Apparently, I’ve moved to a once-per-quarter posting system. *sigh*
Well, NecronBob was out the other night, so the rest of the Manglers played some board games. I set up a racing theme for the night, so we played two games of Formula De, an aborted game of Roadkill, and a game of Jaunty Jalopies, the focus for this review.
Jaunty Jalopies was designed by Dan Verssen and published by One Small Step back in 2003. Dan Verssen has gone on to create a lot of games, and I’m eager to check out some more of them. Jalopies, however, has relatively low production values, and reminds me more of a game published back in the ’80s in terms of the relatively flimsy box and anemic cardstock. (The Manglers were surprised that the game was published after Roadkill–which was published in ’93. Interestingly enough, Roadkill was based on an idea by Dan Verssen, and you can definitely feel some similarities in gameplay–the main difference being that Jaunty Jalopies is easily playable.) To be fair, however, the art on the cards is amusing and fits the theme well. Each card has a black and white photographs for art–often a road or bridge, but sometimes some folks dressed in 1920s’ garb kissing, talking, or being arrested.
The game plays better than the parts-quality might initially indicate. The premise is that each player is a racer in a 1920s cross-country road race. (Imagine Cannonball Run or Rat Race set in the 1920s.) Each player picks a character who is suitably stereotyped (the German military man, the Italian gigolo, etc.) and has a special power. Each player then decides to make their character a Hero (gets extra cards from helping others), a Villain (gets extra cards from interfering with others), or a Neutral (who can get rid of Subplots more easily). Everyone tries to get to the final card (the twelfth card in our 4-player game) first. Along the way, players try to interfere with each other by playing Mishaps and Subplots on them. Mishaps can be removed by resting for a turn or playing some cards, but otherwise cause some inconvenience (lowering hand size, the number of cards drawn, etc.); Subplots keep a player from playing Drive cards (and thus from advancing to the final card) until some other cards are played (Personality cards, Equipment cards, etc.). Each turn consists of playing as many cards from your hand as you want, and then drawing some more from the deck. To advance down the road, you have to play a Drive card and then discard some cards depending on how difficult the terrain is: highways don’t require a discard, but country roads do. If you’re on the leading card, you can add a new card to the race. Little plastic pawns mark racer positions on the map.
Overall, the game play is simple and easily explained. The Manglers got into it for a while, and a few of us remarked that it reminded us a bit of the racing version of Lunch Money because the turns are quick, and you’re usually screwing with the other players. We laughed at the storylines we were creating, as my poor character raced almost the entire race with balding tires and kept talking his way out of police entanglements while Paul’s guy routinely found himself entangled in romantic plots with a young lady. And then the game moved into its second hour, and we still weren’t close to the end. By the end, another hour later, we were glad to be done and talking about tweaks for if this game ever finds its way out of the Closet of Doom again.
We saw three reasons that the game dragged on:
- The number of road cards diminishes substantially as the game goes on and more cards are out on the track. So, by the end, you might have to save up road cards for two or three turns to have enough to even try to move more than one card ahead.
- There’s a card that removes the two cards closest to the finish line and sends the player(s) on those cards back to the start. If this happens to you when the number of road cards is diminished, good luck getting back into the race.
- There isn’t much variety in the type of cards. If the card deck was twice as big with twice as many subplots and mishaps, then the game wouldn’t feel so repetitive. But throwing the same few subplots around each game just got old.
All that being said, I’d still play the game again. This is the kind of game that probably would have seen a lot of play time when I was in college, and all we had was time for boardgames. If I play again, I’ll suggest that we shorten the number of road cards necessary to win the race.
The other review of this game–from La Tana Dei Goblin.