#81 – Turbo Drift [Preview]

Base price: $12 for one, $22 for two, or $30 for three of the Button Shy wallet games.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: ~30 minutes. Can take longer if you make a bigger play area.
BGG Link
Check it out on Kickstarter!

Full disclosure: A preview copy of this game was provided by Button Shy. Art and rules are subject to change, as this is a preview of an unreleased game.

Vroom vroom. You’re racing through the countryside trying to be the first to the finish line in Turbo Drift, one of the latest wallet games from Button Shy. That said, it’s a mountain race, so it’s a bit perilous (and there are plenty of ways you could unintentionally crash). If you’re feeling bold, you can gun it for the finish line with your nitro boost, but if you crash, well, you explode. And die. As you do. Can you beat your opponents to the checkered flag?

Contents

Setup

As with most of the wallet games (see Ahead in the Clouds, which I previewed previously), there’s not a ton of setup here. I’d recommend (as they do) having a 3 foot square to play in (just because having cars fly off the table isn’t useful, from a gameplay perspective). You’ll have some barrier cards:

barriers

That you’ll want to put in front of the finish line. They’ve added recommended layouts for the barrier cards, and it looks like they maybe have three card lengths or so between them? You can make them tighter if you want to make the game harder (and faster), or spread everything out if you want the game to take longer, but that’s your business.

Next, take out the finish line and the car cards:

flag-cars

Put the finish line on one end of the playing field and the cars in a straight line on the other end, making sure that none of these cards are on their B side. Now, you’ll find some Path cards, which you should shuffle and then put them in a 2×3 grid:

path-card-grid

Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to start:

setup

This is likely too small of a setup area — I think twice the size might be appropriate?

Gameplay

Again, not much complexity to the gameplay here, which is nice. You’re racing towards the finish line. First player to cross it, wins. It’s a race, and if you’re not first, you’re last.

Each round begins with the player holding the First Player Card, which is that stoplight from earlier. They take their move, then the next player goes, and so on and so forth. Here’s how you move:

  1. Put the burning rubber card down. Just like Back to the Future, you gotta leave flames when you accelerate. Sadly, you’re not traveling through time, but you are certainly traveling through space, in some manner of speaking. You can either put the burning rubber behind your car to go forward, or you can put it in front of your car to put the thing in reverse. You might have to do that, sometimes.
  2. Remove your car card. Just pick it up — you’ll put it back later.
  3. Choose Path Cards. So this is a bit complex; I’ll go over it in detail. You have three choices, when you pick:
    1. Choose a column (3) of Path Cards. You take all three of these and must play all three.
    2. Choose a row (2) of Path Cards. You take two Path Cards that are in a row together and must play both.
    3. Choose any 1 Path Card. You can take this Path Card and must play it. You also get to reassign the First Player Card (the stoplight) to any player, including the player who already has it.
  4. Place Path Cards. This is a bit of doing as well. You can play them in any order you’d like, they just have to connect to each other via the tire tracks on the card. There are a few caveats to this placement:
    • If your Path Card runs into a barrier or another car, you’ve crashed. Remove that Path Card, and you’re done playing Path Cards this turn. Sad! This might mean that you do not get to move on your turn. Maybe put it in reverse?
    • If your Path Card runs into a Boost Icon, you BOOST. Boosting is super cool — basically, you take the burning rubber card and add it to the end of the Path Card you just played, even if that means jumping over a barrier or another car, since boosting is awesome. You then keep playing Path Cards onto the end of the burning rubber card, if you have any left.
  5. Flip your car card over and add it to the end of the Path Cards you’ve played. If this is your first turn, it should now be on the “B” side. This is to show that every player has moved in a round. It’s helpful.
  6. Flip over the Path Cards and return them to the grid. You can put them back in any order or configuration, but you can’t flip them over again. Try to make sure that your opponents can’t make good moves, as you might guess.

For reference, here’s what a move on a turn might look like:

first-turn

vroom vroom

There is, well, one additional thing you can do. NITRO. If you choose to use your Nitro boost, take every Path Card and shuffle them (without flipping them over). You must use them in that order, but every time you place a Path Card you can stop without looking at the next one (slamming on the brakes), if you want. You can do this once per game. That sounds pretty good, yes, but high-speed collisions aren’t something that you particularly want. If you crash into another car or barrier when using your Nitro boost, your car explodes and you die. If you die, you’re out of the game. Sorry. Use this with caution, again, since you can only use it once per game.

Play continues until all players are eliminated (great job, everyone) or any player crosses the finish line!

