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65 special track pieces allow players to build all the world's major racecourses. A dashboard shows fuel consumption and tire consumption. The players decide on a gear and roll 1-6 dice to determine speed and fuel consumption. At the end of the turn players must set the gear for the next turn. Curves have speed limits and players may pass them at higher speed, but that costs tire points. During the game the players must decide on pit stop strategy, choice of gear, overstepping the speed limit in curves, fuel consumption, tire consumption, and the best braking distance to the next curve.
I also fell in love with what I saw of this game on the internet, and purchased it the first chance I got.
There are many things about this game that are good - the variable tracks, the gear-changing decisions, the tire wear.
But there is one problem with the system that I consider major - major enough that I brought it up with Mr. Albaretti.
Higher speeds in a car with a transmission do not necessarily mean higher fuel consumption. Yet in Pitstop, rolling four dice means twice the fuel consumption (on average) as does rolling two dice. Each turn represents the same amount of time. Fuel consumption in road racing is largely a constant. A player's speed increases due to change in gears - not increase in RPMs. In Pitstop, it's as if the gearbox doesn't exist.
We found that the fuel consumption aspect dominated the game, far more so than in the type of racing it models. Far more so, in fact, than anything else one chooses to do. It's irritatingly random, and hideously costly, in terms of affecting one's chance at victory.
I love the track pieces, I like most of the game's mechanics. And for these reasons I hold onto it until I can come up with a system that works without the 'punctured fuel tank' syndrome.
I had been looking for this game as it is a racing game and appeared to be one that I would like. Eg spiel brought it out in 2001, but had made it difficult to buy - the website only seemed to sell to Italian addresses and the usual on-line game stores in Germany did not appear to stock it. All of which left me perplexed. Fortunately, the internet is a massive depository of information and I recently found the game on the French website www.philibertnet.com/. So was the wait worth it?
I have only played the game once, but already it shows some interesting features. Firstly the 65 boards pieces feature various types of circuit, from long straights to a variety of angled bends, corners and chicanes. The rules include designs for eight grand prix circuits, but of course you can build your own circuit in any fashion that you like, which is what we did for my first game. The set-up is completed by adding speed limits for each corner ranging from the slow 50 kph to fast 300 kph corners.
All races are over three laps and each of the players receives a dashboard to indicate what gear their car is in, with tracks for tyre points and fuel consumption. Each dashboard has holes in which the pawns are placed to mark the current position for each car. The cars are set in first gear and the race begins. The player throws a number of dice according to the gear selected. Before throwing the dice the player decides whether to take their speed bonus which an automatic extra 50 kph (1 space) when the car is in 1st to 3rd gear and an automatic 100 kph (2 spaces) when the car is in 4th to 6th gear. This is an important decision for several reasons.
First of course is the guaranteed movement. This can be helpful as the six sided dice feature 5 sides showing 50 kph and one side with a blank, so there is a small risk of no movement without the bonus. The second reason is that one of the 50 kph sides has a ring on it. When this is thrown, it means that more fuel was consumed but only if the car ended its move on a straight. So using your bonus and decreasing your speed will reduce this risk. The final reason is that you need to consider your overall speed (bonus plus dice) when moving through a corner. If you exceed the posted limit you use tyre wear for each 50 kph in excess on each corner space. This can be a quick way of reducing your tyre wear if not carefully considered.
The best aspect to the game is that at the end of your move you set the gear (and thus the number of dice thrown) at the end of your turn. This simple rule has amazing consequences. You have to think about where you are in relation to the next move and whether you will take the bonus or not. You do not have to commit to the bonus until your next turn, but you do need to think about it. As only three cars can be on each space there may be blocking issues. And then you need to think about the gear you chose, as this will determine who goes first when more than one car ends up in the same space. All of which was quite impressive for one rule, at least I thought so.
Inevitably you will run low on fuel or tyre wear, so must think about a pit stop. You can speed into the pits, and then on your next turn decide whether to completely refill one or two aspects. For each one, you roll the die and when a blank is drawn you are delayed one turn. It works and doesn't seem too onerous. The chances are that you will stop for tyre wear if there are many corners and for fuel if there are many straights.
The game I played had a great feel to it. Cars concertinaed when going through corners and front cars stretched their leads on the straights. Everybody liked the mechanism for setting your speed at the end of your turn and with four players the game really went fast.
We did not play the advanced rules which allow soft tyres in the set up that give better grip. The game impact is that the blank sides are worth 50 kph, but this uses up tyre wear. Neat idea that we could try on the next outing. Other usual rules such as slipstreaming are also part of the optional rules and this will also be tried soon.
The presentation of the game is good and the moulded insert can easily contain the different shapes of track, the dice and the dashboards. The rules are in five languages and though the English translation is not crystal clear, it is manageable if you have any experience of racing games.
I am delighted to have eventually found this game and pleased that the initial impression is positive. It has a a different feel to any other racing game that I have played and with a huge variety of tracks that could be built, it has many more chances of getting to the gaming table.