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[GR] Bolide

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  • Tom Vasel
    It s hard to make a good racing game, yet that hasn t stopped dozens of designers and as many companies from attempting to do so. Most of the really fun
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2006
      It's hard to make a good racing game, yet that hasn't stopped dozens
      of designers and as many companies from attempting to do so. Most of
      the really fun racing games - Ave Caesar, Um Reifenbreite, have
      abstracted the race out to where it is a superbly fun, enjoyable game
      but doesn't actually feel very realistic. On the flip side, realism
      does not always a good game make, so maybe that's all for the best.
      Then, I received a copy of Bolide (Ghenos Games, 2005 - Alfredo
      Genovese), a racing game that had only one die - one that was barely
      used in the game!

      Bolide is certainly the most realistic racing game I've ever played.
      The way the pawn/car mechanic occurs is a very physical depiction of
      car movement without being overly complicated. No dice are used to
      move the card, just a simple mechanic that slows the race down from
      being a frantic pace, but one that leaves little room for luck. The
      only problems I have with the game are that with some folk it can move
      fairly slowly, and that the charts in the game are too random to match
      the pure tactics of the rest of the game. However, the movement
      system is brilliant, and I quite enjoy playing a leisurely game -
      carefully maneuvering my car around the track.

      (I'm going to go over the basic rules here - there are some more
      advanced rules…)

      The game comes with two tracks, each of which is made up of eight
      large puzzle pieces put together. Players roll the twelve sided die
      to determine at which position their car starts, and then the race is
      ready to begin. The race track, and the entire board itself, are
      covered with a grid. The intersections on the grid are the spaces
      upon which the cards move. The car in first place moves first, and
      then play proceeds from the car in second position, etc.

      Before players move their car for the first time, they must roll the
      twelve-sided die on the "Unforseen Start" chart to see if they get a
      slow or quick start. On a car's typical first move, they can move to
      any of the five points around their car (directly forward, diagonally
      forward right or left, or directly right or left). The player moves
      the car, and then takes the pawn that matches the cars color, places
      it over the car's new position, and then moves it exactly the same
      direction as the car just moved, placing the pawn on the new space.
      After all the cars have moved, the next round then begins.

      Starting with the second round, and continuing on for each round
      hereafter, cars can move to any spot that is in an imaginary grid of
      the twenty-five space grid that is centered on their matching pawn.
      For example, a car could move two spaces in front of the pawn,
      directly onto the pawn, one to the right of the pawn, etc. In effect,
      a car can increase or decrease its speed by up to two spaces each
      turn, if a player so desires. The car moves to the desired space, and
      then the pin, starting from the car's new positions, moves the exact
      same amount of spaces in the same direction the car moved. A car can
      never reach a speed that is more than seven spaces (max distance from
      starting space to destination), and cannot travel in a way that the
      trajectory between starting and ending point crosses a border of the
      track.

      If a player travels at ungodly speeds, they will soon find that their
      grid goes off the track in curves. This could destroy the car at some
      walls, but in most curves, simply causes the car to go off the track,
      where it must simply move one space at a time until it re-enters the
      track - at which point it acts as if it starts the race again - moving
      at speed one. During a race, a player has three tire points, which
      they can use to make a "sharp breaking", which effectively reduces
      their speed to two, with some other stipulations required.

      There are several other features of the rules:
      - A player can increase the speed of their car by one if they
      "slipstream" another car.
      - A player can try to move their car into a space occupied by another
      car, causing an "engagement", which is resolved by rolling on a
      matching chart. Results can cause damage to one or both cars.
      - Players can use boosters to gain an extra speed but must roll on a
      matching chart to use them to see any effects.
      - Players can use brakes to slow the car down (if they use up all
      three sharp breakings) but must roll on a matching chart to see if
      there are any negative effects.
      - Races are normally two laps. In between laps, players can stop in
      the pit lane to regain their sharp breaking points. In the second
      lap, a car has less fuel, increasing its maximum speed to eight.

      The first car to cross the finish line is the winner!

