The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Rallyman Review

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.

PS — I”m not one to customize a game, but damn. Just, damn.

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.


Written by taogaming

May 21, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Reviews

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5 Responses

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  1. Haven’t tried this yet, Brian, because of my usual aversion to racing games. But based on your description and that of others, isn’t this multiplayer solitaire, in the strongest sense of the word? Is there ANY player interaction? And is there anything to do on other players’ turns but sit and watch (and it sounds as if it could be for quite some time)?

    Larry Levy

    May 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    • There’s some possibility of overtaking or jockeying for position … not as much as most games because of the staggered start. In many senses, it’s like Can’t Stop; how much you should risk depends on how well others are doing. Other than that, multiplayer solitaire.

      Once people know the game, though, each turn should be 15-20 seconds. But yes, its a a fixed fun game. A long stage with 4 people can take a while. With two it flies by.


      May 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    • Early games should be solo or two player – this is where it shines for me. I’ve tried it with five (first game for four of them) and it was truly painful – as they had to learn the game (not difficult), then try to analyse the fast routes through the course. The staggered start meant player’s 4 and 5 had a 20 minute wait before they launched, which wasn’t fun.

      The player interaction comes in a few ways – mud on the shortcuts slows following players down (a valid tactic in real rallies). If you use the public timing checkpoints, you can measure you’re progress against other cars, which will give you a chance to attack or defend. The Dirt expansion will also introduce an “auction” to avoid starting the rally first and sweeping the course for the following cars (another valid tactic).


      May 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      • Yes, four players dragged a bit. I think new players should play with 2-3 (or maybe take turns solo-ing a medium length rally) and with four it should be a “No time to think, Move!” situation (once experienced). Lots of race games are better like that, of course.

        Five would be right out, I think, except for very experienced players.


        May 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  2. […] less than 4 purchases!). I’ve been playing classics (burning through my Top 20 outside 200), Rallyman, and several new-to-me […]

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