Review: Race! Formula 90 – win by thinking

Race! Formula 90 - packaging

Everyone says you need luck. But it is quite the opposite. Good luck can sometimes help, but if you decided to rely on it for the whole race, you will get slapped. Right now, I am approaching the first corner after the start from fourth place and there are two formulas next to each other in front of my car.

If I wanted to have a chance on my side, I would head straight between them. There is clearly a gap for my machine, but it’s a big risk to take. I rather wait a moment and when they will start to line up into the corner, I keep off the brake pedal for a little bit longer and run right around the inside of them. You call this a coincidence? Certainly not. Experience is a good guide. This is, what plays the most important role in racing and who tells you anything else, knows nothing..

So why is it, that whenever I play a racing game, I am forced to use dice to move? If you start to wonder about this question, then we offer you a brand new alternative. It’s called and comes to us from Britain company Ltd. Author is and it is driven by mechanic, he created called The Race! Formula 90 Integrated Game System. Maybe we will see it in other racing games in the future. Illustrations were taken care of by .

Race! Formula 90 - game is ready

Formula 90 is completely different, than anything you know. You would be convinced of it immediately after opening very heavy, yet not overly large box. The most important thing, like in every major racing games, is the track, that is located on both sides of the board. The route is divided into sections, which looks a little different, than we are used to in other games. Within one rectangle on the track, even four or five formulas can fit at the same time. In the upper right corner of the board, there is lap counter, where each box is one round of game. Various symbols and numbers are all around the track, which in themselves correctly suggest, that this will not be the easiest racing game out there.

There are eight colored toy cars (in pairs) for each player, but another eight racers, which will be controlled by artificial intelligence and one white safety car (finally!). Equally important for gamers will be also their player board for tokens and cards. There is a dozen of them in the game, each with its flag and a picture. Each car also has its specifications in the number of cards and tires at the start of the race (and after a pit stop).

There is also quite a pile of other tokens hidden inside. And both wooden (tire damage, flags on the track, but also to monitor rounds and weather) and cardboard. There are larger ones for racing strategy (6 species), rider abilities (eighteen – three from each skill), but also tokens for various modifiers or pitting. No need to address their listings in more detail, we will get to them as the review goes by.

Race! Formula 90 - game is ready

Instead, we should look at the card, which form a very important part of the game. All without exception are of small size, yet all the necessary information are easily recognizable on them . First up is a huge package of 184 racing cards. On them, you can find type of card (speed, steering, gearing and event) and value for movement in the upper right corner, but also consequences of its use. But the most important is the driving check number in red-framed diamond.

In addition, there are two other decks. One for Monza (34 cards) and one for Hungaroring (42 cards). These are two circuits available on the board. Cards are used only in advanced game (this game really has two levels), and they seem same as a race at first glance, but can be used only in specific parts of the track. And because we finally looked through all, that is needed, we can get down to racing. It must be emphasized, that withing our description of the rules, we discuss basic rules only and advanced version will be evaluated later.

First unfold the game board on the table and put a black piece on lap counter. You have to insert tokens damage to two colors in a bag, which unfortunately is not part of the game. From there, you will draw, whenever something happens. All other components are put in piles beside the board. Players then select a car, gets its miniature, but above all its specific board. Now according to its data, they can take number of tire tokens and cards from a shuffled racing package. This deal can be repeated once, if player is not satisfied with received cards.

Race! Formula 90 - game is ready

At the beginning of the game, you must go through qualifications. To do this, play one card from your hand. Movement number is decisive and in case of a tie, then check number shows you, which position will you start on. But there will be also several robotic cars participating in the race (their number is determined by the number of players in the game ranging from four to six). For their qualifying time, you must draw one token from their pile.

According to the initial order, you place refueling tokens on the round counter. Their place determines, when the competitor must go to the pits and reflects reality: to reach a better starting place, you must have a lighter car with less fuel. Winner of qualification will refuel in the eighth round, second in the tenth and most others in the twelfth.

Before you start, one duty is still waiting – to choose a strategy. You can choose from six options, that will each provide an advantage in some situations. For example, you can choose from two cards at the beginning of turn and retain one (Lucky), you can save the tires or become better in overtaking. Its your choice, what you prefer.

Race! Formula 90 - game in progress

Race is therefore divided into rounds, that are played sequentially from race leader back and counter is always moved one space forward (except the first, when its already on one). On the board, you activate sections. Within them, gradually all of the cars inside will play and move.

