Some of my favourite games are deep, grand affairs that can take a whole afternoon. Scythe, Dungeon Pets and Concordia to name a few. But I’ve also got a lot of time for a game which is quick and snappy, which has people ready to play again immediately.
In this case the game is Flamme Rouge, with it’s wonderfully straight forward premise, managing a team of two cyclists in the press of a long distance cycle race.
Flamme Rouge is a card driven racing game and each rider will play a numbered card to determine how far they go each turn. This has the potential to end like a lot of similar roll and move games where luck would determine the winner, but Flamme Rouge adds elements that make selection of your speed a little more difficult.
The most interesting feature is the way packs of cyclists form, roaming the roads of France stripping towns of all their isotonic drink. But actually packs are merely clumps of cyclists that will build up on the board. Manipulating your position within these packs will provide you with different challenges throughout the game. Packs that are close together can merge, taking advantage of the leaders’ slipstream and cheating out some free movement. Also, while cyclists can move through each other they can’t end on the same space so dense packs can be used to block opponents and waste their movement. Finally, in any race obviously people want to be first, but there is plenty of advantage in hanging back as those leading the packs are getting tired faster, and picking up exhaustion cards.
These exhaustion cards feed into the decks of each rider, making them less efficient, compounded by the fact that each card is only used once, then removed for the game. huge bursts at the start of the game will lead to limping across the line. Both of a players riders also have slightly different decks, with the sprinteurs capable of greater top speed but rouleurs more consistent. So over the game you want to be trading off which rider is at the front of the pack, ideally someone else’s until right at the finish where you break out. This is made extra difficult since each player chooses their movement cards simultaneously, so requires a certain amount of bluff.
The last element to consider which relates to riders’ speed is hills, as you might imagine going uphill is hard and downhill is easy, so positioning yourself to start on downhill sections is desirable.
On a gameplay front I think Flamme Rouge is basically what i want this kind of game to be, some thinking required but not a lot so games play fast and you can get in 2 or 3 rounds before moving on, but on the components side it’s a bit more hit and miss. The art on the box and player tiles is great but the bike models are a little flimsy and the track sections could go together better, but none of these are deal breakers.
Flamme Rouge is a dramatic half hour with plenty of back and forth, and highs and lows so is certainly worth your attention.