Designer: Wolfgang Riedesser
Publisher: ASS Altenburger Spielkarten
I don’t have many racing-type board games because I am not a huge fan of it. If I wanted to simulate racing, I much rather play a video game. I previously owned Snow Tails, Daytona 500, Winner’s Circle and Rallyman. Only Winner’s Circle is left in my collection while the rest are gone. I might be tempted to pick up a restored version of Kramer’s Daytona 500 – Downforce, but really, I don’t have much of a drive to play racing games. Now, I also kept a copy of Ave Caesar for a while and thought it was a decent and light enough racing game for the casual crowd. However, ever since I snagged a copy of Ausgebremst, this has been my preferred racing game. It is very similar to Ave Caesar. In recent weeks. I have had the urge to play a tourney style competition that spans multiple races over different circuits. With my kid now old enough to handle different games, and my game group seems willing to try, we are now committed to have an 8-leg championship series to see who can win the ultimate trophy.
Ausgebremst, which means Slowed Down in German (sounds counterintuitive for a racing game?) is a relatively old game that is long out of print and only appeared in the German market, hence the obscure title. My guess is that Ave Caesar is the more popular version and reached a broader audience. Turns out, Ave Caesar came out earlier than Ausgebremst and the latter just never caught. Unlike chariot racing in Ave Caesar, this one is just plain old motor sports racing. I cannot tell if this is meant to be Formula 1 racing as the art work is cartoonish and whimsical. The theme doesn’t invoke any seriousness and on the contrary, it looks more like a kid’s game. However, don’t be fooled by the appearance because the game made just enough tweaks to the advanced version that the game is actually slightly more strategic – and in my opinion, better than Ave Caesar.
Like Ave Caesar, players must race around the track a couple of times and cross the finish line to win the race. If memory serves me correctly, in Ave Caesar players play cards, move around the track, pass through and stop at the Hail Caesar section at least once and then try to finish the race. You can do all of that in the basic version of Ausgebremst. Instead of the Hail Caesar section, you must pit stop the car which is equally thematic. The basic game itself is quite simple and really not much to talk about and not too different from Ave Caesar. In each race, it is known what is the minimal number of moves one must make to cross the finish line. This number represents the optimal movement where players move their cars in the inside of the track and use the least amount of movement points to win the race. Now, one can easily spend more movement points by driving on the outside of the track to overtake other cars. This maneuver comes at a cost: each player only has a fixed number of points in the deck of cards (movement values 1-6) and if you use up all your points, you might not finish the race. For example, track 1 has a movement score of 76 while your total deck has 84 points. That means, you have an excess of 8 points to spare in order to finish the race. A harder track for example, could have up a movement score of 81 points. That means you have less margin of error. This, I think is what makes the game tick. You can move your car whichever way you like, but must be judicious in how you move on the outside of the track to overtake your opponent. Do that too often and you won’t have enough points to cross the finish line. It is always hilarious to see a car pull up front, close in on the finish line, only to run out of fuel.
The advance rules for Ausgebremst is what I like best. Now, more is not always good, but here, I would contend a little bit of tweaking goes a long way. Prior to the game, players get to decide if they want to assemble a slow, medium or fast deck. The total number of movement points in each deck is the same, but the distribution of card differs with the slower deck having more cards distributed in the middle and lower movement point range. After deciding which deck to pick, players then shuffle, flip the deck over and draw cards one at a time to assign to 4 different gear decks from which cards will be drawn to replenish your hand of 2 cards. This ensures that one will have a good chance of drawing the exact cards one needs at the right time. For example, when closing in on an opponent’s car, one might need that extra “6” card to zoom past the lead car and you know which deck you previously assigned most of your “6” cards. This extra bit of pre-race prep work doesn’t increase the amount of time during game play, but it allows players to estimate which cards they need to slow down or overtake their opponents. The gear deck coupled with championship racing over 8 different circuits makes Ausgebremst a slightly better version than Ave Caesar in my book. I don’t always want complexity, but in this case, I will make an exception.
Initial impression: Good
7 years 6 months: Yea, not too bad. I think the only racing game we have played prior is Monza. That one is pretty easy, but does fill a niche. I think it is time to move on from HABA. Ausgebremst is a good upgrade for the up and coming gamer. The truth is, the game is simple enough for her to grasp, no problem. But it will take a few races before she gets used to the idea of a championship race and also how to best utilize the gear deck. She is thus far still not taking into account using the inside track to maximize movement and tend to go on the outer lanes when there is a chance. That’s fine and she hasn’t run out of gas in the easier track. I suspect this will be more of an issue later in the championship season when the tracks get harder. That said, she seems interested but not entirely excited at Ausgebremst. I would like to try and finish the entire race with a couple of friends. Overall, we have 5 players in the championship race. I think Ave Caesar might be a better choice for kids, but if your child can grasp the nuances of racing on the inside of the track and pit stop strategies, then Ausgebremst is the bettter choice in my book.