Flamme Rouge: A Review by Eric Booth
Designed by Asger Sams Granerud
Published by Lautapelit.fi
You can listen to Eric's thoughts on Week 100 of the WDYPTW Podcast at the 21:47 mark.
Flamme Rouge, AKA Red Flag, is quick bicycle racing game that takes place in the last kilometer of a race. You will be controlling 2 riders, a Roller and a Sprinter. How you control your riders is done through a clever play of cards. Each rider has their own deck of cards and you will draw 4 cards from one rider and pick one card to play and the ones you didn't pick are returned to the bottom of the deck face up. (Recycling) them. Then you do the same for the other rider. This choice has to be done one rider at a time. So you are gambling on what cards you might draw for your other rider. Each card has a number on it which will determine how far along the track that rider can travel. You'll be wanting to try and keep your Roller out in front of your Sprinter to soak up the exhaustion cards you will inevitably be getting throughout the race. Then when you are getting close to the finish line your Roller will be full of exhaustion cards and this is when your Sprinter should start using his big cards to, well, sprint to the finish. It's a very clever mechanic that is very thematic to how actual bike races work. You have the team pulling (Slipstreaming) the sprinter along then they move out of the way for that last push at the end of the race by your Sprinter.
Now that you know how the cards work, let's move on to how the movement works. After each player selects which cards they are going to play for each of their riders, all players will reveal them simultaneously. Then in rider order each player will move their rider along the track. A rider can pass through other riders but can't stop their movement on another rider unless there is a free lane next to that rider. If there is no free lane the rider is placed behind the rider they would have landed on. Which can actually be a good thing as it could save your rider from getting an exhaustion card. This is repeated until all the riders have been moved. After this is done the Slip-streaming phase happens. You start at the back of the pack and you'll look at each pack of riders, which can consist of only one rider, and see if there is no more than one square between them and the next pack of riders. If there is only one square between them you will move the riders up to the next pack of riders creating an even bigger pack. You will continue to do this until you have closed up all the one square gaps between the riders thus creating one huge pack of riders. If there are more than one square between the packs they are considered to be out of the slip-stream and will not be moved up to the next pack. Oh and there's optional hills that can be added to the track that add another whole dimension to the race depending on whether you're going up hill or down hill. There are some more movement subtleties that I'm not going to go over here but they are very easy to learn.
Now it's time deal out those dreaded exhaustion cards. These are the cards that will gum up your deck with that puny little 2 speed card. Why is this so important and painful you might ask? It's because the cards you picked to move your riders earlier are removed from the game so they're out of play forever. So in a weird way this is almost a deck building game, sorta, but your deck just keeps getting worse as the race goes on. So you need to be very tactical on what cards you play and when to play them. How your riders get exhaustion cards is determined by whether or not they have an empty square in front of them on the track after the slip-streaming phase is done. This exhaustion card is added face up to bottom of that rider's deck to show it's ugly face later on in the race This pretty much sums up the game. Very simple with some very important decisions to be made in order to crosse finish line first. Oh yeah did I mention that the person who crosses the finish line first isn't necessarily the winner? It's the rider who goes furthest past the finish line that wins. Now let's find out what I think of Flamme Rouge.
- What do I like about Flamme Rouge? Almost all of it as a matter of fact.
- The simplicity of the game play along with the tough decisions on which cards to play and when to play those cards. Flamme Rouge doesn't get bogged down with overly complicated, needless rules. In fact the rules for the game are only 4 pages long and 1 of those pages is an overview of the game components.
- There's no tokens to keep track of. No dice to be rolled. It's all down to when you play your cards.
- I feel Flamme Rouge could be an excellent gateway game to new gamers or your non gamer friends. I know this is thrown around a lot but I really believe it with this game.
- The game is very scale-able between whether you want an easier track to a more difficult track by removing or adding the hill tracks to the game to accommodate who you are playing with.
- As for the components? They are top notch. Super thick cardboard for the player boards and the track. Highly detailed miniatures for the two different riders which leads me to the one thing that will be in my Dislikes column.
- Now what did I dislike about the game? Sometimes if can be very hard to distinguish between which rider is the Sprinter and which rider is the Roller. There is a little itty bitty S on the back of the Sprinter and an itty bitty R on the back of the Roller but they don't stand out at all. This can lead to some confusion sometimes on whether you are picking a card for the correct rider or not. And this is truly a very minor thing. After a few plays you will just be able to tell them apart easily.
So in conclusion, I've really enjoyed every play of Flamme Rouge so far. And, from what I could tell, so did everyone else who played it with me. The simplicity of the game play is what I would call it's greatest strength. So, if you're able to get a copy and you're a fan of racing games then I would highly recommend Flamme Rouge to you.