Cody K. Carlson
Have you ever wanted to hit the racetrack in a high performance automobile, zooming past the other drivers and cruising across the finish line to the cheers of the crowd?
Thunder Alley, a new racing game from GMT Games, promises just such an adventure.
In Thunder Alley, two to seven players take on the role of a team of professional race car drivers. Each player is given a team sheet in his color and a number of chits denoting his cars, depending on the number of players. The game comes with two double-sided boards, offering four very different race tracks.
Team sheets have info spaces for each car, which correspond to the numbered chits on the board. Consulting a card from the race card deck, players determine who has pole position, and then all begin to place their car chits on the racetrack, which is divided up into a number of sectors and squares.
In turn order, each player may move one of his cars with a race card from his hand. Each race card contains a movement point number, which the player must spend to enter a new space in front of his car, to move laterally, or to displace another car.
There are four types of movement cards. Solo movement allows you to move just your car. Pursuit movement means you must move your car forward, as well as all the other cars directly ahead of your car. Lead movement means you must move all cars directly following your car along with your car, and draft movement means that you must move all the cars directly in front of and behind your car. Playing a card often means that you will be moving other players' cars forward as well as your own car.
Most race cards also contain a wear penalty, such as engine trouble or tire wear. This requires you to take a wear chit from the pool and place it on the appropriate car's info section on your team sheet. If too many wear tokens accrue, you will suffer penalties and may eventually have to eliminate your car. At the end of a round, players can opt to move a car into a pit stop in order to remove some of the wear tokens, though that often means conceding your position on the track to your opponents.
At the end of each round, a player draws an event card that may affect all players or a specific player. The game ends at the end of the round that the first car crosses the finish line. Players then add up the placement score of all of their cars to determine the overall victor.
Thunder Alley is an intense, fast-paced racing game that succeeds in simulating modern racing. The rules are generally very simple, though some of the yellow flag procedures that pop up from time to time can be a little confusing. Despite its simple rules, there is a real strategic depth here.
Thunder Alley is recommended for ages 14 and up and plays in about 1-2 hours, depending on the number of players.
Canalis: Canalis is the latest game in AEG's Tempest series, games that take place in a shared Renaissance-era kingdom and feature a shared story.
In Canalis, two to four players compete to control the city-state of Tempest's canals. The game board contains a section to keep track of scoring, a section to hold the various shaped tiles, and a grid section featuring Tempest's harbors on two sides and various resources on the other two. At the beginning of the game players each receive a faction card, which gives them special abilities, two mission cards (secret objectives) and five coins from the bank.
Essentially, there are four phases to the game, each with two card decks divided into two. Each phase, players receive a hand of cards, they may choose one to play, then pass the others to the player on their left. This continues until no more cards are left, then players start the new phase with the new cards.
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