Famous 500 Card Game Review: “The World’s Smallest Car Racing Game”
To simulate the excitement of an auto race on a miniature scale, you might assume that you need a lot of components–a big racing board, model cars, die, dozens of cards, and a big rule book. But, the pocket-sized Famous 500 card game proves that successful tabletop racing is more about the technique than the components. Using less than a dozen cards, players can go head-to-head in this strategic micro-game that’s all about playing your cards right.
Famous 500: The World’s Smallest Car Racing Game
Card Game Review
Publisher: Famous Games Co.
Designer(s): Rob Bartel
Box Dimensions: 2.6 x 3.7 x 0.25 inches
# of Players: 2
Ages: 13 or older
Category: Demolition/racing game with player elimination
Play Time: 20-30 minutes
How to Play
Summary: Using only a handful of cards, players complete three laps around a race track while carefully gaining more speed than their opponent without wrecking their vehicle.
The two players going head-to-head choose a race track. Each track is divided up into segments differentiated based on shape (straight vs. curvy). Both players begin at the starting line and allot values to their car in tire, engine, and fuel categories.
The winner of each segment is determined by speed, as each player lays one card from their hand showing a speed (40-200 mph). The higher speed gets two speed points, with the loser getting one point. Both players take the damage shown on their card (the faster you drive, the more damage you receive). Players swap these cards and add them to their hand. Both players move onto the next segment.
If enough damage is done to the tire, engine, or fuel to deplete it, that player loses. Each lap, players can redeem acquired speed points at pit stops to regain amounts in other categories. The winner is the player whose car lasts long enough to cross the finish line or has the most speed points (if both players survive).
For a full explanation of how to play Famous 500, check out the helpful video below:
Unboxing & Game Components Evaluation
Famous 500 includes:
- 9 speed cards
- 2 instructions cards
- Starting race track (Monaco) paper with game info on reverse side
In addition, it requires:
- 2 pennies
- 2 pens
- paper for both players
Famous 500 is small enough to fit in your palm or your pocket. It consists of less than a dozen cards, but despite its small size, the quality of the components is high. A lot of detail is put into the design of the slip-case and cards, even down to the visual textures and old-fashioned script. The cards are easy to remove from the case thanks to an ingenious thumb-hole to press the cards out the opposite end.
Additional racetracks are available on the publisher’s website for downloadable print-and-play. They’re based on famous locations like Monaco, Monza, Interlagos, and many more, each offering a different challenge level. Since the slip-case is too small to hold these other paper pieces, I folded and adhered them using a rubber band, which also did the trick for keeping the cards from falling out. The box edges wore down after repeated transportation but not enough to really damage it.
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Review of Learning Experience
You can pick up the basics of Famous 500 by reading the instruction cards, but what’s really helpful is the tutorial video the publisher made that’s available online (and embedded above). One viewing and both players will be ready to begin their first race.
Famous 500 sounds like a game that’s difficult to explain to new learners, but after a few turns, the flow of the game becomes routine (play cards, score cards, trade cards). It’s not a very layered game so there’s no learning curve or re-consulting the directions.
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Review of Playing Experience
I don’t consider myself a fan of microgames. In spite of their low price tags, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting very much for your money. But what intrigued me about Famous 500–a game that uses less that a dozen cards–is that it’s made for two players.
Of all the racing games I own, none of them are made to be head-to-head challenges for just two people. Typically, the more racers (and cars), the better. So my wife and I–who love playing games together–don’t get the chance to face off on the tabletop race track. Famous 500 filled that void in our gaming library.
We played it four times in a row on different printable maps available on the publisher’s website. Only on the very last attempt did both of us cross the finish line and complete the game. It’s certainly not an easy game to master, and that’s rewarding.
Even though you are facing off against an opponent, most of the challenge actually comes from planning your own moves. It’s about initially picking the best stats for your car, then managing the damage you’re receiving to ensure you last long enough to reach the finish line. Although speed does play a part in determining the winner, rarely is it the main focus of the game (unless you’re both playing very, very conservatively).
Advanced players will try to keep track of which cards their opponent is holding and might play, but for players like myself, deciding which of the three cards in your own hand to play next is challenging in itself.
The only element that slowed down the gameplay was the initial “false start” scenario, when one player does not receive any cards under 100 mph and necessitates a re-shuffle. I understand the intent of making the game fair though, so it does help the actual game play progress smoothly, even if the setup might take a few tries.
Famous 500 is a simple but tense card game that isn’t easy to master but is rewarding when you do. It cuts out the extraneous elements of most racing games–things like board movement, jockeying for position, determining distance via dice rolls–and focuses on the struggle between speed vs. safety. For that reason, it’s one of the few games that actually feels like a race.
Famous 500 is available for purchase through the publisher’s website.
Product provided for review by publisher.
- Aaron WidmarSenior Editor
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing... See more articles by Aaron.