Article by Mike Garton.
Also see the review by Mike Siggins.
Many people are not familiar with stock car racing and the lack of design notes in the game has lead me to write the following article answering their questions.
Why is it a central aspect of the game?
Stock car racing is significantly different from both Indycar and Formula One due to the leveling of the playing field in horsepower and aerodynamics. NASCAR, the ruling body for stock car racing in the US, goes to great lengths to limit the technological advantages of the various manufacturers and teams. Because of this no one on the track has the horsepower to pass another car without help. Drafting becomes paramount and 'friends' on the track are needed for nearly every passing attempt.
Cars will dip down to pass but, if the car behind doesn't dip down and follow, the pass attempt may leave the driver without a drafting partner and the driver could slowly lose position.
If he has enough steam to pass successfully on his own, he's safe as the car passed will usually fall in line behind in order to hold position and pick up the draft of the passing car.
Without enough slingshot speed, the passing car falls short and drops out of the line or 'freight train' of cars called the lead draft. His only chance is to squeeze back into the line as soon as a car leaves enough room for him to slip into a gap. Otherwise, his car will drift slowly backwards until he's at the end of the lead draft. Tough luck. For the most part, cars from the same manufacturer and teammates will help a slipping driver where possible, but they're not always friendly about it.
This aspect becomes even clearer come pit time. When cars need to pit under a green flag, they will call around until they find another driver that will pit with them. This way, when they come out of pit row, they will have a drafting partner. A drafting partner is necessary in order to keep up speed and catch the lead draft. Two cars in tandem, bumper-to-bumper, are around 5 MPH faster than a car running alone.
A driver running alone cannot gain on the leaders but will slowly lose ground and ultimately be lapped by the field. This isn't built into the SCR game but an optional rule is being written to force partnership pitting when six or more players are in a game.
It appears that no position is safe and passing will occur as a matter of fact in the game. Doesn't this make the game boring and the last turn the only real turn of the game as players will build a hand before making an attempt to gain the lead?
No. The game is balanced fairly well but an Inside Advantage card can be deadly. The leader may protect their lead using either a Pull Away or the Two Wide card. These are about the only solo strategies available to defend your lead in stock car racing. You can also hope that the car following you picks up a draft with you to level the chances of the challenge for the lead. Also, it is difficult for a player to get a real chance to build a hand. Carefully reserved cards will be drawn out of your hand as you attempt to respond to the other players' pass attempts.
Finally, turn order can force the second place car into making his move at a less than optimal time. He may in turn be challenged and passed by the third, fourth or any other car as they take their turns and make a run for first. Or he may be forced so far back in the pack as the other players take their turn that he cannot recover when his turn comes.
The game results over more than 300 play test games are to our liking. Over 60% of the time the leader is either able to hold the lead or pass and get the lead back on the last turn. The remaining winners usually move up from second or third place to take the lead.
A position beyond third wins about 5-8% of the time when the leaders have consumed all of their cards in a heated struggle for first. In that case, a car in fourth place can pass uncontested. This, once again, is true to actual stock car racing. Whenever the leaders get into a heated battle, wear and tear on their tires give the following cars an advantage in passing them without much of a fight from the battle-worn leaders.
Look at the Daytona 500 results from the first race of the year. There were 32 lead changes among 15 cars. That means over a third of the field led at one point or another. With 32 lead changes that works out to a lead change every 6 laps. This is higher than last year, but this is a trend that NASCAR wants to encourage. The excitement of constant lead changes brings out the fans and is well represented in SCR. This excitement and the challenge of second guessing your opponents' card play will insure that SCR is played again and again.
Let me explain why the following cards are included in the game.
This card can kill a player's lead in a heartbeat. Once a player is determined to be "High in Turn" everyone may get a free pass. This card seems too powerful.
Not really. "High in Turn" represents a driver following one line on the track and the remaining lead draft of cars picking another line. This leaves the original driver "Hung Out to Dry."
The line chosen may be forced due to oil or sand and a slight loss of traction or, as in most Superspeedways, the track may have multiple lines open to the drivers with little loss of speed.
