In Defense of Rallyman (an open letter)
On a gaming mailing list, there was an “Open Letter” about Rallyman. I started to respond on the mailing list, but figured I’d rather just post it here. I don’t feel comfortable quoting the exact letter (since it was a private list), but the basic gist is: “The winner is the player who rolls the fewest warnings.”
- Theme matters. Even if you think this is just Can’t Stop with a horrible “You lose” crap out mechanic, it’s got an actual theme. That also means people are willing to house rule to fix issues. Frankly, if you take more than a few seconds to roll the dice, you are playing it wrong. I don’t care what the rules say. (The “As you have all the time in the world to find a perfect play” is a strawman, and “I refute it thus” by asking T__ T____ to kick you).
- The ability to play a ‘named course’ means you can have a Record time. Solo-ing a race is interesting.
- The game deals with managing risks, not lines.
- You assume a player’s ability to make a perfect move. A player can find the perfect “Line” (a series of rolls/gear-shifts where you cannot improve if you knew you never were going to roll a warning). But a perfect move isn’t just the line, it’s risk vs reward (time attack versus regular turn) and what the current position says about that. If you go first and the theoretical perfect line is 1-2-3-gas-4-5. Do you time attack? The odds of crashing are significant. If you don’t, then (as you point out) the player(s) behind you can time attack to improve by six seconds. If you crash, they’ll play it safe. (Even then, the 2nd player may still risk because the third player is behind them).
- The choices are iterated. You react to what happens. If someone makes a good roll you need to take more risks to win. If someone crashes you need to take less risks. It really matters how many people are behind you.
- The perfect move in many situations is beyond human calculation (in that nobody could prove that Line X — Time Attack is better than Line X — Single Rolling stop when at risk versus Line Not Quite As Good As X that seriously cuts down crash risk but is only ~5 seconds slower). Taking the most aggressive move doesn’t win, and taking the safest route doesn’t win. And this discounts how much risk you should accept in a multi-stage rally, or a single rally with 4 players instead of 2.
- [Sidebar — Would the game be better if the crash penalty were not so horrific? I’d say probably. In fact, I may house rule that spare tires only cost 15 seconds or so, and just say “You didn’t lose the tires” but “you bumped your alignment and have to adjust.” I’d also consider increasing the cost of playing it safe, since I think the current costs are low enough so it’s almost always right to pay the few seconds.]
Rallyman isn’t abstract, it’s a bear-baiting. Saying the way to win is to not get mauled just begs the question — How do you tease the bear?