Review: Downforce

Review: Downforce

In 1980 German board game designer Wolfgang Kramer published Niki Laudas Formel 1 and it was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres that year. This game had players winning cars in an auction then racing them around the board using a hand of cards. The game was later published as Daytona 500 and then again as Top Race in the 90’s from two different publishers.

Downforce from Restoration Games takes Wolfgang Kramer’s original game and brings a level of polish to a new audience. They’ve taken the best parts of the different iterations of this game to create a fantastic game that our family has fallen in love with.

The game comes with a double-sided board, each track having a slightly different feel. Each game of Downforce starts off with an auction for 6 different cars that will race one lap around the track. Players bid on cars by using their hand of cards that will be used to move cars around the track once the racing begins. The amount you spend on your car will be taken from your winnings at the end of the game. The auction continues till all 6 cars are purchased and then the race begins.

One thing that makes Downforce unique is that players are not solely in control of their own cars. The cards each player has dictates what cars they can move and how many spaces they can go. While it would be great to see your color car pass the finish line first, that’s not the only way to win money or win the game.

Downforce player hand

On your turn you play a card from your hand. The card may have the yellow car moving 6 spaces, red moving 4, and black moving 2. You have to move each of these cars the number of spaces on the card. Players have lots of options because they can purposefully block other cars on the track, force a car to take the long route on the outside of a turn or move their colored card to the inside of a turn. The game can get really tense after a player moves the cars and ruins your plans.

Place Your Bets

One of the ways players earn money is by betting on cars throughout the race. There are 3 yellow lines on the board that tell players when it’s time to place their bets. When a car crosses the yellow line, players stop what they are doing and mark their bet on their player sheet. You win money if the car you bet on takes 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. The betting mechanism in Downforce is so much fun and is the great equalizer at the end of the race. Just because a car is out front in the first third of the race means very little until they cross the finish line.

Downforce puts players in the tough spot of betting on cars without knowing the whole story. While you might have 3 cards that help the orange car around the track, your opponent may be holding cards that will have the green car fly past the rest of the pack. This game mechanic works so well and challenges players to pay close attention to everything that happens on the board.

Downforce player sheet

Each player will also have a different ability that was tied to their car during the auction at the beginning of the game. This ability could be getting extra movement for their colored car, ignoring the movement of one color on the card or changing the order in which the cars move on their turn. These abilities are really great and allow players to have a slight edge over the other players.

When the race is over, players total any winning bets, collect their winnings for what place their car finished and deduct what they paid for their car. The player with the most money wins the game.

In a League of Its Own

We’ve had a lot of people ask us “How does Downforce compare to Formula D?”. The truth is, these two games are so different from one another and shouldn’t be compared. Downforce uses its racing theme well but is nothing like Formula D. The betting mechanic and hand management system in Downforce feels more like Camel Up but is executed far better in my opinion.

Downforce cars

This game has been easy to teach new gamers and casual gamers without overwhelming them with rules. Downforce plays in around 30 minutes which has been great for our family of 5. We’ve even reset the board and played a second time immediately after finishing a game.

One thing I’ve noticed about Downforce is how a players strategy changes the more they play the game. After your first game, you start to realize how you can affect the how the cars cross the finish line. Every player has opportunities to change the outcome of the race each time they play a card.

Restoration Games has done a great job of inviting players into this fast-paced racing game with beautiful artwork on the game box, player cards and the double-sided board. The chunky plastic cars are bright and I’m sure they’ll hold up well as this game will get a lot of play on our table.

I can’t recommend Downforce enough if you’re looking for a fun game that is easy to invite a wide range of players to. Our kids have loved the game and friends and co-workers regularly ask us when we can play again. Downforce is a surprise hit from a company that has done an incredible job of making old games new again.

You can purchase a copy of Downforce at your local game shop, Barnes & Noble or online at Amazon.

Restoration Games provided us with a review copy of Downforce. This in no way influenced our opinion on the game.

Highs

  • Fantastic production value and fun gameplay
  • Very little downtime keeps everyone engaged
  • Double sided board means double the fun
  • Variable player abilities are a great addition

Lows

  • Some players will take a couple games to understand the depth of Downforce