Fair Play is one of those light bluffing games which
you may or may not find fun. It's a car racing game, but there is no
skill in the mechanical aspects of play, only in knowing whom and when
to bluff. Sometimes this type of game appeals to me, and sometimes it
doesn't - I have to weigh them on a case by case basis. I'm not a big
Poker fan, for example, but I like Liars Dice.
I find Fair Play to be a good light closer for the end of
an evening, when everyone's punchy.
The game comes with 48 road tiles and six cute little metal cars, each
with a different colored plastic inset. There is a deck of 55 movement
cards, and a special die, with three faces "1", two faces "2", and one
face "3". The rulebook comes with English, Italian, German, French,
and Spanish rules.
To prepare for the game, remove the Start and Finish tiles, and split
the other 46 tiles into two equal stacks. Lay the Start tile face up on
the table. Shuffle the Finish tile into one of the stacks, then stack
the remaining tiles on top of that stack, so the Finish is somewhere in
the last half of the game. Decide on first player, and deal each player
All cars start on the Start tile, which is the only tile allowed to hold
more than four cars. In your turn, you roll the die and move that many
spaces forward. If, as for the first move of the game, there aren't any
spaces to move to, you add tiles one at a time to the racecourse, only as
many as needed at the moment, then move your car. Since there are no "Y"
or "T" pieces, only straights and curves, it's a one-dimensional race,
so there is absolutely no skill involved in this phase.
Next you draw a card, bringing your hand to four cards. You select
one of these cards and offer it face down to another player. They may
either accept it or reject it. If they accept it, the card's action is
applied to their car. If they reject it, the card's action is applied to
your car. The action is always straightforward - there are no choices -
so the actual resolution of the card has no opportunity for skill.
Continue taking turns until someone reaches the Finish tile, and they
win the game.
So: there is no skill involved in moving the cars, only in deciding which
card to offer which player. There are slightly more "good" cards than
"bad" cards, which actually makes the game more interesting: 31 cards
which can help you versus 24 which can hurt you. After a while, the
race will have a fairly wide spread between first and last place cars:
lots of choices (at least with lots of players) about whom to offer a
card to. You not only have the other players' personalities to consider,
but also their place in the race. Some cards are mild in their effect,
either positive or negative, and some are powerful. Do you dare risk
giving a powerful positive card to someone already in first place? Ah,
but they might not expect that! Ah, except they know you know that
... and so on. And so we have the category for this game: I know
that you know that I know that you know that I know ... which has a
So the skill lies in making the other player believe the card you are
offering is the opposite type than which you really are offering.
If you're in last place, and I pass you a card saying, "Here's a
good card, I feel sorry for you in last place," do you believe me?
Sometimes you should - and other times you'd be wisest not to ...
Of course, you could play the game totally randomly: simply
draw the top card and offer it to someone sight unseen. This reduces
the game to pure luck, however, with no element of skill whatsoever,
so is less fun. But there's no rule against it, so if you are simply
lousy at bluffing, you could try it.
The Cards and Tiles
There are seven types of cards:
If the "Pass" or "Shortcut" cards are played by the leader, they act as a
"+3" card, instead.
- Move ahead (ranging from +1 to +3)
- Pass the car ahead of you
- Shortcut: become the leader
- Fall back (ranging from -1 to -3)
- Low on Fuel (mistranslated as "Engine Trouble" in the English rules): reduce your hand size
- Breakdown: go back to the last Repair Station tile you passed
- Flat Tire: miss your next turn
There are five types of tiles:
Plus the Start and Finish tile, of course - the Start tile is
a Fuel Station and Repair Station, by the way.
- Regular road tiles: four-car limit
- Fuel Stations: remove "Low on Fuel" cards; resume normal hand size
- Repair Stations
- Road Construction: stop upon entering
- No Passing Zones: one-car limit
The first three types of cards listed are good - they help whoever uses
them. The last four hurt to some degree or another. A Breakdown can
be devastating if you haven't had a Repair Station tile in a long time.
A Shortcut is an automatic "become first player" for whoever plays
it - or "increase your lead" if you already are first player.
So knowing when to offer these cards, and to whom, is the major skill
in the game.
We've added two house rules so far:
There are two tiles with banners, and two with flags, which are just
decoration. I've been toying with making them special tiles in some
way, but I'm not sure what yet. If I think of anything, and it works,
I'll add it here someday.
- Instead of putting the Finish tile in the last half, we put it in
the last third.
Once someone reaches the Finish tile, everyone who hasn't had as many
turns as the first player gets one more turn. The furthest through the
Finish line wins. Ties are resolved by sudden death: only the tied
players are still in the game, and they take an equal number of turns,
until one car is clearly ahead. (You can only offer a card to someone
you are tied with at that point!) Since we've had some close races,
we find this makes for a more satisfying game.
I like this game when we're all a bit silly, but not otherwise. As a
late-night closer, it's a good game. The Shortcut and Breakdown cards
can really shake things up, which is good. In most race games, it's hard
to catch a runaway leader, but this one has some mechanisms to equalize
things ... if you can bluff someone into taking or rejecting a
card at the right moment!
Light fun, not to everyone's taste.
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