Theme and What is it?
The starting grid is set. The drivers plan their racing lines. The tension is high from top to bottom as the cars jockey for position, weighing when to press their luck on an aggressive move and when to play it safe. Timing is everything in Rallyman GT.
Rallyman GT is a racing game for one to six players and is a remake of Rallyman published in 2009. Players will use the game tiles and the Track Book to lay out a course for the race (players may also build their own tracks). Players will each take a dashboard, a car, and their nine speed markers. Once players have determined a starting grid, play can begin. In each round, player order is determined first by player speed with the fastest car going first, followed by the furthest car and then inside car in the event of ties in the previous categories.
For movement around the track, players will use a mix of the six gear dice, two coast dice, and three brake dice, with each space of movement correlating to a black or white die. Each turn must begin with a black gear die, either the die representing your speed from the previous turn or a die that is one gear higher or lower. Once moving, players may use one or both coast dice during a turn to extend their movement. If a player ever needs to decelerate by more than one die, then they add a number of break dice into that movement. For example, to decelerate from 5th to 2nd, the player would need to roll the black die for second gear and two brake dice to represent the extra two gears skipped in downshifting. Each die may only be used once per turn. In order to overtake a car, you must be in an equal or higher gear than the car you wish to overtake.
Complicating your movement plans are the corners of the track. For every corner of the track, the tiles indicate various information pertaining to maximum speed for that turn. Numbers inside a semicircle indicate the maximum speed for entering that space head on, while numbers inside a full circle indicate the maximum speed for the space. Additionally, a corner will sometimes have a number inside a triangle with an exclamation point. In these spaces anyone traveling faster than the indicated speed receives a warning for that movement which is part of their limit of three warnings for that turn.
Each of the dice carries a number of “warning” results. If a player receives three warnings during their turn, either from the dice or from movement through corners, they have lost control and must consult their dashboard to see result. Depending on their speed at the time they lost control, they can have to draw a number of damage markers, spin out and begin the next turn at speed 0, or spin out and begin the next turn at 00 effectively losing their next turn. There are six different types of damage markers. Green flags carry no ramifications. Yellow flags mean that the car that spun out cannot be passed until they have restarted in 1st gear. Weather tokens cause all players to flip their dashboards to the other side, indicating either dry conditions or rainy conditions. Then there are tokens representing each of the three dice types. If you draw one of these tokens, it decreases the number dice you can use of that type during your movement phase.
This risk of losing control is where the push your luck aspect of the game comes in. After plotting out your potential course with the dice, you can either roll the dice one at a time to limit the chances of getting three “warning” results, or you can choose to go “Flat Out” and roll all of the dice for your turn at once. After the roll, players can lay out all of the dice, either following their original trajectory or not. If they gain three or more “warnings” then they spin out at the site of the third warning result. However, the benefit for driving “Flat Out” is that, following a successful roll, the player will gain focus tokens equal to the number of black and white dice rolled that turn. Focus tokens can be used during future turns while driving normally (one die at a time) to grant automatic successes for any needed dice. The decision to use a focus token must be made prior to the roll.
The first racer to cross the finish line after the predetermined number of laps is the winner. The game also indicates that it can be played solo, though my prototype copy of the rules did not appear to have rules for this variant. I assume it would be some sort of time trial where the player would try to complete the circuit as quickly as possible in the vein of the original.
I like racing games and am always eager to see what a game to does to differentiate itself in that genre space. The appearance on the table and the press your luck nature of the dice caught my attention straight away.
Game Build Quality
I had access to a prototype copy and cannot comment on final quality. If the tiles and tokens were indicative of the final, then players will be pleased as they were of good thickness and sturdy.
The art in Rallyman GT looks pretty good overall. Most of the components have a slightly weathered look that fits with the gritty feel of the race. I would like to see greater clarity on the tiles themselves between which spaces count as being which terrain type. Some are clearly all asphalt, but some of the one ones that are grassy have a blended border where the grass fades into the asphalt and I think it could be clearer.
Age Range & Weight
The rulebook states that Rallyman GT is intended for ages 10 and up, but I think younger players will easily be able to grasp the mechanics of the game. The primary tactical decision is whether to drive safely, one die at a time, or to press your luck by rolling all dice at once in the hope to earn those valuable focus tokens. Racing games also tend to be much more visceral in their competition which might be difficult for younger players. There can also be some frustration if the dice gods abandon you.
Rallyman GT is quite a lot of fun at the table and I really liked the style of the art with the exception of the clarity regarding terrain types. I enjoyed the use of the dice for managing car speed. It adds a feel of resource management as you consider the best use of the dice for a given turn and is a good tactile sensation of your car’s speed. The decision of when to go Flat Out and try to earn focus tokens also creates some tension, particularly when you have laid out many of the dice for a big turn. The prototype rules only had one track layout, but as it mentioned a Track Book I would imagine there are going to be a number of track layouts in the final copy. You also have the freedom to design your own courses.
The penalty for spinning out can be a major setback in most cases and while I would expect their to be a strong risk vs reward element, losing a turn can effectively end your race in most circumstances, particularly if you are already behind when you spin out. The lone exception is if you draw the yellow flag, which blocks everyone from passing you until you have regained movement. This can feel pretty unfair when a race sees a leader spin out, draw a yellow, and not lose any position and then also sees a spin out that causes a player to lose a turn and the rest of the field create a sizable gap. Falling behind can be very difficult to overcome, and if you didn’t already have a lot of focus tokens you are left to the mercy of the dice gods. For these reasons I think most players will find themselves either playing solo or partaking in larger play count races. With the rules for overtaking, larger player count races see much more blocking on the track and players must really pick their openings and wait for opportunities to exploit.
I liked the mechanisms in Rallyman GT and at the right player counts it provides a different kind of racing experience that is quick and fun to play. The Kickstarter for the project launches today (November 15th, 2018) and I think you should take some time to go check it out.