D'r Af

A board game for two to five players from Splotter Spellen (Netherlands)
(or their web page for English-speaking lynx users :-)
These comments copyright 1999 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated May 31, 1999

D'r Af means "off" in Dutch, I've been told. If so, it's an appropriate name for this wacky little game. It's a racing game with little tiles, about 1" by 0.5" (~25 cm x 13 cm), which start only four tiles long, but are laid across a table a few at a time, extending the track until it reaches across the table. The first one to drive their car off the table wins the game!

The components are not spiffy quality, but are adequate. The tiles are somewhat crudely cut and of slightly varying sizes so the game has a homemade feel to it. (But this is a trial version, I'm told, and if they make a final version, it'll look nicer, I'm sure.) The blue-gray background color of the tiles is a bit drab. The cards are bright colors and on thick cardstock, but don't have a professional finish - but the little cars are nice. Nonetheless, it's a cute game (you can see pictures on their web site) that's a lot of fun - if your table is the right length. I've found you need at least a yard (meter), but twice that distance might be a bit too much. Maybe four-and-a-half to five feet (~135-150 cm) would be close to perfect.

The game consists of 150 tiles (though my set only came with 125, it's fine - each counter sheet of 25 tiles is the same, so I have the correct ratio of tile types), 45 cards (nine each of five different colors), five little cars, a first player marker, and rules in Dutch, German and English. All this is packed into a video cassette box, and it's a tight fit.

To begin the game, you lay out a few blank tiles at one edge of the table: four tiles long and as many tiles wide as you have cars in the race. Each player takes his nine "Cruise Control" cards, eight randomly chosen tiles (tiles are kept either face down or in a bag, etc.), the first player is decided, and cars are placed in the first row.

At this point, the first player chooses one of his cards to play, face up. The next player may choose any of his cards except one already chosen, and so on until all players have a different card face up in front of them.

A Cruise Control card has four bits of information:

  1. Number of tiles you must lay this turn;
  2. Speed for this turn: number of tiles you must move your car;
  3. Number of lane changes you may make this turn; and
  4. Number of Cruise Control cards you lose if you're in a collision.
Once all players have chosen their tiles, they take their turns in order from lowest speed to highest speed. Once the turn is over, everyone takes the Cruise Control cards they played that turn back into their hands, the first-player token is passed to the next player, and the game continues until someone drives off the end of the table.

Your turn begins by playing tiles. There are eight different types of tiles:

  • Blank tiles,
  • Caltrops,
  • Puddles,
  • Trucks,
  • Police,
  • Ramps,
  • Switches,
  • Wrenches
Blanks are normal track, and you can simply move onto it for one point of speed. You can change lanes directly sideways for one point of speed, but must move forward with your next movement point, regardless of how many lane changes you can make in a given turn.

Caltrops cost you one Cruise Control card - pick one and put it in the box. Puddles mean you skid out one space sideways - unfortunately, the person to your right picks which direction you go. A Truck is an obstacle - if you hit it, lose the number of Cruise Control cards indicated on your current speed card, cover the truck with a blank tile, and keep going. Police slow you down: lose two points of speed immediately.

Moving onto a ramp means you immediately jump over whatever is in front of you, at no extra cost in movement points. A Switch allows you to swap any two tiles on the board (except other Switches or occupied tiles), and a Wrench allows you to regain one Cruise Control card from the box.

So the game is not hard in principle: lay the number of tiles indicated on your Cruise Control card (ranging from two to eight), move the number of spaces shown, try not to hit a truck or other players' cars, and try to retain at least one Cruise Control card, because if you're out of them, you don't move the rest of the game ... Oh, you also can't play too cautiously: if there's ever a gap of six or more spaces between you and the nearest car in front of you, you're out of the race.

The game is usually harder than that in practice, however! Not only might you not have good tiles to lay in front of your own car, another player might have beaten you to it by placing bad tiles in front of you. (Yes, Virginia, there really are players like that.) The faster you go, the better chance you have of being in first place, but collisions become outrageously expensive and lane changes are scarce. But if you drive slowly to avoid taking major collision damage, you'll probably have to drop out by being too far behind the pack. An interesting, fun and sometimes frustrating choice!

So you have to expect to lose some Cruise Control cards. It's okay, you have nine of them, ranging in speed from 2 to 10 inclusive. If you lose too many, however, it's possible (especially when you're last to play your card) that the other players might pick their cards with the intent of keeping you from moving. For example, if you only have four cards left, the 4-5-6-7, and your four opponents each choose one of those numbers, you can't move that turn. So don't lose too many Cruise Control cards. (Though I admit I once won the game with one card left!)

You can now probably see how the table length becomes crucial. It doesn't matter as far as the number of actual tiles you have - since a car never moves backwards, once the last place car has passed a row of tiles, remove all tiles in that row and earlier and put them back in the bag. But Cruise Control cards are the issue. If the course is too short, there's no real penalty for reckless driving - go ahead and lose five cards, you'll still have plenty to finish the race. But if the race is too long, it creates driving that is necessarily tame - too tame to be fun, actually. You can't afford to lose a Cruise Control card even every other turn if you have to go three yards or meters! And Wrenches are the rarest tiles ...

There are other rules, good common sense rules. Colliding with other cars or the guard railing at the edge of the outer lanes is covered in detail - it's lots of fun (at least for the players not involved in the collision). If you drive off the existing tile-layout, simply draw tiles from the bag one at a time and resolve each one before drawing the next. That's the only way to place tiles more than seven rows ahead of the least developed row, however. And if a car is eliminated, one of the lanes is removed ...

All in all, this is a very fun light game, worth some laughs, yet that still rewards thinking and lucky draws. Recommended.

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