Review – Rallyman from Rallyman.fr, designed by Jean-Christophe Bouvier
note – a review copy of this game was provided by Rallyman.fr
I must state up front that I am NOT a fan of car racing of any description. Not F1, not Nascar, not LeMans. I tend to find watching car racing and actually anything about cars in general, boring (Top Gear aside). Cars are a means to an end… to get me from point A to point B, right? And then playing games about racing? The closest I’ve come has been on my PS3 and I generally crash and burn.
So why in the world would I play Rallyman? Good question really. I think that its because I have found Rally the only type of car racing to be vaguely interesting. Part of me has wanted to develop an interest in it but, oh i dunno, it just hasn’t clicked enough to invest my time in it. Maybe a board game about Rally? It might be the least dull out of any type of car racing game for me.
Rallyman is a game about Road Rally. For designer Jean-Christophe Bouvier this game is clearly a labor of love. Check out the video demonstration that he gave of Rallyman that he gave at Essen available on Boardgamegeek.com and you will see just how enthusiastic he is about the game and Rally.
The components are just grand. The 4 double-sided game boards come with a variety of tracks that can be mixed and match to create up to, apparently, 240,000 different tracks! I’m not about to test out the theory but that sounds like more than enough for me. The boards also show terrain in normal weather conditions and snowy conditions. The artwork by Philippe Bouvier Clovis is very well done and gives you a good sense of the typical terrain and conditions faced by Rally drivers. There are cards representing the 5 gears of speed on one side and penalties for losing control of your car on the other. There are also cards for the effects of losing control such as damage and flat tires. You also get 4 small rally cars and dice – 1 for each gear plus 2 for use when changing gears and maintaining your speed.
As Jean-Christophe explains in his demo, the main thing to remember in the mechanics of the game is that you roll one die and move one space on the track. And yet, this is not a roll and move game per se. You roll each die, starting with your lowest current gear and then according to your planning, you can roll the white dice to maintain your current speed and colored dice to increase your speed. The speed you choose can be risky in a number of ways. Each die has a warning sign and if you roll three of these amongst the dice you choose to roll in your turn, you will lose control of the car.
You need to plan how many dice you will roll and how much risk you want to take as the tracks have dangerous curves and shortcuts to take, each having a maximum speed to enter without risking loss of control. It can be quite harrowing. So there is a strong push-your-luck element to the game if you want to be a champion Rally driver.
Each player has to make their decisions based on road conditions, speed adjustments, how must time they want to shave off. Although you normally roll 1 die, move 1 space, you can take a calculated risk by rolling all 5 gear dice and if you don’t get 3 warning signs (2 in winter conditions) you can earn chits representing precious seconds off your time. There are painful penalties for losing control of your car so you need to balance risk and reward.
There are rules for overtaking, losing control, weather conditions, etc. All very simple and adding to how you plan and think about how you will attack each stage. After 3 Special stages, the players add up their times and the player with the fastest time overall wins. There is also a special Time Attack feature which is the essence of risk and reward in Rallyman.
All in all, this is an elegant design, simple, yet interesting and thematic, giving the players a real sense of taking part in a Rally. It starts off with a little down time for each player as they start their race as they need to wait until the preceding drivers take their turn. Where you might expect to be racing on the track alongside your competitors, you all basically start off at different time stages so its all about a race against the clock, not so much jockeying for position so there is only a small likelihood of overtaking but it can happen due to decisions made and/or mishaps. Using this system is easy and loads of fun.
Did it work for me?
Rallyman pretty much has everything I need in a car racing game. The system is elegant, totally intuitive and logical. It calls for just enough planning yet doesn’t bore me or get bogged down in the minute details of Rally, instead, giving me just enough to understand, get a feel of what a Rally is like and then get on with the fun. The components are excellent and the huge amount of variety in tracks that can be created is outstanding. There are a couple of slightly difficult areas of translation from French to English but this doesn’t detract at all. It is rare when I have actually been excited playing a board game as much as I have when playing Rallyman. It is one of the best games I’ve played in quite a long time. I LOVE IT! Good grief – I just might start watching Rally’s on TV!
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 10 out of 10
This would be a great game for family night.
For more information abut Rallyman.fr go to – http://www.rallyman.fr/