Mark J Stubbs/Chapeau! Games, UK, 2011
This is the first game by Mark J Stubbs, and also the first release of his own Chapeau! Games. It is a cute small game (the box measures 23 x 12 x 6 cms) made with available parts and a lot of imagination. For instance, the game tiles are (or look like) coasters. You can put beer glasses on them. You can even host a party, since there are 17 such tiles ;-)`
However, all the game parts serve their purposes perfectly, and some of them are well above average (I love the design of the cards).
The game is aimed at all ages, from age 7+ (or so it says), and therefore the rules are quite simple. But, o surprise, they are quite original as well. I mean, they are not just a revision of a hundred other similar games, like it is often the case, and as I feared when I opened the box.
There are a couple of things I do not like so much in the rules, like the "Block!" cards (I never liked them in any game, starting with "1000 bornes"), and the fact that flat, uphill and downhill terrains are, in fact equivalent (no difficulty added to the uphill). Of course, this can be seen as a weakness of the game (I definitely think this is one of the weaknesses of games like Maillot Jaune) or as a strength, since it simplifies the rules, which is a plus if you are making a game for young kids.
Apart from these minor details, the rules are a perfect example of how the rules of simple games should be: short, well explained, and original.
No rider-shaped counters, unfortunately...
Basically the game is a card game, where you have three cards in your hand, play one of them and draw one from the pack to complete your hand. There are three types of cards: Attack, Block and Slipstream.
Slipstream cards are the most common (30 cards aout of 47) and they represent "invisible" riders from which you can slipstream, with different values depending on the different kinds of terrain. There are five cards of each colour, which represent riders of each team. In general players may slipstream from riders of other teams, but they can only slipstream from their own teammates when they lead the race. Teams are of similar strength, but not exactly equivalent (as in real cycling).
Another original rule is the Attack card. When you lay it you move forward one space for every energy token you have for the type of terrain you start your move on. At the start of the game every player has 2 energy tokes for every type of terrain (they match by colour). . However, whenever a player lands on the same space as another player, they can take one of the energy token (whichever they choose) from one of the other players in that space. So the energy keeps changing during the game, and being ahead is not an advantage.
The team leaders. I have become an instant fan of Oscar Naranjo.
The game can be played either as one-day races or as stage races. The time keeping system is very simple: the first rider in each stage but the last receives two time bonus counters and any rider who finishes the stage 1 or 2 spaces behind the finish line receives one bonus counter.
In subsequent stages, players start with the energy tokens and the cards left from previous stages. The leader of the race (the player with most time bonus counters) "wears the yellow jersey" (uses the yellow counter instead of his own).
At the end of the last stage, players move their counter forward the same number of spaces as they have bonus counters.
Some proposed stages.
All things considered, this game is a nice adition to any collection, and I would strongly recommend to anyone with young kids to play with.
Update: I finally had a chance to play the game with my nephews. I really enjoyed it and I insist in recommending the game. The only weakness I found is the lack of cycling-shaped riders. Fortunately, the "coasters" that form the board are exactly the right size for the small plastic riders that you probably already have from other games.
Check the official website: www.stagechaser.com
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