Saturday, April 07, 2007

Our racing games

We have a few racing games (i.e. where you are involved in a race of something, as opposed to just racing to victory by building a civilisation or by filling your sheep station full of sheep). They are, alphabetically, Alan Jones Formula 1 Grand Prix Racing Game, Formula Dé and Um Reifenbreite. I am reasonable certain that I used to have Auto Racing, but that end up being locked in the boot of a car which I could no longer get open and the car ended up being traded for a slab of beer with the game still locked in the boot, so it doesn’t really count.

Alan Jones Formula 1 Grand Prix Racing Game is not terribly well known. Oh who am I kidding? I have registered all the plays, well actually the only play, on the Geek and we have the one and only registered copy. Melissa claims to have played this with me on our honeymoon, but she has to date steadfastly refused to play it again. It is card driven and has beginners and advanced rules. There is a single map, but the different teams have different strengths and slightly different rules apply for different “courses”. Maybe I can get Daughter the Elder interested again, although I think she prefers Formula Dé , if only for the different tracks and the dice.

We picked up Um Reifenbreite in an order from Germany, but haven’t got around to playing it yet. We have heard good things about it and based on our research should enjoy it.

I played an eight player game of Formula Dé as a try before you buy experience and liked it. I managed to then get the game and four expansion tracks 10th Anniversary, Montreal & Long Beach, Hockenheim & Zeltweg and Buenos-Aires & Barcelona. Unfortunately with a couple of exceptions most of the other tracks are very hard to come by these days.

This is another game that I have failed to get Melissa to play, although Daughter the Elder and I have played it quite a bit. She approves that I picked up an extra set of dice from French eBay so that we have our own set of dice each when playing now. She seems to prefer the faster tracks, so I suppose I need to pick up one of the US track packs.

While trawling through the geek a few weeks ago I found this thread talking about the downloadable computer version and the specific post that have linked to refers to a French forum where you can get the links for a version that works properly. There are two downloads, one for the base game and one for expansion tracks. Checking it, there are twenty four tracks available, so it is not the complete game, but quite close.

It has an online connection and single (or hot seat) player options. I haven’t really played around with the on-line stuff as it connects to French servers and to quote a friend’s uncle “I speak French like a Spanish cow”. The single player options are very good though.

You can pick any one of the twenty-four tracks and run one to ten cars in any combination of human or computer controlled. You can select to have a practice qualifying round or a one, two or three lap race. Choose your weather and tyre options, change the configuration of your car, select your pit or just select the defaults and start racing.

If you choose the qualifying round, remember that burning tyres equals penalties, so possibly it is worth downshifting and slowing down to avoid that potential penalty. You even get to watch the computer player doing their qualification round too.

For standard racing you click on the die representing the gear you want to be in and the result is rolled and then the computer shows you all the spots, both good and bad, where you can end up given your roll. Something that I didn’t realise for a while is that it doesn’t take into account using brakes as an option in the display. Brakes are under your control so if you don’t like the offered results you can choose to check off brake points to modify the result – which can certainly save the occasional disastrous overshooting of a corner.

In gear selection you can always go up or down one gear or stay in the same gear as the previous turn, downshifting is available assuming you have fuel and/or brake points to allow it. If you don’t have them then the gear options are restricted, which can be rather depressing as you scream up to a tight corner in sixth gear with no fuel left. When you mouse over the gear options the possible rolls and ending positions for your car are shown on the track as a guide to assist you in your gear choice risk benefit analysis.

The computer takes care of all the collision checks and debris on the track. Something that I have found that as you add extra players the amount of debris (and totalled cars) on the track increases quite drastically. With four or less cars the track usually remains relatively clean, but with a ten car race the track itself can become quite lethal by the second and third laps. I have seen corners where it is impossible to avoid hitting debris on the way through. With corners like that it is just a matter of time before your car itself just adds to the debris on the track :-(

Another nice feature of the computer game is that the longest path through a corner is specially marked on the track. At least I find it nice, others may consider it a cop-out to those who can’t be bother paying attention.

It has sound effects for rolling of the dice, pit stops, engines blow, collisions and shooting through corners. If you want a little Formula Dé fix with just you against the computer it plays very fast and there are lots of tracks available.

I think I have played through all the different available tracks now and updated my wishlist based on being able to play on the different tracks. It would probably also be worth somebody who wished to try before they buy the base game to give this a go if they don’t have a physical copy available in their group.

I have only noticed one bug so far. On one of the tracks, and I can’t remember which one it is now, the first corner is marked as a single stop corner. The computer player approaches as it as a one stop corner, gets into the corner and then suddenly acts as if it is a two stop corner. In practice this means you get ahead whilst the computer play does a lot drastic changing from fourth gear to first or second.

I recommend it. Now I should post this and see if I can convince Daughter the Elder to stop bugging me to use the computer and actually play one of the physical games!

Mmm meeples taste like…

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