Counter Attack (Webstar Games) has become a firm favourite football-themed strategy game so the Board's Eye View team was excited to see a new soccer game coming down the tunnel from Webstar and designer Colin Webster. Tho' Race for the Title shares Counter Attack's football theme, it's a very different game: in fact, it's a very accessible easy-to-learn deck building card game.
In Race for the Title, the 2-4 players start off with identical decks of cards comprising six 'youth players' and four 'programme sales' cards. This constitutes your Bench. You draw five cards from your Bench as your starting line-up. Lay this out as a tableau. The player cards will have an offence and defence score (for your starting youth cards, these figures will be 0 or 1). The programme cards, and other similar cards that you will subsequently acquire, give you revenue to spend on a use-it-or-lose-it basis buying cards from those displayed in the market. On your turn, you decide whether or not to play a home match against one of the other teams. Play them and you compare the attack score in your line-up with the other team's defence, modified by what you each roll on your standard six-sided dice. The winner gets 3 points to advance on the League Table; both teams get 1 point in the case of a draw. You win the Race for the Title by being the first to reach 70 points. And there are Incident cards that affect the first player to hit the 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 point milestones on the League Table. The Incident cards are mostly negative, so can act as a catch-up mechanic, but around 1 in 3 give the player extra spending power.
After you play a match, you tot up your revenue (initially just from programme cards in your line-up), add one for playing the match (more if you've bought a stadium card) and another one if you challenged the team that was topping the League. This constitutes your income, win or lose, and you can spend this by buying one or more cards from the market - mostly better players and cards that generate increased revenue. If you choose not to play a match, you still get to buy cards but the only income you have is that displayed in your line-up: no additional spend for a home match or stadium.
That about sums up the rules, making this a game that's super-easy to pick up and play. You'll find as we did that football fans who had never previously even heard of deck building as a game mechanic were quickly playing Race for the Title with enthusiasm. Tho' initially counter-intuitive for non-gamers, they soon grasped the benefit of cards that allow you to thin your deck: as increasingly you acquire stronger players, you will want to move those youth players on rather than continuing to draw them in your line-up.
We especially liked the way in which Race for the Title ramped up in excitement as the teams build in strength. And there are key judgement calls to make over when to spend your revenue on buying players and when to invest instead in cards that give you increased income. When you draw cards that give you spending power you may be saddling yourself with a weak line-up - so one that's unlikely to advance you up the League Table in the short term - but you'll be giving yourself the ability to buy much stronger players, allowing for a late Title run coming from behind.
Race for the Title is great fun. You can play allotting asymmetric powers to each team - designed especially for three- and four-player games - and Race for the Title is playable too in solo mode: you just play against a team that comprises 16 youth players and 11 of the stronger players. The 'automata' team doesn't use the market and it's a very tough opponent because it will always have a line-up of five players (no revenue-generating cards), and it's a line-up that's highly likely to trounce you until you manage to build a team of much stronger players.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of Race for the Title ahead of its kick off on Kickstarter on 5 September. Click here to check it out. You can also find out more at www.raceforthetitle.com