Game Review: GRAND PRIX

2 years ago, Jeff & Carla Horger made a great racing game called Thunder Alley.  It’s one of my favorite games of all time.  Very strategic.  Love the decisions you have to make in that game.  I just found out a few weeks ago that they were releasing a follow-up game to it, but this time instead of Nascar, it was going to be Formula 1 racing!  But it’s not JUST a reskinned version of their own game.  They streamlined a couple of things, and added a few more details to the gameplay, making it slightly more complex.

How are these changes?  How does it compare to Thunder Alley?  Let’s find out!

GRAND PRIX (2016) designed by Jeff & Carla Horger; Published by GMT Games – For 2-11 players and takes about 90 -120 min. 

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I’m going to give a basic overview on how the game plays, then I will go a bit into what’s different from Thunder Alley.  I won’t go into every detail about the game, but you should have a good idea of how the game plays from my review.

The game comes with 2 double-sided boards which gives you 4 different tracks to choose from.  Most tracks take 3 laps to complete.

Each player will have 2 Formula 1 race cars in their chosen color.  These are the cars that will score them points at the end of the game, depending on which place they end up in.  Obviously, the object of the game is to have both of their cars to finish the race before any other cars.

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Besides the player’s race cars, there will be neutral cars.  Some of these neutral cars will belong to a specific player, and others will be neutral cars that either player can control.  These neutral cars are there to help the players advance their own cars throughout the race.

After a randomized set up, the race will be ready to begin.  Each player will have 12 action cards in their hand.  The game is played over several rounds, in which each player will take turns playing one card at a time from their hand, until everyone has used up all their cards, or there are no more cars left to activate.

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On their turn, a player will choose an action card from their hand and play it.  This is how a car is moved.  A player will choose which car to activate, either one of their own cars or one of the neutral cars.

To activate a car, simply turn over the car token (either from light to dark, or dark to light).

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On each card, a movement type will be listed, as well 2 numbers on the top left of the card.  During the action phase, players will use the top number of the card.

There are 4 different movement types.

  • Solo Movement – You only move your car.
  • Line Movement – You move the entire row of cars that the car you have activated is in.
  • Lead Movement – The car you activate will bring all the cars behind it, with it.
  • Pursuit Movement – The activated car will push all the cars ahead of it, leaving all cars behind.

You may move forward, or laterally.  Never Diagonally (unless a card tells you specifically).

You may also displace a car by if you move laterally into it, however, you must spend 2 movement points to do so.

You also may link cars with other cars.  If you’re in a line movement, any car you push into will become part of the line.  Also, if you are using solo or line movement, you may push the cars in front of you, though they are not part of our line, which means you can break apart from those cars at any time.

When you play a card, after you perform the movement, if there is a symbol at the top right corner, you must take the corresponding wear marker and place it on that car’s side on your player board.  If you have a car that has 6 wear tokens, then car will be out of the race.  Also, if you have 3 or more wear markers, there will be a speed penalty, allowing you to move less when you play a movement card.

If a car is lapped (and it will happen quite a bit), place a lapped token on that car.

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Once the action phase has ended, an event card is drawn, and it is resolved.  An event can be anything from having a car with the most wear of one type crash, to a change in the weather. There is also a card that can cause a safety zone to appear.  This will limit the speed in that zone.

There is a number at the bottom of the  card.  This is a pit number.  Every neutral car that has a number ending with that one, will pit this round.

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After that, each player will be able to pit if they need to.  Once you pit, enter into the apron on the track.  Then discard the wear tokens you wish to get rid of.  Each of these wear tokens have a cost.  Some are only 1, but some cost 10.  Each token you discard, you must move back that many spaces.

Remove any lapped cars.

Player may also discard any left over cards in their hand.

The next round will then begin by players drawing up to 12 cards.

If you activate your player car and it is pitted, you use the bottom number in the upper left to enter the track.  That’s your pit speed.

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One thing I almost forgot.  Players will get to start the game with a certain set of tires.  Either hard or soft.  If you have soft tires, you may gain one wear to get an extra movement point.  Players may do that once per round.  Also, players MUST change their tires once on each of their cars.  If they fail to do this by the end of the game, their car will be disqualified.  If the weather changes to rain, players must change to wet tires.  You do this during pit stops.

That’s about it.  Player will continue playing until one car has crossed the finish line.  After that, players will finish the round, possibly with more cars crossing the finish line.  Only the first 10 cars to cross the finish line will score points.  Players will add the points from both of their cars.  The player with the most points is the winner.

