Downforce is a Formula One racing game that has more than stood the test of time. It is a reprint of sorts by Restoration Games, bringing back the classic ‘Top Race’ by designer Wolfgang Kramer. And boy, are we glad they did…
The board in Downforce might look similar to that of other racing game Formula D, with a circuit (on each side of the board) made up on individual lanes and movement rectangles, but this is a very different beast. Here, up to six players control cars using a hand management approach with cards, which can – and will – force them to help out their rivals!
However, there’s a brilliant spanner in the works in Downforce. This isn’t just a race of seeing the chequered flag waved to mark you crossing the line; it’s about earning the most money come the end of the race. That can be achieved by placing bets throughout the game, upon who you believe will actually win the race.
On each card is one of many combinations of some, few or all of the cars (determined by colour), and how many spaces that car has to move, if that card is played. The cars must be moved in order – top-to-bottom – by the player that plays that card.
First of all, an auction takes place for players to acquire a car (which comes with an asymmetrical player power). Therefore, players start in debt depending on the price of their bid. Then players play one card from their hand on their and move cars accordingly. However, there are some bottlenecks in the circuit, meaning paths can (and will) become blocked, since cars cannot jump over spaces. Therefore, turn order in which cars must be moved becomes crucial!
There are various trigger points throughout the lap, and when the first car passes this point, everyone must secretly place a free bet on which cars they think will finish first in the race. If these are correct come the game end, the player will earn cash, with higher rewards for predicting correctly earlier in the race (and diluted prize money if the predicted car finishes second or third, accordingly). Players also receive precious dollars for their end-race position, so between this and the betting, minus the investment for your car in the first place, determines your overall score.
Downforce is a wonderful experience because even if your car is losing, you can still do well by betting on another car to win, and using your hand of cards to help that car. This gives you a reason to cheer when other cars, not just your own, are moved, meaning that players feel part of the race at every turn (which means high interactivity, and the feeling of less ‘down-time’ between turns).
Fans of Downforce will be eager to hear that there’s also an expansion – Danger Circuit – which does what it says on the tin: it’s another double-sided board with two more tracks of a more hazardous nature for players to race (and wager)
Player Count: 2-6
Time: 40 minutes