Full disclosure: A review copy of Shuffle Grand Prix was provided by Coin Flip Games.
Oh man, I think I can see the end of the tunnel. This, Proving Grounds, and Chronicles of Crime are the last reviews I need to write ahead of Gen Con (or Moon Base, if it arrives quickly enough). That said, once I’ve done that, I’ve got all the post-Gen Con games to review, so that’s still going to be a thing, but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, let’s talk about Shuffle Grand Prix. I didn’t know much about this game when I first agreed to it, other than it had the same artist as Cake Duel, which was enough to sell me on checking it out.
In Shuffle Grand Prix, the race is on! Hustle to the finish line, drawing distance cards and trying to outpace your opponents. Like the classic Mario Kart: Double Dash, you have a pilot and a co-pilot, and you can use all the tricks and traps at their disposal to clear the roadway for yourself. Just, you know, watch your tires to make sure you don’t spin out! Will you be able to make it to the finish line before anyone else? Or will you have to re-tire early?
Not a ton. Give each player a Tire Health Card:
Let them pick a Pilot and Co-Pilot (first player chooses first, then last player chooses co-pilot first and go in reverse player order), and have them put the Pilot on the Tire Health Card so that 4 is showing:
Each player then should take and shuffle together their two racer’s Ability Cards:
Shuffle the Distance Cards and place them face-down in the center:
Finally, set the trophies somewhere:
You’re all ready to start!
Not a ton to say about this one — on your turn, you’ll do the following actions in order:
Draw Distance Card
Draw a Distance Card from the stack and place it at the front of your line. That card is your Top Distance Card.
Turn Tracker Rotates
If you have any Turn Trackers, rotate them one and perform the relevant card effects.
Perform an Action
You may now play one card from your hand. No matter what, you should have three cards in your hand at all times. If you play a card, draw a new one. If you steal a card, draw one when you play it and then discard down to three when you gain the fourth. The card you play may be any of a number of types:
- Action: Performs some task. They’re card-specific, but they might damage, heal, let you draw extra cards.
- Nerf: Places a nerf on another player. This might reduce the quality of the cards they draw, gradually deal damage, or any number of effects. Generally use the Turn Tracker cards to see.
- Traps: These are fun. Setting a trap causes a negative effect for a player at some point in the game. The important point here is that you can set off your own traps, on yourself. So be careful!
- Equips: These equipment cards can boost your car’s capabilities, but you can only have two things equipped at once. If you need to, you can swap out an equipped card for another equipped card. If you do, discard your top distance card.
- Anytime: You can play this card anytime, even when it’s not your turn.
If you don’t like any of your cards, you may instead discard a card and draw a new one, or just pass.
You may use one or two trophies on your turn.
- One: Swap your pilot and co-pilot.
- Two: Play an extra card from your hand.
If, during your turn, you and / or an opponent’s Tire Health is reduced to 0, you spin out! When that happens, do the following things:
- Swap your pilot and co-pilot.
- Discard your top distance card.
- Discard your hand.
- Discard all nerfs and equips. They return to the discard piles of the players who played them.
The player who spun out is immune to all actions until the start of their next turn. The player who dealt the spinning blow gains a trophy, even if they caused themselves to spin out. They just love trophies.
End of Game
When there are no more Distance Cards to draw, the game ends. Calculate players’ total distance, and the player with the highest total wins!
Player Count Differences
Weirdly, you’d think this would be a game that I’d have strong preferences about, player-count-wise, but I don’t? I’ve tried it at low and high player counts, and while I have a slight antipreference towards higher player counts, I think if players just kinda wail on each other equally it’s still a pretty light, silly, and fun game. You just have to make sure you know who’s going to be to be the leader, which is tough. If dogpiling happens, the game gets to be a bit less fun, so I’d say if you’re worried, play towards the lower end of the player count register, but if everyone’s all-in for a high-chaos game, we’ve had plenty of fun at four, as well.
- You’re going to need to play somewhat aggressively. I mean, at the core of the game, if you’re not attacking players then you’re just playing a game where you hope that you randomly draw cards with a higher total value than other players. You need to steal their cards, lay traps, and occasionally spin them out if you want to guarantee that you’ll win.
