Title: Rallyman GT
WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 1-6
Published by: Holy Grail Games,
Designed by: Jean-Christophe Bouvier
I don’t particularly like watching motor racing. Now when I say that I’m talking mainly in the general sense but specifically F1. When I was younger the racing was just some boring program that my parents had on during a Sunday that more often than not delayed my favourite show from coming on. A board game version of it though? That may just hit the right gear.
Rules of the road
After making your track, determine the first player and they place their car at the start line and closest to the edge of the next corner. Once all players are on the starting grid the first player plans their trajectory with the gear dice. There are six black dice with a gear number on it (one of each gear), two white coast dice and three red brake dice. Which of these dice you get depends on your car, tires and the weather. Place dice along the track with the dice going in ascending or descending order or a mix of both. So if you start in gear zero you’ll lay out gear dice one then two etc. the white coast dice let you remain in the same gear and the red brake dice let you skip a downward gear. This is for those “whoops I didn’t quite plan that right” moments.
Corners have numbers indicating the highest gear you can take those corners in, any higher and you’ll automatically spin out. Some corners will even give you gear restrictions depending on how you go into the corner.
Next you have to roll the dice. You can choose to go flat out and roll all the dice at once or go one at a time. In either case if you roll three hazard symbols (two in the rain) you spin out.
Going flat out has more risk but will give you focus tokens. Rolling one by one means that you can stop your movement before rolling any of the dice to avoid disaster. It also allows you to use the focus tokens to avoid rolling a die.
Each round turn order is determined by the following. Cars in the highest gear go first, any ties the car furthest round the track then the car closest to the inside of the next corner. The game ends after a determined amount of laps.
“Lights out and away we go!”
Sports games aren’t an easy thing to translate into board games. For the most part sports are fast paced and board games, famously are not. The faster the sport, the harder it is to find new ways to get the pace and feel of the sport you're trying to emulate. Well unless designers are going to ask gamers to run round the room with the board in hand and a huge fan blowing at them! I think most gamers would agree that one of the reasons we like board games is because it involves a large amount of sitting. I know I do!
So designers are then left to focus on the strategic and tactical elements to get the essence and focusing on that strategy is something that Rallyman GT does really well.
Setting your trajectory at the start of your turn seems like a simple thing to do, lay dice out, done, right? Well no, because there are so many tactical decisions to make as you're doing it. Choosing your speed and dice order are just the first part of a row of interesting decisions you get to make on your turn. You’ll quickly find that there are usually a few combinations you can place your dice in as you plot your turn. Some will get you further along the track whereas some may not put you as far round but will set you up in a nice advantageous position for your next turn, and if your luck, may even hinder you opponents in the process.
“With half the race gone, there is half the race still to go.”
Rallyman GT is the first game that I’ve played that simulates the idea of the “racing line” properly. Sure you can take the corner using any of the spaces but taking that ideal line will give you the advantage. Aside from the obvious tactical advantage it’s really satisfying when you manage to pull it off well and put your metaphorical pedal down and power out of a corner and surge ahead. There’s even a certain smoothness that you feel when you do manage to take those racing lines and especially when you manage to set yourself up perfectly for your next move. On the flip side you also feel how harsh it can be when you're forced to take the wrong lines or if you have to come into a corner too slowly. That’s not a negative thing though because it all adds to the racing experience and goes further to prove just how tactically this game can be played from an offensive and defensive perspective.
All of this is before you even have to roll the dice, which brings its own conundrums. Playing it safe is, well, playing it safe and if you want to have a chance of winning then it’s probably your best chance. As the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race, which I’m pretty sure was written from someone who has never seen high speed racing or was their schools “slow bike race” champion 4 years running.
You can still push your luck when those hazard symbols come up but having the option to stop means you rarely have to worry about those devastating spin outs.
Going flat out? That’s where the excitement comes in, rolling one at a time can have its “oooh” moments, but the tension of rolling all those dice and almost dreading opening your eyes to look at the result, that’s where the game gives you those moments where you cheer loudly. You even do it for other players. They’re your opponents, but it’s still tense and them spinning out may just be your chance to swoop in and take the lead! It works the opposite way when those hazard symbols come up but that’s the price you pay. Still getting the focus tokens regardless gives some consolation and is also a big help when trying to regain some ground in later turns.
“The lead car is unique, except for the one behind it which is identical.”
Rallyman GT can have any issue with a runaway leader if one person is having a good day with the dice and you’re deciding whether to put all or some of the dice in jail, then the chances of catching the leader can be pretty low. Now that's an extreme example but it can happen. This isn’t a problem unique to Rallyman GT however. This is something that all games involving those dreaded cubes can suffer with in various different ways. Take Formula D for example. This is a race game that has the same problem but, in my opinion anyway, suffers a lot worse. Rallyman has some ways of mitigating the dice and being that spinning out is more likely here it does make catching up more of a possibility. The last game I played of Rallyman this problem was rearing it’s annoying head but with some clever players everyone managed to catch up without the leader crashing. It can be disheartening when it starts to happen but in Rallyman Gt it doesn’t necessarily mean it's over.
All that strategy and tactical play is a lot of fun but half the fun of the game is creating the maps before the game starts! There are some pre-made maps in the rule book if you're just wanting to set up and play. Making your own is great though. Take a number of tiles depending on the sort of game you want using the handy dandy guide in the rule book and create away. I like taking the tiles at random and seeing what craziness I can build.
Another way I find a lot of fun is to hand all the players a number of tiles and one at a time add one to the track. This adds a bit of interactivity to set up and the other players can’t blame you for the bonkers map that’s laid out in front of them and the fact that they never get out of fourth gear. If they think that’s painful then they clearly haven’t spent any time driving on the M25. Honestly though, the Grand Prix could learn from some of these tracks.
Rallyman Gt is a fun racing game that I think appeals to people wanting an enjoyable race game but also racing fans who want to explore the tactical side of the sport. It won’t make me a fan of racing but put this game in front of me and I’ll be more than happy to wait for the green light.