Flamme Rouge

The Greens had led from the start, pushing hard over the first hill, but the pack was still in contention and closing fast. The Blacks, who had been hanging at the back, made their move.

The Rouleur darted forward, his Sprinter drafting in behind. The finish was in sight; the green Sprinter took to the front, the Black one now hard on his tail. Its close, they cross the line… Black has it, Green second, and the rest of the pack trundle in – Flamme Rouge, will it keep you entertained right to the line?

Flamme Rouge Box Art

  • Designer: Asger Harding Granerud
  • Art: Jere Kasanen; Ossi Hiekkala
  • Publisher: Lautapelit.fi
  • Year Released: 2016
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playing Time: 30-45 Minutes
  • Ages: 8+
  • Recommended Retail Price: £35.99

Flamme Rouge is a good old race game, but with a difference, no dice! A great mechanism of using cards to control both movement and exhaustion, produces a game that is simple to play, but hidden below the surface, is a game of hidden depths.


What’s in the box?

  • Flamme Rouge Contents4 Player boards
  • 8 Cyclist models
  • 120 Energy cards
  • 60 Exhaustion cards
  • 21 Double-sided track tiles
  • 6 Stage cards
  • 4 Reference cards
  • Rules booklet

All of the included cards are of standard playing card size with a good quality linen finish. The artwork is simple but effective, and fits the 1930’s theme portrayed throughout.

Both the player boards and the track tiles are thick, punch out, high-density grey board, with photo style artwork on the boards lending a nice comic touch. The artwork of the tiles clearly indicates the lanes, ascents and descents, and a double white line to indicate the right hand lane.

The models of the cyclists are easily identified as to whether they are a Sprinteur or a Rouleur, both by by their pose, as the initial on their back. The models are a nice size and pleasing on the eye: including a level of detail expected for a board game, rather than a miniatures game.

The rules booklet consists of 4 glossy pages; simply laid out with plenty of examples, and some nice cut scenes from the box art.

The box is a nice size being 30cm square, with the artwork portraying a vintage cycle race. There is a great sense of fun reflected throughout the artwork, and none more so than the box art. There are some nice photos printed around the box base that add to the classic flavour of the game.

There is a cardboard insert, with the rider’s pictures adorning it, and it does the job of containing the components, though it is a little flimsy.


How does it play?

  • If your familiar with the game play, feel free to coast along to ‘What do I think?’

The object of the game is to be the first past the finish line, or in case of a tie, to be further past than the rest.

Each player chooses a colour and takes the respective models, a Sprinteur and a Rouleur, as well as a player board and energy cards. The energy cards indicate how far the rider can move, and range from 2 to 9 squares.

Flamme Rouge Player Board
Player Boards.

The energy cards are split in to two decks, one for the Sprinteur, and one for the Rouleur. They are shuffled and placed face down on their spaces of the player board.

A track is selected and built, with reference to the stage cards.

The player who most recently rode a bike places his models first. They can be placed in any free lanes behind the starting line. Moving in a clockwise order, the other players place both their models.

A turn is broken down into 3 phases:

  • Energy phase
  • Movement phase
  • End phase

During the energy phase each player simultaneously chooses one of their riders; draws the top four cards of the appropriate deck; selects one to use by placing it face down next to its deck, and places the other three face up at the bottom of the deck. They then repeat this for their other rider.

In the movement phase all players turn their cards face up at the same time. Then, starting with the rider in the lead (or in the right hand lane should there be a tie), players move their riders forward the number of squares indicated on its card. Finishing in an empty square sees the rider moved over to the right hand lane. If the rider cannot end its move in a square due to it being occupied, then it stops immediately behind (riders can pass through occupied squares, but not stop on them).

Ascents – These are indicated on the tiles by a red border around the squares. A rider carrying out any movement, either on or through, an ascent, can only move a maximum of 5 squares, irrespective of what card is played.

Descents – These are indicated on the tiles by a blue border around the squares. A rider starting its move on a descent always moves a minimum of 5 squares, irrespective of what card is played.

The end phase sees players removing the used cards from the game. Slipstreaming is then applied – starting from the rear of the riders, every pack (one or more grouped riders) with a single empty square between them and a rider in-front, moves forward to be directly behind that rider, thus forming a new pack. If this pack then has a single square between it and the next rider, they move forward, and so on.

Ascents – A rider on an ascent can neither give nor receive slipstreaming.

Descents – Slipstreaming is awarded as normal.

  • Note: A square is made up of one space containing two lanes – two riders can be side-by-side, one in each lane, in a single square.

Exhaustion cards are then awarded. Any rider that has an empty square directly in front of it, takes an exhaustion card matching the rider; this is placed face up on the bottom of its deck.

Decks are shuffled when there are no face down cards to be drawn.

The phases are then repeated, starting with the energy phase, until the riders have crossed the finish line.


So, what do I think?

