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Powerboats is an easy, tricky and fast game. In this game each player is a speedboat pilot. You race, accelerate or slow down by the use of the 1-2-3-dice (3-sided). Manage your speed well and maneuver your boat quickly through the course.
The numbers on your dice together show the speed of your boat. You move your boat by this speed in a straight line. Though each turn you can go to the the left or right (60 degrees) before moving. You hold your dice (your speed) until your next turn. Each turn you can add or remove 1 die (maximum 1 die per turn!), to accelerate or slow down. And from the dice you already had you can freely choose which you want to roll again.
The rules are in English, German, French and Dutch.
Gamers will play games that involve racing just about anything: cars, motorcycles, bicycles, streetcars, Easter Island statues, people, kangaroos, snow sleds, and even worms. One would figure that we have just about had our fill of race games. Not quite. This year saw the release of several new race games, including Powerboats from designer Corné van Moorsel.
As you can surmise from the name, Powerboats deals with racing fast boats. Fortunately, more than the type of object being raced is different, as the game does involve a clever system of adding and removing dice to regulate movement. Is that alone enough to make the game substantially different from the dozens of other games in the genre, thereby making it worthwhile to keep? Sadly, I don’t think so.
The board is constructed by arranging six double-sided plaques inside an interlocking frame. These boards form a large lake, with an assortment of small islands scattered about it. There is a hexagonal grid superimposed upon the boards to regulate movement of the boats, which is calculated by rolling three-sided dice. A course is constructed by placing three buoys onto the board, and players will race around these buoys in a pre-determined direction before sprinting to the finish line.
Players begin by placing their boats on the starting line. A player’s turn is quite simple, and involves three easy steps. First, a player can add or remove one die from their mix. Players begin with no dice, so on the very first turn of the game, a player will take and roll one die. Ultimately, a player can have as many dice as they desire, limited only by the game’s supply. In reality, however, a player will only possess three or four dice, as one has to be very careful how far he moves on a turn. You see, the more dice in a player’s possession, the greater the likelihood of the player rolling high numbers and moving too far, possibly causing a collision with land. This, of course, results in damage to one’s boat. Suffer too much damage, and the boat sinks to the bottom of the lake. Thus, the ability to add OR remove a die each turn is quite an important decision.
The player then decides which of his active dice he wants to roll, keeping the remaining dice locked in at their current values. Dice are rolled, and before moving, a player may turn his boat sixty degrees. The player then moves his boat in a straight line a number of spaces equal to the cumulative value of the dice. A player must move his boat as far as possible, even if it takes him in an unintended direction. The idea is to determine where you want to move, and select a number of dice that you feel will give you the best odds of reaching that point. Rolling too high a value could mean crashing into land or another boat, while rolling too low will cause you to fall behind your opponents. As the knight in the third Indiana Jones movie intones: Choose wisely.
If a player’s boat crashes into land, he takes a number of damage points equal to the remainder of movement he would have gone had he not encountered the land. If a player collects four or more damage points, his boat sinks and he is out of the race. Interestingly, smashing into another boat causes no damage, but does end a player’s movement. A player may move past another boat, but cannot end his turn in the same space.
As mentioned, players must move around each buoy in the indicated direction, then speed for the finish line. Moving around a buoy generally forces a player to slow down in order to navigate the turn. Thus, players must plan for this by managing their dice properly. The numerous islands that populate the lake also force players to choose paths that often require a player to move more slowly than he would likely prefer. All of this has the effect of slowing down what should be a fast racing game.
The game ends as soon at the end of the round when one player crosses the finish line. If more than one player crosses on the same turn, the player who moves furthest across the line is victorious. The rules suggest playing three races, tallying points after each race. We were satisfied to play just one race, as the game just wasn’t that exciting. Yes, there was fun when a roll took a player’s boat too far, or a fortuitous roll managed a boat to reach a desired location, but there really wasn’t an appreciable amount of strategy or thrill involved. It felt much the same as many other race games. And frankly, there are too many of those already.
I am disappointed that Powerboats did not generate more excitement. The designer has invented some very clever and original games that usually contain some highly interesting mechanisms or twists. While the dice mechanism here is different, the remainder of the game feels all- too-familiar. That’s disappointing.