Monday, December 18, 2006

Computer Formula De

Formula De was one of my early eurogame purchases, and I own almost all of the tracks (which makes it second only in total monetary investment to ASL, which I have yet to play). The game definitely has it's problems, perhaps one of the greatest being downtime. Still, I love the game, and if it wasn't so difficult to keep track of how many times each car has spent in a multi-turn corner, I'd probably pull it out for solitaire more often.

So, when I discovered that not only was there a freeware version of the game (I think it's freeware, see below) through a link on the 'Geek, but also that it was natively supported on Macs, I downloaded it almost immediately, along with every track I could find. I've played maybe 10 races now, and as you'd expect, have formed an opinion...

o Free is a great price.

o Support for Mac and Linux is awesome. Merci, mon amis!

o The game has all of it's advanced rules: weather, crap on the track, pit stops that can be slow or fast (which I don't think is an official rule, at least in my version), all sorts of things. Even qualifying laps!

o The feel is really great - no more counting spaces, no more waiting for others to count spaces. You put your pointer over the die you want to roll, and the game shows you exactly what spaces you can move to within that range and which ones are more perilous than others. A three lap race with ten cars takes about 20 minutes, compared with close to three hours for a board race. This makes the game much more playable.

Now for the knocks...

o The entire game is in French. Not really a knock, just a problem for a stupid American like me whose idea of a foreign language is Taco Bell. As such, I have no idea whether or not I should be paying them money for this.

o The extra tracks took several trys to download, and I finally gave up and did them individually other than via the "big package" load. So far as I can tell, every track that was released up to 32 is in the set, maybe a few more. I was never familiar with the track names, just the locations on the American covers, so I can't really tell easily. That's great, but every file I downloaded came with a dozen folders, only one of which had the actual track. Given that the download came over as "Formula De 17", it took a little while to find and extract them all, more than it took to run a couple of races. Hey, it's free.

o I am starting to get the idea that the AI compensates for any weaknesses by weighting the humans die rolls toward the low end, or maybe even cheating. If there is a number I do *not* want to roll, I consistently roll it, even if there is only a 1-in-12 chance or lower of hitting it. This is a game of playing the odds, and while I think I'm not bad at that sort of thing, I'm clearly hitting a bad streak with this game. I sure hope so, because this is a game where a cheating AI will get real old real fast.

o This is a bloody game. I've seen cars get knocked out of the game within a couple of turns of the start. Sometimes two or three cars out of ten. When I've done well, I've been the only car left on the road. For 3-lap races, I consistently finish in the last surviving car position, which is usually first through third. I can't imagine this is part of the normal design, this is not a game where getting knocked out in the first ten minutes of play for a three-lap race would attract players. While it has only happened to me once, it was because I failed to notice that the corner required two stops until after I'd rolled the dice.

Otherwise, I'm delighted to have found a way to play this game solitaire where I don't get burned out on counting spaces and using ten dice to remember which cars have stopped twice on a corner. And it's very fast.

The site also includes a play-by-internet section, but I can't figure out whether I need to pay money to do this or something else. You can easily hot-seat the game, although that would obviously make it somewhat slower.

Oh, I forgot the coolest part - after a race, you get a movie of the cars moving around the track. Slower gears move the cars more slowly, it really creates a very nice summary of the game.

I'm too damned lazy to remember how to insert a link, so you'll just have to copy and paste this one below to find the game...


Laurent said...

Why is the "Game is in French" a problem?
I think this is very nice indeed

Dug said...

Puisque je ne parle pas fran├žais.

Dug said...

I love online translators!

Anonymous said...

It's in French as the default setting but you can change it to English!