Fraser & Gordon Lamont


No. of Players:
2 - 5



A must-go visit at every SPIEL convention is the booth of the Lamont brothers, and thus I also came to them in 2008 in order to start a convention-day with a dogsled race in the cold regions of Alaska.

Alas, that year FRAGOR GAMES had to refrain from using their usual resin-figures which have made their last games so popular. However, the board pieces were looking quite beautifully, and after the rather unusal game Antler Island the year before I was nonetheless very eager to have a go at the Lamonts' new racing game.

Before the game may start, the players will have to use a number of track pieces to build up a racing track. Naturally, there exists a Start and a Finish, and between them comes a chain of straight pieces, bends, U-turns and even some chicanes like a Canyon or a growing of young trees. When the track is ready, each player is given a sled playboard on which two dog-cards and a brake-marker can be placed. Also, each player choses a starting place and places a wooden playing piece there. Finally, each player is dealt a hand of five dog-cards and the race may start.

Basically, a player may chose to play either one, two or three of his dog cards in his turn. Two dog cards can be placed on the two dog spaces in front of the sled, whereas another card can be discarded to fix the current brake rating. Once a player has played his cards, he may move his sled forward for the sum of the two dog cards, substracting the current brake rating. However, a straight move only happens when two identical dog cards have been placed in front of the sled, but two different dogs card will result in a sideward movement of the sled which is called a "drift".

For each point of difference between the speed of the two dogs the sled will be pulled one step into the direction of the slower dog, because the faster doge pushes the sled to that side. This results in a drift which means a change of lanes, and in essence the sled's direction is controlled by this mechanism. Thus, a player who wants to get past his opponents or to turn the sled in a bend will need to keep his dogs at different speed in order to master the manoeuvre.

If both dogs run at the same speed the sled is fully balanced, and this results in a bonus movement allowance which will push the sled forward faster. However, there is a danger of going too fast in so far as there exist speed limits at the entry of the bends, and whenever a sled enters the bend above the speed limit the player has to take a Damage card.

Damage cards are also taken if the Sled is forced to leave the racetrack (by a wrong drift or a narrow bend) or if one sled rams another sled. These damage cards do not slow the sled down, but instead the player has to keep the damage card at his hand, reducing his maximum hand cards by one. The more damage cards a player takes the less dog cards he may hold, and if a player collects his fifth damage card he may no longer hold any dog cards and is out of the race.

As indicated, special chicanes bring a bit more spice into the game, and here the track either will narrow down to a single lane or run through some tree saplings which the players must avoid. Each tree rammed along the race once again results in the taking of a damage card, but the following players will be quite happy because the tree will be removed after the collision.

The roots of Snow Tails seem to go back to a mixture between Mississippi Queen and Um Reifenbreite, but the Lamonts nevertheless succeeded in giving Snow Tails its own special attractiveness. The basic principles of the game are learned rather quick, and even players who might have some difficulties with the drift-movement rules will find some assistance because the sled playboards of the players have a mechanism for turning them on the spot so that the correct positioning of the cards can be simulated.

Due to its low complexity Snow Tails is an ideal family game with a good racing spirit, and the varied track should leave ample opportunities for the players to create their own season's dogsled racing league. Coupled with nice graphics and a high replay value, I think the Lamont brothers once again positioned themselves well amongst the interesting games of the 2008 SPIEL convention.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany