take too long on their turn. Fortunately, the game includes a timer to help speed these people up.

4.) Slowness: The game certainly moves at a slower pace than a race. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but with players who are prone to think out their every little move it can be an annoyance. The timer included in the game helps to a degree, but I found that in most of the games that I've played we've been content to race only a single lap, rather than the entire race. If players simply pick a spot on the grid to move their car, rather than thoughtfully examine each move, the game is faster and a bit more fun. However, they also greatly increase the chance of a car crashing, as mistakes are easy to make. I wonder if the system might not work really well as a computer game?

5.) Fun Factor: The game is going to be a lot of fun for those who like realistic car racing, and who appreciate the movement capabilities of cars. For those who just like to roll dice and not think too much - Bolide will not be for them. A race of Bolide is often played in muted tones, as players carefully count spaces and try to weave a path for their cars without deviating too much off the track. There are laughs when someone's grid goes off the track, or when someone makes an exceptionally brilliant (or moronic) move, but those merely punctuate the silence. I enjoy this thinking during the game, but it's not for everyone.

6.) Charts: For how luckless the game is, especially regarding the cars' movement, it was a bit jarring to see how the charts were wildly random. For example, when using an encounter chart, when two cars tried to occupy the same space, there are no modifiers, nothing to increase the odds in their favor. If you try to run through another car, you might damage them; or they might damage you, slowing you down for the remainder of the race. These charts were just a bit too random for me; and after a few crashes or slowdowns (a slow car is basically out of the race), we usually avoided having to use the charts if possible.

Despite my dislike of the charts, and the fact that slow people can make the gaming experience fairly miserable, I enjoyed Bolide. It's a game in which I can just marvel at how cool and interesting a game mechanic is and how well it works. In the race, cars get all bunched up in the corners and spread out during the long straightaways - just like in a real race. It's difficult to overtake the leader, just like in a real race; but when a player does, they know it's because they made some smooth moves. The satisfaction that comes from outplaying and outmaneuvering other players, along with the sheer interesting movement mechanic make Bolide a must-race game.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"
www.tomvasel.com
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Alfredo Genovese
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Tom,
thank you very much for your review of Bolide.
I have especially appreciated the points where you make evidence of an improvement opportunity, as the box, the slowness, the charts.

I would really like to know what you think about the advanced rules.

Actually, as author and publisher of Bolide I am more than proud of the very good comments currently coming from you and generally from all the users, but I am perfectly aware that at the moment these are strictly related only to the movement mechanics (trajectories as in the reality, sharp braking, slipstreaming, booster, engagements).
According to me, the 50% of Bolide consists of the race strategies of the advanced rules, that are still generally unknown, and that make of Bolide a complete simulation of car racing.

Thank you in advance if you woould extend your review to the advanced rules.

all the best

Alfredo



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Tom Vasel
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The advanced rules add in several rules concerning weather, setting up a specific car for a certain race, and more. They aren't much more complicated than the basic rules, although they do require a bit more bookkeeping (sheets are provided with the game). I do like the advanced game, but found the basic game to be suitable in most circumstances.
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Grant Sharp
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I find the advanced rules integral to the game myself, although certainly the basic game still provides a thrill when playing with new players or for others who just want a quick game with minimal setup time.

But as a motorsports fan and a racing game nut, the advanced rules add some depth and choices that really make the game more realistic for me. You have to make the same choices as real race teams (admittedly on a much simpler scale) to set the car up for the conditions of the race and track. It gives players a little room to customize their cars for the type of race they want to run.

I've been toying with some house rules myself, but as yet am remiss to use them because the regular game plays so well. Even still, I've been thinking of a rule about mechanical failures to simulate endurance racing (yes I did just watch the 24 Hours of Daytona last week!) and also simultaneous plotting of your cars movement. Both of these could cause much more damage to cars however, so I'm not sure many people would want to limp their cars around the track for half a race! (Although to it's credit the penalties that do occer in the game are not overly severe, so while certianly damaged cars get punished, they are still "in the race".) And then I was thinking of a rally racing version, where it is a point to point track (perhaps mudular so you can change it every race?) with something like the aquaplaning rules in affect all the time to simulate the way rally cars run.

Thats the cool thing about this game; the basic rules are so clean and work so well at simulating the cars momentum that seems like it will be easy to adapt it to various forms of racing.
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Antonio Spazzali
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TomVasel wrote:

6.) Charts: For how luckless the game is, especially regarding the cars' movement, it was a bit jarring to see how the charts were wildly random. For example, when using an encounter chart, when two cars tried to occupy the same space, there are no modifiers, nothing to increase the odds in their favor. If you try to run through another car, you might damage them; or they might damage you, slowing you down for the remainder of the race. These charts were just a bit too random for me; and after a few crashes or slowdowns (a slow car is basically out of the race), we usually avoided having to use the charts if possible.