      Some comments on the game…

      1.) Components: The stark black box is rather large; and when first
      opening it, not much appears to be inside it. The cars are small
      plastic race cars molded in different colors with matching pawns for
      each. The pawns are nice, in that they stack, since players may often
      have them on the same space. More annoying is the fact that a pawn
      will often land on top of another player's car, in which case they
      don't stack quite so well. The racetracks themselves are very nice;
      although I don't believe, after a bit of internet research, that they
      are real tracks. The tracks are huge but fit on most tables that I've
      played; and since players don't need much room other than the track
      itself, it doesn't matter too much. Sheets of paper are included to
      track the stats for the cars (mostly used with the advanced rules).
      It's a nice setup, and I'm sure that some people will be painting car
      miniatures to use on the tracks.

      2.) Rules: The rulebook comes in three languages (English, Italian,
      and German), with twenty pages dedicated to each to explain the game.
      Even though the rules are fairly well translated and include examples
      and diagrams, I still had to go through them a bit slowly. Using the
      game board and moving cars, I figured out exactly how the movement
      mechanic worked, then I studied on how everything else operated. The
      movement mechanic is second nature to me now, and I did grasp it
      fairly quickly. However, it soon became obvious that this wasn't the
      norm, as many players struggled to understand exactly WHY a car was
      moving a certain way each turn. The advanced rules add some more
      "realism" to the game, but I felt that the basic rules were good
      enough for most people. Once you understand how cars move, the rest
      is a cakewalk.

      3.) Movement: Every time I play the game, I am blown away with how
      elegant the movement system is, and how well it simulates how cars
      should slow down at curves, etc. Now, I like the card movement of
      games such as Ave Caesar, or the dice movement of games such as
      Formula De. But the movement in Bolide felt realistic and made sense.
      I've seen a bit of griping on the internet about how the system isn't
      unique - apparently there's a game with similar mechanics that was
      around a score of years ago. However, the system is new to me, and I
      loved it! It only has two glaring problems - one, it's not intuitive
      to everyone; and two - slow people can take too long on their turn.
      Fortunately, the game includes a timer to help speed these people up.

      4.) Slowness: The game certainly moves at a slower pace than a race.
      This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but with players who are prone to
      think out their every little move it can be an annoyance. The timer
      included in the game helps to a degree, but I found that in most of
      the games that I've played we've been content to race only a single
      lap, rather than the entire race. If players simply pick a spot on
      the grid to move their car, rather than thoughtfully examine each
      move, the game is faster and a bit more fun. However, they also
      greatly increase the chance of a car crashing, as mistakes are easy to
      make. I wonder if the system might not work really well as a computer
      game?

      5.) Fun Factor: The game is going to be a lot of fun for those who
      like realistic car racing, and who appreciate the movement
      capabilities of cars. For those who just like to roll dice and not
      think too much - Bolide will not be for them. A race of Bolide is
      often played in muted tones, as players carefully count spaces and try
      to weave a path for their cars without deviating too much off the
      track. There are laughs when someone's grid goes off the track, or
      when someone makes an exceptionally brilliant (or moronic) move, but
      those merely punctuate the silence. I enjoy this thinking during the
      game, but it's not for everyone.

      6.) Charts: For how luckless the game is, especially regarding the
      cars' movement, it was a bit jarring to see how the charts were wildly
      random. For example, when using an encounter chart, when two cars
      tried to occupy the same space, there are no modifiers, nothing to
      increase the odds in their favor. If you try to run through another
      car, you might damage them; or they might damage you, slowing you down
      for the remainder of the race. These charts were just a bit too
      random for me; and after a few crashes or slowdowns (a slow car is
      basically out of the race), we usually avoided having to use the
      charts if possible.

      Despite my dislike of the charts, and the fact that slow people can
      make the gaming experience fairly miserable, I enjoyed Bolide. It's a
      game in which I can just marvel at how cool and interesting a game
      mechanic is and how well it works. In the race, cars get all bunched
      up in the corners and spread out during the long straightaways - just
      like in a real race. It's difficult to overtake the leader, just like
      in a real race; but when a player does, they know it's because they
      made some smooth moves. The satisfaction that comes from outplaying
      and outmaneuvering other players, along with the sheer interesting
      movement mechanic make Bolide a must-race game.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games"
      www.tomvasel.com
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