Driving at breakneck speeds
Cutting off other drivers and spinning out of control. It’s all here. It’s regular Rallyman, but with multiplayer. But you can also indulge yourself by playing solo, in a time trial mode just like in the original version. GT has it all in one box.
This new version of thel Rallyman from Jean-Christophe Bouvier, is being brought back to life, after it’s first sellout tour, and now on Kickstarter. Holy Grail Games, who are no stranger to this platform, have been closely working with the original designer to bring this game to the masses, with a slightly refined mechanism. And when I say slightly refined, I mean it. In fact, to my recollection, the only thing that is gone are the cards, that would keep count of your time around the track.
Now admittedly, I have never played the original Rallyman from nearly 10 years ago. And having only played a few games of this prototype, I must admit that I am tempted to play solo. Against my previous times. Just like in a rally. But the real fun will come from playing against other players. As this is a real battle of strategy and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. With just the aid of the dice, your be plotting your trajectory and seeing if you can hold that course.
The game holds a very simple rule set, that makes getting into the game very speedy. Although there are a few speed bump along the way to slow the game down, it runs very smoothly. Let me light your route.
NOTE: all photos are of a prototype
First thing that players do is verify the turn order. This is a simple case of whichever car is driving at the fastest speed, becomes that player. If there are multiple players at the same speed, it is the one who is furthest along the track. If there is still a draw, it is the player who hugs the inside lane.
Players, then in turn order, will perform two actions. First, plot the route they wish to take along the track. This is done with six sided dice. There are six speed dice, numbered 1 to 6, plus three break dice and two coast dice. You’ll place these on the track, in front of your car, in sequential order. Either making your car go faster or slower. The coast dice act like jokers, sustaining the speed value of the dice place before it. And the break dice are used to jump the order of sequence by one extra. So, to break from speed 5 to 3 would require one break die and the speed 3 die.
This is the tactical part of the game, as you only have a limited amount of dice. This limit will change depending on your tyre set up, the weather and if you have taken any damage. Plotting your course, around bends and other cars can get tricky. To pass an opponent's car, you need to be going at least the same speed as them. And some corners will need to be taken at a certain speed. Leaving you to play out several scenarios in your head.
Already you have this finite resource. Speed. Once you go up to speed 3 and beyond, you can’t not come back down to speed 3 this turn, as you have already allocated the die to a space on the track. Even if you use the break dice, as they require the speed die that you are breaking to. The head scratching will commence. As you try to figure out the most secure and easiest trajectory to take. And while you are taking your turn, the other players are scrutinizing your every decision. You may hear a gasp from another at the table. But was that because you blocked them in? Or will be making them go the long way around? Or because you used your dice unwisely? There is a little tension here, while this takes place. Sometime another player will point out another way to use your dice, which is nice. And that makes this game an easy game to teach, as you do it while you play. The only thing you can’t teach is self restraint and how to handle luck.
Because the second part of your turn is luck, to a degree. If you’re someone who like to throw chance to the wind, you will either win easily or lose drastically. As each six sided dice has one or more sides marked with a Hazard sign. Roll too many of these and your car will spin out, slid off the course and possibly take some damage. All of this is calculated, from the weather conditions, your tyre set up and the speed of the last dice that showed a Hazard sign. The tension that besets the table is always a breathless moment. The anticipation of getting to the last space of your trajected route is thrilling. But sliding off, unable to pull off your fantastic feat, can be inraging. Especially, as I encountered, it happens three times in a row. Every time I rejoined the track. Grrrr!
Whenever you roll too many Hazard signs, you will reference your dashboard, that has your tyre type. There is a table, that you cross reference with the terrain in your location and the speed you were driving at. This will indicate the severity of the accident that has taken place. You may have just spun out on the track or came flying off completely. Meaning that you will miss a turn, as you roll back onto the track. As long as no one is occupying that space. Making you lose another turn, until that space is available again. The fast you come off the track, the more chance there is of you damaging your car. Damage comes from drawing a number of tokens out of a bag.
These tokens can be green flag, which do nothing. Yellow flags stop players overtaking the crashed car. Weather tokens changes the driving conditions from clear and sunny to slippery with rain, and vice versa. Which can be funny if the player after the one that’s accident causes this change, has planned to break hard on a bend. No longer will they be able to if the rain sets in. Sending them also, off the track. Finally, there are the dice tokens. For each one of these you have, you’ll be restricted on using that coloured dice. Drawing two black dice tokens will penalise you on the amount of speed dice you can use on your turn. Pitstoping will cost you a turn but allow you to remove all this damage and maybe change your tyre set up. These dice tokens, I find are fitting in the realm of theme. As you will find your car hobbling along the track after taking massive damage. The weather token, not so fitting.
But you’ll be happy to know that there is dice mitigation. As you can roll the dice, one of two way. First is “Flatout.” All the dice that you used on your trajectory are picked up and rolled at the same time. Yes, this is dangerous, luck driven part of the game, as you have no control over the results and could easily roll many hazards. But it has benefits. If you roll successfully, you are rewarded with Focus Tokens. One for each die used in going Flatout, except break dice. This is great for those who like to take great risks in game, but not so fun for unlucky players who roll four dice and get three Hazard results. Sending you into the barrier...Then do exactly the same on the next turn. Frustrating. But as I said, it’s up to the player to use restrian when rolling dice.
The other way to go about it, is to take your time. Roll each die, one by one and stop when you feel there is a chance of too many Hazard signs showing up. This is a steady and sure way to get around the course without danger of crashing. The sole risk comes from breaking. If you have used a break die to reduce the speed die, these dice get rolled at the same time. So, there is a chance of spinning out of control, even more so if you are hard breaking from from speed 6 to 2. This is where the Focus Tokens come into play. These can be spent, so you can remove dice before you roll them, making them natural success. Meaning no chance of a Hazard sign. The value of each die you remove in this fashion augment by a value of one. Removing the first die costs 1 Token, the second 2 Tokens, so on and so on. This is a great way to get around the circuit, as long as you have them. And to get them, you need to go Flatout from time to time.
After a few turn, the game becomes fluid and before you know it, someone is approaching the finishing line. The pressure is on to get there before them or the same time as them, but with a little more gusto, as you simultaneously cross the checkered flag. And the winner is decided, much like the starting player. Fastest. Furthest. Inside lane. All exciting fun, unless you have walked under a ladder with a black cat.
All in all, an enjoyable and sometime frustrating racing game with solid dice driving mechanic, that is otherwise a realist simulator. The art on the tiles is wonderful and sets the setting nicely, although in prototype form, the cars are nice too. With the hexagonal tiles, there is infinite coursed to make and with the promise of more cars, tiles, dice being unlocked in the the Kickstarter, the more I can’t wait to play again.