Formula D Review

Note: This is not about the Street Racing version of the game. This is purely about the Formula version, where everyone is playing basically the same car.

Formula D is just what it says on the tin. Its Formula cars racing. But you don’t have to like the sport to enjoy the game. I definitely don’t like the sport, but I do enjoy the game very much. Same applies to other people I’ve played with. Its a push-your-luck game with a strong feel for the theme.

The game mechanic is pretty simple, but there are some a bit more complicated elements, which are not necessarily very intuitive. This might be in part, because I have no interest in the sport, or cars for that matter, but since the game is suggested ages eight and up, they might need to be a bit better explained in a cheat sheet of some sort.

The basic idea is this: Your car is on a gear from one to six and depending on the gear, you roll a dice for how many places you can move. Each die is shaped like the strange dice familiar to roleplayers everywhere (expect for the thirty sided one, which is a bit more uncommon than most), but they don’t contain numbers from one to whatever. Instead, they have a range. The smallest die (four-sided) has ones and twos, and represents the first gear. The biggest die is the thirty-sided one, which has results from 21 to 30. I haven’t checked what the distributions on these dice are (and I really should), but based on the ranges on some of the dice (four to eight on the eight-sided one) they are not necessarily even.

The interesting part is that you can’t just put on the sixth gear and tell those behind you to kiss your ass. Instead, the course has a number of turns, where you have to slow down your vehicle and shift down your gear. If you don’t do this properly your car will take damage.

On the other hand, your car has some resources, and if you are not using them, you are not playing right. If your tires haven’t taken a lot of damage after a round, you probably weren’t playing right (unless you were really, really lucky).

Luck is obviously a big part of the game, but if you don’t have the strategy down, luck won’t help you that much. Some of the corners are very difficult to maneuver and other players will make them even harder for you. Since you can’t change your gear up more than once each turn, you have to keep your car going as fast as possible even through the most dangerous places.

Its a fun optimization problem, where you need to take chances, but you have to know when to take them. Its generally good to think at least one or two moves ahead, but you can actually figure out more than that. Being in the first place at any given time is a big plus, because you get to choose the best lines and block some from your opponents, thus giving you an edge. Sometimes risking taking that spot just isn’t worth it if it costs you other opportunities later on.

We played two games over the weekend. One with four players, one with eight. I was sort of dreading the eight player version, as I felt there was a chance it would just break down into chaos, but it didn’t. It did break down otherwise, as two players fell behind early, and eventually dropped out of the game (quite understandably).

Otherwise the games were surprisingly even. Actually, the latter game really came down to the wire, as I had to take a chance at the final corner of the game to maintain my speed. I had already used up my tires and brakes, so if I overshot the corner by just one space, I was practically out of the game. If I slowed down by one gear, someone else would have had the opportunity to use the same gear I was on and overtake me, but my gamble paid off and I was able to win.

Although someone clearly has an edge in the beginning by being on the first position, that doesn’t mean much. In the first game we played, the starting order was actually totally reversed at some point in the game. In the latter game I was able to win from the pole position, but only after falling to the fifth place at some point in the game.

Its a very interesting game and I would generally recommend it. Not necessarily for the eight year olds out there, but for those mathematically inclined enough to be able to plan out their moves, but you also need to be able to be flexible enough to change those plans at a moments notice when a die doesn’t fall quite the way you would like it to.

And don’t worry about the theme, if you aren’t interested in Formulas. I sure as hell am not, but I enjoy this game quite a bit.

The box says that the time it takes to play the game is about 60 minutes. That doesn’t ring true to me. I guess there might be a sweet spot where this is true, where all the players know how to play, but all or most are not planning there moves too much ahead. I’d say two hours is more like the actual game time needed.

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