wacky Races (2019) Review
Do you remember this old cartoon Wacky Races. No ? Ah, but that does not have to stay that way. You must rush out and discover this. So many childhood memories. And this is not new. Indeed, Wacky Races is an American cartoon created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The cartoon was born in 1968! It even had a sequel / reboot in 2017.
If the title of the cartoon does not necessarily speak to you, the two main protagonists will be known to you. Dick Dastardly and his dog Muttley, during each episode, try to win the race by preparing traps to make the others racers lose. And like the Coyote, these attempts are constantly turning against them. But in Wacky Races, all shots are allowed for the eleven participants, all more colorful than the other.
What was a surprise to see was a game adapted from this license. And from CMON Limited in addition. So that's something that could potentially make us happy, or on the contrary, make us run away. The theme is not necessarily the easiest to adapt.
Wacky Races: The Board Game is a game by Andrea Chiarvesio and Fabio Tola. They created two versions of the game. The normal version is the one you find most easy to access. CMON made pre-orders for a deluxe version with pre-painted figures. This one (rather successful) is scheduled for the end of 2019. The version I got is a normal retail version.
To be honest, what made me crack was clearly the license. Being able to find all the drivers of my childhood and being able to play with them in a board game, it seemed very nice. The illustrations of Giovanna BC Guimarães are very faithful. They put you directly in the arena.
The principle of Wacky Races: The board game is very simple. Each player chooses a driver and takes their model and individual board. Also taking the four "abilities" cards that are placed on that board.
For the drivers, we have the joy of finding the eleven from the series:
Then you’ll create the circuit. This one is composed of map / tiles laid more or less randomly. More or less because the tiles are separated into two halves. At the end of the first half of the circuit (after 8 tiles), there’ll always be the gas station. Then, continue laying the remaining 8 tiles, being careful to add one special tile (choice of four). The number of spaces to finish the race is theoretically always the same (there is nothing prevents you from playing with everything). The normal circuit is composed of 18 tiles.
Each race participant is randomly placed on one of the starting locations. One character per tile, only six in each race (seven if you count the Mean Machine). The goal is to arrive first on the finish line. Logical, this is a racing game. The game announces a 10 to 15 minute per game and it does not lie. We are clearly in the game very fast.
The normal tiles are each a different landscape. Landscape that you’ll find repeated several times. They range from the desert, the forest, the meadow and the farm. Added to this are special tiles with obligatory gas station and another one to choose between either the marshes, the crossroads, the railway crossing and the ACME factory. Of course you’ll always finish at the finish line. Special tiles act as a joker for moving. It is important to know this because all the movement of the racers will depend on the type of tile which they are on.
Each player has three cards in their hand. Each card represents one of the landscapes mentioned. The first action of a player is mandatory. They must discard a card (any one) to move a tile. After this move, they can then discard another card that corresponding to the terrain they are now located on, to advance a second time. This can be repeated a third time (after inevitably the player has no more cards in hand, so their turn is over). The cards played must match (except the first one played) the driver's location to allow them to move one space. Each tile has two spaces, which can accommodate up to two drivers. If a third wants to move onto that space, it is automatically placed on the next free box ( not counting the tile full). Then the player draws back up to three cards.
Finally, at the end of the player's turn, Dick Dastardly and the Mean Machine are moved. This car participates in the race but in a particular way. Indeed, as in the cartoon,Dastardly and Muttly try to trap their competitors to win. Their car is placed on the tiles and not on one side or the other, like the players. It does not count in the limit of two cars and is not played by a player. For his move, look at the discard pile. The last card played indicates where the Mean Machine will go.
For example: a desert is on top of the discard pile. The Mean Machine goes to the next desert tile no matter the distance. If a wild tile is on the way, Dastardly must stop there (except for the Station Service tile because "refueling is for losers"). If there is no movement possible, then the Mean Machine runs out of gas and must give up (because without fuel "you may not be a loser but you can not win").
Fun little detail, if Dick Dastardly & Muttley lead the race, they take the opportunity to place a trap card. You then take the first card of the associated deck and put it on the tile. Thereafter, if the two cheaters must go through this tile, if there is still a trap, it does not count as a movement space. After placing a card, as it takes time, they fall back to last place.
With less than six players, there remains a last step. Indeed, all drivers who do not belong to a player, are considered neutral. They have their own way of moving forward. At the end of a round and just before the first player starts playing again, all neutrals advance one space. Then, you reveal the first card of the deck. If the terrain matches, the drivers involved advance one space. Again a second, then a third time. If a neutral racer reaches the finish line first, they win. In a game with two players, after the neutral stage, Dastardly plays again.
And there you go. Now to finish with the details ... When a player reaches a space with a trap card, the card is revealed and the trap activates. There are eight different types of traps: falling rocks, log, oil slick, false tunnel, broken bridges, sabotage, mud pool, false signam. There is also the possibility of falling on a plan that has failed (which is good for racers).