- Again, remember that you are affected by your own traps. This means you can set a trap for an opponent and have it 100% blow up in your face. It’s incredible. I’ve seen it happen several times. I’d recommend it for humor but not for strategic value.
- The best offense is just enough defense that people leave you alone. Nobody’s going to attack the person who can ignore 6+ damage; they’re just going to go after an easier target. To that end, it’s good to be the player that everyone wants to just ignore.
- Mae’s ability really convinces other players to leave her alone. Since she counters for one damage every attack, most players won’t go after her. She won’t get you more cards, but she will make it hard for other players to cause you to lose them.
- Stay flexible with Noodles. Noodles the Cat will let you copy anyone‘s power, and change every time you have a 100 on top. Use that to switch to Kate Tana’s ability and play more cards; use it to play defensively with Mae; whatever you want! it’s a huge boon, especially since other players may not necessarily know how to react to it.
- If you don’t want to play aggressively, just try to play cards that will give you additional Distance cards. The game’s not about spinning out your other players; it’s about going as far as possible before the race ends. Therefore, the farther you move, the better off you will be in the long run. Don’t let yourself get distracted by vengeance; just focus on putting more and more distance between yourself and the other players.
- Using two trophies to double up is a huge help, especially towards the end of the game. That might give you enough of an edge to cause a player to spin out in one turn before they can respond, which is amazing. One fantastic combo is to use Mae’s Entanglement to link two characters together, and then hit them both with a massive attack and spin them both out simultaneously. That’s an extremely aggressive maneuver, but if you can pull it off, that’s another couple trophies for you.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the art. Ruwen has done a fantastic job again; that’s honestly why I agreed to review the game in the first place. It’s light, whimsical, and a bit silly, which is exactly what you’d want from a game like this.
- Diverse set of characters. Different genders, ethnicities, and even a cat! The cat is my favorite, obviously.
- Pretty easy to learn. Draw a card, play a card; only a little bit more to it than that. I appreciate that.
- I appreciate the visuals on the Distance cards. They overlap in a way that makes sense to me and it can give you a really quick way to see who’s in the lead (which is good and bad, especially where take-that is concerned). Also, the horse just looks very goofy.
- Pretty portable. I fit it in a quiver, but I wish it came with a baggie or something for the trophies so I wouldn’t just have to use the box if I wanted to transport it places.
- I like that you can be affected by your own traps. It’s a fun way to make playing them more exciting. Really appreciate it.
- Some of the abilities feel a bit better than others, which are more situational. I gotta say that Noodles has to be the best of them, if I feel that way, since the cat can use any ability, but Mae also seems to be very good with new players, since nobody wants to attack her (and she has a very solid health-regenerating equipment card). Not sure if that will hold up over multiple plays, but it’s definitely what my first impression is.
- The take-that isn’t too bad. It can be annoying, but by and large even if someone kills you it’s not the worst. You just need to watch out for people messing with your Distance cards.
- Dogpiling is still a very common occurrence with this game. Since you can only really play one card per turn, you also don’t have much of a shot at repelling everyone if they decide to all simultaneously dump on you. It’s not a fun feeling, but if that happens enough just lower your player count.
- Random draw luck can be really frustrating for some players. I’d argue that it’s consistent with the theme and presentation of the game, but I imagine some players are not going to be fans. If that’s the case, maybe a short game with lots of take-that isn’t for you?
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I think Shuffle Grand Prix is a cute little game! It’s actually pretty similar in weight and scope to Cover Your Assets, a game I reviewed a few weeks ago (and gave the same score, so, hooray consistency). For me, games like this do a good job of replacing games like Exploding Kittens, where there’s a lot more take-that and player elimination, which I like a lot less. Generally, I don’t think anyone is completely out of the game (unless they draw really poorly), which is nice. If they do draw poorly, then you have a bit of a kingmaker situation, which isn’t awesome, but what can you do? My major complaints are really just my problem with most take-that games; if other players decide to dogpile, they can, and they will. That makes the game a lot less fun, since there aren’t a ton of things you can do to stop it with your limited number of plays each turn. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Either way, I love the art, I think the gameplay is fun and quick, and I’d definitely recommend Shuffle Grand Prix if you’re looking for a quick game, especially if you’re just getting into modern gaming or looking for something pretty simple!