game review: formula d

The previous edition of this F1 racing game was called Formula Dé and we sold it at Campaign Outfitters many years ago. I’d had the coolness explained to me, how the gearshifting worked by using custom dice, but never had the chance to play it. Now that I have, (in its modern incarnation: Formula D) I have to say it was awesome. We had a group of 9 people and it was like playing a boardgame version of Mario Kart, meaning it was great fun indeed.

Everyone has a tiny car on a track with spaces. You roll a die and move your car that many spaces. The first one to the finish line wins. “Well, that sounds about as much fun as Candyland,” you might say, and if that were all, it would be a shitty shitty racing game. But that is not all.

You see, every car has a gear shift, so you have to upshift to go faster. In 1st gear you can only move 1-2 spaces, in 3rd you move 5-8, and if you hit 6th gear you move 21-30 spaces. Each gear has its own colour coded die, ranging from a d4 to a d30.

The next question you might ask is what is to prevent a racer from just jumping up into 6th gear and moving 21-30 spaces every turn? The curves in the track prevent this. Every corner requires you to end your turn in a certain zone a certain number of times, or damage your car. An easy turn has a large number of possible spaces and you only have to end your turn in it once. A nasty pile of hairpins might be a lot fewer spaces and require you to end your turn 3 times within it, forcing you to downshift so you stay inside.

We were playing with the basic rules which just give a certain number of damage points to the cars, but the advanced rules split the damage up between tires, brakes, gears and more, which means you have to work your car a bit differently. We treated it in a much more Mario Kart fashion and had a blast.

There is a lot of luck to the game, as a couple of bad rolls on a straightaway while competitors roll well can really hurt your chances (you have to take more risks in the turns while the leader can negotiate them safely), but in our race there was a lot of position-shifting and even though Kifty ran away with 1st place, the rest of the racers were contesting with each other right to the end.

Excellent game, and one that works with kids and large groups.

book review: absolute sandman volume 2

Last week I spent a goodly chunk of my paycheque on the second volume of The Absolute Sandman by Neil Gaiman (and artists). I did this for a few reasons. First, I don’t want Xmas presents this year (and am not buying them for anyone). These Absolute Sandman books are mainstays on the Xmas list, but now I could get it for myself. Second, for some reason it’s not available on at a reasonable cost right now so I noticed it at McNally Robinson. Third, I wanted to read something in a big-ass tome, to feel like I was plumbing the depths of arcanity and such. That this volume of Sandman tales involves the lord of dreams coming into possession of hell makes it a good fit for that “reading a tome” experience.

Sandman comics are things I’ve known about through my entire comic-reading life (which isn’t actually that long). I may have only started reading comics when the original run was ending. I remember the spines of the trade paperbacks in the comic shop. I remember flipping through issues and not really being dragged in. One time at Campaign we were given a trade paperback by one of our book suppliers. I read it (it had the Midsummer Night’s Dream story in it) and I didn’t mind it, but I had other things to spend my money on like Transmetropolitan. So yes, I wasn’t a long-time fan or anything.

And then I started learning how influential it was, beyond the coolness of Neil Gaiman himself. How this was sort of a gothy bible, an artifact of the 1990s that I missed out on. But now I’m reading it. In Absolute form. While I would love to own books like Absolute Watchmen or the giant volumes of Sin CIty or Hellboy, I’ve read those stories, in many cases I on those stories already. But Sandman is this pristine land I’m walking through on these massive pages with their beautiful colouring et al.

Reading this doesn’t bring back memories of the first time reading these stories because this is my first time. I don’t know if this is forming the same kinds of memories for when I reread them in the future. Of being wrapped up in a blanket on my couch in my underheated condo, sipping tea and shooing away a cat. It’s not the same as if I’d been 17. Damned fine stories though.