ARCTIC RACE from Game Storm Studio and Published by Finland Games Company TACTIC
A Perilous Race across Snow and Ice for 2-4 players aged from 8+ that takes around 40+ minutes
This board game is definitely the Dog's ...
The Rules booklet contains (as you would expect) the Rules to the game, in several different languages - English, French, Dutch, Polish and German. Whichever rules you read, they all have great illustrations and a clear summary of how to play; the perfect set of instructions.
One of the pages, the first page, shows just the contents, in text and picture, plus a brief, 13 word, 'Aim of the Game'. The second page is divided in two halves; down the left is the 'Setup' noted in 7 easy steps, and a setup illustration graces the right hand side of the page.
Page three is also split into two halves with the left hand side containing the three simple 'How To Play' steps, whilst the right hand side shows how some of the game pieces are used, again in 3 clear phases. Everything about the game is beautifully designed, from the written word to the physical components. Players begin the game with a Sled card showing two colours (these are to be kept secret), 3 Ladder cards (for getting over water hazards) and the use of a Helicopter.
Finally onto the fourth and last page of the Rules. This has a Summary of the Events cause by the different dice rolls in a chart-like format and a concluding three short paragraphs of text that explains who is the Winner and How they have Won. I genuinely wish that more games could have rules like these. They explain the pieces, the game play, the movement and the winning ways, all in basically one page of text along with a chart and a page of illustrations. Nothing is left unclear, everything is elucidated so that even players who are 8 years old (and can read well) can play without Adult supervision - though to be fair, it is more fun (for the younger players) when they can defeat the older (experienced players).
As the name suggests, this is a race across the the deadly, ever-changing icy terrain, towards the goal of the North Pole. Player's pieces are shaped as wooden Dog-Sleds, two such sleds of each colour, but because of the 'secret' card dealt to them, players do not know which colours the other players are - they only know their own two colours. This means that when they move a sled, they may be helping or hindering one or more of the other players. Like all games with this mechanic, it isn't long before astute players know at least one colour of each of the other players. Sleds are moved by the number shown on the Number die and Hazards may be activated by the Special Water die's symbols; both dice are rolled together by each player on their Turn.
Around the board are hazard markers - Fog, Blizzard, Vortex. Like the Dog Sleds, these are moved by the result of the specialised Die. Players will either move these hazards towards their opponents or away from themselves; it is these decisions that create the fluctuating strategies which players employ to temporary halt or divert each other.
Water (Blue backed) tiles are placed when the number (not symbol) on the die is Blue (not Black). A tile is drawn from the stack and placed in a free space on the board, tiles are not placed on tiles but they can be placed to create hazardous passages. Sleds can move from tiles to tile as long as there is ice on which they can travel - they can slip around pools and streams of water as long as they can do it without touching the water. If a sled has to cross water a ladder (card) must be used - the ladder must be able to cross the stretch of water, if it doesn't reach across then the water is too wide and the ladder is of no use. If crossing such a wide pond is necessary each player has a one-use helicopter.
I can find no mention of what happens to the Ladder cards after they have been used. As each player is dealt three Ladder cards at the beginning of the game there are a couple of assumptions one can make: either the Ladder cards are left in place or they are discarded. We play that they are left in place for those traveling behind to use, but there is a case for discarding them after use; each player has three of them.
The first player to have their two Dog-sleds arrive at the North Pole is the winner. Because players each support two colours it is possible to have more than one winner, and it is also possible that a player (or players) can win without moving one, either or both, of their sleds to the North Pole - other players can inadvertently do it for you.
For a simple game ARCTIC RACE is fun to play as a family game and enjoyable as a gamers game. For a cost of around $25.00 it is certainly an excellent way to spend many, many 40-45 minutes.
- 18 big ice floes
- 1 North Pole
- 1 starting tile
- 20 water tiles
- 31 cards (15 dog sled cards and 16 ladder cards)
- 9 wooden hazard pawns
- 6 wooden dog sled pawns
- 4 helicopter tiles
- 2 special dice
Because you can set up the ice-floe in many different configurations you should never really get so tight with the game that you go (or flow) through the motions. Once you have played numerous times though it is often good to spice up the game with your own in-house rules. One we like to employ is adding another d6 into the equation. We roll this at the same time as the other dice and when a 6 is rolled the player who rolled it may 'melt' or 'meld' (remove or add tile from the floe) one ice-tile. Only tiles that are already in position may be melted and only tiles that have previously been melted may be returned to the floe - but they must be placed so as to join two or more tiles. Melted tiles are placed to one side, available for all players.
Rolling a 6 always allows a player to remove an ice tile, but if, and only if, the player wants to add an ice tile and there are no 'melted' tiles available, then the player may take either a Ladder card or a Helicopter card. They can only take a Helicopter card if they have already used their original helicopter. Players may never be in possession of more than 3 Ladders and 1 Helicopter. If they are prevented from adding a tile or taking a Ladder or Helicopter by these rules, then the player must remove a tile, they cannot pass. The North Pole may never be removed and Tiles containing Sleds may not be melted.
This Home Rule makes the game more hectic, more tactical and more back-stabbing, thus it can lead to a lot more crazy fun.
If you have a desire to make it even more realistic there are so many other ideas you can introduce without ruining the game or changing the basic rules - maybe just adding a few amendments. Wild Wolf Pack. Polar Bears. Seal Pack. Reindeer. Musk Oxes. Owls. Penguins. Dall Sheep. Any (but not all at once) can be introduced with their own helpful or hindering abilities. Your imagination (and whatever animals, game pieces etc you have at hand) is all it takes to enhance Arctic Race with your own personal touch(es). Create as many possibilities as you like, but only include one or two of them in any game as it's greater fun if there is some confliction.