Monday, May 13, 2024

It’s not a good sign when I feel compelled to add house rules

 Rally J is the latest game I’ve seen from Alexander Shen. Shen is a designer who I have come to appreciate. They are really good at making games that you can play before your coffee gets cold.

Rally I is a solitaire card game themed around rally cards acing. The deck consists of sixteen numbered road cards and two cards that serve as the dashboard, tracking fuel, damage and gear.

Okay, here’s the basic idea. You deal out road cards equal to your current gear. You then roll dice, anfain the same number as your current gear. If your roll is equal or higher to the total sum of the cards, great. You pass and you can go up a gear if you aren’t maxed out at fourth gear. If you rolled under, you have to pay the difference in any combination of fuel, health or gears.

If you get through the road card deck, you win. If you run out of fuel or health, you lose.

So here is the thing: you really don’t have any meaningful choices in the game. You are just hoping to roll high. Since you also have to fuel just to run your car, you were going to pick health most of the time when you have to pay a penalty. The averages favor you at higher gears so getting up to fourth gear is really useful, but that’s still up to luck.

The last game I learned by Shen was Golem Needs Pie, which was a puzzle that required you to be pretty lucky to make your logical-based solution work. Rally J is better as a game since you aren’t trying to reason your way through. You are just hoping to get good rolls.

And I feel like there’s the start of better game going on in Rally J. If it could be tweaked into a push your luck game, then it would have some game to it.

In fact. I quickly added a house rule, giving the option of using nitro. After you draw the cards but before you roll the dice, you have the option of spending a time to add a die to the pool. However, every six does one point of health damage.

Honestly, this house rule makes the game easier, perhaps too easy. But it is thematic and adds choices and risks to the game. It also means I find Rally J interesting enough that I’ll play it some more.

Rally J is a weak game in all honestly. But it’s amusing and it makes me want to create variants.

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