Designed by Matt Leacock
Graphics by Glenn Proctor (who no longer works for beer)
Published by Locust Games
Reviewed by Ken Tidwell
Rules on-line at http://www.leacock.com/locust/loop/rules.html
60 DM (American games priced in Deutschmarks!)
Lunatix Loop is a game that invites you to have fun. The premise is pretty silly: racing Trabants, perhaps the worst - and flimsiest! - cars in the world around a worn and potholed track. These cars bleed oil, drop the shattered shards of their fragile internal parts, and, on occasion, even the spit and glue that holds them together ends up on the track. It's a rough and tumble race and the drivers aren't always careful about keeping to their lane and the stress of competition often leaves them a bit, well, quirky, shall we say. But Trabby owners are a plucky lot and, like hobbyists the world over, they love to add gadgets to their cars.
Early in its life, Lunatix Loop was inspired by Car Wars, an American game from the early 1980s based on the kill or be killed world of the Mad Max films. Car Wars is definitely an American style game with lots of fiddly bits of cardboard and enough rules, tables, and jargon to make a civil servant blanch. Fun idea, though, in its own sick and twisted way. Matt Leacock thought so, too, and set about first trying to devise a new game along the same theme that would be more approachable by average folks. Later, he also tried to tone down the violence for the family and German markets. I believe he succeeded admirably well. Lunatix Loop is quick to learn and makes for a wild, raucous, and aggressive game without being over the top with violence.
Players take the role of lunatic Trabant drivers. Each turn they must choose between accelerating, braking, hitting a hard U-turn, ramming another car, dropping junk on the track, or, when appropriate, making a quick pit stop. Cars start out with a top speed of 140 MPH (or 14 squares on the board) and a current speed of 40 MPH (or 4 squares per turn). Braking and accelerating change the current speed up or down but you are limited by the car's top speed - usually. Severe (and often damaging!) acceleration is possible using turbo cards. But beware! If you rocket into turns too fast, you have to draw Hazard cards. These cards can cause damage - or worse! As cars take damage by bashing or being bashed by other cars, skidding into the wall, or driving over junk dropped on the track by vicious Trabant drivers, their maximum speed drops - eventually bringing their race to an anticlimactic end. Pit stops can restore the car to working order, refill its arsenal of junk, or even give the driver time to add new gadgets.
The junk dropped on the track and gadgets provide the strongest link back to the Mad Max universe. Players can drop oil slicks, caltrops, and glue on the track to cause skidding, tire damage, or slow other players. Gadgets allow cars to break the rules by leaping over junk (or even other cars!), ram with impunity, grip the road through oil slicks, and such. Some gadgets are one use things (like the rocket engine strapped to the roof of Urban Legend and Darwin Awards fame!) but most are new ongoing abilities. These aspects also provide an open door to later expansion. Several of the gadgets from early designs fell into the ultra-violent category and were cut for this release. We might see those reappear in R rated expansions, though.
Finally, the Hazards can be great fun, particularly the lunacies! Every now and then an unlucky Trabant driver cuts some turn just a little too close and goes a bit off their rocker! The lunacy cards restrict a player's choice of actions either by allowing only one (such as the Speed Freak, who can only go faster and faster) or by restricting the use of one (shy and retiring drivers cannot ram). These can throw a major wrench in a well laid plan!
The winner is the first player to make three laps round the Loop. And it is hard to choose between messing with the other drivers and just getting on with the race! It is a lot of fun to bash into the others, add gadgets and try them out, and to try to drop enough junk in the other drivers' path to cause utter mayhem. It is also a bit of fun to win, though. And therein lies the tension of the game.
Lunatix Loop is a limited production of 200 copies and is Locust Games's first Essen release. Check it out and give them a warm welcome!
The Game Cabinet - email@example.com - Ken Tidwell