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We are in the era of great car races: a challenge between gentlemen competing in the name of sports and chivalry... more or less! In fact, at each turn, you shall have to offer one of your cards to your opponent, who shall decide, without knowing its contents, whether to use it him/herself or have you use it. It goes without saying that some cards enable you to win and others take you straight to the repair shop. Knowing this, what choice would you have made?
Fair Play is a new car racing game for 3 to 6 players. It has good quality components which comprise 6 metal cars, a special die (with faces 1,1,1,2,2 and 3), 48 track sections and 55 action cards. To set up, the Start section is placed on the table and the Finish section is shuffled into the remaining track sections so that it will turn up towards the end of the race. Each player then takes a car and 3 action cards. On a player's turn, he performs three actions in sequence. The first is to throw the die and move his car up to that number of spaces, adding track sections if necessary. Sections typically show a straight or a curve, but there are specials, such as 'Bottleneck', where only one car can pass at a time, 'Roadworks', which stops the car from continuing that turn, and flnally 'Petrol Stations' and 'Service Stations', which come into effect in combination with the action cards. The second is take an action card and add it to the cards he has in his hand and the third is to choose one of his action cards and offer it, face down, to one of the other players. The player to whom it has been offered must decide, without seeing what the card is, whether to accept or refuse it. If he accepts, he plays the card at once; otherwise the card is played instantly by the person who offered it. As can be guessed, some of these cards are good and some bad, thus introducing the key element of this game--bluff. The effects of the good cards vary from a simple 'Advance 1', via the more significant 'Overtake the next car' to the potential race winner 'Go into the lead'. Similarly, the bad cards range from 'Go back 1' to 'Miss a turn', the killer 'Go back to the previous Service Station' and 'Engine Trouble', a card which reduces the number of action cards a player may have in his hand and which can only be repaired by stopping at a Petrol Station.
The game continues in this way, with each player taking it in turn to throw the die and offer a card, until the Finish section is reached. First there wins. And that is it. The game is won not on lucky dice throws but by correctly accepting or refusing action cards. The effects of the 'Go back to the previous Service Station' are so severe that only the best bluffer would dare offer one unless they'd just passed a Service Station, just in case they had to play it themselves. Similarly I've seen the 'Go into the lead' card cause one player to win from miles back. This unpredictability makes the game not so much a race game in the vein of Formula De or Breaking Away but puts it more firmly in the Liars Dice, Bauernschlau and even Bausack camp. That said, it's fun, plays quickly and lends itself to a few easy tweaks--removing the 'Go back to the previous Service Station' and 'Go into the Lead' cards would make a huge difference. In summary, not a game for those expecting a realistic race but definitely a good closer.
When Neil offered to review this one, I didn't recognise it from the title, but now I have read his description, I remember seeing the game played back in the hotel at Essen. The reception it got then was mixed and I think that Neil has put his finger on why. If you sit down expecting a semi-realistic race game, you will be disappointed, but if you enjoy games of bluff, you will have fun. My other memory of that game was the running battle between Martin Leathwood and Merfyn Lewis's daughter, Nia. It didn't matter whether Martin tried to bluff Nia or Nia tried to bluff Martin, the winner was always the same. Never play Poker with a young Lewis.