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solitaire, with multi-player option

designed by

reviewed by

Terry Goodchild may have just about run out of sports to depict, but his fertile imagination shows no sign of slowing down. For Lambourne's third motor racing opus, following Grand Prix Re-Run and The World Of Motor Racing, Terry has provided a non-statistical package under the title Grand Prix Circus. The moniker is accurate. In the set-up phase, the player has to make a myriad of decisions which accurately mirror the executive status of F1 team bosses like Ron Dennis and Frank Williams. The carnival atmosphere of Grand prix racing unfolds as follows:

With capital of £500k, the crucial opening gambit is to purchase a team (fantasy names, as are the drivers, tyre companies, etc). Cards are drawn, providing team name, valuation, existing engine and tyre contracts and driver information. The purchase price is determined by dice rolls which reflect the length of negotiation. Hustling around for sponsorship follows a similar format, with dice rolls adjusted by the ``Charisma Rating'' of your team determining the final amount on offer. The tyre companies provide secondary finance, as well as free rubber for the season, whilst engine and chassis development is dealt with by specific charts. These preliminaries will set you up for the season, and even bank loans are available if the dosh looks a little tight (as it inevitably is). This sequence in the game is not overburdened by paperwork, and if you would like a comparison, I would suggest that the start-up phase in Lift Off is not dissimilar.

The season itself includes 17 Grand Prix, each offering prize money which can make or break your outfit. The races themselves are broken into four sections, and should take around 30 minutes to run. Terry sensibly suggests a maximum of two championship rounds per session, as these also involve post-race accounting. The race mechanics involve the throw of four dice (red for ``danger'' -- spins, mechanical aggro, etc and green for ``go'') for the ``human'' player and an additional yellow dice for the ``system'' cars (to effect ``charge'' or ``normal'' driving mode). The total of the green dice converts to a movement factor on the Movement Chart, and progress is noted through each quarter of the race. A better visual effect will be achieved if the cars and track from The World Of Motor Racing are utilised, but this is not essential.

After every contest, the pen and paper are thrust into action once more to conduct further engine and chassis evolution and to (hopefully) add to those precious coffers from the prize fund. If you survive until race fourteen (not always certain), the bank then come a-knocking for their money, and that often results in foreclosure. After many playtest sessions, and also charting early reaction, no one has yet ``broken'' the game methodology.

Grand Prix Circus is a superb simulation of the trials and tribulations of F1 racing. The substantial package is chock full of charts, result sheets, reference cards, dice, etc. It rates a 10 on the Sigter scale. Another major plus is the comparative ease in which the player can work through the rule book (although I was temporarily flustered by the Chassis Development section). In fact, once Terry's overview has been digested, the game can be played ``out of the packet''. As is usual with Lambourne product, the graphics are uninspiring, but this in no way detracts from the overall look of the game, which is busy and workmanlike. I have said this before, but it is worth restating -- if GPC were produced by a multi-national -- say Ravensburger or Milton Bradley -- with attendant frills, we would all be frothing at the mouth screaming ``game of the year''. As this is a genuine solitaire game (with a suberb game system handling the other teams), but one which would also be ideal for two or three other participants, there is absolutely no excuse for not making this an essential purchase. In fact, I intend to visit you all personally to attest your commitment to this wondrous offering from ``Little Stevie'' Goodchild.

Grand Prix Circus costs £14.95 (incl. UK p&p) from: 15 Mill View Close, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 4BR

Mike Clifford

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Stuart Dagger