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Average Rating: 5 in 3 reviews
I'll 'third' the request to have this game reprinted. Though it was released back in the late 80's by Milton Bradley, and it has a guady NASCAR stock-car racing theme, this game is, without a doubt, quintessential German gaming. And it should be considering it is designed by one of the qunitessential German game designers, Wolfgang Kramer. Herr Kramer has deigned many classic both old and new -- Wildlife Adventure, Heimlich & Co./Top Secret Spies, and Princes of Florence, to name a few -- and I absolutely feel that Daytona 500 is in that class.
The game board isn't the best quality, but it nicely illustrated with the Daytona 500 oval track, the spectator grandstand, etc. The cars are molded plastic and look great, and they are a bit bigger than Formula De which makes them easier to manipulate with adult hands. I could do without the paper money (a la Monopoly), but it works, and, the heart of the game, a deck of cards.
The first part of the game is as important as the game itself. There are 6 cars and they are auctionaed off in random order. The first car to be won goes into the pole position, second car into the second etc. Players will be bidding for cars based on how many cards they have in hand that will help them move that particular color. (After all you don't want to take the yellow car if you only have the ability to move it 15 spaces total!)
And the best part of the game: cardplay. Easch card has between 1 and 6 numbers on it. If it has 6 numbers on it, it will say 6 5 4 3 2 1, with a color to each number. You start by moving the 6 first, then the 5, etc. if a car can't move it's full amount (because it is blocked) then it moves as far as it can. Since the player who plays the card moves all the cars (even the ones that are not his) he will try and manipulate them in such a way as to hinder his opponents. Some cards have a 5 or a 9 with one color only, and those super-speed bursts will really help your chances of winning. Then there are some that only have 4 or 3 numbers and colors -- and those are important to use well since they can help you separate from the pack.
That would be a good game right there, but there are 2 more rules that make the game really click, and make it a perfect thematic fit. First, corners. Normally the track has 3 lanes which allow for passing, but when you hit a corner, all cars must hug the inside lane unless they are passing. A car may only pass by using the second lane, which costs twice as many movement points to get by, AND a car can never stop on that second lane, so it must merge back into the inside lane. If there is no room for him to come back in, he can't make the maneuver in the first place. That means that you can play cards in such a way as to boost you cars and leave other cars not able to use any of the movement points on that cards (major hose factor.) But wait! there's one more thing! Drafting. When any car moves, if there is a car behind it (bumper to bumper) then it moves forward 1 space -- if there is a car behind THAT car, it too moves forward one space. Sometimes you can draft your cars so well, they'll pick up an extra 6 or 8 moves without you playing any cards.
Strategic, fun, elegant with both an interesting auction and a great, interactive card-driven race, Daytona 500 is an absolute gem. With NASCAR's popularity soaring, and one of the best games ever made already themed for it, AND having already been released as a mass-market American game, I am totally bewildered as to why this is not available now.
Now, there is one shred of good news. THere is a version of this game still available in America. It is by the same designer, but with an F1 theme, and a twisty track. It is called Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix. So it is available, and not too expensive either. The bad news? It is one of the ungliest games I have ever seen, and the changes in the track and rules, make this game considerably less fun. I'd rate it 3 stars. But if you are desperate, it is adequate, and uses that same cardplay mechanism for racing.
If you can get a copy of Daytona 500, buy a copy.
I agree with the first review that the game is great. I bought my copy on EBAY for under $10.
I have only played the game with 2 other people. The only problem I see is that game wouldn't work as well with 4 or more players. The cards wouldn't be distrubted as well and you would have a harder time deciding what cars to bid on.
This game took me totally by surprise. I figured a NASCAR-themed game from Milton Bradley would offer a pleasant diversion for the casual gamer, at best. Boy, was I wrong! This is one of the most elegant game designs I've encountered in my 15+ years of 'hardcore gaming'. Yes, it's a simple, little game, but its basic elements work perfectly together to provide an absorbing and strategic challenge for any gamer.
A game consists of 3 races. At the beginning of each race, players are dealt a hand of cards which indicate movement points for the cars. Most cards contain mandatory movement points for multiple cars at once. Players acquire cars by bidding money based on the makeup of their hand. Once the race begins, each player plays a card and moves the cars on the track accordingly. Finishing a race earns a car's owner more money. Then you do it all over again. The winner of the game is the player with the most money after 3 races.
There is strategy in every phase of this game. Assessing your hand and determining which cars to bid on can be tricky. Your hand won't always clearly favor one car, and you need to look for more subtle opportunities for a winning strategy (e.g., identify the best pair combination of cars).
When bidding, you need to be aware of how much you can afford to invest versus how badly you want a particular car. Players often feign interest in a car, artificially jacking up the bidding, only to pull out at the last minute, leaving their opponent with a very expensive investment.
During the race, each player's turn is frought with decisions about which card to play and how to play it, since most cards require you to advance your opponents' cars as well as your own. The current position of the cars on the track factors into that decision, and clever maneuvering of the cars can leave your opponents in a bad position, even if the card you played initially appears favorable to them.
It's a shame Daytona 500 is out of print. If you run across an available copy, I highly recommend picking it up. This is an enjoyable game which will appeal to both hardcore and casual gamers alike... and the little plastic cars are nice too!