Each round, when it comes to move your car, you draw one card from the deck. Most of all, you have the task of playing card, that your car will move a bit further. But this card is not simple to choose. You must also try to take into account check factor of the card (the number in diamond) and try to play lower number, than you played last time. Why? Because otherwise your driver loses attention, makes a mistake on the track and it will cost you one new damage token drawn from the bag. Such wound may be repairable or non-repairable, it depends on your luck.

If you take have only low movement numbers available to play, you can even use two cards (only +1 and +2 can be combined). But no matter, if you play them alone or not, they will probably require payment of any additional resource. We are talking about tires, which can be in certain cases replaced by the card from your hand.

Race! Formula 90 - game in progress

Movement card is played openly on your player board, where it will wait for the next round. Then you will compare check number of your newly-acted motion to it again. According to figures on the card, you move your car a certain number of sections ahead. At the destination, you can also select any of free drawn trajectories, that can give you bonus in sliding a corner. Such routes will usually guide you quickly through a turn and are marked with the help of brake lines.

During the race, you will often overtake, which is worth some extra movement points. In a straight line, it is easy to pass a car (one more movement), but when in turn, your movement ends immediately, when you catch up one of the competitors. As the round changes and you get to evaluate your section again, it will be the right moment to overtake someone, who is standing with you in this corner. That competition involves all the cars standing in the corner at the same time and consists of playing a secret movement card (or two). Result determines the order, in which cars start driving away from this point.

You can overtake also other way, when you decide to brake later in the braking section, that precedes every turn. Such overtaking can be successful only, if you succeed in a blind check – against your movement card, you compare value of the top card from drawing deck. Success means, you move one more section forward. Otherwise, an off-road excursion is waiting for you. You see, this decision is quite risky.

Race! Formula 90 - game in progress

At the beginning of your turn, you can do a pit stop, which is determined by starting strategy decided by qualification. It will let you repair any repairable damage, possibility of exchanging cards in hand for new ones and especially get a set of new tires, which you can spend later for played cards.

Race ends, when the pointer reaches the last round. All players will complete their last move and order at the end of the sequence is final. In the last round, a special rule applies, that you can overtake by paying one point even in the corners! The final round is thus great drama, if multiple formulas close together, as in reality. But only one of the competitors can stand on the top rank, when final round gets to an end. This is the winner!

Formula 90 is a unique concept race game, where one round of racing does not correspond to reality on the game board. In fact, at the finish of the first round, you have already completed several rounds of real racing. However, despite this fact it is clear from our description, that position of your car on the track is still really important for the game. It does not serve only as indicator, but all these corners, collisions and overtaking maneuvers will force you to fight for position right there on the racetrack.

Race! Formula 90 - board detail

New navigation system also comes with a variety of not entirely intuitive options, which you must get used to (and will quickly do). For example, you can go to the pits in any round. Although it sounds a little crazy, but it is a great idea in fact, because this way, tactics of racing get to completely other level. It actually makes all sense, because the publishing company focuses mainly on the war games and therefore on thinking all through, before the real action.

You will need to learn to think differently, than you have been used for racing games. First of all, strategy is very important during the whole game. Everything is under your control, even though sometimes you can meet unexpected events, which need to be addressed (drawing of movement cards affects your options), you always are the one, who determines the success or failure of getting your formula to the finish line.

Most of the mechanisms are totally unique to racing game and it is not easy to play through your first game. Rules are really long and difficult to teach at first. Fact, that Gotha Games (though its head office is in the UK) are not native English speakers, is to blame for the manual being a little fuzzy sometimes. You lose track of what you are reading or do not find everything in its place. But all the important information are eventually there. You just have to look more carefully.

Race! Formula 90 - tokens

Playing the lower numbers is checks does probably not reflect any real skills of racers, but its main job is to make it harder for you to race. Maybe it represents the attention – the longer you drive, the greater is the chance, that you will make a mistake. Such an error in this case is play a card with a higher number and penalties in the form of damage. Organization of cards based on these numbers and timing of their playing is one of the basic prerequisites for victory.

In the game, the sense of speed is a bit lacking. Its because there is no dice and large numbers. Cars move like snails on the board. But that is replaced by constant tension, crowds in every corner and in particular worries about your car.

Robots provide constant uncertainty in the game. They are moving at steady pace all the time, according to their kind, overtaking each other for free, but for overtaking player car, they must still pay one point. Now their cars make the game more interesting, because fast (not to mention the super fast) robots are really strong opponents, who move three sections ahead each round! They really keep the pace with players and make it significantly more difficult to fight for position.

