I’ve been poking around board Game Arena for quick little distractions lately. (At some point, I should find the time to learn some more complex games there) And some of the games have been pretty nifty.
Hydroracers, though, fell pretty flat for me.
It’s a card-driven racing game. (You’re flying sea planes but, honestly, I didn’t feel like it was any different than race cars. As opposed to Snow Trails, where having two different dogs is essential to the mechanics and the theme) Play cards with numbers on them to move that many spaces.
You also get to place bets during the race and there are push-your-luck rules for damaging your plane due to things like tight turns or collisions.
If you have played any of Wolfgang Kramer’s auto racing games (like Downthrust or Top Race or Daytona 500), it’s impossible not to compare them Hydroracers. It also made me think of Ave Caesar. And Hydroracers falls short of any of them.
There are a number of reasons. But the biggest one and the one I’m going to harp on is the track. It is too simple in every way.
For one thing, it is too small. And by that, I mean there aren’t enough spaces. It only takes a few rounds to do a lap. And I played on every available map and they all suffered from this problem. Which is actually ironic since the historic race course was over 280 kilometers.
There is also only one lane on the track. That means there’s no jockeying about for position. And, while the whole track is technically a bottle neck, there is no penalty to passing another plane. If you would land on an occupied space, you go to space ahead and push-your-luck for damage.
While Hydroracers is technically more complex than Ave Caesar, Ave Caesar has a longer course with actual bottle necks and reasons to fight for lanes. That makes the actual play of the game deeper.
I was shocked when I saw pictures of the published version of the game. Since it feels so small, I was shocked at how physically big the game is. It feels like a micro game but it takes up a table.
I try and look at the positives of a game but Hydroracers takes an interesting historical event and an engaging genre and removes so much of what makes either element interesting.