Theme and What is It?
Wolfgang Kramer made a racing game nearly 40 years ago. Then it was so good, it was remade, and remade, and remade and remade. The interesting part of Downforce, is that it is a remake of these titles that have just been so very much a part of the gaming landscape, for the past four decades.
It also, has been able to capture my imagination, and bring something new to the table. You are not racing a specific car, necessarily. Though after the initial auction, you certainly have reason for a specific car to win. Beyond that, it becomes a betting game, that allows you to somewhat offset your cars position in the race.
The box is normal full size board game size, with beautiful art, and five things. The board, the cars, the rules, the cards, and score pads.
It seems like overkill, for what is included, the box could likely be half the size, and still hold the game, but likely has space for expansions, depending on how the title does for Restoration Games.
The cars seems high quality as the “meeples” of the game, and are appropriately sized for the title.
Downforce is three separate and distinct games boiled into one.
The initial game is a auction style mechanic that can only be negative victory points. What a way to start a game, in the red as it were. Much like a real F1 team, there is a very real chance that you could end the game in the negative based on your ranking. You therefore, must pay to play, if you want to have a car to support in the game.
The secondary game is the race. You are dealt a plethora of cards, that you used in the auction, and will use again in the race. These cards allow you to move cards forward (always forward), in the order the card dictates, absent special powers. As with any race, you want “your team” to win. Winning leads to higher victory points for your crew.
The final aspect of game is the Pete Rose aspect of the game (sorry baseball fans, nothing like watching Petey play!), you are now betting for or against your own team to win the race, at three parts of the race. Depending on how you bet, you will be awarded victory points. The closer you are to right, the more victory points ($M) you will be awarded at the end of the race.
Quality of Components and Insert
The race board is 50% larger than a square board game, and is dual sided. It is heavy stock, and feels substantial, easily being heaviest part of the game. For that reason, it is the bulk of the weight, and frankly the bulk of the game.
The cars are nice, and from listening to others they are very well received. Being a Hotwheels fan, I would not put them at the same caliber, but I would say they are much nicer than cars I’ve seen in some other racing games, including car “tokens”. The cards are nice card stock, and matte.
All in all there are no issues as far as quality that I see.
The art of the box feels fast. It feels like a racing game should.
The color palette is fantastic, and evokes being in a race. Restoration games has made an artistically solid box.
The actual track falters somewhat, it is a race track and a bit boring to look at. I am not sure how an artist can make blacktop look artistically exciting, but I hope for more than boxes, corners, and a few landscaping elements.
The game is fun. The blocking mechanic led to various curse words, and several moments of frustration. The narrows feel appropriately narrow, and the straightaways feel fast.
On a pound to pound comparison, without comparing to any specific racing game, this has become my favorite racing game, and boils down the fun of the game to three basic elements. I’m definitely in like with this game. It has in a matter of a playthrough made me reevaluate my top shelf games. It has only led to more play-throughs, and I expect many more cuss words.
Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion
The official age is 8+, and I feel that is entirely appropriate. I think anyone above 12 could play it, and 8+ could do so with help.
The racing part of the game, any age could understand, once they can count. The rest of the game, may require a bit of guidance.
I like Downforce. I have a general like for racing games regardless. So many racing games overcomplicate the game, and lose the fun. I do not want to focus on tires, or fuel, or windshield, or drive fatigue; I want to race.
It is punishing when you have to play a card that helps an opponent, just so you can get past a narrow. The game takes your initial planning, and turns it on it’s head, every time. If you are the type that likes blocking other people, expect them to use this game to get you back. They will do it with an evil cackle, and you will curse in your own manner either silently, or loudly, but always appropriately.
Restoration Games has made racing fun again. I am interested in seeing bigger boards, and more cards and abilities. Downforce was a MeepleGamers GenCon Top Ten, and deservedly so.