One of the things that we look for when we grant a Major Fun award is how easy it is to figure out how to play the game – even without the rules. Learning time is always a problem with games – the more time it takes to learn (regardless of how wonderful the game is) the narrower the appeal. So, when we do find a game that is almost self-explanatory, and when it’s well-made, and when it’s fun enough for people to want to play again and again and yet again – we consider it a major find.
Today, we take great pleasure in introducing you to our current Major Fun major find – a little wooden game called Fastrack. Well, not totally wooden – there’s an elastic band on either side. And not so little – interior dimensions are 13″ by just about 8″. And there’s a drawstring bag, made out of something net-like, which is also not wooden.
Between the two elastic bands, spanning the middle of the board, there’s a wooden divider. In the middle of this divider, there’s a small hole – slightly larger than one checker-puck-width. On either side of the divider there’s just enough room to line-up five checker-pucks. And that, my friends, is all you need to know, pretty much.
It’s a two-player game. Each player begins with five wooden, let’s call them “disks.” Checker-like, puckish things that get twanged from one side of the board, through the divider, to the other. Twanging is generally done with one finger on the disk, the disk pulled back against the elastic and then released, both players twanging simultaneously. The round ends, hopefully, when one player has no more disks to twang. I say “hopefully” because, though a round can take less than a couple minutes, equally matched players can drive each other to exhaustion – which is pretty much the whole point.
Though the rules are exceptionally brief, and the game can be played without them, there are some good reasons to read them. For example, you learn that if a disk is stuck in the slot, you can only move it by shooting another disk at it. Which makes sense insofar as there might be some potential finger damage from ongoing rapid-disk-propulsion. You also learn that if a disk jumps over the divider and lands on the other side of the board, it still counts. And that disks that fly off the board entirely are out of play for that round, which means that you only have to get the remainder on to the other side to win.
The game is easy to handicap – especially if you are playing with your kids. For example, they can let you start with three disks, while they take the remaining seven.
The concept for this game has been around for a while. But the execution makes Fastrack exceptional. The game looks as attractive as it plays. The race-flag checkerboard and red colors accentuate the experience of speed. The elastic bands have enough elasticity so that you can shoot your disks with significant twang, and, if you shoot a disk just right, it can bounce back and forth across the board several many, delightworthy times. The board and disks are scaled perfectly so that you get the same delightful action you might get from a larger version, yet the game itself is just the right size to carry with you effortlessly everywhere. The twang often leads to many satisfying bangs as the disks carom off the wooden divider and the wooden sides of the wooden board. It is a skill game. And you can get better. And that’s all you need to know.
The game was designed by Jean-Marie Albert of Ferti in France, who also designed the Major Fun award-winning Le Pass Trappe – which explains a lot.