CRITICAL HIT: 'Formula D'

Formula D (Formula Dé)

Publisher: Asmodee

Designed by Eric Randall, Laurent Lavaur

Publisher's site:  http://us.asmodee.com/

Formula D is a republished car racing/risk management style board game from Asmodee; the creative distributors of quite a few well known titles such as 7 Wonders, Dixit, Seasons, and Eclipse. Looking at the box art, I admittedly find it somewhat uninteresting in comparison to other games I currently own and play. It’s pretty and I can tell it’s well made but I, for one tend to enjoy games with longevity, mountains of rules, replay value, and maybe the occasional dragon. The only reason why I picked Formula D up was because I watched an episode of Geek & Sundry’s TableTop where Wil Wheaton and company tried to outrace one another around a large track with using teeny-tiny cars, specializations of their chosen characters, by way of different-sided color-coded die. And believe me when I say this; it did more than just simply peak my interest. So this past weekend at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, USA; I eagerly picked it up at the Asmodee booth.

Instructions for beginner and advance players.

While unboxing Formula D, you get two sets of instructions. A booklet for beginners and another for advanced players. I suggest playing with the beginner instructions at least once; even though they suggest playing it multiple times before taking on the advanced instructions. The rules themselves aren’t too hard to follow and they add so much more depth to the risk management portion of the game. Plus each booklet is surprisingly easy to follow in the case of a quick look-up during gameplay. So it’s best to keep it close by.

Now I’m just going to broadly go over some of what all comes with the game:

  • 1 Double Sided Game Board with the circuits of Monaco and Race City
  • 6 Dice symbolizing the 6 Car Gears
  • 1 Black Die to determine car damage and other unpredictable events
  • 10 Formula 1 Cars in 5 colors symbolizing 5 different race teams
  • 10 GT Cars with 10 double sided character cards
  • 10 Dashboards, 10 Gear sticks, 60 markers for Wear Points (WP) and 20 damage markers

Yes, it’s a lot to work with and every bit is crucial. Of course the overall usages of the bits accrue only when there are more people participating in the game. So no worries, you won’t get overwhelmed. In regards to the little cars, they're quite durable and easy to spot. The dice are kind'a flat but I wouldn't know what else to expect from them. The construction of the dashboard is quite genius and the game board comes in two fold-able halves that could withstand a mighty storm. I can see a long life with this set.

The main purpose of the game is simple, be the first to cross the finish line on the final lap. The trick is getting there. I’m going to be talking more about the advanced rules just because that’s where all the meat is. After playing it several times with 3 different groups of gamers and non-gamers alike; it’s really not that difficult. Before you begin the race, you’ll need to know a little something about the most interesting mechanic in the game; the use of the “dashboard”.

 The dashboard indicates how fast you can move each turn (with the use of a gear stick) and it displays your current Wear Points (WP) within 6 different categories. Those categories are tires, brakes, gearbox, car body, engine, and road handling. Each of the 10 characters you can choose from comes with their own pre-defined set of WP stats and a characteristic. For example: Derek Mason is quite an aggressive racer. He doubles the chances to cause harm to someone's car if he finishes his turn next to them putting their "car body" at risk. And there are more passive characters such as Li Tsu Sin who has the characteristic that if anyone was to pass her, they have to slow down one space because they looked at her.

The other interesting tidbit about the dashboard is the every turn; you have the option to “shift up” or “down”. Doing this determines the range of spaces you want to move that will be indicated on its corresponding die. 

For example:
  • 1st gear is a 1d4 which rolls between 1-2 spaces
  • 2nd gear is a 1d6 which rolls between 3-4 spaces
  • 3rd gear is a 1d8 which rolls between 4-8 spaces
  • 4th gear is a 1d12 which rolls between 7-12 spaces
  • 5th gear is a 1d20 which rolls between 11-20 spaces
  • 6th gear is a 1d30 which rolls between 21-30 spaces.

 

So if I’m in 5th gear and it’s now the beginning of my turn, I could just shift up to 6th gear and roll a 30 sided die? Yes. So why not just burn rubber in 6th gear completely around the track? This is just a game of luck and the highest numbers rolled wins, right? Well you have to slow down. There are corners on the track that you’ll need to make “stops” in. Not necessarily “stops” but where you’ll need to complete your turn in. And each of those corners gives you a number of stops you have to make and a few are an upwards of 3 times. So it’s best to try and balance how often you should shift up and shift down in order to not damage your vehicle. The idea of taking care of your car is probably the most enjoyable part of the game to me because you’re trying to play it smart in a world based on the luck of a die. Being a big RPG fan, I’m quite used to it. I’m also quite used to the dice hating me.

Anyways, if you completely drive through a corner without stopping, you’ll cause damage to your tires on your dashboard by the number of spaces you've overshot it. If you run out of tire WP, you’ll spin out of control and have to start off your next turn in 1st gear. If you lose another tire WP beyond that (Wear Points which you no longer currently possess), you’re eliminated from the race. In fact, if you run completely out of any of your dashboard WP within any category, you may suffer a mishap or be eliminated all together.

Now there are plenty of other rules, such as weather which can cause your vehicle to slide so many spaces, driving over damaged parts of the road could cost you some WP, using turbo boost to give you 5 extra spaces, getting caught behind a wall of cars who you can’t pass and have to burn a few brake WP to save yourself, drafting (or as this game calls it “slipstreaming”) gives you an edge if you directly behind someone in 4th gear or higher. The list can go on and on.

What I dig about this game is that it lays it out there for you and tells you what the basics are. Then tells you, “hey, are you tired of Formula 1 racing? Try urban street racing!” Therein lies a few new rules to change things up. Sometimes making it more difficult… sometimes, making it more fun. Although I have to be honest, this game works best with as many people as possible. I have yet to play the max (10 Players) but I swear it’s going to happen. But even a 2 or 3 player games can be greatly improved by using 2 cars per player. They actually have rules for such a thing and then it’s not about who gets in 1st place anymore; they provide a 1st-10th place scorecard where each car gets a certain amount of victory points. It’s quite brilliant in that regard.

All in all, this game spoke to me in ways I thought a game couldn’t. Probably because it’s different than anything I currently own. I came out surprised and excited to pick up a few of their expansions (basically more double sided game boards). Maybe the Slamfist Media team could experience an around the world Formula D tournament one day. Actually… I’m sure of it.

Recommendation:

I would recommend this game to anyone with who wants to play a high stakes game with a bunch of people. I’m not kidding, this game gets better and better with the more people that are involved.

Final Thoughts:

Remember to try to basics, add a few rules, add a few more, and then try street racing. It’s fresh and it’s… well it can be damn frustrating. Just don’t wreck your ride. Enjoy!

Critical Hit Review: 4.8 out of 5

 

Below is some shots I took of the game board. The "Monaco" and "Race City" maps.

And I thought I would include the original video that sparked my interest in playing Formula D. Check out Geek & Sundry's TableTop episode of this very game, below.