Rallyman

Rallyman showed up on my doorstep recently.

 

I played it pretty much immediately with a friend.  And I had a good time too.  I thought I would share my initial reactions, in case anyone who reads this blog might care.

Here is the entry I put up on BGG, along with a “7” rating:

Rallyman arrived in early January 2011, so I promptly got a first play in with a friend that day it arrived.  I was excited to try it, based on the glowing remarks it had garnered from a couple respected geeks here on BGG.

I liked it.  It is an interesting puzzle.  You want to move efficiently, but at the same time you want to minimize your time – which translates to wanting to finish in as high a gear as possible.  Further spice is provided by the randomness of whether you roll a hazard symbol.

But I didn’t love it.  As a 2p game, it was comfortable.  But I could see where waiting for your turn in a 4p game might get tedious.  Also, going later seems like a bit of a ding.  Players who go through the shortcuts before you are bound to throw some dirt onto the curves before you get there.  I think someone who starts fourth has some extra adversity, and might just stay in fourth if the breaks fall normally.

I wish the game had come with 4 sets of dice.  A quibble, passing the dice around is not a big deal,  But I had to remind my opponent every single turn to give me the dice.

So I like it, and I want to play more of it.  I will try the 4p game too.  But I suspect smaller games for 2-3 might be ideal.

That was a week ago, and now I sit here considering if I want to take Rallyman back again tonight.  We might be 2, maybe 3 at the table.  I think Rallyman might work reasonably well with 3.  We’ll see.

It is an attractive game.  You get a moderate sized box, although the cover seems to not fully cover the sides of the box.  Within you find a nice set of dice, four race boards, four little cars, and lots of cards.  The race boards are interesting.  They are geomorphic, but you do not create a continuous circuit.  Instead you lay out a route with a distinct start and stop.  On the back of each board is the exact same layout but with snow and ice on the routes.  You decide what weather you will race in.

The clever bit in this game is the trade-off of moving as many spaces as you can in a turn vs. the desire to end in as high a gear as possible vs. the demands of the corners to gear down.  Each turn, assuming your car is undamaged, you get a potential of 7 moves.  There are 5 black dice, one for each gear.  Each turn you can only use each die once.  Regardless of what you roll on a die, you just move forward one space.  The dice generally have the gear number on each face.  But one or two faces show a hazard symbol.  You must use a sensible progression.  So at the start, you are in neutral, so go could go 1 -2 -3 -4 -5.  Simple eh?

But of course the corners complicate things.  Each corner lists a short route through the corner at a low gear#, and a skidding longer path through the corner at a higher gear number.  If you come in even faster, you will at least lose control of your car, or even crash.  So you really must slow down for the corners.

At the end of a turn you note which gear you last selected.  You take a card for that gear and add it to your “Chrono-Pile” in front of you.  If you ended in 1st gear you will get 50 seconds, 2nd gear is 40 seconds, down to 5th gear where you only get 10 seconds.  At the end of the race, you add up all your time cards.  Whoever did the race in the least amount of time (not turns) will win the race.

On a subsequent turn, you refer to what gear is on top of your Chrono-pile.  If you ended in 4th gear, you start the next turn in 4th gear.  SO now things get a little trickier.  You could roll 4th gear again, but then do you go up to 5th or down to 3rd?  If you picked 5th, you would get a short time card (just 10 seconds) but you couldn’t use the 1-3 gear dice, which means you won’t move that far on the course.

Enter the two white dice – the cruising dice.  Instead of selecting a new gear die, you can roll a white cruising die to continue in your current gear.  So to continue my earlier example…  Starting in 4th gear (from the prior turn) I could choose to roll a while cruising die and move one space.  I could then roll 5th gear, move, then cruise, move, then roll 4th gear (as I had not yet rolled that die on this my second turn) and make a move.  If I really wanted I could then go down through 3rd, 2nd and 1st gears getting three additional spaces.  However, that would mean I would get a painful 50 second card for ending my turn in 1st gear.

Of course, those demanding curves come far too often, and they force you into lower gears and awkward situations.  And we cannot forget those hazard symbols on every die.  If you get three of them in a turn you lose control of your car and end up on the side of the road in neutral, costing you a full minute of time.

There are a few more details, but hopefully this gives you a glimmer of the decision points.  What was unclear to me during our first play was whether taking a longer turn with several moves, but ending in a slow gear was worse or better than taking shorter turns with fewer movements that ended in a high gear.  The trade-off between spaces moved and time accrued seemed hard to judge.

As far as luck – I don’t mind it.  But rolling lots of hazards on the dice will surely ruin some players attitudes.  But the concern I have is the lack of player interaction, and the potential long waits for your turn.  This wasn’t an issue in my 2p game.  But I could see how waiting for 3 other players to optimize their moves might get tedious.

Another fact is that the fourth player will wait a decent amount of time to get started, and the 1st player will wait the same amount of time waiting on others to finish.

So there you have it.  I have some quibbles, but this seems like a nice 2-3 player game.  I like the ‘thinky’ connundrum presented, I like the rally racing theme, and the staggered starts are unique.  On balance I am impressed, but I will miss some of the fun found in fender to fender racing on a circuit; and I am concerned about the downtime I sense is potential.

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One Response to “Rallyman”

  1. Alex Says:

    Sounds like a good game, looking forward to trying it.
    The downtime seems like it might only be an issue with analysis paralysis prone players.
    If 4 sets of dice were included you could decide and roll a die at the same time. Increasing the tension a bit as well.

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