During the installation, I told you about cards abilities. Each racer (neutrals do not have one) has four cards. These cards can be used at any time of their turn. Just flip your card once used. There are ways to avoid certain pitfalls, the ability to pick or renew his hand, to advance faster, to invert tiles ... These cards can sometimes give you a good boost and sometimes counterbalance a capricious chance. To know that once the last driver has passed the gas station, all the players can reactivate all exhausted cards again.
So what about this Wacky Races: the board game? From the start, we know what to expect. The game is not meant to be a complicated game. Its duration for one, its short rules, the possibilities of gameplay, it is a family game, easy and quickly. Wacky Races is a driving game for the family, very simple and possibly too simple. Compared to its price, one wonders if the publisher has paid too much on the license. Still, the game has good ideas.
Already, the respect of the series is a very appreciable thing. Thematically, visually, we are there.
It's a good thing to have eliminated Dick Dastardly & Muttley and made them an aggressive neutral player. The idea of traps is interesting, but quickly finds its limits. Already, this does not necessarily happen much in one game and can disadvantage the same player several times. The number of traps available is quite small, it does not allow for big surprises when discovering the cards and created a lack of variety which is heavily missed.
The game system is pretty good, but relies far too much on the luck of the draw. If you have the right combos at the right time, you will advance much faster than your competitors. It also plays on neutral management. Very good idea, but unique to each game, this system will create tension ... or nothing if the cards do not really allow them to move forward. We understand that the idea of making a simple family game was paramount, but the trouble is that in this state, it is limited like if we had rolled a dice, and that on the right number we advance (and again the die would be more fun). Cards can become very frustrating and very unfair. And it's not really the idea of abilities that will save things. On paper, that's fine. This allows for a slightly different and personalized drivers. In fact, the powers are very similar and with little variety.
The duration of the game, quite short, allows to reduce some feelings evoked without removing them. Rules for a championship mode (rather anecdotic) are included.
The miniatures are rather successful. A lot of details and we are plunged into this crazy world. On the other hand, the rest of the material is quite surprisingly poor. It is true that the publisher has accustomed us to good or very good. And there, see the cards / tiles very thin and not detailed, it surprises. The trap cards are very simple and do not have their own illustrations. The decor of the tiles is quite hollow, without relief and flavors. The cards capacities are at their limits ... The players boards are also very thin and their machine construction plans, which look strongly reminiscent of Victorian Masterminds (also a CMON title) could have been a little more worked. Except the miniatures, the rest leaves me really doubtful.
Moreover to return on the racers. It's a pleasure to know that there are eleven of them. But ... why are we so limited to only six players (so seven cars in play at the same time)? Why could they not have proposed more tiles to make longer circuits and thus incorporate additional drivers and make it more like the cartoon ??? No ... here you will only have the right to only have six drivers at the same time. What a disappointment. A few more tiles, a few more special tiles, that would clearly not have been luxury.
I am very annoyed with this game. I would like to love it, I would like to advise it, I would like to share with you my joy to play it ... But ... I can not. Deception would be a fairer word. I expected maybe too much. It happens sometimes. And yet, when the game starts and you are the required number, it turns out well. With children or family, it works. But between players, spent the discovery ... the atmosphere starts on a flat calm. Where is the fun? Where is the madness of the series?
The game is clearly not bad. But it really lacks something to make a good game. As it stands, the thing that can make you come back is the nostalgia side. The desire to plunge you back into this crazy world. To face Dick Dastardly & Muttley, to drive the The Army Surplus Special or the Compact Pussycat ... Finally, it did not need much more. More varieties in the powers, more variety in the traps, more varieties on the special terrain, more tiles, the possibility to play with all the drivers, more devious tricks to play, the possibility may be to lessen chance with a small side risk taking (and again it can pass thematically) ...
That's it, you know what to expect. To be honest, despite its many faults, I enjoy playing it. Even if I can not convince others to play another round. The game is still quite pleasant. Without necessarily leaving a playful imprint, it will satisfy you during this short period of time.
If you are a fan of this cartoon, you can even find your child's soul. The actions, the atmosphere stick thematically. But if you are big players and looking for a challenge, I can only advise you to think twice. A family run game, very well with children even as a game for an appetizer. But who misses the finish line because of road exits a little too frequent. Too bad, it really had potential.
Technical note 7/10
Apart from the cars that are very successful and the illustrations, the rest leaves something to be desired. Tiles too thin, not very detailed and varied. Fine cards and offering little variety. Player boards with little interest ... The rules read well.
My score BGG 6/10
(Ok game, only with the right audience)
My love of the cartoon stands out on my note. A family game that will not go down in history, despite interesting ideas and a very pleasant background. A disappointment compared to expectations. Quick and easy to play. To advise with children or with family.
Combined score of 6.5 / 10
And now, it's up to you to play ...