Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Racing (animals - real or imaginary)


Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

OK, so the break was longer than a week, but here's the first of a series of three "racing" lists from the Apple Pickers.

It was interesting to see Igel Argern _grow_ in popularity - while TurfMaster faded. (This is not a surprise to me, as I like the classic hedgehog racing game & think TurfMaster is as dry as dust...)

It's also nice for Frank Branham's Warhamster Rally to get a well-deserved tip o'the hat.

2:45 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Racing games have never been my favorite, so I was surprised how many of the ones with animals I like. Top of the list (and my favorite racing game of all time) is Hare & Tortoise and it's good to see this evergreen tabbed for the top spot. I also thoroughly enjoy Odin's Ravens, although it doesn't hit the table that often any more. Billabong (not -gong) is another winner--too bad it suffered a demotion (no doubt due to rabid anti-Aussie feelings in the electorate). My other picks were Win Place & Show (great family game) and Elchfest. My other two nominees didn't make the final cut: Crazy Race and Derby (one of Dirk Henn's lesser known titles that I think is underrated).

Of the other winners, Ave Caesar (I actually played the equivalent Q-Jet) is pretty good and I wouldn't kick if asked to play again. Igel Argern is entertaining, but nothing special. The only top finisher I really don't like is Royal Turf. Rick Thornquist likes to call my beloved Pickomino "Reiner Knizia's Game of Pure Luck", but I think that title clearly belongs to Royal Turf. I've been bored silly every time I've played it. Then again, bluffing does nothing for me, so this probably just isn't the game for me.

Of the others, it was nice to see Fragor's Leapfrog get nominated. I played Turfmaster once and didn't care for it at all. And I've never played Really Nasty or Warhamster.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Kevin_Whitmore said...

Racing games are a passion of mine. I frequently play them, and am constantly amazed at all the clever methods game designers develop for racing.

Unfortunately there are a lot of race games that simply use a roll and move mechanism. If you roll high you win, if you roll low you lose. I believe it is because of the many cheap games that use this mechanic that race games often do not get much respect.

One aspect of race games I particularly enjoy is the spatial positioning and reading of the board for opportunities. So in that regard, I quite like Turfmaster. Turfmaster offers much more control than some of the winners we list. My quibble with Turfmaster is that it takes a full evening to play; and part of me thinks race games ought to be quick.

Here's my take on the winners:

Ave Caesar - reasonably quick, very little control, if you start in the back you have a hurdle to leap in order to win, yet the game often is fun. Definitely a "screw-your-buddy" sort of game. Some prefer Ausgebremst for its rules refinements, which lend more control of which cards are in your hand. I prefer the chariot race for the faster play and better theme.

Hare & Tortoise - moderate length (but beware the plodding optimal planner type of player), nearly perfect control, strikes me as more of a logic problem than a race.

Igel Ärgern - moderately quick, simple game that strongly urges the use of 40 variants included with the game. Core game is pretty good, but certain variants make the game shine with various numbers of players. For large groups we like "Fizzing Hedgehogs" and rolling two dice.

Royal Turf - moderate length game, limited control, but some crucial decisions are offered. Choosing where to bet, who to bet with, and when to run your favored horses or when to cause a competing horse to move slowly - all this creates some angst during the game.

I'll omit comment on Odin's Ravens. its been too long since I played it.

If I ever launch another web page, it would probably be to devote a site to racing games. I've played almost every racing game I've ever hear of. I'm still in search of the "perfect" race game.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are all crazy. The best animal racing game is Das Storrisches Muli, hands down.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

I, too, am a big fan of racing games, as I have been ever since Daytona 500, the terrific Wolfgang Kramer design, somehow made it to the American Toys'R'Us shelves thanks to Milton Bradley back in 1989 or 1990.

Of the "animal" games listed here, my biggest favorite is Reiner Knizia's Royal Turf, a horse race which frankly made no sense to me the first two or three times I played it. Finally it dawned on me that the really crucial part of the game was in choosing where to place the bets, and that *that* was an amazing, mindbending challenge to try to get right. With the race underway, it's still important to be alert to the kind of support the different horses are getting from the players ahead of you and behind you in the racing order, knowing when you and you alone must hobble Earl Grey if he's going to be hobbled, knowing that you're not the only one pushing Caramello so that you can spare some effort for Sahara Wind -- that sort of thing -- but figuring out in the first place where to lay your bets, judiciously spotted in amongst those of the other players', is the real brainteaser. And then... it's so fun watching how the race turns out! Simply a wonderful game.

Hase und Igel is another big favorite, but I completely prefer the previous editions to the one pictured here. Not only is the original artwork much more appealing, but the game itself has been badly altered. In the latest rules set, the pivotal challenge of the game (getting to the three cabbages you have to hit during the course) has been watered down to landing on a rabbit square and rolling a five. That's too easy!!! I like this game when it's about careful planning, not just thumping along and seeing if you can get lucky!

Another game on my list of favorits is Billabong, a delightful race around a board of squares with the possibility of multiple jumps of different lengths and angles on the same turn. This game seems almost too simple to be so good! Just a really fine, clean design.

I've never quite warmed up to Win Place & Show as written, with its business of jockeys cheating and trying not to get caught by the racing stewards, a real game-the-system game of questionable appeal. But I do like system itself, the set of six races for horses that have the same tendencies to tire or not every time but make different going according to the pace set by the dice, and I've run the day of racing numerous times just to make bets, make the lane changes as cannily as possible, and see how things turn out. I'd be curious to know how faithful to the rules the people who voted for this one actually are.

Stven Carlberg

8:08 PM  

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