Race! Formula 90 - cards

Advanced rules bring huge opportunities. First of all, in addition to racing strategy, each player will have his own unique personality and special skill, that distinguishes him from others in the race. Care should be taken into making a synergy in both strategies. These capabilities add more realism to the game.

The race now contains also SUPERfast robots, each with four movement points per round. However, the qualification time is now not random, but each of the players determine for himself, how much fuel his car does have. This may get a bonus for your qualifying time, but will force you to pit sooner.

Tricky weather awaits you and thanks to it, you will be changing tires and meet a lot of very difficult situations with control of your car. You can even build your own race car, overlap the card places with special construction tiles. And then play with specific race cards, which brings flags and off-road excursion can have greater consequences, than in the base game. It may even lead to safety car driving out of the pits.

However, authors focus on strategic depth of the game and this must also make its trail on game time. Race will last longer than today’s real Formula 1 race – two hours are basically reasonable minimum, you need to play this game.

Race! Formula 90 - cards

The best description of this game really is such, as if a wargamer sat down at the table and said, „I want to play a racing game.“ That would lead to something like this. However, this should not be criticism, only we are trying to be most clear about the fact, taht Race! Formula 90 is not really accessible game, but it will reward you the more for playing it. You must be patient, when learning and be open to longer play time.

Number of players vying for first place is important, but with fewer humans, the lacking ones get replaced by robots, so from a game point of view, there is not such a significant difference, as with other racing games. But of course, increasing number of opponents reflects in game time, which grows even to three hours.

Race! Formula 90 is a unique racing game. Although it lacks the action from moving, we are used to with its dice competitors, it sacrifices this on the altar of strategic fun. Planning and tactics have their very important place here. This is certainly not a racing game for everyone, because its will drive away players, who prefer to take the dice and simply start rolling. But whoever is looking for a depth, that is hidden in real racing, sheer paradise awaits him here.

DesignerAlessandro Lala
ArtistGiorgio De Michele
PublisherGotha Games
Year Published
# of Players2 - 6
User Suggested # of Players Best with 6+ players
Recommended with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 players
(54 voters)
Playing Time270
Mfg Suggested Ages14 and up
User Suggested Ages14 and up
(20 voters)
Language DependenceSome necessary text - easily memorized or small crib sheet
(21 voters)
CategoryRacing, Sports
MechanicHand Management, Open Drafting, Race, Simulation, Track Movement
ExpansionRace! Formula 90: Expansion #1 – RF90 Series Championship, Race! Formula 90: Expansion #2 – Barcelona and Silverstone, Race! Formula 90: Expansion #3
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter, Sports: Auto Racing
Primary NameRace! Formula 90

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Race! Formula 90 – win by thinking
Final word
Race! Formula 90 is a unique racing game, which will prepare many interesting moments for you. Maybe you thought, that no racing game can do without dice, but you will meet your mistake here. Movement is based on playing cards with numbers representing sections of the track. These are drawn from a common deck. When you play them from your hand, you are trying to achieve lowest check number, than movement played in previous turn. If you do not have such card, then your racer made an error and you will be punished for it with some damage. Besides this, your style also decides, how quickly are your tires consumes and the faster you are running the more it costs you. In every race, there are not only cars of players, but also some robots, which create many interesting and tense situations. They serve their purpose perfectly: to make racing even in lower numbers really unpredictable. Whole game is a lot more difficult, than similar racing games, but higher difficulty brings with it also advanced and true simulation of circuit racing. But even card mechanic did not avoid some form of luck, which can easily spoil your plans, because you will be drawing cards randomly from a common deck. Many less experienced players might have trouble to learn this game even in its basic rules. Processing is perfect and i fit were not for that missing bag, there would be nothing to spoil your joy. Race! Formula 90 brings something, what was missing – racing with true emphasis on tactics. And it does this job excellently. This game is a obligation for any racing fan, who does not mind longer and difficult rules.
Reader Rating0 Votes
really tactical racing
enormous amount of cards
unique mechanics
great robots
excellent in all player numbers, there is always a similar count of cars on track
the most realistic F1 board simulator on the market
great usage of cards
several levels of gameplay
race strategy and driver abilities
two tracks, both with unique cards for corners
some players might find this game too complex for a racing game
luck in drawing cards might influence your chance
bag for drawing damage tokens is missing
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