Jean-Christophe Bouvier


No. of Players:
1 - 4



As the title of this game suggests, Rallyman is a game about the Rally-sport, and you might possibly ask yourself now whether the boardgames world really needs another racing game. My answer to this question is a full and unconditional "YES!", because Rallyman really stands apart from many other racing game by its true and authentic adaption of the Rally-sport.

So, instead of moving some cars around a circular track in order to see who is first to cross the finish line, Rallyman actually focuses on the real design of a rally where the participants have to solve different stages among changing roads. For this reason the game includes several different double-sided gameboards showing different road-parts, and these parts will need to be aligned so that the first stage of the rally can be played through. Later, after the first stage has ended, the parts will be realigned twice for the second and third stage, and so the players will have to face new challenges with every new stage.

Movement of the cars along the roads is solved by the use of dice (gasp!) However, these dice will not be applied as randomizers in the usual sense, but instead each player possesses his own, identical set of five 6-sided gear dice (gears "1" to "5") and two 6-sided acceleration dice which will be used in a quite unique way. So, during a player's turn each dice can be used for moving a car just one space, but a player is allowed to use several of his dice in a row so that his car can move for several spaces. Important here is the fact that the different gear dices must be used in a correct order, so that each additional step either must be taken in the next higher or lower gear. The only possibility to move forwards without changing gear are the acceleration dice, but each player only possesses two of these and in addition it is quite necessary to use lower gears in curves since the car would be thrown off the track if the gear is too high.

It is essential to know about the Rally-sport that the winner of a Rally is determined by the measuring of driving time, and so the winner of Rallyman will be the player who has solved all three stages of the rally in the fastest time. Thus, the game required the development of a mechanism for the passing of time during the rally, and here Jean-Christophe had a rather good idea. At the end of each turn a player needs to collect a gear-card corresponding to the last gear dice used for movement during this turn, and each of these gear cards actually shows how many seconds had been consumed by this turn's movement. The higher the final gear, the less is the time consumption, and so the players will try to end their turns in a high gear to get fast driving times. However, here the curves in the road form a major obstacle, since each curve lists a maximum gear number which may not be exceeded for moving a car through the curve. Thus, the cards will need to slow down before entering a curve, and here the gear dice must be used rather wisely since each gear only exists once so that a car will not be able to slow down and speed up again during the scope of the same turn.

However, so far the game would need no dice at all, since the gears also could have been symbolized by markers. However, each dice must be rolled when it's used, and there is a possibility that the result of the diceroll is a warning sign. Rolling one or two of these signs within the same turn is okay, but when the second warning sign was rolled the player actually will need to consider ending his turn without using any more dice. Of course, the player may continue movement until he has used up all his dice, but if a third warning sign would be rolled the car would spin out of control and valuable time would be lost.

On the other hand, a player also may try to get bonus seconds by making a move called "time attack", and for this the player actually has to roll several dice all at once. If no three warning signs are rolled the player may move his car normally, and in addition the player will receive a "one second" bonus token for each dice used in this cumulative roll. On the other hand, there is a risk that three warning signs may appear, and this risk is not under control of the player since, in comparison to normal movement, all dice are thrown at once.

Around this core mechanism for movement quite a few additional rules have been added for finetuning, and here rally-fans will discover many elements which make their sport so enjoyable:

  • In order to reduce mutual interference, rally drivers do not start at once, but instead there is a gap of one minute from one starter to the next. In RALLYMAN this is simulated by the fact that only the first player moves in the first turn, whereas each following player stepwise comes into the game one turn later. This does not have any detrimental effect, since the stage will be won by the player who has used the fewest time, not by the first player to reach the finish.
  • However, this does not mean that there will be no interference whatsoever. It is quite possible that one player catches up with the player before him, and now the rues for overtaking become important. It is nearly impossible to overtake another car in a curve, unless there is a shortcut available which may be used to jump ahead. So, a blocking car in front of a fast going driver can be quite unnerving.
  • Talking about shortcuts, these earth roads can be found in many curves. Like curves, they show a maximum gear limit, but when using a shortcut a player also needs to draw a shortcut card to see what happens. In most cases the manoeuvre will be possible without problems, and it may even happen that dirt will be thrown onto the road so that later players will face a lower gear limit in that curve. However, there is also a possibility that a tire might run flat, and this means that the player either has to go with one dice less for the rest of the stage or - if possible - stop and use a time-consuming repair card to mount a spare tire.

These are just a few examples of the detailed but easy to handle rally rules, and the game actually includes some additional elements which increase difficulty and competition between the players. For one, the track gameboards actually chose a winter side, and especially a stage containing both normal and snowy roads puts the players to a choice of tires because they need to take the weather into consideration. Another element are the checkpoints where the players must register their intermediate times. Here the times of all players will be recorded, and especially later players have a possibility to adjust their driving style depending on the performance of the players who passed the checkpoint before them. This rule keeps it quite easy to get intermediate results, and so the players always will know about the performance of their competitors.

As a quite astonishing fact, Jean-Christophe Bouvier has never designed a game in his whole life, but since he is a big fan of the Rally-sport he wanted to create a game which catches much of the atmosphere but remains funny and easy going in order to keep the players entertained. So, he took several years for the development of RALLYMAN, finetuning the rules to a very high degree. Having met quite a few first time authors at the SPIEL '10, it is astonishing to see that such really good ideas sometimes come from people who not even are passionate gamers. But even without detailed knowledge about games, Jean-Christophe has created one of the most challenging racing games I have seen, and especially the rules for the measuring of the rally time by gathering gear cards marvellously fulfil the intended purpose of creating a game which matches the rally-feeling. Despite the fact that the players mostly concentrate on their individual driving, there is much interest in the performance of other players since especially the follow-up drivers have a possibility to learn from any errors made by the leading car. So, with both the game mechanics and the atmosphere adding up to a quite harmonious whole, I can wholeheartedly recommend this game to anyone who wants to try out a quite unusual racing game.

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Copyright © 2010 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany