There are some great racing games out there but, too often, games that represent motor races sacrifice speed for slow calculation. GMT Games' Thunder Alley, for example, is an excellent game but it can be ponderously slow as players agonise over the best cards to play. The recently successful Heat: Pedal to the Metal (Days of Wonder) suffers less in this regard but it still sacrifices adrenaline in favour of analysis. It's almost enough to make us 'racist' - if that can be used as a term to describe prejudice against racing games :-) But then what do we spy turning into the home straight but Chivalry is Dead from Naughty Jester Games...
The title is unhelpfully more suggestive of a medieval romp but Chivalry is Dead is a racing game - albeit with chariots rather than cars, and with a fantasy theme to boot. The 2-5 players each take a fantasy race (elf, dwarf, goblin, kobold - or human) and either two or three chariots, depending on player count. You're racing around a Grand Prix-style track, tho' it's one that's been seeded with a fair few obstacles. And like most motor racing games, you'll need to modify your speed in order to traverse the curves in the track.
Building on the fantasy theme, Cory and Gavin Nelson's design for Chivalry is Dead goes for interactive fun rather than careful calculation. Of course, there's still a bit of maths involved in working out when to accelerate and when to brake, but in Chivalry is Dead you're mostly dishing out 'take that' damage on other chariots and trying to avoid suffering similar damage from others. Races in this game are won as much by eliminating the opposition as by thundering ahead of the pack. Perhaps in that regard, the game is following in the tradition of Ben Hur (remember the spikes sticking out from Stephen Boyd's wheels, designed to smash the wheels of Charlton Heston's chariot?).
You can ram other chariots and you can focus attacks on other drivers, animals or chariot wheels. Combat involves d8 die rolls applied to attack and defence modifiers, and there's a degree of hazard because if you roll a 1 then the defender gets to counterattack... And don't forget the fantasy setting. You won't just be dishing out and fending off collisions, you'll also be using your fantasy race's special abilities to throw down traps to sabotage the progress of your opponents' chariots.
The end result is merry mayhem - especially with three or more players so that there are ideally at least nine chariots competing on the circuit. But tho' the game can be chaotic, it's not devoid of strategy. Players only need to get one of their chariots round two complete circuits to cross the finish line, so it can be an obvious strategy to use one or more of your chariots in combat to take out the opposition rather than genuinely competing for the race. Turn order tho' is at the mercy of a random draw, so that strategy can come a cropper if turn order doesn't work in your favour.
If we've made Chivalry is Dead sound like a game of chance, then we're not doing it justice. Of course there's some randomness as you might expect in any game where dice are rolled and chits are drawn from a bag, but each chariot has a number of 'control cards' that can be used as modifiers, and they're refreshed at the end of each lap. Canny use of the control cards can do much to increase player agency and reduce the impact of mere chance...
Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of Chivalry is Dead ahead of the game's launch on Kickstarter on 29 August. We'll endeavour to add a link to the campaign when it goes live.