Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Okay, every card in the deck is the same?

 Drive Like Hell was part of a contest that Button Shy held to design an eighteen-card game where all the cards are identical. Drive Like Hell isn’t that complicated a game but, given that requirement, man, the double-sided card is complex.

You have just rescued your girlfriend from the devil. Now you have to drive your hot rod as fast as you can to get to St Joe’s Cathedral while the devil is hot on your tail... I have so many questions! What was my girlfriend doing with the devil in the first place?!

Two of the cards form the board, which is a track of locations, all with special abilities. Two more cards serve as you and the devil. Four more cards let you track of your gas, damage and items. (It sounds crazy but it makes sense once you have all the cards laid out. You could substitute beads or stones for five of the cards) The last eight cards serve as an event deck. Two start off on the Hell side and the rest start off on the Drive side.

Each turn has two phases. The first is the mojo phase, where you can adjust and possibly use an object. The second is the chase phase. Draw three cards from the bottom of the deck and resolve them. Drive cards let you move and add gas to your car. Hell cards make bad, bad things happen. The devil moves, your car takes damage, Drive cards turn to Hell cards, and a fiend can start coming at you from the opposite direction. It’s bad stuff.

I’ve skipped over a decent amount of content. Every location has some kind of special event go off (some good, some bad) and you have those objects, all of which help you, to juggle. But it all builds around the idea that the devil is after you and the odds keep getting worse.

One thing I’ve learned from my first plays. You can’t just hope the event deck will be nice to you. You have to do your best to make the locations and the objects work for you. And if you let bad things build up, they escalate into a death spiral.

There feels like there’s a lot going on in Drive Like Hell since so much is crammed on the two sides of the card design. However, I’m pretty sure there is an optimal decision tree and that you can ‘solve’ the game. The question then becomes if the process is interesting enough to keep playing after you reach that point. It might be.

Drive Like Hell might turn out the a dancing bear of a game, where the idea of making a cinematic adventure out of eighteen identical cards is better than the actual practice. I still have to say I find it fascinating.

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