Formula D review

Formula D is the reprint of the classic racing game Formula De.  Never having played Formula De before, I can’t compare the games, but I have come to enjoy Formula D itself.  Certainly one of the most fun racing games I’ve had a chance to play, with an interesting racing mechanic using dice for movement.
Appearance: Formula D comes in a very large box that contains the racing tracks, the cars, the player’s individual racing car information and the driver information.  The design of the tracks and the drivers are in a slightly cartoonish style, one that displays the information about the cars and the tracks quiet well.   It’s easy to read and it’s easy to follow, with the game board having useful little pieces of information like the number of spaces to the next turn and the highest and lowest number of space in each turn.  Overall, I’d say the design of Formula D is great.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Formula D is quite easy to learn.  While not the simplest racing game out there – Snow Tails has a much simpler and more intuitive racing mechanism – the rules aren’t overly complicated either in the basic, classic Formula De racing game.   Of course, there’s additional rules for tires, pit stops and weather but most can be ignored in the first few games.  The street racing rules aren’t much more complicated, just adding additional individual driver abilities and special ‘track specific’ spots.  The only intimidating aspect of Formula D is the initial race car information sheet – there’s a lot of information there that can be over-whelming.

As a quick summary, players in Formula D begin by picking their drivers.  In the basic game, all the drivers are exactly the same with similar cars.  Cars have a variety of ‘points’ indicating the grade of tires, their brakes, their body, engine and shocks.  You track how well your car is doing via pegs inserted in the driver information boxes, so it’s easy to keep track of all this information.

In addition, you have a gear box that indicates the dice that you are rolling at each gear.  Players can only ever shift up one gear at a time, but can downshift multiple gears (at the cost their gear box and potentially engine and brakes).  Higher gears give greater movement, in a non-linear progression.  Example – first gear gives you movement of between 1 – 2 spaces while fourth gear gives movement between 21 – 30 spaces.

The only other major rule to keep in mind are turns.  Each turn indicates the minimum number of stops required in the turn, and if players blow through a turn without stopping, they suffer wear on their tires.   If all their tire points are ‘blown’, they spin out the first time and blow up the second time.  So, judging movement and turns becomes the heart of the game.

Minor (but important rules) are scattered throughout the rulebook dealing with what happens when you go through a turn without stopping, how to use brakes, engine failure, slip-streaming and the like, adding to the complexity of the game and occasionally forcing players to review the rules.  However, the basic game continues to be quite simple.

 Gameplay: Formula D is a lot of fun to play.  With at least one player knowing how most of the rules work, it flows fast and tense.  The game has a great combination of luck and skill, with tension always in the air over every single roll.  In Formula D, players are always calculating the number of spaces to the next turn, debating whether to go up or down a gear and figuring out how far to push their car.

And that’ where things get interesting – as multiple players on the same board can take the same turn in different ways.  One player might burn through at a high speed, forsaking tire points for speed while another might attempt to hit the turn exactly right at a higher gear.  A third might work to slow his speed down in the turn, betting on picking up speed at approaching turns as the other players have to brake then.  It makes Formula D fun to play, with every player’s plan potentially thrown off by the throw of a die.

There’s been discussion about run-away leader problems, but in the games we’ve played, that has rarely happened.  Sure, a lucky and skilled player can take the lead and keep it – but it sometimes only takes one or two bad rolls to throw his entire lead into disarray as players behind him push their cars to the maximum and he has to readjust to upcoming turns.

While the basic Formula D game is fun, we found that the street racing games even more so as the basic track becomes even more dangerous with additional obstacles.  There’s also a lot of fun having the ability to use Nitro.

My only real complaint about the basic Formula D is the fact that the boards are entirely preset.  It’s a great business tactic – once you’re hooked, you’ll want ever more tracks to play.  However, it does mean that you only have 2 tracks to race around on unlike the modular tracks available in other, more recent, racing games.

Conclusion: Overall, it’s no surprise that Formula D is a classic racing game.  It’s definitely for anyone looking for a racing game that has both luck and strategy in it and it leads to some truly tense gaming moments.