Had a four-player day this last Sunday. Mark and Jason came over, and with Dave and I we tried out GMT’s Charioteer. Circus Maximus has put in regular appearances at our game days, so I was interested to see what a different game had to say.

And it is different. Charioteer is a very abstracted, fairly Euroish take on the genre. Circus Maximus is more of a traditional look, with the ability of each horse in the team of four tracked, and you can attack the horses, or opposing drivers, and you pick what categories of things to be good at, which seems to be lifted from Speed Circuit. Charioteer abstracts many elements, with ‘damage’ being more of a handling modifier, skills advancing during the course of a single race, and matching of card symbols to determine speed. Even positioning is abstracted as when you catch up to another racer, you are automatically on the outside, and then you pay one movement per racer to go inside of them before finally being allowed to go to the next space on the track.

Overall, it’s a very streamlined design that does get to the heart of the matter very efficiently. On the other hand, its obvious all the game design decisions were made purely from a game-logic perspective. I like it a lot, but it scratches a very different itch for me than Circus Maxiumus does, and I couldn’t tell you at this point which I like more. Charioteer does need a reorg of the rulebook though, as it is very easy to miss sections when searching for them. A few crossreferences would be good, and while the number of illustrations is good, the layout tends to give it a cluttered look, making it easier to miss things.

At any rate, I burned two of the beginning bonus chits to build an early lead. I figured at the least everyone else would have to pay an extra move to get by me. That lasted about half a lap as we all sorted out and started doing better with the moves. We also forgot damage from the first attack move or two. One of the neat game-side ideas is you move by the combination of number of symbols you matched, and the number in that symbol, with sprint moves being the highest numbers, and cornering moves being the lowest, but getting you through the corners twice as fast. Even with a eight card hand, and a “shared” card, it’s harder to get the type of move you want than you’d think.

Jason ended up in the rear, and seemed to struggle through the first lap, but after that, he slowly worked his way forward. In fact, we were nicely bunched back up in a pack again as the first lap finished. Dave was the first one to get past me, and stayed there for a lap or so. Damage piled up a bunch during the mid-game, and attempts to git rid of it were of course time-consuming. Jason was slowed down quite a bit, but managed a full recovery thanks to a recover move with a recovery card. This helped him get into the lead for a nicely long win. I managed to get back into second during the final lap, with Mark and Dave ending up neck-and-neck. I’d had a fairly good sprint move coming that might have helped if there’d been one more turn. As it was, I was stuck with three red whips at the end, because I just hadn’t been able to burn through them (not enough attacks, and too many other red tokens).

Jason is the winning Yellow team, I was dark blue, Dave was grey, and Mark was pink.

One surprising bit is that the game needed more turns than any of us really expected from the structure.

After that we played a round of Braggart, which has become a favored short game of the group. I managed a couple of good boasts, and snuck in a couple of large single cards as part of hand-clearing two-card boasts when I knew I couldn’t win. However, I mostly struggled for a 43-point third place. Mark started with a good first-round boast, and got more later for second at 53, while Jason had a number of very strong boasts for 56 points and the win, with Dave having a couple of moderate winning boasts to end at 31.

Last, we tried Ramen Fury, which Dave had gotten as a present a while back. I personally find it okay, but everyone else was taken with it, so presumably we’ll see it again. Its a card game where you try to assemble and finish three sets of cards. The game ends when someone finishes (eats) all three, and you only score what is finished. Of course, the more complicated sets score better, and you get a limited amount of ability to mess with other people by putting in unwanted cards or spooning out a choice ingredient. It eventually occurred to me that finishing first can be all you need since you’ll be the only one to score on all three. (Mark actually realized this a bit ahead of me, and nudged my thought process down the path it was already heading towards.) So I won with 8, 10, and 9 point bowls, while Dave only had one eaten for 10, Mark had eaten a 10 and an 8, and Jason had one 14 point bowl eaten.