Classic cycle race
slipstream and Working for a lead
Cycle races are still a favorite sport in many countries of this world, despite numerous doping scandals, due on the one hand to the fact, that the cyclists, despite maybe having forbidden substances in their blood, are delivering nearly inhuman feats, and on the other hand due to the sport itself being a strategically and tactically highly interesting team sport. If you have ever watched Tour de France you know that the famous domestiques, who work for other cyclists to be in the lead and must close gaps, do not win races. The team captains are the ones who are meant to be the winners – and they are the ones that hide most of the time within the Peleton - the big, closely packed sworm of cyclists – to save their strength and attack at the right moment to be a few centimeters in the lead across the finish line. In nearly every race, run-away groups are forming who stay in front of the main sworm for many minutes but are usually caught by others within the last kilometers to the finish line.
Anyhow, cycle races are popular longer than yesterday. In the past, numerous designers have tackled the topic, more or less felicitous, let me just mention the very ingenious Leader 1, published in 2008, its new edition Giro ‘Italia, or Um Reifenbreite, which even did win Spiel des Jahres award in 1992.
In 2016, the Danish designer Asger Harding Granerud has picked up the topic in his first game and has named his game Flamme Rouge. Fans of Cycle Racing immediately recognize by this name that the game is a game on cycle racing, as flamme rouge is the red flag that marks the last kilometer of the Tour de France before the finish line.
Up to four team managers may send two racers each to the track. This track must be put together from several track sections; the rules provide several suggestions for this. The total length of the track is always the same, but you can place mountains on various spots of the track, which introduce a variable tactical element to the race.
Each player receives two different plastic pawns in his color and the corresponding cards for two types of cyclists: A Rouleur and a Sprinter. The Rouleur, on average, has the higher cards, but the sprinter has three Nines in his deck and therefore is, at least in three rounds of the game, a lot faster than the Rouleur.
As soon as all pawns are arranged behind the starting line, the race can begin. You shuffle the two cyclist decks separately and draw the first four cards from both deck. For each cyclist one card of those four is laid out face-down, the other cards are placed open-faced underneath the respective draw piles. When such a pile is spent, you shuffle the open-faced cards for a new draw pile.
When the cards are placed, they are evaluated. The first cyclist in the current ranking on the track moves as many spots as the card played for him indicates. The other cyclists follow in order of their positions. The used cards are taken out of play.
Now, slip stream is taken in consideration. For each cyclist, you check if the cyclist in front of him is exactly one case ahead. If this is the case, he and all cyclists in his group may advance one case. A group is made up of all cyclists who are connected without a free case between them. As you check for slip stream from back to front, it can happen that a cyclist can advance several cases for free in a round.
Then you check each group for the cyclist furthest in front. Those cyclists must now work on the lead and therefore suffer exhaustion in the guise of a card of value Two, which is the worst card in the game. It is placed into the deck of the respective cyclist and can or must be drawn and played, as any other card in the game. Thus, the deck gets worse.
The round ends after this.
In this way, round after round is played until the cyclists have reached the finish. If you are first to cross the finish with one of your cyclists, you win the game. If several cyclists cross the finish line in the same round – which is happening very regularly – you win, if your cyclist went furthest beyond the finish line. If there is a tie at that point as well, you win, if you moved first.
Such a race place quite quickly and lasts about 30 minutes. Usually, the race gets tight and comes to a thrilling head near the end. This is the time when the clever players reveal themselves who have parceled out their strength well and can play the high cards at the right moment. As in a real race, you can play the high cards early and, in a way, run away and try to win the race by being in front. If you want to race within the main sworm, you want to avoid being in the lead in the Peleton to avoid exhaustion and then draw the high cards late in the game and to pass your exhausted competitors in a last-minute fly-by.
I was enthused by this game from the first moment. All the thrilling and challenging elements of the real cycle races are present, in a game, that is quickly explained and easy to play.
The graphic design of game and rulebook, published by the Finnish Company Lautapelit, leaves nearly nothing to be desired. Only the visual differences to distinguish between Rouleur and Sprinter pawns of a color was criticized by some of my fellow players. I must admit, distinguishing them needs taking a close look, but for me this was never a point of concern and you can also paint the cyclist pawns easily and without problem, which would be another way to solve the problem.
Designer: Asger Harding Granerud
Artist: Ossi Hiekkala, Jere Kasanen
Price: ca. 37 Euro
Publisher: Lautapelit 2017
Genre: Race, Cycling
Users: With friends
Rules: de en es fr
In-game text: no
Giro d‘Italia, Leader 1, Um Reifenbreite
My rating: 7
I am a fan of good race games. A race game is good in my opinion when it has a relatively simple but interesting mechanism and remains thrilling and challenging to the finish line. Flamme Rouge, in my opinion, is one of the best games of this genre, it is, anyhow, the best race game that I did come across over the last years. A clear recommendation from me for all you are enamored with the genre.
Chance (pink): 2
Tactic (turquoise): 2
Strategy (blue): 1
Creativity (dark blue): 0
Knowledge (yellow): 0
Memory (orange): 1
Communication (red): 0
Interaction (brown): 3
Dexterity (green): 0
Action (dark green): 0