First up lets have a look at the components – I love the artwork on the box, it drops you nicely into the setting, one that runs throughout the game, of a 1930’s classic bike race. It also contains that little touch of humour, especially the characters faces.

This theme is continued in the rules booklet, which is laid out to represent a newspaper. The rules are very well written and you’ll be up and running very quickly. There are plenty of examples to highlight the core concepts, such as slipstreaming, and it’s all well presented and easy to read.

All the player boards and tiles are of good quality, though I have noticed that some of my tiles are starting to de-laminate slightly. This can easily be rectified, but I would have expected more use before this happened.

The models are made up of two parts, the rider and the bike. One or two of mine keep coming apart; a dab of glue soon stopped this though. Having said that, I am more than happy with these models, especially for a board game. The level of detail is okay, and I think they’ll paint up quite nicely.

The cards are of good quality and shuffle well, and you will be shuffling a fair amount. I don’t think wear will be problem here.

The artwork on the face of the exhaustion cards is bit drab, grey riders on a red background, but it serves the purpose of standing out when mixed in with the decks.

Once set up the game looks great, and definitely instils the feeling of a classic bike race, just don your Lycra and helmet to complete the scene!

Now, let’s take a look at the game-play. Having read the rules, it’s easy to think that this is a simple race game, you just use cards instead of a dice. Oh, how wrong! This game is one of those that anyone can learn to play in 5 minutes, but has hidden depths that can keep you strategising for hours.

Firstly your two riders decks are made up slightly different – the Sprinteur has three 2’s, and 9’s, whereas the Rouleur has three 6’s and 7’s. Both have three 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s. The difference is subtle, but makes a world of difference, I’ll come to why shortly.

Flamme Rouge Cards
It’s all about the cards!

The next thing you need to think about is exhaustion. By having a rider leading a pack, they will acquire exhaustion cards, which are a 2. So, rather than thinning your cards down, to leave the ones you want for the closing stages, you are bolstering it with slow moving 2’s.

Then there’s slipstreaming. Ideally you want to end your move with an empty space between you and the rider in front. This way you can stretch your lower value cards into taking you further along the track. You can do this by trying to second-guess what your opponents are going to play, or you can use one of your riders as a lead out man. Remember those subtle differences in the decks? This is where they come into play.

I don’t want to go into strategies any further, part of the fun is working things out for yourself. But, when you start to factor the hills in, things can get quite tricky when working out the best tactics.

The way slipstreaming is carried out is a great mechanism, despite its simplicity, and really introduces some tension to the game. Its just like real life – there you are trying your hardest to breakaway, you look over your shoulder to see some hanger on in your slipstream. Try as you might you can’t shake him off, and he’s not helping out by taking to the front either. All the time you’re getting tired, the finish is in sight; out come the big cards he’s been holding back – what do you get? A hand full of 2’s!

The game often goes right down to the wire, with a few riders passing the finish on the same turn. But, sometimes it goes horribly wrong and one of your riders can be way behind, especially if you get blocked right at the top of a hill. But the game doesn’t drag its heals, so if you do find yourself out of the running, its not long until you can try again.

Overall, I really enjoy playing this game. It’s made me want to play race games again, and I even dug out Formula Dé for a game or two!

Its fresh, its fun, it has surprising depth, and it has bikes, what more can I ask for!


Can I play it… all on my own?

I’ve been playing this solo for a while now. Not using any ‘bot’s’ or different rules, just playing all four teams myself.

Why? Well, as I’ve pointed out, there’s a lot more to this game than originally meets the eye. So I’ve been trying different strategies, working out the best way to manage the cards. Can you break away early and maintain a lead? Can you try to avoid exhaustion with one rider until it no longer matters, and then zoom ahead with all the high cards?

There are many different ways you can try to manage your decks, and playing solo can help to figure out what works in different situations, especially over hills.

There are various solo rules available on BoardGameGeek, as well as rules for running grand tours, and they are definitely worth looking at if you wish to play solitaire.


Recommended?

Most definitely. The obvious appeal of this game is to families, or people who like fast paced light games, but there is a lot more to it than first appears. Once you get into how the card and exhaustion mechanism works, it opens up a greater depth, getting you to start thinking ahead, working out strategies and tactics. Therefore, there is a side of this game that will appeal to those who like analysing a game, as well as those who want a game of skill for competing against others.

It’s a great game to play with children, for the young ones take out the hills, as playing on a flat stage reduces the effects of good card management.

As I said, the rules are simple to learn and teach, and a game lasts around 40 minutes with 4-players, and next to no player down time. A 2-player game can get quite cagey, as you constantly try to be the one benefiting from the slipstream, and it brings in different strategies to a 4-player game. There is plenty of replay-ability with the different stages, and lots of scope to set up your own ‘tour’.

Flamme Rouge will bring out the competitive streak in anyone, so get peddling and give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.


Extras!

Official site – Lautapelit.fi

Recommended video review – The Cardboard Herald

Recommended Play through – Jongetsgames

Board Game Geek Page – HERE


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