At first glance, Formula D will seem intimidating to novice gamers. The art is very cool but aggressive: Formula One cars, tricked out stock cars, letters engulfed in flames. The box declares that the game will take about an hour. And although 10 people can play, the box recommends those players be aged 14 years or more. Based solely on time and age range, Formula D would have found itself ineligible for a Major Fun Award.
But PLEASE, listen to that part of you that says, “That game looks cool!” We did, and we lived to report that this game is absolutely Major Fun.
Formula D is a racing game. The tracks are beautifully rendered on each side of the huge game board. There are approximately a bajillion cars to choose from so each player should be able to find some ride that fits his or her tastes. Each player also receives a clever gear box that indicates how fast the car can go and how much damage it can take. For the purpose of this review I am going to focus only on the Rules for Beginners, but for those who want a higher degree of complexity to the game, it comes with advanced rules, an advanced gear box, and special characters who bring more strategic choices to the game.
But don’t skip the beginner rules. Those early races have plenty of strategic thrills to keep you occupied for a long time.
In a nutshell: players roll dice to move their cars around the track. There are 6 dice that move the car and a 7th one for special occasions. The movement dice correspond to the gears on the car. The higher the gear, the more spaces the car can move. First gear can move 1-2 spaces, second moves 2-4 spaces, third moves 4-8 spaces, fourth moves 7-12 spaces, fifth moves 11-20 spaces, and sixth moves a whopping 21-30 spaces.
So why not just shift up to high gear and stay there? The track makes sharp turns and the drivers have to slow down or they will damage their cars. Each turn has a red zone. If a car does not end its move inside a red zone, the car takes damage. Too much damage and the car is pulled out of the race. Some especially sharp turns require drivers to make two or even three moves inside a red zone. Failure to go slow enough will result in damage or complete destruction. Rolling the dice always involves some luck but players have to decide every time it is their turn whether to shift up or down. Sometimes it also pays to take a little damage so that you can be in position to charge at high gear through a straight. As long as you cross the finish line first, you win.
For a multi-lap race, there is a pit area where all damage can be repaired.
The first time you set up the game will take a while, but that’s mainly because there are a lot of pieces to punch out. It will also take 10 – 15 minutes to go through the rules, but once you do, you will realize just how intuitive everything is. The rules are beautifully illustrated and once you play the first time, you will probably never need the basic beginner rules again.
So gather up your friends. The more the merrier. Cutting people off and crashing become intense moments in multi-player games. Once you are done arguing over who gets what car, get them on the track and start slamming your way up through the gears. There’s a checkered flag and Major Fun to be had.
For 2 – 10 players, ages 14+ (my 10 year old did just fine…)
Formula D was designed by Eric Randall and Laurent Lavaur and originally published in 2008 by Asmodee.