Hey folks! I’m back with another game review. Grab your checkbook, we’re spending millions of dollars on fast cars and betting even more on how they’ll do in the race. We’re going to be buying at least one car, sometimes more, and racing them on tracks all while making secret bets on who is going to win. We’re looking at Downforce. This is from Restoration Games and is remade by Rob Daviau and Justin D.. Jacobson. The original game was Top Race by Wolfgang Kramer. That game came out in 1974 and was one of his first games. Wolfgang Kramer’s games have gone on to win the Spiel des Jahres a staggering 5 times and 1 win for the kids category. Here are his Spiel des Jahres games. 1984 Top Secret Spies, 1987 On Axis, 1996 El Grande, 1999 Tikal, and 2000 Torres. Then for the kids category for Spiel des Jahres. 1991 Pirate Adventure. Downforce is a hand management, bidding and betting race game. It’s for 2-6 players and plays in about 30-45 minutes.
Downforce comes with a deck of 42 speed cards, 6 car pawns, 6 driver plaques, 6 8 speed cards, 6 driver power cards, 1 double sided track board, and 1 score pad.
To set up, first pick a track you want to race on for the game. Place that in the center of the board. Next, each player gets a score sheet. Shuffle the 42 speed cards and deal them face down equally to each player. In a 4 or 5 player game, there should be two cards left over that go back to the box. Shuffle the power cards and put them in a face down pile. Now, shuffle the 8 speed cards. I like using these to randomly place the car pawns on the starting spaces. I shuffle the speed cards again after I place the car pawns. Now, we’re ready to play!
Speed Cards: Each speed card has a different amount of car colors and values on it. White cars are wild and can be used for any color car that isn’t already on that speed car. When playing speed cards, you move the car tokens of all the cars on the speed card. You start with the top and move down the line.
Power Cards: Each player gets only one power for the game. It’s always in effect. They usually change some for of movement or affect other rules.
The game has three parts to it. First up is the auction. Players use their speed cards to bid on cars one at a time. Flip the top speed and the top power cards over. That is the current car and power up for bid. Players are using the speed cards to bid. Choose a card from your hand matching the cars color. The highest speed wins. If there is a tie, the card with the most cars on it wins. If there is still a tie, the card without a wild car on it wins. Note how much you paid for the car on your score pad, as this will be subtracted from the end score. Take the driver plaque, 8 speed card, and power card. Each player needs to own at least one car. Players who won a car already will sit out of the auctions until everyone has at least one car. Repeat this process for all cars to be auctioned off. If you won multiple cars and power cards, choose one power card for the game. Return any unused power cards to the box. All speed cards used in the auction will be returned to your hand of speed cards.
The next part of the game is the race. The player who owns the car on the starting spot goes first. They pick a card and play it. Resolve the car movement starting from the top and going down. When moving cars, cars can only move forward or diagonally. They can never move sideways or backwards. You can’t move through other cars either. There will be times when cars can’t complete their whole movement, they instead go as far as they can without breaking any of the movement restrictions. Also, the current player who’s turn it is moves all the cars on the card played. This means you can move cars you don’t own and move them out of your way if you wanted. Play moves to the next player to the left. The example above, the orange car is moved first. It’s boxed in and can’t move, so the yellow car moves next. This is a dirty trick to play when you have high movement cards for cars you don’t want to win.
Play continues until you reach one of those yellow lines on the race track. This is where you secretly bet on one car you think is going to win the race. Put a X on your score sheet under the Bet 1 column for the car you think is going to win. If that car gets 1st, 2nd, or 3rd you’ll get additional money at the end of the game. Repeat this two other times during the game.
The first car to cross the finish line gets placed on the 1st car spot on the side of the board. This is completed for all the cars when they cross the finish line. Once all cars are done racing, it’s time to calculate the score. It is possible that a car cannot cross the finish line. These cars are considered to have stalled out and do not offer a pay out at the end of the game.
When scoring, circle the amount for your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd bets that you’ve won. Then, circle the racing payouts for cars that you own. Now for the math part! Add your racing payouts and your betting payouts. Subtract your auction totals from that. That is how much you made for this race. The player with the highest total wins!
So, what do I think about the game? The components are nice. The double sided board is nice for variability of play. The cards are simple, but good quality. The car pawns are just like little toys. It’s not a show stopper on presentation, but the game play more than makes up for that. I really like that you auction off the cars. It adds a bit of trying to balance not paying too much for a car, but also trying to get the cars with either good powers or in the starting positions. Then I like that you’re not just moving the cars you own, but all the cars together. I like that you can box other cars in, and force your opponent to move your car first to free up the other cars. I like that you need to pick what speed cards to play, while weighing what other cars you move in the process. This is a great racing style game with different game mechanics like auctioning and betting that makes it feel completely different from the other racing games I’ve played. I also like how the game is compatible for up to 6 players and how fast it plays. I’d recommend this game for anyone looking for a racing game. It’s easy to teach, fast to play, and has enough variability to keep things feeling different.
Downforce: Danger Circuit
This expansion adds 2 more tracks and 6 more player powers. The two tracks are a bit more advance than the base game. One has road hazards that you cannot drive one unless you’re forced to move onto them. The other features a pretty wicked figure eight style track. This is the kind of expansion I like to see. It doesn’t add a bunch of new rules, but just adds more content to the base game. With this and the base game you’ll have 4 tracks to race around. You could play a nice circuit.
Downforce: Mario Kart Variant
These game pieces size perfectly to the Downforce tracks. With the Monopoly Mario Kart base game and a couple of the extra kart packs you can cover all the colors in Downforce. There’s even some rules floating around on Board Game Geek that fuses both Downforce and Mario Kart Monopoly to get a hybrid game that uses the speed cards and the item die from the game. While I haven’t played this version yet, it’s the reason I’ve picked up Mario Kart Monopoly to try eventually. With some cardstock and a decent printer I’d like to dress the original Downforce game up to a Mario theme. In my review, I said that this game didn’t have a table presence that draws a crowd, I feel like the Mario addition would do that.
Once again, Downforce is a neat racing game with auctioning and betting that drives this game to the top of my favorite games. I highly recommend this to any racing fan or any gamer looking for a different take on racing games.