Jun 092011

Massive destruction. It’s something that every driver undoubtedly yearns for at least occasionally while they’re on the road. Whether it be the idiot who runs out into the street while your car is hurtling towards them or the fossil who decides that it’s prudent to attempt to merge lanes through your vehicle, every driver has briefly (or not-so-briefly) considered vehicular homicide. It’s basically an unwritten law at this point: Applejacks don’t taste like apples, nothing can kill the Grimace, and every driver secretly wants to brutally slaughter somebody who interferes with their driving. While we can’t do it in real life for very obvious reasons, “Road Kill Rally” gives players the opportunity to not only simulate it, but get rewarded for it.

“Road Kill Rally” is a board game, published by Z-Man Games, for three to six players. The players each take control of a heavily armed motor vehicle and set out on the deadliest race known to man. Along the way, they encounter various obstacles, deal with incoming fire from their opponents, and run down hapless pedestrians, all in the name of the one thing that means more to gamers than anything: POINTS!

Each turn consists of three phases. The first phase, the Draw phase, consists of (surprisingly enough) drawing cards. These Rally cards play two roles: they provide actions for the players to perform and they stand in as the player’s “health.” Every damage a player takes forces them to discard a card, and if they have to discard a card when their hand is empty, their car wipes out, lowering their points and penalizing them in other ways. This creates an interesting conundrum, leaving players to debate whether or not to use those powerful cards in their hand, lest they leave themselves open to getting wiped out.

Phase two is where the cars actually do their driving. Players can start by increasing or decreasing their speed. Once they are satisfied with their car’s speed, the player then moves.

The final phase is the part everyone’s been itching for: combat. Each player may take one action during their combat phase: attacking with their vehicle’s mounted weapon, attacking with an attack Rally card, doing either one of these to a pedestrian, or performing a pit stop in order to restock and reorganize their accessories. When a player does damage to another player, they gain a hit marker worth 10 points to their final score, and also collect any cards the player has to discard. That way, the game rewards players for taking the initiative to obliterate their opponents, instead of concentrating too much on just winning the race.

Roadkill Rally Board Game Cover

Cover art for Roadkill Rally (Z-Man Games, 2010)

A game of “Road Kill Rally” ends when at least three players have crossed the finish line. At this point, each player adds up their scores. Players score points not only for finishing first, second, and third, but for every hit they’ve made on an opponent, as well as every pedestrian they’ve scored throughout the game. There’s a big 100-point bonus for coming in first in the race, but that can be easily subverted by a player who’s been hitting a lot of shots and scoring a lot of pedestrians.

“Road Kill Rally” has its fair share of positives. For one, the game is very flavorful. Other racing games often suffer from feeling a bit dry, sometimes feeling like nothing more than a “roll the dice and go forward” type of game. “Road Kill Rally,”however, throws that concept on its ear. From my experiences with the game, nearly every turn seems to be dripping with excitement, whether it be trying to make a dangerous jump or keeping yourself alive by the skin of your teeth around a sharp turn. In addition to this, the lowered importance of finishing the race in first is a nice touch. Finishing in first is a big plus, but not necessarily a priority; in the end, it can be the mayhem you cause that gets you the victory. In the game I played with most of my fellow RNR members, I finished the race in first, and ended up tying for the victory with Ed, who didn’t even cross the finish line, but had been pummeling all of us and leaving devastation in his wake.

The randomness of the game can be both a positive and negative. As players travel along, random road tiles are flipped, so the track is never exactly the same. This adds plenty of replayability, but also factors a little against the game, as a player who happens by a very beneficial tile before anyone else could find themselves at a major advantage. Players are also given a random assortment of accessories to equip their cars with, so while no car has an inherent advantage over any other, one car could end up with powerful combinations of accessories if the luck of the draw is good to them.

The game does suffer from a few flaws. For one, the game has a tendency to drag on as it nears the end. It comes with a large number of road tiles and suggests mixing the Finish Line tile into the last three tiles. However, the number of tiles to deal with is a bit large, probably larger than it should have been. In addition, the game could really use more variety in the Rally cards. It often feels like you’re just drawing the same cards all the time, and a couple of the cards are somewhat benign, to the point where it becomes easy for the player to decide which ones to discard when they take damage. This shouldn’t be an issue; a discard is supposed to be a difficult decision. It’s pretty hard to totally eliminate that from a game that includes cards and discarding, but I found myself having no problem deciding what to discard way too often.

All in all, I’d wholeheartedly recommend “Road Kill Rally.” It’s easy to learn, it changes enough with each play, and it’s just plain fun. I’d suggest maybe reducing the number of road tiles to alleviate the dragging towards the end, and an expansion pack with new Rally cards would be a godsend. But as it stands now, ‘Road Kill Rally’ is an entertaining game, one that I feel will see a lot of table time with anyone who enjoys a lighthearted game about vehicular manslaughter.

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