For me, the highlight of Baycon. This game represents the classic balance of game design - great fun, easy to learn, difficult to master but also a very passable simulation. The theme is cycle track racing and accomodates up to eight players, I suspect five or six upwards is optimal though less can play using cycles in team pairs as in the real thing. The board is a segmented oval and one lap constitutes a race with around six races in a full game. The heart of the game is the clever mechanism by which the cycles move. Each player has a limited hand of cards varying in value between one and seven, though there are no sixes and high cards are in short supply. Alan Parr will love it. Each player moves forward by the number on the card played, much like many other systems but the kicker is that if the move lands you on a segment already occupied by one or more cycles, you get a free move to simulate slipstreaming. The effect of this depends on the number of cycles in the segment so if the player plays a five, lands on a section with two cycles in it, he moves on a free ten sections. The multiplier works for any number of cycles so playing a seven and 'bouncing' off three cycles can be a race winner while playing a one and landing on one cycle simply doubles the move.
That latter statement leads into the second area where the game excels - tactics. The aim of the game is to score points which are awarded at the end of the lap and in two sprints at intermediate points on the track. The rewards for winning both sprints are the same as the overall win so this can have a bearing on using up the big cards early on or saving them for the final sprint. The tactics make the game. It is difficult to work out a starting strategy because of the bunching on the first corner, with the emphasis on not being left behind. Once on your own, you can forget the race because all the other players will be 'bouncing' off other cycles and you will never make it back in touch. Conversely, it is not good to be too far out in front as, again, there will be no-one to slipstream and you won't make it on your own.
Underlying all this is the conservation (and counting) of cards. Easy you might think, but with limited numbers of even the lower cards, I feel it is essential to keep a balanced hand. There are two reasons for this. If behind or wanting to make a break, two players can get going by working together playing the same card denominations. This gives each one in turn the chance to bounce off the other. This simulates the 'bit and bit' techniques used in real racing. The other requirement for a balanced hand is that there will be times that you need to bounce to remain in contention. This is impossible without the correct card and the absence of a six card is crucial because of the gaps that develop from use of combinations of the smaller cards. In the same way, use of the single seven card is crucial. It can be devastating if used in the final straight when everyone else is struggling on twos and ones but many choose to use it earlier in the race when a big multiplier presents itself, often resulting in a sprint victory. As far as I can work out, it pays to be in the bunch while giving yourself plenty of options for remaining there. Not easy.
The system, while very simple, works superbly to create the feel of a bike race and it takes constant thought to work out all the possibilities. In fact, it is very interesting to just watch the system at work - the cycles move round in waves with the bunch moving along at a pace that can develop at fast or slow and you are forced to go with it. As ever, I have waffled on about this game too much but that is a reflection of my rating the game a minor classic. The only drawback is that it doesn't look to be suited to postal play. Brian Walker at Games World should have stocks by now and I recommend it unreservedly.
No, not that one. This is a new game from Germany and is a strange but successful concoction of systems that revolve around a motor racing theme. The game takes up to six players though less than three would be rather weaker in play. The game starts with each player being dealt a hand of movement cards. These are colour coded to each of the six cars and also have factors which allow player's choice. The similarity here is to Broker as when played to move the cars round the track, each card has an individual effect on each car. Some will move all the cars varying distances while others will move only one. The player's choice cards are thus very valuable and combined with a glut of, say, red cards, this car will be the obvious choice. On the basis of the cards held, each player bids for one car which will hopefully win him the prize money depending on its finish position. Money is limited though and the aim is always to make more in prize money than you spend out. Shades of Win, Place and Show.
When each player has bidded for a car the race begins and each player will try to promote his car while hindering the others. This is reasonably difficult because most cards require that other cars are moved as well. The race is made more interesting by two single lane corners that cause some pretty grim holdups, often with one car shooting away in the lead while the second car blocks progress of the others. Nevertheless, races are often very close and the excitement increases on the final bend as each player is running out of favourable cards. Three races complete the game and the highest cash at the end wins. This is a fine little game and like WP&S the car that you may consider unbeatable is often nothing like it. The game is quick to play with each game taking about an hour and it bears up to repeated playing. Again, available from Brian Walker at Games World.
This one is the most cerebral of the games reviewed and is a very nice cross between Acquire and Broker. Fans of the former classic should buy this as a matter of course, the similarities are obvious but they are handled so well that it stands as an excellent game in its own right. Unlike the other two games I don't intend to go into in depth descriptions of the game system because that would take an age. As a quick summary, the tile laying of Acquire is present but is determined by die roll thus removing the certainty and rather than simply buying shares in the chains as in Acquire, each share has a value which is recorded on a Broker type chart. The added flavour is that the share prices move in response to action on the board thus allowing for profits and losses to be made. The skill in the game seems to be working out which of the chains on the board are the stronger buys and which are likely to be taken over. Once again the system works well, the game takes about 90 minutes or so and is best suited to four players though three is fine. In conclusion, a clever if slightly derivative game that will appeal to Acquire type gamers. Once again, Games World or Games Unlimited have stocks.
Mike Siggins. 12/4/88.
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