The driver won't necessarily go from first to last unless the card play is perfect. Usually, one or more drivers will not get by him due to the sequencing of their turns. Also, if a Yellow Flag comes up the card is voided and he just slides back into place. There is no action phase and no passing while racing under the yellow flag.
Here, again, a driver has no control over the fact that suddenly boom and he's gone from the race. This is no fun if it happens early in the race.
Yes, the penalty of failing an 'Out of Race' is that you are gone. Realize that the 'Out of Race' result is representing not only cars that are knocked out of the race, but also all of those that no longer have the capability to run with the lead draft.
A car may still be out there making its laps, but if it's not in contention. It's not represented in the game. We recognize the casual gamer's complaints, though, and recommend the house rule that a car isn't knocked out but the hand size for that player is reduced by one, instead.
Please explain the yellow flag further.
Yellow flags in stock car racing are due to dangerous situations on the track: a crash, oil or debris, or a slow running car. On ovals the yellow is always a full course yellow and the pace car comes out. During a yellow there is no passing and all cars line up nose-to-tail behind the pace car in two-wide fashion, lap cars to the inside and the front runners to the outside. This gives the lap cars a chance to get out front and maybe gain their lap back.
The strategy during a yellow is to pit for tires and gas, if reasonable. Early in the race, most everyone will pit and take on fresh tires since they will wear out after about 25-30% of the race.
On board fuel is limited to 22 gallons and cars burn it at 4-6 miles per gallon so pitstops for fuel are frequent in a 500 mile race. Having a good pit crew is key to winning. Many drivers are able to qualify toward the back of the pack, but move up 10 or more positions every round of pit stops. Pitting under a yellow allows a driver to take on tires and get fuel before the pace car laps the track. This way, a driver can get in and out and to the back of the line without losing a lap, just position. In the SCR game, it is key to wait as long as possible for a yellow flag. Green flag pitting will usually result in loss of time off the lead draft and an inability to catch back up, especially late in the race.
There are four passing cards in the driver deck: Pass Inside, Pass Outside, Inside Advantage, and Pass 2. Why are there so many types for oval racing?
Even when racing on an oval there are many opportunities that open up to a driver and the driver must make the best of whatever situation occurs. Sometimes the car in front takes a turn slightly high to maintain speed and the opportunity to pass inside presents itself. Other times the driver will continue to keep the car on the low line of the turn forcing the only passing lane to the outside. Passing inside may result in enough momentum that, if the cars in front are close in tandem, a 2 car pass can be made. Other times such a good jump inside is made that the nose of the car gets inside quickly enough to keep the opponent from being able to block.
Remember, at full speed a car turning left will have a hard time cutting down more to stop an inside pass because traction starts to give as the sideways force on the car becomes too strong to hold a narrower line in the turn and, thus, the car has no way of blocking.
I noticed that there are many more challenge cards than block cards in the driver deck, is this intentional?
Yes, very much so. Most passing has the cars running side-by-side down a straight or around a turn. The challenge card represents this situation and may the best driver win. A block is an out and out stop of a pass attempt. For the most part a driver is trying to maintain as fast a speed as possible around the track. Worrying about the driver behind him and constantly weaving in front to block their passing attempts is not as common. Therefore, we feel the composition is representative of what happens on the real track.
I understand that a lap car can be used to block the inside lane when passing, but shouldn't the driver be penalized in some way for slowing down to use the lap car in this manner?
Yes and no. A driver may slow down ever so slightly to position the lap car to his left side but, for the most part, that will be in a turn and the higher line will allow him to maintain a higher speed and require the trailing driver to pass outside, which is always disadvantageous to the passer.
Please comment on why player turn order is somewhat random and not from front to back. Don't the trailing drivers get to see what is happening in front of them before making a move?
Interesting point, but flawed. Most passing occurs going into a turn or out. If a driver watches the car in front, then he may miss his opportunity to pass. By making the player order based on the speed rating of the top discard during the lap count phase, players can attempt to influence turn order but cannot dictate it. Other players may want to go first or last, as well. Plan accordingly.
No matter how well you plan, you must still make your move when the opportunity arises.
By changing player order occasionally due to response cards, we are attempting to represent the fact that when one driver makes a move it sometimes forces the involved player to make his move sooner, or later, than he originally wanted.
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell