The game comes in a tube with a rolled up board that lays flat when laid out. The board depicts a motor racing circuit which varies in width from 2 squares to 4. The winner is the first past the post and the rules recommend a minimum of 3 laps. The time estimate given assumes 3 laps and the full complement of 6 players. Play proceeds in clockwise player order.
You have freedom of choice over the speed (1 to 12 squares) that you move each turn and this is shown by the selection of gear (1 to 12) on your car chart. The cost of each move is measured in fuel used and is governed by the difference in gear selection. For example, when you start the game you are in gear 0. When you select the first move, you could move straight to the highest gear (12) but at a horrendous cost in fuel. A more conservative start would be to move 6 spaces in gear 6. The next decision is what gear to select for the next move.
Corners have an interesting system of controlling speeds. First there is the ``ideal line'' à la Speed Circuit. Then there is the speed of each corner square (7, 8, 9, etc). Finally there is the way that speed is bled if you travel too fast into a corner. Speeds over the ideal speed are possible, but if you gp more than one point over the marked speed, your car travels towards the outside of the corner. In addition, tyre wear can result from travelling too fast at corners, with the rules penalising you one tyre wear per square.
On the edge of the board are yellow squares which the designer says represent sand. I prefer to think of the squares as the most difficult area to drive on and if you land on them (by driving too fast at corners) you can only come off them from a standing start (i.e. you must stop).
This may not seem too bad, but did I explain that changing down in gear causes the same loss of fuel as changing up? I didn't? Well it does and this is where the game may not feel quite right for the purists who want both a good system and a good simulation. For me though, the mechanism works very well, but you do have to recognise that the game needs 3 laps so that the initial fuel load is tested and the decisions about calling in at the pits for tyre changes and more fuel come into play.
The last aspect to concern the aspiring Schumacher is motor engine wear, which can occur whenever a high gear is selected on a die roll. Unfortunately, engine wear cannot be repaired in the pits and so this can be disastrous if the dice don't speak to you, though in the games I have played this has not been a problem. (Maybe more chance of engine problems should be incorporated for continuous use of high gears.)
How does the game compare with Speed Circuit and Formule Dé? The circuit and the game time are long, but the mechanics work well and I would rank Spritfresser with these two more illustrious games.