Terror on Two Wheels: Lead the Pack in Flamme RougeMarch 19, 2019
A pack of cyclists pedals its way across the streets of Paris, each rider looking to maneuver their way to the front. Suddenly, from deep within the pack one cyclist breaks to the front. The hunt is on!
From Stronghold Games comes Flamme Rouge, a racing game for 2-4 players. Each player leads a team of two cyclists in this game of hand management. Can you get one of your cyclists to cross the finish line first? Or will you be left in the dust, exhausted by your attempt to keep pace with your opponents?
Each player controls two cyclists, the Rouler and the Sprinter, each with a separate energy deck of 15 cards that determines movement; the Rouler has cards that move from 3-7 spaces while the Sprinter has cards that move from 2-9 spaces. After shuffling both decks, you’re ready to race.
Flamme Rouge is played in three phases: energy, movement, and end phases. During the energy phase, players simultaneously draw 4 cards from their energy deck, place one face down, and return the other three cards face-up at the bottom of their energy deck. Then, repeat for your other cyclist.
Next, all players reveal their cards and starting with the frontmost rider, move their cyclists according to their revealed energy cards. Cyclists may move through other cyclists, but cannot end their movement on an occupied square.
During the end phase, all cards played that round are removed from the game. Then, starting from the final pack of riders on the board, players slipstream if they have one open square in front of them, giving them one free movement and closing the gap between packs of riders. Finally, cyclists who have an empty square in front of them add an exhaustion card (which only 2 spaces of movement) to their deck.
The first to cross the finish line wins the race. If there’s a tie, the cyclist who’s furthest past the finish line wins.
I like racing games and always enjoy Downforce, Quest for El Dorado, Formula D, and Camel Up. Flamme Rouge, however, is my favorite, thanks to its stripped-down game play. There are no pauses in the action to bet on who you think is gonna win. There’s no use of tiny cards for deck-building. And there’s no dice to determine your fate.
No, Flamme Rouge is all about hand management and putting yourself in prime position to win that final mad dash to the finish line. I love the fast turns in Flamme Rouge: you’re simply choosing a card for your Rouler and a card for your Sprinter then moving them. This quick game play is perfectly thematic for a racing game: it feels fast, even for a half-hour game, and it’s an excellent way to start or end your game night.
I love the subtle strategy to playing your cards. Since every card you play is removed from the game, you can’t just play your highest card every time since you’ll soon have only low cards as you sputter towards the finish line. You want to make your cyclists work together, trying to slipstream whenever possible.
Of course, this leads to everyone wanting to hang back in the pack since it’ll also protect you from taking those dreaded exhaustion cards. Smart play during the mountain ascents (all cards played can only move you a maximum of 5 spaces) and descents (all cards played give you a minimum of 5 spaces) can put you in the lead to stay or get you stuck in the back. And there’s nothing like that heart-pounding moment when you decide to play that 9 movement card to break away from the pack.
While playing Flamme Rouge won’t get you closer to competing in the Tour de France, it can give you the same sense of excitement and competition. And the thrill of outwitting your opponents can be just as satisfying.