I’ve now played a single learning stage and two games against TaoLing.
Simply … Rallyman is a fantastic game with a novel idea — It’s not how many turns you take, it’s how much time. The key mechanism is that each gear (1-5) is a die with two hazard markers (the ‘1’ gear only has one hazard marker). There are also two ‘gas’ dice (white, one hazard and 5 blanks each). You start with the gear you were in last turn, or one higher or lower. Then you roll a die and move one space, no matter the gear. You then chain the dice, with the gas being whenever and otherwise you can only go up or down one gear (as you expect).
When you stop, you take a card showing your final gear. 5th gear is 10 seconds, 4th gear is 20, etc. (There the same for each gear, and are also used to show what you can do on your next turn). But if you rolled 3 hazards, you lose control and end your turn. You take the gear card normally, then flip it over. It will show a zeroeth gear ( afull minute!) and if you just spun out or went off the road (which may cost you some tires, which limits the # of dice you can throw).
Of course there are corners, you can take the inside lane at low speed or drift through the outside at higher speed. That takes extra spaces, but if you end your turn in a higher gear, it’s probably worth it. There are also shortcuts (in the dirt) that may cost you some tires, but throw dirt on the road, and bumps, which can let you gain a space or two, at the risk of crashing.
In the advanced game, stages snow (or mixed) and you have to pick your tires. Also, most ingenously … you can choose to attack … you declare your roll in advance and then roll all the dice. For this risk, you gain 1 second per die! Seconds can also be spent on a safe turn to not roll a die, but just place it on a safe side. (The first die is cheap, but they get expensive quickly).
Since it’s a rally, there’s a staggered start; while it could happen that you have to deal with people in your way, that’s typically only if they crash. (So in a four player game, the turn order is A,A,B,A,B,C,A,B,C,D and then front to back from then on). A normal game is 3 stages, but you could play more.
If you want, you can play with checkpoints (announce your time the turn you pass the checkpoint). Or you can play solo and try to best your time for a rally or single stage.
If I sound enthusiastic, it’s because Rallyman is the grail. Simple design, but complex gameplay and strategies. You an study a track, and then discover new tricks. I suspect, at some point for some tracks you get ‘optimal’ designs, but then it becomes “Well, when do I attack and risk a crash, when do I roll one at a time … and when that 2nd hazard comes up do I stop, roll, or spend a few seconds to roll safely?” My feeling is that the game plays at the level you want to play it at. A quick fun game or a cut-throat endeavor.
Maybe it’s the newness talking, but I’ve been remarkably resistant to the cult of the new recently (a fact even commented on at the last game night. “Of course Tao thinks Troyes is meh” (For the record, I upgraded to Meh+ the next day). Finding a game with new, simple mechanics and depth? Great!
Being able to play it with my son as well? Amazing. In fact, in our second game I lost to the TaoLing by 2 minutes! The track is here (course 1), and I was up by 40 seconds going into the last stage … then I lost control in an straightaway with an unlucky roll (3 hazards on a 4 die attack) and suddenly I’m behind. Meanwhile he’s throwing seven die attacks with no problem. It’s still a dice game.
So — I’m amazingly enthusiastic about this one. I’ve upped my rating to an 8. Well see how it goes from there. I’m not going to print out the dirt expansion, but If I’m this stoked in October I’ll get a copy after it’s published.
PPS — The modular board design also allows for a large number of tracks. You can combine the 4 (double sided) boards in a number of ways … they don’t have to line up in a square. The Rallyman site offers many (multi-stage) rallies.
PPPS (May 22nd) — With four I think it’s a bit long. See comments below.