New Game from Cubiko
A fan of Wooden Games, Nick Case delivers his verdict on Yellow Jersey designed by Gavin Birnbaum.
All Opinions are those of Nick
2 - 4 players. Age 8 up. 45 minutes.
I've always loved wooden games. There is something supremely tactile about timber that makes it infinitely superior to plastic. So when I stumbled upon a beautiful looking game called Foundation by Cubiko games I ended up in an e-mail exchange with the designer and creator Gavin Birnbaum. Long story short he tracked me down to the Essen Bruhaus on the Wednesday night having finished setting up his area in the Messe ready for the onslaught the following day. Over a wheat beer we talked a little about Foundation and then he very casually said, 'well I have some other games I'm playtesting, would you like a go?'
We didn't need asking twice and he broke out a square, hinged box with what looked like a race track carved into the lid. The opened box revealed an array of wooden pieces, cyclists, circular player boards, pegs and counters with numbers etched out. The only splash of paint was on the bikes, I was sold already. Gavin explained that this size of box with the board carved onto the lid was his modus operandi for all of his games. As the beer sloshed around the table and us, it became immediately apparent that these are perfect pub games, small, self contained in a robust wooden box and most importantly, beer proof.
Gavin explained the rules very quickly, because there are very few. We all control a team of 3 cyclists. Stage posts are randomly distributed around a circular-ish track that starts and ends back in Paris. Players select 3 of 6 numbered disks (1-6) to decide how far each cyclist will go in turn one, and here's the first attack of angst. You only move one cyclist at a time and the road is at most only 2 spaces wide, sometimes only 1. So do you strike out for the front or hold back? The problem being if other bikes block your way and you can't take your full move you will crash and lose movement the next time you allocate a disk to that cyclist.
However if you time it right and end your turn exactly behind a single team, you slip stream to the front. Similarly end up at the top of a hill and you will go faster next turn, bottom of a hill and you go slower. And just to rub it in some more you can't let your front two bikes get seperated too much (too many stage posts in between) or they will slow down in future turns.
What transpires is a see saw of positioning where a bike can look totally out of it, only to slip stream back into contention whilst an early leader gets boxed and overhauled by the pack. An enthralling tug of war and I wanted to press the necessary euros into Gavins hands there and then.
This is the perfect filler for me, 30 minutes play time, simple rules, nice wooden hand made bits (in Gavins workshop) and it looks stunning.