WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 2-6
Published by: Helvetiq
This is a free review copy. See our review policy here.
I love the little boxes of joy that Helvetiq put out. Each one has been a hit for me. They always seem to pack in so much game into these tiny boxes. The slightly bigger "After Dinner" series that so far includes games like Art Robbery and Barrakuda has just added a new beauty to its line, Crazy Pilot. A real-time game with zombies. I'm in! Let's get it to the table and see how it plays.
First, separate the five different card types, using the card backs to help you. Then shuffle the 94 situation cards and deal 20 to each player. In a five player game give each player 18 cards, and for a six player game, just 15. For two players you need to remove the zombie cards first, then deal 20 regular cards to each player, adding three zombie cards to each hand afterwards. Leaving each player with 23 cards in total. Shuffle these together for each player, then place a starting card on the top of each deck to block the view of the first card. It is best for each player to do this for another person, so you cannot glimpse your first card as you do this. Each player is then dealt a car card which they must place in front of them, leaving enough space to place a card in each space orthogonally around this card. Place the penalty points and finish card into a central area where all players can reach and you are now ready to play.
How To Play
When all players are ready, one person will say go, and all players will begin the game, playing simultaneously. First moving the starting card from the top of their personal deck to the bottom, revealing their top card and then working their way through their deck until they come to the starting card again. Players will be analysing each card as quickly as possible, trying to determine if they should place this in front of their car card as the road ahead is clear, behind it as they need to turn around due to an unavoidable obstacle, to the left or right of them as they need to change lanes to avoid a hazard, or to the bottom of their deck, meaning they need to stop and wait for a temporary hazard to clear before moving on.
All players are playing at the same time, in real-time, so you can do this as fast as you like. There are no turns. But be careful not to make too many mistakes by rushing. Each card is quite busy, and it is easy to miss something. Here, have a try now, check out these four cards. Where would you place them?
Once the first person has gone through their deck so they are back to their starting card, they will grab the finish card and all other players must now stop. Each player in turn will then go through each of the cards they managed to place, and check if they put them in the correct position. This is done by flipping them over to reveal the correct location. To check to see if you got the four above right or not, I will now flip these over to show you how this works. How did you do?
Hopefully that all makes sense. The top two are straight ahead as there is no real obstacle on the road. Just a busy sidewalk. The top right could be placed either in a change lane to the left position or straight on, both would be correct. The bottom right you need to change lanes to the right to avoid the car. And the bottom left, you are not going anywhere for a while. Time to turn around.
For each correct card you will score one point. For each card placed into the wrong location you will lose a point. The person with the finish card gains two bonus points. Most points wins!
And that is pretty much the entre game, except for the small mater or the zombies! If you ever come across a Zombie in a card, and they are sometimes very easy to miss when playing at pace, you must shout "Zombies!" You will then slap you hand on top of the penalty deck. Each other player must stop what they are doing and slap their hand on top of yours. The player who cried Zombie now checks to see if there really was a Zombie or not. If there was, they can place this card under their car card and score one extra point at the end of the game. The person who reacted slowest and slapped the hands last takes a penalty card and score minus one at the end. Then play resumes for all players with the person who paused the game shouting "Drive!" If they were mistaken and there is no zombie, they must place this card face down beside their card and it will score minus one point at the end, and play will resume.
Any zombie card that was placed anywhere else will score you a minus point at the end game scoring. They are hard to spot sometimes. Can you find all four zombies in the above cards? I find the ones in the windows very easy to miss when I play. Others are quite tricky as they look exactly like other cards, other than the addition of the zombie. Check out the one on the top left with the crashed UFO compared to the one earlier in the review that also has the crashed UFO. Tricky huh?!
In the two player game, when you spot a zombie in one of your cards, you will shout "Zombies" as usual, but instead of then slapping the penalty deck, you will place it into the other persons player area. They must then check if there is zombie there or not, and place a penalty card over it. If there was a zombie there and they do this, then all is well. If they don't, they will lose a point. You could place cards without zombies in front of the other player just to mess with them. And of course, this is all happening whilst they are trying to get through their deck as quickly as possible. So any distraction to move their focus to a new card in a new location can be very distracting! This is the only change for the two-player game other than the 23 card set up.
Is It Fun?
Playing Crazy Pilot will be hectic, stressful, and perhaps a little overwhelming for some. If you don't enjoy real-time games where you are racing against other players, this will not be for you. But if that kind of game floats your boat then this could be a real winner. I love real-time games. I enjoy the focus this puts on my mind. I do not like it when I am rushed in my decisions that need real strategy or thought. Games like Escape: The curse of the Temple properly stress me out and I do not have fun when I play it. But games like Jungle Speed where you are under a time pressure, but the mistakes made because of this are not huge work for me. That's the balance at play here. Real-time is hard for more serious games where you play for an hour and everything could sway on something you miss due to the lack of time available to you. That is not fun. Games like Pendulum find a way to hit the middle ground by putting you under time pressure, but giving you just enough time to make the informed decisions you want to, and by keeping the decisions limited to a set number of things. It works like this with Crazy Pilot by keeping the decision to one of six things, but also lowering the jeopardy. A game of Crazy Pilot only takes a few minutes. If you lose due to a silly mistake, rack-em-up and go again!
I can see this game being very popular with families, and couples who enjoy a bit of healthy head-to-head competition. My children have really enjoyed this one and keep asking to play, especially my son (ten) who very much enjoys it in two-player and the direct challenge it poses. It is fun to push yourself and try to make the decisions on each card as quickly as possible. There is a noticeable learning curve, and you can se yourself getting better each game, which is rather satisfying.
Without the zombies, you really could fly through the cards after a few games of this.
Once you become more familiar with the cards your pace will pick right up. The introduction of the zombies makes a big difference there. But if you are lucky with the shuffle and spot your three zombies early on, and are certain you were right, you can then fly through the rest of the deck with a lot more reckless abandon. I think the game would have benefited from more cards to avoid the ability to learn them like this. But I appreciate the publishers are limited somewhat by the size of the box they use. That said, I am over ten games in and I am not quite there yet. I have got to a point where I am fast, but it is still a process to get through them. And that process is enjoyable.
If you want to have some fast, frantic, fun with your family in real-time then I can heartily recommend Crazy Pilot. Just watch out for those Zombies!