Wacky Races The Board Game is a racing game, with variable player powers, from publisher CMON. Designed by Andrea Chiarvesio and Fabio Tola, the game features all of the TV series’ characters such as The Gruesome Twosome, Penelope Pitstop and of course the bad guys Dick Dastardly and Muttley. While the evil duo aren’t playable they will be there throughout the race, to set traps and mess with every racer! The game plays in only 25 minutes, with 2 – 6 players. However, does it capture the mischief of the series? Let’s find out!
To start with each player needs to pick their racer, with a choice from 10. As well as putting the racer miniature along the starting board section, players take their racer’s player board and 4 special ability cards. The race track is constructed in two sections. Blue backed cards are shuffled and placed out, before a mid-point gas station tile is placed. Orange backed cards are then shuffled, with a random special tile, and placed out to create the second half of the track – with the finish line tile capping the track off. Having the different colour backs results in an even distribution of the terrain types between the two halves of the track. Shuffling the movement cards each player gains three, with the trap deck shuffled separately and put within reach.
Dick Dastardly starts at the back of the grid, and moves along the tiles. The racers, including the neutral ones, line up along the edge of the grid – moving along the edges of the tiles. This means there are always two spaces for racers on a tile, to the left or right of it. It doesn’t matter which side of the track you’re on when moving, potentially seeing racers zigzag their way through the pack of cars.
On a turn players will discard any card to move forward one space. If the space ahead is full with two racers they skip over it. Using the same logic, players also skip backwards over a full space if forced to move backwards. Players can then play another card from their hand but it must match the terrain type of the space they are on to move forward. The player can do this a third time, by playing a final card of the new terrain type, before their turn is over. The player then draws back up to 3 movement cards before Dick Dastardly gets to move.
Based upon the final card played by the player Dick Dastardly moves to the next space of that terrain type. If he is then in the lead he drops a trap card facedown onto the space before returning to the back of the pack. If this isn’t the case then he stays at the new location, ready to move at the end of the next player’s turn. Traps are triggered when driven over by a racer. They can be anything from all other racers moving forward one space to boulders causing the player to move backwards spaces.
The characters aren’t completely helpless though. Coming with abilities players can use these only once by spending the ability card – though there are opportunities to get back spent cards. Ranging from avoiding different types of traps to drawing more cards, or even swapping places with a close competitor, each is there to help the racer win. At the end of a round the neutral racers, if there are any, move up based upon what is turned over from the movement deck, before a new round commences. The winner is simply whichever racer crosses the finish line first – ignoring Dick Dastardly who crashes out of the race instead of crossing the finish line.
For standard races it is all about the fun of the big turns from playing multiple cards and jumping over full spaces of opponents. When playing the standard mode the gameplay does lack that extra spark, with replayability only driven by the fun of playing and a few special tiles. The fact that the standard terrain tiles are randomised seems like an attempt at instilling a layer of variety into the game that really matters very little.
Thankfully, there is a ton of replayability via the Championship rules. These are special modes which, while are in sets of 4 to string multiple races together, can all be played separately. With 16 races laid out over 4 championship tours there are plenty to choose from, each tweaking the game in entertaining ways. From there being trap cards already out on the board to the mean machine causing racers to move backwards more often, the rules never drastically change the gameplay. Importantly though, they do make each race feel different. It’s enough to make playing multiple races back to back entertaining throughout, as players have to watch out for a different thing each time.
With 10 playable characters included, discounting Dick Dastardly as you cannot play as him, there was a real opportunity to make each character feel unique. Coming with 4 powers each the power names are unique but often a couple seem similar. All have the ability to dodge a specific couple of trap cards. The issue with this is that trap cards are facedown and unknown. This makes these powers seem luck based, as if a player gets lucky when a trap card of a type they can cancel gets triggered.
Apart from at the full player count of 6 there will be neutral racers – though they are not only there to cause congestion, they are there to ramp up the chaos. Unlike most dummy players the rules are extremely simple, as to not drag out a long amount of time between the people around the table actually having a turn. The neutrals are needed so that tiles get full at the beginning of races – though rarely do they seem to get close to even a podium position.
Production wise Wacky Races is a bit of a mixed bag. The racer miniatures are nothing short of awesome, and this is only the standard edition – not the pre-painted deluxe edition! Each miniature not only matches the artwork of the famous racers, they are made from a different colour plastic. Combining these allows Wacky Races The Board Game to have a great readability. The artwork on the player boards and terrain tiles is vibrant colours. Unfortunately, the thickness of the terrain tiles leaves a lot to be desired – being thin card at best. As this makes up the “board” it gives the game a flimsy feel. The box size is also a bit over the top, with a huge amount of space dedicated to air below the inserts.
Wacky Races The Board Game is the sort of game where the fun ramps up faster the more players there are around the table. As much as the neutral racers do a good job of causing some congestion, the satisfaction of passing real racers is much higher. The limited number of special tiles and the inability to vary the race track hugely could have been a replayability issue. The championship rules however are there to save the day, allowing the fun to be had and variety to be present in every race. A few things let the production down, though it’s not the racer miniatures and the artwork of the game. For anyone that can remember the series, and even those who can’t, there is a wacky enjoyment to be had playing!
(Editor’s Note: Wacky Races The Board Game was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores, some of which are reopening! Find your local store here.)