A Game for Everyone
It is a rare thing when we–my gaming group and I– find a game that everyone actually likes and wants to play. We have some incredibly picky gamers, so pleasing everyone is not always possible, and often leads to a limited pool of games to play together. So, when we find a game that is something we all enjoy, we take advantage of that.
About a month or so ago, a game that I hadn’t been expecting until the new year, showed up on my doorstep. This was super exciting–and great timing–because later that night I was hosting dinner and games with friends. It was the perfect opportunity to bust out this new game and give it a whirl. The game was a big hit! Since then, I have brought it to several gaming functions, as well as playing it with family over the holidays. Everyone has really liked it thus far, which makes it a hit in my book.
The Red Flame
In the game Flamme Rouge, designed by Asger Granerud, players control a team of two riders racing against tough competitors to reach the finish line first. The teams consist of a Rouleur and a Sprinteur, each with their own special movement decks. Simultaneously, players will secretly decide the movement for their riders. Then everyone reveals their choices and moves their riders according to the number on the cards. Just like in real racing, the game makes use of drafting, terrain and exhaustion, so players must take all of that into account when determining how their riders will move.
Getting Ahead of the Pack
Setup/How to Play
Setup for the game is fairly easy and shouldn’t take long–unless you are indecisive about which track you want to try.
The first thing you need to do is figure out which track you will be using for the game. The designer provides track setup cards for different races, each with a different layout. Track pieces are two-sided; some pieces have one side that will be used for race tracks that have hills and slopes. The picture on the left shows the track the rule book suggests starting out with, as well as the general set up. If you don’t like any of the layouts provided, you may can make up your own.
Once you’ve got your track setup, give each player a set of riders, their decks and a player board matching their colour. Set aside the two exhaustion decks so that they are in reach of all players. The player who has most recently ridden a bike will be first player. Have them place their riders, one at a time, in any square with an open lane behind the start line. Squares and lanes are important terms in the game to remember. Once all players have taken turns placing their cyclists, the game is ready to begin.
The game is comprised of several rounds, each with 3 phases:
- Energy Phase
- Choose rider & draw cards
- Play & recycle
- Movement Phase
- End Phase
- Remove played cards
- Apply slipstreaming
- Assign exhaustion
Energy Phase: Starting with the energy phase, players will simultaneously choose one of their riders and draw 4 cards from their deck. Players will then choose the card they wish to play and place it face down next to the matching rider’s deck; they will then repeat the same action for their other rider. Cards that were not chosen will be returned face up under the deck they came from. Once everyone has chosen their movement card, everyone will reveal their choices.
Movement Phase: The rider in the farthest position, in the rightmost lane, will move first. The rider in the right lane position of a square will always be first to move. Upon reaching an empty square, a rider will always end their movement in the right lane. If their movement would have them end in a fully occupied square, they would be bumped back to the next available lane.
End Phase: After all of the riders have been moved, discard all played cards. These are removed for the rest of the game. Now it is time to apply slip streaming. Starting with the back most pack of riders, if there is one empty square ahead of the pack, the whole pack will move up to that square to become part of the pack ahead. Continue to check for slipstreaming, until all packs able to draft have done so. The last thing to do, is assign exhaustion. Exhaustion cards will be given to any rider(s) who has at least one empty square in front of them. These cards will go face up underneath the deck of the matching ride, clogging it up with slow movement.
Rounds will continue like this until one or more players have crossed the finish line. In the case of multiple riders crossing the finish line the rider that went the farthest will be declared the winner.
The Final Stretch
Fun Fact: If you didn’t already know, flamme rouge refers to the red flag that is displayed over the road, a kilometer out from the finish line of a race. This lets the cyclists know they have reached the final stretch.
Since getting this game, I’ve probably played it close to a dozen times, or at the very least taught it so others could enjoy it. This is a fantastic game–I cannot state that enough.
One of the things I love about this game is how accessible it is. Anyone can play it. The basic mechanics of the game are easy to understand and teach, making this a great game for the young, old, casual, or hardcore gamers. It’s got a great length too. A little too long to be a filler, but it does provide a nice length if you are looking for something fast with body–and it’s got plenty of body.
Whether you are using a track without terrain changes or with, there is still plenty of opportunity to apply strategy. Every player has an aide with the break down of how many of each type of card are in each of their rider decks. Keeping track of what you have played and how many of each type of card you have left is super important. Sometimes you want to have low exhaustion with high movement cards left as you get closer to the finish of the race. Sometimes using your low cards early can negatively affect you, because being too far behind caused you to gain too much exhaustion. I find, that the key is to find a medium that will help you benefit from slipstreaming.
Using a track layout that includes uphill and downhill terrain adds a whole new set of rules and strategy. Uphill terrain prevents you from moving faster than a speed 5, and once in an uphill terrain, no slipstreaming will occur. Downhill terrain is the opposite, having a minimum of 5 for movement. Ideally on downhills, you have low movement cards available to burn, so that you can take advantage of the 5 movement minimum, saving your higher movement cards for closer to the finish line. It’s a good opportunity to get rid of any exhaustion cards you may have picked up. There is a bit of luck in the draw of the 4 cards you get to choose from, but there is still a lot of choice there, especially since the decks aren’t very big to begin with. Now, if you’ve incurred a lot of exhaustion, you essentially limit your choices, as your deck will eventually fill with movement cards that only allow you to go two spaces forward. At that point you’re more likely to draw a hand full of 2’s, which doesn’t leave you much choice at all.
In my personal experience, my Sprinteur, which has the highest movement card available–a speed of 9– has been dead last in the race, while my Rouleur has crossed the finish line victorious. This only seems to happen to me, but I’ll take my victories and run with ’em. I don’t always win though, which means that every game is different. Sometimes the race is super tight, with a lot of slipstreaming. Other times there is a clear and definite leader, and they are the only one to pass that finish line.
I don’t really have any complaints about the game. I do wish, however, that the difference between the two riders was more clearly defined on the rider models. There is a tiny “S” and “R” etched into the backs of their respective rider, but it’s very hard to see. When we play we try to distinguish between them by calling them, “standing up guy” and “crouchy guy”– it seems to work well. Overall, this is probably one of my favorite games that I have had the chance to play this year. It’s solid. I absolutely recommend giving this game a shot if it comes your way.
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