I recently picked up a copy of Flamme rouge from my FLGS when they opened in a bid to be supportive. I'm not sure I ever would have bought it otherwise, but I am now incredibly happy I did.
In Flamme rouge you take control of a pair of cyclists that you race round a track, to win Flamme Rouge you need only get one of them across the line first.
- Teaching is insanely quick, the rulebook is a single double sided A3 sheet, the game is deceptively simple in that it only has a handful of rules so can be taught in a matter of minutes.
- Set up is pretty quick too, you pick a 'course' put the toy train track-esque pieces together in the right order. Put your little cyclists at the start line (actually a tactical consideration so doesn't feel like part of 'set-up') Shuffle the decks and away you go.
- Movement is controlled by a deck of numbered cards, each of your cyclists has their own deck which differ (but every player has identical decks). Your Rouleur has numbers 3-7 (three of each) whereas your Sprinteur has 2-5 and then big-old 9's (again 3 of each). You draw four cards from one deck of your choice and play one of them facedown, only then can your draw four cards from the other deck and chose one to play. This is a delightful mechanic as you are trying to get your two cyclists to work as a team but you can rarely be sure of what you will draw.
- All plays chose cards simulataneously and then reveal, the cyclists move leader first and then those behind etc. If you end exactly two spaces behind another cyclist, you get 'slipstream' and get to shuffle up behind them (dragging with you anyone directly or two spaces behind you), this is where the real tactics comes into play: Once a card is played it is removed from the game, so you want to save your biggest cards (especially for your sprinteur) for the end of the game but you also don't want to be left behind (will be explained in a second) so your aim is to always end two spots behind someone to make all your cads go a little further. This makes trying to guess what others will do much more meaningful and likewise you can slipstream off your own cyclists, so can use your Rouleur to save your sprinter from having to use any big cards.
- The other reason to stay in the pack is that anyone without a cyclist infront of them after all the 'slipstreaming; is done gets an exhuastion card added to their deck. Exhaustion cards have a value of 2 so if your deck ends up clogged with them it can really hurt.
- All this means you want to stay just behind the race leader and then at a key point use your theoretically 'fresh' sprinteur to leap ahead in the last few turns with their 9 cards. However, if everyone is trying to do that you get this wonderful game of all trying to be just a little slower than each other. However, you if you leave your burst too late someone can leap ahead early and get an unassailable lead. So there is a real tension as you get within the second half of the game, wanting to go early enough to be in the running but not burn out too soon. In the two games I played with my partner, she consistently outplayed me in the first part of the game and so her cyclists were much less tired, but both times left her sprint too late and so with a little luck on card draw I snatched victory with my poor exhuasted guys.
Overall it is a wonderfully simple yet surprisingly tactical racing game. it plays in 20 minutes but you can link mulitple games together in a 'tour' by only removing half of your exhaustion cards which would allow for a greater strategy (I imagine)
(I took no pictures of us playing but it is also a very pretty game and the theming is on point!)