Reviewed by Chris Kovac
GRAND PRIX (GMT Games, 2 to 11 players, ages 14 and up, 90 minutes; $69)
Grand Prix is a 2-11 person Formula 1 card driven racing game published by GMT games. This card driven racing game is a follow up to the NASCAR racing game Thunder Alley and is produced by the same authors (Jeff and Carla Horger)
To start, choose a track and then give each player a team sheet which shows the two cars the player uses in the race based on number and color. Each player might also have a number of non-player cars (NPC cars) he controls (depending on the number of players in the game). Next, you shuffle and place face down the event and race card decks. Each player receives a starting hand of race cards (the number depends on the number of players) which is also the maximum number of race cards you can hold. The weather condition marker is placed on dry and the players decide what kind of tires they are racing on: soft (gives an extra space of movement once per set), dry or wet (which can only be used on wet tracks). Now, all players put one of their cars in a bag and then cars are drawn randomly from the bag to show the starting grid of racing cars based on the order drawn and then reverse the order for the second car. The lap marker is set to one (a race is three laps) with the current leader marker placed next to the first car in the grid.
A turn consists of three phases. The first is the refill phase when every player refills their hand back to the size of their starting hand from the race deck. Second is the action phase in which each player must do one of the following actions:
- Play a race card on one of their race cars or an NPC car. Each race card shows the number of spaces the car can move (the large number for regular movement and the small number if you are moving out of the pits) and a description of movement which tells you of any movement restrictions and whether you have to push/drag along cars in front/back of you. The card might also have a wear symbol on it. If it does, you get the appropriate wear marker (only if it is one of your regular race cars) and place it on the wear marker space of the affected car. If you get more than three wear markers on your car, your speed is reduced, if you get six or more wear markers, you car is eliminated from the race. After you move a car, you flip it to its other side to indicate it has moved (one side is light and one side is dark).
- You can pass on a turn if you have an eliminated car since this eliminated car can “take a turn” and do nothing.
- Eliminate a car either voluntarily or mandatory if it has six or more wear markers.
The third and final phase is the end of sequence (game turn) phase. In this phase, you first draw and resolve an event card.
Each event card has a name, a colored flag icon, text describing what the event does and, at the bottom, a NPC pit number which tells which NPC car “pits” (moves back five spaces on the pit lane) this phase. The color of the flag tells you what happens to the affected car(s). Events can result in a variety of effects from eliminating cars with certain kinds of wear markers to changes in weather to the creation of “safety zones”. These zones in the track are considered one lane so cars cannot pass one another.
Cars can perform pit stops and you must perform at least one pit stop per game. In a pit stop, you may eliminate wear markers. Each wear marker has a number indicating how many spaces you must move back on the inside pitting lane in order to eliminate the wear marker. You may also make a pit stop to change tire types, dropping back two spaces when you do so. Then you move the current leader marker to the car in first place and remove any cars which have been lapped by the current leader car. Finally, you can discard any unwanted race cards from your hand.
The game continues until a car has made three laps past the finish line. When this occurs, the game ends and position markers with points are awarded to the players’ cars (NPCs do not get markers) starting with the car that crossed the finish line then moving down the positions to the first eliminated car. These position markers range from 25 points for first place down to 1 point for 10th place.
As always, this game is made with GMT’s good production quality in terms of cards, pieces and boards (though the light and dark color contrast on the cars could have been better). The rule book is well written with good illustrated examples and the game is fairly easy to pick up. Overall though, after playing both Grand Prix and Thunder Alley, I prefer Thunder Alley for a couple of reasons.
First of all, in Rolling Thunder you have up to six cars you control vs. only two for Grand Prix so the elimination of cars due to events or being passed is less of an issue in Rolling Thunder. Second, even with rule modifications, the game felt more like NASCAR racing than Formula One racing. To elaborate…
Nascar racing is about strategically working your way up the pack using drafting the cars in front of you which this game system simulates well. In Formula One, it’s more about timing your up and down shifts and planning your passing in the corners. This game system does not really simulate that well. If you are a fan of Thunder Alley, this game is a nice addition but if you are a Formula One fan, you most probably will be disappointed. A 7 out of ten. – – – – – – – – – Chris Kovac
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