If you’re a fan of motorsport you’ll know that there’s much more to a race than simply getting the car around the track. Aerodynamics, tyres, suspension, brakes, even weather conditions can throw a curve ball at an otherwise winning strategy. Formula D attempts to recreate the thrill of the race and the detail of planning the perfect race strategy. But does it succeed?
I was first introduced to the original game, Formula Dé, several years ago. It quickly became one of my favourite games. Now the reprint of the game, dropping its French roots and renamed to simply Formula D, has added street racing a la Fast and Furious.
Whether you’re playing the original or the reprint, the game utilises an innovative concept of emulating a car’s gears using dice of different shapes. First gear, roll the yellow 4 sided die (d4 for the Dungeons and Dragons fans). 2nd gear, the orange d6. All the way up to a mammoth 30 sided die. The higher the gear, the higher the number, the more spaces you move. The corners on the race track indicate a certain number of rolls that must be performed before leaving the demarcated area, forcing the car to slow down. If you go through a corner too fast your car is damaged or crashes out.
That pretty much describes the basics of the game, and it can be played using this simple ruleset. But for the true racing enthusiast, the advanced rules break damage up into tyres, brakes, suspension, body, engine and gearbox. Pit stops become a must. Debris is left on the track during accidents, changeable weather conditions affect performance, you can even draft behind another car before speeding past them to take the lead. Even the drivers have different strengths and weaknesses to take into account.
And here’s the best part. When the two included tracks get mundane, go on your favourite online shop and pick up the track packs. It’s just the board with a track on each side so very affordable, and the tracks from the original game are fully compatible with the new version.
Though Formula D can be played with up to 10 players, this often means players have to wait for their turn, and interest is lost quickly. I recommend 5 players, each in charge of a racing team with two cars, the way it’s done in most motorsport events. This offers a packed grid with tight finishes, but each player makes two rolls per turn keeping them engaged.
Formula D is aimed squarely at racing enthusiasts of all kinds, be it Formula 1 or street racing. Others might enjoy the basic rules, as this streamlines the game and removes the concepts that non-racers find boring.
Components: With the reprint small boards with a gear knob were added, making it much easier to keep track of your team. The little cars are well made and the tracks are well designed and easy to understand.
Gameplay: Best of both. There’s a basic ruleset for faster, simpler gameplay, and an advanced ruleset for the nitty gritty details.
Complexity vs Depth: For all the detail of the game, systems are implemented with a simple roll of a die. As long as you remember when to roll the rest is easy.
Theme: The rules emulate real-world racing quite accurately while keeping it easy to understand.
Overall: Every racer should try this at least once. Who knows, you might convince your girlfriend that there’s more to racing than sunday afternoons of V8 mosquitoes going around a tarmac loop…