Downforce is a racing game you can win even when your car comes last. You want to win, of course, but because the game allows you to bet on the winner mid-race (three times!) you can offset a poor performance on the track with a shrewd one in the privacy of your betting sheet.
The track itself is a board broken up into many segments, each of which can fit exactly one car in. At the start of the game cars are auctioned off, their relative value decided by their position on the grid, the special ability they come with, the cards in your hand, and the groupthink of the players present. Each player will have at least one car; some may have two or more.
Play proceeds with each player, on their turn, playing a card from their hand. Although each player will have a powerful Move 8 card for their own racer, cards will usually move several cars at a time, in a strict order, following the rule that a car must always move forwards – either straight ahead or diagonally. When to play what is key, as there are narrow sections of track easily blocked, and even the wider sections can get bottle-necked by multiple cars. You want to make sure your car isn’t stuck at the back, because there’s big prize money at stake. However there’s also three bets to be made – every time the leading car crosses one of the yellow lines on the track, players secretly tick who they think will win on their betting sheet.
Each player will also have one special ability to help them – nothing game-breaking, but potentially crucial when utilised at the right time! When the race is over players count up their winnings in prize money and bets, then take away whatever they bid in the auction at the start – most money wins!
Not exactly a game where you have as much control as you’d like, but if you don’t mind some random events – usually punitive! – then Downforce is a lot of fun. The betting gives it some real balance – lagging behind you might lose interest if you didn’t have the option to back someone else’s car in the betting, and subsequently speed them along to victory! Will your bets be enough to offset your own car’s performance? Did you spend rather too lavishly in the auction?? Did you make best use of your special ability??? Only the final count will reveal.
Downforce is a lovely-looking game, but the bright colours and cute cars belie a fiendish heart – it’s very brutal. But it plays nice and fast, and you’ll usually get a chance to dish the dirt as well as take it – the key is in figuring out how much you can influence each car based on your hand. I need to play more, as I’m not very good at it. Great also that it plays six.
Plee-eeeenty! Although other players may move your car forward for you, they'll also block it off on the track or engineer it into a space where you can't move at all. It can be brutal!
Very little to speak of, though at times you may have to wait for someone to make their card choice.
Nothing too heavy, but it's more tactical than it first appears.
Quite a bit of variation here in bidding, cards, special abilities - even tactics. The board is also double-sided with a tricky, and trickier option for racing. As long as you're ok with potential frustrations on the track, it's a good family game for kids and adults alike.