I know that charts can seem a bit cruel in basic rules: if you roll the dice for booster you have 8% (1/12) to have top speed reduced by 2 units
but remember you roll the dice only if you decide to do it

Anyway in advanced rules if you choose the booster set up the possibility to have top speed reduced by 2 units decrease to less than 1% (1/144), not so cruel isn't it?

Besides if you have a damaged car you can stop and repair it

But if you still find that charts are cruel remember that you are not supposed to roll the dice at every move but only when you really need it

bye bye
Castro
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Derek Carver
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Whilst having no wish to detract from the joys of this game, which I unfortunately haven't yet encountered, as a great fan of race games I have to correct the impression that the basic movement system employed in Bolide is original.

To my knowledge it first appeared in a German car racing game many years ago called, if I remember correctly 'Simulator'. (I here have a home-made version based on 'Simulator' comprising a box of separate track sections in order to add interest to the layout.) The system was again used in a modified form more recently in 'Tacara' by Eggert.

The fact that the system is not original need in no way detract from the merits of Bolide, of course, but it was worth putting the record straight.

I should add that the disadvantage we found with the system employed in 'Simulator' is that because there is no luck element it is possible to work out future moves (useful if one wants to be sure of getting round a corner) but this can considerably slow the game down

Derek
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Martin B
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We've found that yes it is possible to calculate future moves. And yes this can bog the game down. However, there are two things to prevent this from occurring.

One, the rules explicitly state that you cannot use your fingers to calculate future moves. So, our group always pounces on any perpetrator of this right away.

Two, the game comes with a handy sand timer that can be used to motivate slow players. In our case, it is usually enough to reach for the timer as a threat.

As well, if you play with enough cars, future moves will be less predictible due to the movements of other players. Especially going around corners, if someone takes the apex point, it can really cause havoc for the people behind.

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Necessary Evil
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Tom,

did you use a timer (is the one provided 2min?) to speed up games? maybe get to the point where you set a 30 second limit on moved to keep it going or force people to do the same moves they did on the turn before.


-M

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Tim Seitz
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I imagine this game would be much more fun with everyone using a 30-sec timer or something. Maybe even with a Factory Fun feel to it.
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John Paul Sodusta
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out4blood wrote:
I imagine this game would be much more fun with everyone using a 30-sec timer or something. Maybe even with a Factory Fun feel to it.


I was thinking of the same exact thing. I need a 6 player game, so I will give this game a shot. I think with time constraints, this game would turn into a fast playing game. Where the luck/uncertainty comes from everyone's blunders deciding in such short intervals.
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Simon Lundström
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Thank you, thank you. Now I can ditch Formula Dé. This is exactly what I wanted. E-xa-ct-ly!

In fact, this movement system is very old, I've played games like these on checkered notebook paper. Just draw an arbitraryrace track on the paper, deside start line, who goes first and then go. Cars start at intersections. Draw a line to mark where your car is going. You can only change your current speed/direction by 1 intersection, each move gives thus 9 possibilities. Exactly the same system.

I'll have to get this one.
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Steve Kingsbury
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Hi i was going to post myself to say i'd played such a game on graph papaer myself some 40 years ago! Nice to see such a thing in print.

In fact was just talking about that last night when playing Snow Tails. This is another race game where you in some form plot your movement. Although a different but neat mechanic. Really good and worth a look.
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Sam Butler
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One fairly straightforward rule to speed up the game dramatically is to run the timer included in the game at the beginning of each round, and *everyone* must think out their move during this time. Then, you implement the moves one at a time in the order specified by the game *with no time to change your mind*...1st car moves, 2nd car moves immediately after, 3rd car moves immediately after, etc. Once car's position is set, next player moves while the player before is placing the pawn. If the player places their pawn before you have moved, you move to the location of your pawn. Of course, you could make a last-minute "fine, I'll end my turn in this space beside the one I wanted since someone else took the space I wanted and I don't want to risk a bad die roll", but there is no time to reason out the ramifications of such a last-minute gut change in your course.

That simple house rule will add a bit more of a racing feel, remove analysis paralysis, and let you complete 2 laps in a very timely manner.

I totally feel the advanced rules add a ton to the game, and highly recommend using at least the car setup/strategy advanced rules. You get to make strategic pit stop/no pit stop and tire choices that I find very entertaining as well.

Tom, might I suggest a Dice Towers review of this game? It seems like one that would benefit greatly from being shown the mechanic...a picture really is worth a thousand words in this one, and a video at 30 fps is worth 30,000. The mechanic is so much easier to show than it is to explain in writing.
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Tom Vasel
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Sadly, Bolide, even though I enjoyed it, didn't make the cut when I moved from Korea, so I won't be able to do a video of it.
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