Player Count Differences

I suppose that with additional players it’s a bit more crowded, though you can compensate for that by making the play area larger. Inevitably, with more people you’ll have more collisions or, uh, “strategic blocks”, so you will see gameplay slow down a bit with additional players. I don’t have a strong preference on player count, but I’ll update if that changes.

Strategy

You gotta have some good strategies if you want to win the race, but you’ll find this is likely a mostly tactical game, since your position in the next round can be moved around and so much depends on what Path Cards you get.

  • Don’t be afraid to only take one card. There are some times that you’d rather make a subtle adjustment to your trajectory than go careening off into the abyss. Plus, it can help you get around people who are blocking you.
  • Moving that first-player card can be great for “skipping” someone’s turn. Need to cut in front of someone? Move the first-player card so that you start the round and can edge them out, or make them first so that they have to move out of your way so you can get around them. They have to move (unless they crash), so you can get them to clear out. I only put skip in quotes since nobody’s turn actually gets skipped, it just gets moved later in the round order.
  • Pay attention to how you put cards back into the grid. For instance, a friend suggested that she just puts cards back into the grid so that if you take cards turning you right, you have to take a lot of cards turning you to the right, causing you to veer significantly off course. This is a great move, unless someone makes you first next round and you’re stuck with the setup you just dropped on the next player. That might be a good time to take only one card.
  • Nitro is usually a great way to end the game. A lot of players will just nitro when they’re close to the finish line (or to get around another player), and I endorse that. Just be careful you don’t end your game by, well, exploding.
  • Aim for the boosts. Jumping a barrier is awesome, and usually useful. Just don’t hit them in reverse or something, as that might not be exactly what you want…
  • Try to block other players. If you can, finishing your turn in front of another player can waste their turn, force them to take different cards than the ones they wanted, or potentially explode them if they’re nitro-ing recklessly. All of those are pretty good for you, so … try to do that.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Cool theme. I haven’t actually played all that many racing games, so here we are.
  • Neat “real-space” mechanics. I’m sure there are other games that do this, but I haven’t played many with this theme, so it’s a lot of fun. Are there other games that do this well that you enjoy? Let me know in the comments.
  • Reasonably easy to teach. Short rules explanation goes a long way for light games, and this is no exception.
  • Boost mechanic is cool. It adds in a good mechanic that feels like a racing game. I’m a fan.
  • Seems vaguely expandable. I could see cool things where you have variable player powers in the form of starting cars, or barriers that are more themed for certain areas (volcano area, ice area, stuff like that, maybe?) or something. I think it’s a cool concept!

Mehs

  • Very easy to accidentally move pieces around, and very difficult to deliberately move pieces around without moving the wrong pieces. Part of this is that I don’t play on, like, a felt table or something, but it’s easy to smack or slide a barrier or another car by mistake. It might be worth weighing them down with a quarter or something, or if they end up being heavier “tiles” (sort of like the One Night Ultimate Werewolf characters) in a deluxe version. It’s not a huge deal, just a bit annoying every so often.

Cons

  • It’s difficult to know how to set the game up well. If you play the barriers haphazardly, you run the risk of nobody running into them or needing to work around them, and if you lay them too well, you might hit a point where you slow the game down a lot because people need to go around them or they’re too far away from the finish line. As I said, layouts are coming (and have now arrived!), but having something in the rules about spacing (like the game Monstrous) might be helpful.
  • Can be very very thinky, if you’re not careful. So the major issue is that if you pull multiple Path cards, you might place them and then re-move them and then try to place them again and this whole process might take minutes (in which nobody can plan their next turn because the cards are double-sided). You’ll see this happen in other “pathing” games from time to time (like Tsuro / Tsuro of the Seas) This is unfortunate. The fix our group has is pretty much just timed turns or once you’ve placed a Path card, it’s locked in. That adds a bit more “Turbo” to Turbo Drift, in our experience.
  • Not super portable for a wallet game. It’s a bit odd, that — on one hand, it’s very easy to slide into a backpack and take somewhere, it’s just that the game will need a fair bit of space to accommodate all the components. I think I’d probably like this a bit more if it were a “Deluxe” version with a box and some heavier components (as I mentioned was a Meh) rather than a light wallet game.

Overall: 6.5 / 10

in-progress

Overall, I think Turbo drift is fun. Our first game got bogged down by some rules mistakes and me making the play area far too large, meaning the game was just super slow because you can’t really go that straight on a turn? So if you’re turning a bunch it takes you a long time to get anywhere, and the cards are generally fairly turn-y (it’s a mountain racing game). I think suggested layouts + some spacing instructions and guidance will get me back to this more frequently, but I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve played it.

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