Genre: Hand-Management Betting Race
Player Count: 2 – 6
Play Count as of Review: 13
- Downforce is a racing game but the actual winning condition is to be the player with the most money at the end of the game. You get money by betting on cars and doing whatever you can to ensure that they place. This may be your own car but more often than not, you’re betting on your opponents cars. You’ll also get a cut if the car you own places. Downforce is a reimplementation of the 1974 release Tempo and the more modern Top Race.
- Downforce is an incredibly light, family game that has players using the cards in their hands to move every car on that card on their turn. It is very rare where you’ll only move your own cars on your turn so mitigating the damage done by moving other players is paramount on each and every turn.
- While Downforce is light, it may not be as family-friendly as one would believe as blocking players is an integral practice on almost every turn. It can be incredibly frustrating to have no moves but bad moves as your cars are locked in place behind those ahead of you.
- With the lightweight rules of Downforce, it’s also a great game to house-rule for younger players. Downforce is basically three phases: the auction, the race and the betting. If they don’t grasp the betting, remove it and make it a strictly racing game. If the auction is hard for younger players, divvy out cars randomly. It’s so straightforward and easy to adjust on the fly that the game can be a great time for players of all ages.
- It also plays incredibly quickly. Once you know how the game works, it can typically be played in under thirty minutes. We’ve played several times at six players and it’s only ever taken over forty minutes once. If you don’t like the game, it’ll be over soon. If you do like the game, you can fit two or three games into a single session.
- Downforce includes two unique tracks in the base game. The difference is essentially that the coastal track is tighter of the two tracks. The wooded track has three and four-lane wide segments whereas the coastal track spends a lot of time being two-wide. I personally prefer the tightness of the coastal track but the wooded track offers more opportunity to move and that may be more exciting than the coastal block party.
- If two tracks wasn’t enough to create variability, there are also unique player powers. These may allow a player to move a car an additional position or change the order of who moves. The powers are not hard to grasp and mostly rely on a player remembering that they have that power, particularly Cunning, which allows a player to move their car whenever it needs to be moved.
- While Downforce works at two-players (and lower player counts for that matter), it really shines at four or more and is honestly one of the best six-player games in my collection. At two-players, there are some player powers that are overpowered (ex. cunning) and adding more players mitigates that effect. The biggest issue when playing with less than six (and even when playing at six) is the auction for cars. If someone overpays for a car, the chance of them winning is drastically reduced due to that upfront cost. Players that grab ‘bad’ player powers or wait to bid on the last car (when others have already spent enough of their money) are in vastly better positions than other players typically. The early game auction plays such a large role in the outcome of the game that it can almost be unfair when new players play with experienced. Even with that prior knowledge, it doesn’t resonate for some players until they see that paying $10 for two cars was a gross overpay. Making a value-based bid in the opening auction is the best play 99/100 times.
- I worry that Downforce is too light and too straightforward. It’s incredibly difficult to bluff or feint in the game as it’s not an optimal play. More often than not, betting on the lead car and pushing the lead car to the finish is the best outcome for players at the table. In my opinion, the only time Downforce feels different from previous plays is when players decide they want no one to win as opposed to themselves. No longer are they pushing the green car to the end; they’re pushing the car in last to the front to promote chaos.
- Target carries Downforce now but there is a slight difference between the Target version and previous editions. The player powers in the Target version include Aware, Competitive, Daring, Patient, Savvy, and Tenacious. These six powers are completely different from the original six powers which were Aggressive, Cunning, Determined, Strategic, Tricky, and Unpredictable. Everything else remains the same so this edition is compatible with the previously made expansions and I saw a rumor on some social media platform that players will be able to purchase the new power cards directly from Restoration Games in the future. I like the idea of the new cards as Cunning was so overpowered in my opinion in games with less than six players.