Thursday, August 16, 2007


I was perusing BoardGameGeek recently when I came across a GeekList entitled 'How Bolide save my life..... or your favorite games that you can play with pen and paper to keep yourself from going mad!' Bolide is a racing game which uses no cards or dice to move the cars, rather it uses a revolutionary mechanism able to reproduce the real accelerations, decelerations and inertial movements of the cars during the races. I really enjoy racing games and Bolide had been on my radar for a while but I'd never really done much research on it. So, curious, I checked out this GeekList.

Now, as GeekLists go, this one was unfortunately pretty spartan. It only had the single game entry for Bolide to explain how the user, TGov, had used the rules, sheets of graph paper and a pen to play the game during a particularly boring work conference. What really interested me was that he mentioned the mechanics were based on an earlier public domain paper and pencil game called Racetrack. I love it when GeekLists such as this alert me to cool games of which I was previously unaware.

The Wikipedia site for Racetrack states "Racetrack is a paper and pencil game of unknown origins, played by two or more players. It is also known under names such as Vector Formula, Vector rally or Vector race, or Graph racers, PolyRace, Paper and pencil racing, or the Graph paper race game. Racetrack is played on a squared sheet of paper ("quad pad", e.g. Letter preprinted with a 1/4" square grid, or A4 with a 5 mm square grid). The game simulates a car race. As the cars have a certain inertia, one must e.g. slow down before a dangerous bent in the track. Thus, the game requires foresight and planning for successful play."

I'm always interested in games that can be played with paper and pencil. There was also a link to a Java-based game called Vector Racer. I went to this site and played the game. I soon got a feel for the rules and was amazed out how elegantly this game mimicked the inertia of race cars. It really promotes gaining the 'racing line' just like in real car races. Click on the link and check it out for yourself.

So at lunchtime today I played a solitaire game of Racetrack. I made up a track (see below) and used three different coloured pens (blue, red and black) to represent the three race cars. I tried to win with each car but used slightly different tactics with each one. I tried not to think too far ahead and tried to play fairly quickly. It was quite fun and I crashed a few times.

Although I suspect there may be a runaway leader problem to this game (as there can be in real life races), I think the mechanics model the movement of race cars very well. I've been looking for a suitable set of rules to use for racing my Star Wars podracers. I think I'll play around with the Racetrack rules a little.

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