The act of car racing is defined by speed. Video games have almost always done a great job of capturing that sensation as well as the act of racers jockeying for position thanks to their ability to simulate racing in real time. But how do you translate that experience into a turn-based tabletop game? Formula D has the answer. With 2-10 players, you can partake in a thrilling tabletop experience that amazingly simulates the magic of car racing.
Contained in the main set is a double-sided board which has one track per side. Cars are represented with car-shaped figurines that move based on dice rolls. However, speeding across the track is more advanced than just throwing a standard 6-sided die across the board. Instead, everything about your car is dictated by your “dashboard”, six dice that represent your gears, and one die to determine outcomes in very specific situations. Each racer has a dashboard tray that features a gear shift and a “Wear Point” indicator. As with driving a real cars, you have to start in first gear, and work your way up from there. However, you can’t simply barrel down the track in 6th gear, as corners require you to make a certain number of stops within the corner before you can proceed. Because of this, you must slow down, hope you get the right dice roll to maximize your approach and plan your route through a corner.
Speeding too quickly through a corner can cause you to immediately crash and burn, but there is some wiggle room if you’re willing to burn your Wear Points. By doing so, you can slam on the brakes to stop in a more ideal spot, quickly downshift more than one gear at a time in order to better take a corner, or overshoot a corner to accelerate faster off the apex. However, if you burn too many WP during a race, your car will also crash and burn. Having these systems in place makes for a game that forces players to make some very interesting choices while making great use of the element of chance.
The track itself brings a number of cool elements to the mix as well. Within corners, there are very specific driving lines you can take, which will vary based on your speed going into the corner, the speed at which you travel through it, and the cars that may be in your way. In the event of a collision, debris is left on the track that becomes a hazard for everyone that passes it again. Even if you’ve played the same track a number of times, there are so many variables that come into play that races can feel different almost every time.
While there are a lot of things going on, learning the basic rule set is actually quite easy. Steff and I picked it up within a matter of minutes and were already having a blast. When you get really deep into the experience, you can play with advanced rules, which requires you to use the advanced overlay on your dashboard. With this in effect, each major component of your car, such as tires, the engine and brakes, have their own WP counter that deteriorates separately based on the type of damage you do to your car. The game even has mechanics in place to simulate pit stops, weather effects, drafting, motor damage due to driving too fast and more. Once you get comfortable with the basic ruleset, you can really build on that knowledge to create a far more realistic and deeper experience that’s really awesome for players that want that complexity.
I’m not even much of a racing fan, but the ways in which Formula D handles its subject matter make for an excellent board game, regardless of your interest in the sport. With support for up to 10 players and a ruleset that scales well for newcomers or experts, this is a game that works well in almost any tabletop scenario. This isn’t just a novel take on racing, it’s a legitimately awesome board game in its own right.