It’s pretty similar to Thunder Alley, though there are some minor and major differences:

  • Instead of Draft movement, it’s called Line movement, though it pretty much means the same thing.
  • Having to pay movement points to get rid of wear tokens is new, plus there aren’t as many kinds of wear this time.
  • The addition of Safety Zones is new.
  • Each player only controls 2 cars.  In Thunder Alley, you could control up to 6 cars (depending on the player count).
  • The neutral cars is probably the biggest difference here.  There were none in Thunder Alley.
  • Pushing a line during solo and lead movement is new.  Normally, in Thunder Alley, you’d have to pay 3 movement points to displace a car in front of you.
  • The addition of different tire types and changing tires is new.
  • There are no lap leader bonuses in this game.
  • The scoring of the placements is not nearly as high as in Thunder Alley.

So how does this compare to Thunder Alley?  They’re the same but different.  I can see people liking one over the other.  Me?  I’m actually not sure which one I prefer, but I will say that being a fan of Thunder Alley, I really enjoyed Grand Prix!

The thing that really makes both of these games great for me is how the cars move.  I love using draft/line movement in a way so that it will benefit my cars.  And figuring out when the best time is to play certain movement cards to your advantage, is fun.  I love the decisions in these games.

They AREN’T the same game though.  They have a similar feel, but the decision-making is a bit different here.  Because you only have 2 of your own cars, you really have to pick and choose which neutral cars to move and when and which type of movement to use to really get your cars on their way to victory.  It’s definitely not that easy.  I would say that because of this, Grand Prix is more strategic than Thunder Alley.  You really have to think about how to use those neutral cars, because you will be activating more neutral cars than your own, this is crucial in order to win the game.  I can see this frustrating some players, and if you don’t realize how important those neutral cars are, you WILL lose this game.  And since you only have 2 cars, it’s even more important which place each of your cars end up in.  This isn’t a negative for me though.  I really liked this new aspect of the game.

I also really liked that they streamlined some of the rules from Thunder Alley.  It was a pain to displace cars in front of you, so now I like that you can just push cars in front of you if you’re using solo and lead.  That smooths the game out a bit.  I like that you don’t have as many wear tokens to worry about.  I like the addition of you paying movement points to get rid of wear too.   You also don’t have to keep track of who the lap leader is every round.  Some of the fiddly bits are gone now.

It’s a bit frustrating to have to change your tires once during the race, but since all players must do this, it evens out.  But picking the right time to change your tires can be crucial.

You see, they streamlined some things, but also added some others things which increase complexity of the game, which for me makes the game about the same as Thunder Alley.  However, I’m not sure I would play this with someone who has never played Thunder Alley.  I feel like the addition of the neutral cars may make it difficult for newbies to grasp.  I would introduce new players to Thunder Alley first, then if they enjoy that, I would show them Grand Prix.  But I personally like it about the same.

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Just like Thunder Alley, you get 4 different race tracks!  That’s HUGE!  Speaking of huge, these boards are pretty big.  I love it.  Also, you can use these tracks with Thunder Alley, and vice versa.  I feel like you get a lot of game in this box.

I have one negative thing to about this.  And that’s the car tokens.  I like the art on them, but the colors on each side are not that clear.  In Thunder Alley, one side of the car was white, and the other was black to determine if it was activated or not.  In Grand Prix, the colors on each side are light grey and dark grey.

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But they’re really not THAT different from each other.  It’s more like grey and slightly darker grey.  And if you’re playing in a room with low lighting (which I often do), then it’s extremely difficult to tell which cars have been activated and which ones weren’t.  This doesn’t ruin the game for me, but sometimes it slowed the game down a bit as we had to double-check which cars were activated and which weren’t.  This is something that I feel could have easily been fixed.  It’s a graphic design decision that shouldn’t have been approved.

That may seem harsh, and that’s because I just want this game to be perfect.  It’s so much fun!  I definitely recommend this game.  If you have played Thunder Alley, I really think you should pick this up.  Just know that it will be slightly more strategic, and you will only have 2 of your own player cars this time.

I loved all the changes and additions to this game.  Still one of my favorite racing games.  Love the movement, the card play, and the way the game scores.  Grand Prix was a game that I wasn’t aware was coming out this year, so it was a pleasant surprise when I found out about its release.  I was not disappointed.

If you’re looking for a strategic racing game, with no dice and interesting decisions, then check out Thunder Alley and Grand Prix.  They’re both fantastic!

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