I obviously love board games. Some games have amazing mechanics, others are just plain fun. I am a terrible reviewer, because I often don’t know why exactly a game fascinates me. Sometimes it’s a specific mechanic that I enjoy, another time it’s just watching everyone at the table use a different strategy and yet have a close game, once in a while it’s how much it makes my 4 year old laugh.
One style of game that I almost always enjoy is racing games. I’ve always been a fan of racing in general, be it track, cars, bikes, or pretty much anything. I am hard pressed to find a racing game I disliked, although I’ll try to think of some examples to mention below and why.
I own several racing games, and have sold/traded several more. The sell/trades often had nothing to do with how much I enjoyed the game, but often is just because I have another game that does it a little better, or I can only justify keeping a few race games, and it’s just not quite as fun as another game.
I want to highlight a few games, some very well known, others not as much. I am a racing game enthusiast, and occasional evangelist, but by no means have I tried all of them.
Let’s start by defining what a racing game is to me. It’s mostly games themed as racing. I mean, you could probably call Blue Moon City a racing game, it’s a race to build the most pieces of the tower first, but it’s not what I consider a racing game. Race for the Galaxy is not a racing game either, even though it’s in the title. Clank! is a bit more of a grey area, but I’m going to say no for this article purposes.
Formula D: Let’s start with what I am guessing is the most well known, maybe Formula De if you have an older edition. It’s purely a racing themed game. Be the first person to cross the finish line. It’s very simple, and easy to explain to new gamers. Roll this die to go. Roll this die to go faster. Be careful you don’t go too fast, you need to stop twice in that corner or you’ll take damage. There are some other ways to take damage, but they aren’t really avoidable, just part of racing close to other racers, or going as fast as possible. It has a neat push-your-luck element to it that creates some decisions to be made, although they aren’t difficult decisions, just nerve wracking sometimes. Another plus is variety. There are dozens of different tracks, although many are difficult to get and are long out of print.
It has been one of my most fun gaming experiences over the years. And this is my most memorable game. We had a 12 player game going at Con of the North (I forget which track it was sadly.). 3 of us are well out in front, but are slowing down for the final corner, while others are coming up from behind in higher gears. The player in the lead spins out. The player in second pulls up alongside him, but also spins out. There is one lane to pass them, it will take me on the longest route around the corner, but I can upshift and will win, as long as I don’t roll the highest roll on the 3rd gear die. Which of course was literally what I rolled. I spun out also. Now we have the whole track blocked. All of the cars behind us start downshifting to avoid crashing into us. The cars in the back on the other hand, do not need to brake, they actually maneuver around all the slower traffic and are in significantly higher gears now. I believe the person who was in 10th place with 2 corners to go, won the race, the person in 11th finished 2nd. I ended up in 5th or 6th, but had a fun story to tell.
Pitchcar: Well known, and much more available for the past 15 years than it was early on. Pitchcar is a flicking dexterity racing game. You each get a disk, and flick the cars around the slot-car style track. There are walls around some of the track, so sometimes you can pass people with amazing ricochet shots, but sometimes you also shoot your car right off the track and have to go back to where you started. SIlly fun. We have the miniature version that we don’t play nearly often enough. The game looks incredible laid out on a table, although the full game looks more impressive. You rarely hear people not laughing and creating a general ruckus when playing this game.
Powerboats: This one is a bit lesser known than most on this list, but is a ton of fun. It uses 3 sided dice for movement, and you can lock dice and move different numbers of spaces. The hex board means going in a straight line isn’t always the best way, but it can also mean multiple ways to get to your goal. You race around buoys placed on the board, so the race also isn’t a set track. Speeding up and slowing down involved adding or removing a die from your locked dice. You can re-roll the locked dice too if wanted, but you always roll an added die. People get into trouble by having too many dice locked and not being able to slow down enough to either make a turn or avoid hitting an island. Chaotic, but simple, it usually only takes people a couple of turns to figure out what they are doing, and it’s designed to have a series of three races, so one bad race doesn’t mean you can’t win.
I could go on and on. A few other favorites summed up with a short comment:
Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix : This uses the same system as Daytona 500, Top Race, and Downforce. I’ve always enjoyed it, and am planning to pick up Downforce soon. The card play, with the bidding mechanics make it an interesting game.
Hare & Tortoise: An oldie but a goodie. Nice and mathy, but I’ve always enjoyed it.
Automobiles: Uses deck building mechanics. I’ve only played it once, but it was really neat, and I need to get it out again soon.
Igel Ärgern: Apparently per BGG it translates to “Annoy the Hedgehogs,” this is a bit of a cute and simple game, with a ton of blocking and messing with the other players, although it never seems to get annoying that way. A fun game that seems like it’s been forgotten over the years, it’s fun and has a TON of variants.
Monza: My First Racing Game would be an appropriate name for this one too. It’s great for kids, and Aleksia has been able to play it with a little help since she was 3. It’s set for ages 5+, and that’s not too far off. I’ll likely do a review for this one down the road.
Ok, I’ll stop there, but know I could have added cycling, motorcycles, horses, and robots to this list and barely broken a sweat.
On to a game that I was a little disappointed by. It was even more of a bummer because it was a BGG Secret Santa Gift (although it was part of a large number of games that they sent me, this was the only in shrink game.).
Bolide is a really cool idea. Vector based movement. But it was extremely slow to play with more than a couple of players. I believe we played with 4 or 5, which isn’t a large group for a racing game, and it took us several hours to finish. It’s been 11 years since that game, so I don’t remember too many details.
Another one, this one was a BGG classic and was out of print for a long time, Ave Caesar. It had been hyped for years, people raved about it, so I was excited about the reprint. I was lucky enough to play a friend’s copy, and I was really disappointed. My BGG notes say that 4 races was too many, it felt too repetitive and samey. I’d probably try it again, maybe my expectations were too high.
I’ll end my post here. I count over 20 more games that I didn’t bring up, some well known, others not as much, but the lowest rating I have given any of these was a 5 using the BGG rating scale. So even the games I didn’t like as much, I didn’t hate. I’m a racing game junkie.
Any racing games I should be checking out? Any rare gems I should be seeking out, or even something that BGG ratings hate but you love? Feel free to leave comments below.