Designer: Rob Newton
Artist: Ruwen Liu
Publisher: Bicycle Games
Category: Card game, Racing
Player Count: 2-4
Shuffle Grand Prix puts players in the roles of drivers trying to make it the furthest down the race course in this deck-management take-that style game. With a cartoon art style and wild and goofy power-ups, it’s evocative of the old Wacky Races cartoons from the late 1960s. So is it up to the test, or does this racing game spin out on the first turn? Read on to find out, racers.
Players attack one another with traps and direct assaults with their vehicles and weapons attached to them. Everything is cartoony—no blood or gore shown at all.
In Shuffle Grand Prix, players will choose two drivers —one pilot, one co-pilot, and shuffle all of their ability cards together into one draw pile (if you’ve played or heard of Smash-Up this will feel familiar). Players then take turns drawing distance cards and playing abilities (one each per turn unless otherwise instructed) until the distance deck is exhausted. Then, whoever went the furthest is declared the winner of the Shuffle Grand Prix.
The artwork in Shuffle Grand Prix is cartoony and light, and adds to the feeling that the game is aimed slightly below the 13+ age suggestion. Kids will probably respond well to the art, whereas some adults might take one look and dismiss it as a “kid” game. I’ll admit I started in the latter camp but it grew on me after a couple games.
Each ability card comes with a funny or silly title and flavor text, and each driver has a different loadout of cards. Abilities can be Action, Equip, Trap, Nerf, or Anytime cards. Action cards are usually straightforward attacks; Equip cards are equipment that can boost or protect your car; Traps can be laid in waiting until conditionally triggered (and you’re not immune to your own); Nerf cards hamper or disable enemies, and Anytime cards can be played at any moment to stop or interrupt other player’s cards.
When you’re attacking other players in Shuffle Grand Prix, you’re trying to reduce their tire health to 0, causing them to spin out. Players have many Equip and Anytime cards to try to negate this from happening, but when someone succeeds, a few things happen. The player who caused the spin-out gets a trophy, which can be spent on his turn in one of two ways. One trophy will allow you to swap driver with co-pilot, and two trophies will allow you to play an extra ability card. The player who spun out has to basically reset his driver. He loses any Equips, Nerfs, and cards in his hand as well as his top distance card. He’ll swap driver and co-pilot, and is immune to damage until his next turn. Players who aren’t immune track their damage with the red tire health card, which smartly slides behind the driver’s card to show how much tire health a given driver has, from 4-1. At first, it was a little confusing to understand what happens to your tire health when a new driver takes over, but each time a driver spins out, he starts with four healthy tires. If you spend a trophy to swap drivers, the tire health stays the same.
The distance cards come in four flavors—25, 50, 75, and 100—and players are at the mercy of luck of the draw when it comes to which one you get. There are traps and driver abilities that can help or augment your distance earnings, but players looking for strategy won’t find much in the distance deck. Also, having to manage your distance or know who is ahead late in the game can be challenging—when someone has a dozen different-numbered distance cards in front of him, it’s hard to know if you’re ahead or they are. Basically, Shuffle Grand Prix could benefit from a score tracker board, both for the endgame and when you want to play cards that impact the race leader or only work if you’re in the lead.
Shuffle Grand Prix has many of the same trappings, both good and bad, when it comes to deck shuffling games—the omission of a scoreboard is something that plagues Smash-Up as well, not just this game. I do wish that the distance cards didn’t feel so luck-based, however. Even in games where I got abilities that let me draw multiple or double distance cards, I often got two low cards that didn’t seem to help much. In order to have broad appeal, I understand that a lot of games need that luck-based element. I just felt like Shuffle Grand Prix had more luck and not enough strategy for my tastes. However, for a family game, it’s probably right where you’d want it to be.
A review copy was provided by Bicycle Games.
The Bottom Line
A light racing game that will appeal to a younger crowd, but fans of Smash-Up or more strategy-focused games might find less traction here.