Champagne Spraying

Review of card game Formula Motor Racing by Pevans

What's this: A motor racing game with no race track? How does it work? This approximates to my thoughts on opening up Gibson's Games' smartly-packaged Formula Motor Racing and discovering that it contained a pack of cards, a twelve-sided die, twelve cars (only models, unfortunately) and a two page set of rules.

The way it works is very simple: the race is based on the relative positions of the cars, rather than where they are on a circuit, and the length of the race is governed by the deck of cards. To start with, each player chooses a colour and is dealt a hand of cards. The twelve cars are arranged one behind the other.

In turn each player plays a card, moves the car(s) as a result and takes another card. This continues until the cards run out, when each colour scores points for the positions of its cars as in Grand Prix racing: 10 for 1st, 6 for 2nd, 4 for 3rd and 3, 2, and 1 for 4th, 5th and 6th - not as is (mis-)printed in the rules. Note that non-player cars can score points and there's nothing so galling as being beaten by an "unmanned" car! After a series of races the player with the most points wins (and you're doing really badly if this is one of the non-player colours!).

The game revolves round the cards, of course. The most common card is an Overtake, which allows you to move a car a number of positions forward. You also move the car immediately behind (this game's way of providing slipstreaming). Cards can be for a specific colour, in which case you must move that colour, or grey, in which case you can move any car. Two factors are immediately obvious: moving someone else's car can be good news if your car's right behind, and moving your own car can be bad news if it brings a rival with it.

Other cards allow you to move cars backwards or catch up from the rear. Charge cards allow you to keep moving up positions as long as you roll the right numbers. Fail and you either slip to the back or spin out of the race. These, too, can be played on other people's cars. The killer cards are the Crash and the Spin out. Crash takes out one car at random (roll the die) together with one car next to it. Spin out just removes one car. Because of the random nature of these, they are usually reserved until you're desperate or the odds are in your favour (i.e. you've only got one car left anyway).

In this sort of game, playing the last card is an advantage and that is certainly true here. The game ends one round after the last card was drawn, so whoever draws the last card, plays the last card. There's nothing you can do to change this, so be aware where the race is going to end and plan your end-of-race tactics accordingly.

As with any card game, how well you do depends on the cards you get. Except that other people may well play the +6 of your colour if it does them some good. Playing several races, the luck tends to even out.

This is an excellent little game which provides plenty of fun and provokes a little thought. At the price Gibson's have pitched it, this is good value.

Formula Motor Racing was designed by Reiner Knizia and published (in the UK) by Gibson's (and subsequently in the USA by GMT Games). It is for 2-6 players and takes 90 minutes to play a series of six races. Pevans rates it 9/10.
This review was originally published in Games Games Games 95, October 1995.

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