I love cars. I’m not as big a petrol head as I used to be but I’m still having an affair with my car, 7 years after I’ve purchased it. So it’s expected that I enjoy motorsport, and I do. I already own Formula D but without DSTV Formula 1 racing has fallen out of favour in with me. Rallying on the other hand, I’ve never actively followed but I’ve always enjoyed watching it. If there’s a race on while I’m flicking the channels, I’ll watch it. Not to root for any team but to marvel at the sheer skill involved the awesome machines and the amount of near death experiences.
Rallyman is a 2009 game by Jean-Christophe Bouvier that tries to simulate some of this. I had initially thought that this game would never reach SA and since importing Formula D turned out to be a chore I gave up on it. Eventually it made its way to boardgames.co.za and I totally missed it. Only a few weeks ago did I realise that this was the game that I was looking for.
For the TL;DR version click here.
Opening the Box
Specs on the box:
- 1-4 players
- 45 min
- +9 years
In the box there are 4 tiny race cars. Seriously they are tiny. A set of dice, 7 sets of cards, the rule book and 4 race boards. Each of these boards has multiple tracks running on them. They are also double sided so you can mix them up in a multitude of ways, there’s 100’s of combinations of rally stages that you can create. There is a dash board for each player to track their cars condition, using a set of tokens and there are tokens to mark dirt on the stage and also to track time that the players saved when driving flat out. Lastly there’s a pad for tracking scores during the game.
The cards are a bit of an odd size. For the first time I’ve had to purchase these.
I think this is self-explanatory. It’s a racing game where the players each control a car in a Rally. The rally is run across 1-3 stages and the winner is the person with the fastest time across the entire event.
It’s interesting how true to the theme the game is. In a real rally the cars don’t all start at the same time. There’s a 1 minute gap between car launches. So in this game in turn 1 only the first player goes. Then in turn 2, the 1st and 2nd players have a go. In turn 3 it’s 1st, 2nd and then 3rd. The 4th player will only get to start in turn for. This means that there is a2 turn gap between cars. Just like the real deal.
Setup is a breeze. 1 of the players will design each of the stages that will be run and decide if there will be assistance between stages (overnight repairs of the cars). Then each player will take a dash board and flip it to the side that shows which tyres they are using, snow or asphalt. They will each grab a SISU and a spare tyre card. Then the remaining cards are sorted into decks. 1 for each of the 5 gears and a short cut deck.
The essence of the game play is driving the car as hard and as fast as you can, to do that you need to roll dice. You have 5 black dice, 1 for each of your gears and 2 white acceleration dice. All of the dice have a hazard symbol on them and then either a number or blanks on the rest of the faces.
On your turn you can roll your dice and for each dice rolled move your car. There are 2 ways of doing this. The first is a cautious method. You can select and roll your dice 1 at a time. Each die can only be rolled once though. So you could start in 1st gear then go into 2nd then 3rd then 4th then 5th. You can roll your acceleration dice between any of the gears to stay in that gear. Each will allow you to move your car 1 space. If you roll your 3rd hazard symbol in a single turn then you will car or spin out.
You take a card that corresponds to the gear that you finished the turn in and put it on top of your “chrono pile”. Each card has a time on it which determines how fast you ran that leg of the stage. The lower gears have higher times and the higher gears have lower times, as you are driving faster. If you have a crash/spin out then you flip your card over to see what happened and receive a time penalty as you recover.
Anyone that has followed Top Gear will know that the Finnish love to race. They have a term “SISU” which refers to the “fighting spirit” of the Finish rally drivers. So each player gets 1 SISU card which can be used, once, to cancel all hazard dice rolled.
You start the next turn in the gear that is on top of your chrono pile (unless you crash then you go to 1st gear). You first die roll can be to gear down, up or to remain in the same gear, it’s up to you.
Your alternative way of rolling the dice is to run a time attack. You select all of the dice that you want to roll for this turn and roll them all at the same time. Your risk of crashing is higher but you will receive 1 time token per die that you rolled. Each of these tokens will deduct 1 second from your final stage time.
Another use for these tokens is that they can be spent to set a die to any face that you want them to have, when you roll the dice normally i.e. 1 at a time. Let’s say that you are in a particularly tricky section of the track and you have already rolled 2 hazard symbols. You can spend a token to have the next dice be any face that you like, and then you can spend 2 tokens for the next die and 3 for the 3rd etc…
This is necessary because the course can become very tricky. All corners can only be traversed in a particular gear or lower. If you are in the correct gear then the corner is a breeze and you fly through. If you are 1 gear higher then you have to drift/slide through the corner and instead of it being just 1 space it can become 3 spaces long! This will force you to waste an entire turn. If you are going too fast though then you will crash. Not even the SISU card will save you from this.
Some turns have a shortcut to get through them, off of the road and usually in a higher gear. This can be tricky. You can clear the off road section safely or maybe you can damage your car, or you can kick up dirt onto the corner making it dangerous for the cars behind you. Each tyre that takes damage will remove 1 of your acceleration dice. You could also receive damage to your gears, reducing the number of black dice that you can roll in a turn.
As in any rally, it’s a timed event. So the first person across the finish line is not necessarily the winner, the person who crosses the finish line in the shortest time is the winner. Add up all of the time values on the cards in your Chrono pile, subtract your time tokens to get your finish time.
If there are multiple stages to the rally then the person with the shortest time overall is the winner.
I find Rallyman to be a highly enjoyable game. It’s easy to setup and pack away, a game can be done in 30 min and it does give me the feeling of pushing my luck and driving hard to shave off precious seconds.
It’s technical enough to simulate the planning involved in attacking a real race track. Entry point, entry speed, apex, exit speed, gear into next straight etc. It’s almost like you are your own navigator. However it’s not too complex that it’s not accessible to someone who it’s petrol head to grasp. There are elements that make it seem a bit arcade-ish but that’s a necessary evil to keep the game fun.
It can get a bit more technical when you start mixing up snow and dry sections in the same stage of the rally and that makes tyre choices important.
If you’re a rally fan then you can order metal cars from the games home page. Replicas of new, and classic cars. They look awesome once they are painted. I’m very tempted to get a few for myself. You can purchase cars in the same scale as the ones in the box or a larger scale if you like. There are also downloadable, printable larger scale tracks if you need to keep the proportions right.
I won’t recommend this game to everyone though. It just won’t be most people’s cup of tea. If you’re a petrol head and have the urge to compete but can’t get out of the house then I’d say give it a try. That being said I have had some really great games with non-car people.
I’m off to sign up for the 1player guild monthly rally on BGG.
Can I play this at a braai?
I’m just going to leave this here.