I like cards. I like racing games. Add those two together, and I should like the concept a lot, right? Sadly, I have some voodoo for you to avoid, gentle reader. Let’s talk about Shuffle Grand Prix, a new family game from Games by Bicycle.
Shuffle Grand Prix is a 2019 game designed by Rob Newton board game with art from Ruewn Liu published by Games by Bicycle, a new game publishing arm of The United States Playing Card Company. It is geared for two to four players and plays in about 30 long minutes.
Board Game Gumbo was provided a courtesy copy of the game from Bicycle for this review.
Shuffle Grand Prix comes in a nice sized box that contains two trays packed to the gills with card decks. Most of the decks are player decks; they represent your particular racer and include one card showing the actual racer with the special power that can be employed by that character.
The rest of the cards consist of racing distance cards (basically victory points in distance fashion) and cards that help you keep track of your healthy tires or timers for some of the card effects.
One would expect that a company known for good playing cards would have a good production of cards, and of course, Bicycle delivers. The cards are great quality, easy to shuffle, and have colorful art. The art is not my favorite, but will appeal to many people, especially fans of the varied cats that are presented in some of the decks. Cats? Not for me.
The box also contains some sturdy cardboard trophies that are used like currency during your turns. Earn them for spinning people out (including yourself?!?) and spend them to swap drivers or playing an extra card during your turn.
Think in terms of any of the games that you see played by college age kids at conventions — Munchkin, Sparkle Kitty, Exploding Kittens. To me, that’s the vibe that Bicycle was going for in publishing this game.
Players will choose two characters, but you will only use one character at a time. You’ll switch most of the time when other players cause you to spin out, doing enough damage to your car to force you to bring in the pinch hitter character, and rotate back and forth during the game. Shuffle up the two characters’ decks together, and that forms your personal draw pile. Grab three cards (you always have three cards in your hand) and geaux!
The turns are quick, and on each turn, you will turn over one of the distance cards in the center of the table. (The game ends when these run out). They come in four types, from 25 to 100, and keep track of how far you are traveling. (Furthest racer at the end of the game wins).
Now do what comes naturally — play cards out of your hand, attack your opponents, upgrade your cars, and burn rubber! Time’s a-wasting, because Gentes is sitting in a box right next to this game and is calling for you to play.
BUT IS IT ANY FUN?
This was a mixed bag for the Gumbo and for my family. Sure, everyone likes light card games. No Thanks! and For Sale and Flux are some of my favorite game experiences. I’ve only played Munchkin once, many years ago, and have never played Sparkle Kitty or Exploding Kittens (my daughter loves that game!), so I really can’t compare those. But, the feeling I got while playing this game is that it was supposed to be a quick playing, take that, racing style game geared for younger kids in your family to play with the adults.
The problem? The card play and rules were not as intuitive as one would expect for a 30 minute, light, family style game. The beauty of the three games I mentioned above is that they are all super easy to teach, and throw out on the game table. It takes just the briefest of explanations and maybe one or two hands for people to figure out how to play, and more importantly, what strategies they would want to play. Currently, I don’t have any kids in that 8-12 age range, and so I cannot test my theory out. But, I bet that kids under 10 would find this too complex, and kids over 12 would find this a bit too boring to enjoy.
If I am going to play a game of this nature, I’d rather play Capitol Lux. Yes, it is way more complicated than Shuffle Grand Prix, but if I am going to go for something with some depth and chunk to it, why not go to a game that really sings to most gamers? Maybe I’m just not the target market for this game, but for me, it is a pass.
What I did like about the game, however, was the unique racer characters and the fun nature of the cards. I thought it was kind of cool to choose two different characters on the basis of how they could synergize with each other, and the concept of “tagging” out their abilities intrigued me. (As I said above, you can only use the special powers of the character that is actually racing, absent a card saying otherwise). There is a gentle humor in some of the cards that I enjoyed, too, but the whole system of timing, upgrading, and attacking, all seemed like a watered down version of any CCG but without the depth and gameplay of the best of that genre.
- The production value is, as expected, good for this type of game
- It doesn’t take long
- Might be appropriate if you have a super smart patrol of boy scouts who like “take that” games, and you need something for them to do on a weekend campout while it is pouring down raining
- It is probably a little overproduced for the game play
- It is too long (yes, that was intentional)
- Too complicated for family folks (to me, the intended target), but too boring for tweens, teens and college age kids (the other intended target in my mind)
Shuffle Grand Prix is probably one or two development cycles away from being a better game experience. Streamline the game play a bit, make it less reliant on backstabbing and more on strategic options for your own racers, and you might have me interested. I think there is a market for a racing card game that plays quickly. I guess the closest in concept, although not thematically a game about car racing, would be Greedy Kingdoms.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ @boardgamegumbo