Review: Chariot Race – symbiosis of horses and humans
I close my eyes. I hear my horses breathing deeply. Their breath is full of expectations. I try to touch the reins and caress character etched in their midst. I wrap them around my hands exactly as it should not be done. But it’s my starting ritual, which I would never go on the track. I am straining my ears. And here it comes. Only when the horse gain full speed and I can feel their strength, I open my eyes and race finally begins.
We stand on starting line beside designer Matt Leacock (Pandemic), who had his own vision about racing game. He named it Chariot Race. It has taken real shape on it under the wings of Pegasus Spiele in 2016 and a moment later, it was introduced her to all the players at the fair Spiel 2016. By then, it was complete with illustrations by Jarek Nocoń.
And to top live it all, players will need racetrack, that is comprised of two elongated puzzle pieces. It hides in a small box with sprinting horses. But that’s not all, each of the participants is also getting his status card. There are three scales – speed, damage and god favor on top.
Players choose a color, take apropriate card (one side is same for all, while other side is varied among different colors) and all three scales are marked with plastic arrows indicating starting values (neutral threesome on fate, maximum twelve damage points and four of the twelve possible points of speed). Participants then place their cardboard cars on the grid, take one round counter (turns it with two dolphins side up). Weapons and racing dice are set next to the race track.
Whoever was lucky enough and won first pole position, will start the race. His move will consist of several consecutive actions. Key one is roll of the dice. Their number determines speed. Paradoxically unlike in other games, the faster the car goes, the fewer dice player has available. That’s because he is losing control – he is thus less able to quickly slow down, and even less likely to receive additional benefits, that dice offer. Player can at this point re-roll any number of dice once.
But results of the dice are not just simple numeric values. They are positive and negative changes. Pips rolled mean allowed modifications on speed scale (up or down). Only resulting speed will mark, how far can chariot be moved. Each point allows one step forward in a line. Only using a fork symbol enables player to give their horses instruction to change lanes.
The faster the car moves, the more dangerous it is to go around corners. Each turn and line has printed figure of difficulty, which is the maximum permitted speed. Any extra points deal damage to the entire chariot and players have to properly record these on the damage scale – each point over the limit represents one damage taken.
No matter how fast was racer going in previous rounds, his car collects scratches and damage, which also affects overall speed. Pointer on the speed scale may never be higher, than the current position of the arrow showing the damage (arrows are moved against each other in opposite directions). If this happens, player must remedy this situation before he gets a chance to roll the dice in current turn.
Additionally, each symbol of fortune, allows player to move his pointer to the right of the box and thus pave the way for benefits in upcoming rounds.
In addition, players can use affection of goddess Fortuna, which is indicated on the scale of destiny. For three of these points, it is possible to repair the car (three points of damage). Divine favor can also be used differently, such as on another re-roll of dice.
High speed is bad idea also for another reason – there’s much greater chance, that player hits other carriage on his way. Such a clash results in two damage points to both parties, which may be for one side sometimes advantageous. Last result dice is a symbol of the spear, thanks to which they might attack other players directly. And besides throwing their weapon on any two neighbouring boxes and damaging the enemy, they can also set a trap for the next round.
Players with their horses will run first and then second round. In the course of their running, they can easily be eliminated, if their damage points fall to zero and their speed as well. Once one of the competitors reaches finish line of the second round, others finish current turn (so everyone has an equal number of movements) and player, whose chariot has gone farthest beyond finish line (if there are more) is the winner.
Chariot Race seems common, but inside the box hides interesting tactical and very conflicting racing game. The main feature is of course the movement, which probably cannot surprise you in any game, where you are trying to be first in finish. And dice serve as foundation for this. But they do not determine how far you can get. Instead, they allow you to control sled, accelerate and brake.
Movement itself is based on speed of the chariot, which can be altered on a scale with the use of dice. But the author’s most tricky idea is, that the faster you go, the less control you have over your car. That equates to less dice rolled and thus worse ability to slow down. And it gives gamers a tricky decision.
In addition to winning through speed, you can crossing the finish line second and still steal the gold medal for yourself. Just get close enough to throw a spear and destroy your opponent’s car. This is possible only because the race does not end after crossing the finish line, but the whole round is played. Additionally, defeat is never certain, it is always possible to return back to the front.
On the track, you’re not alone. Cars collide, restrains each other and therefore choice of line is also important. But the duck does not just happen. Players need again help of dice and thus have as much of them as possible available. Now the dice are a crucial element, because here roots luck. Even this can be overcome, because the player has one chance to re-roll his set of dice (even all of them).
The race always takes two laps, that are both really exciting. And because blocking is an important element, the game is significantly better in several opponents. Increasing speed and slowing down again into the corners makes for a dynamic game, that will not let you sleep. You always have to try to take advantage of all the opportunities, that dice provide. In doing so, game retains just right length, which is about a half hour.
Only processing was this time relegated to second place. It all looks pretty cheap, which with respect to the publisher and illustrator does not make much sense. Maybe publishing of Chariot Race was hurried to manage finishing in time for Essen fair? Hard to say. But it is true, that the game looks quite uninteresting in terms of components.
Chariot Race is a sample racing game, in which you will not find cars or running animals, but horse-drawn carriages in ancient Rome. And with them comes not only fresh theme, but also different gameplay. Players are still trying to be the fastest, they need to have a pinch of luck, but mainly good planning. Just so they can keep control of their car. Chariot Race is successfull almost on all fronts.
Review: Chariot Race – symbiosis of horses and humans
Chariot Race appeals to us very much as a racing game. It offers an interesting use of dice, that are not directly related to movement, but only regulate speed of the entire carriage. And the faster the chariot goes, the fewer dice player has available. This results in difficult choices and thrilling situations. Game is surprisingly conflicted, because the riders can even throw spears and destroy rival machines. Chariot Race is an excellent non-traditional racing game.
Reader Rating0 Votes
interesting mechanism for acceleration and deceleration