Road Rally USA Board Game Review: Balancing Speed with Strategy
As stories like Death Race 2000 have proven, not all motorsports races take place on a closed course at a stadium. A cross-country rally can deliver just as much excitement when traversing a diverse landscape full of unexpected obstacles.
Adapting the cross-country rally scenario into a board game, designer Carlo A. Rossi created Road Rally USA, a unique racing game published by Mayfair Games. It pits up to five racers against each other in a competition that’s not just about speed.
Review of Carlo A. Rossi’s Road Rally USA
Publisher: Mayfair Games, Inc.
Designer: Carlo A. Rossi
Box Dimensions: 7.5 x 10.75 x 2.5 inches
# of Players: 3-5 racers
Ages: 8 and older
Category: Card management track racing
Play Time: 40-50 minutes
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How to Play
The race track of Road Rally USA consists of various modular tiles that are assembled to form the circuit. Throughout the route are stages, checkpoints, and special spots that will be passed.
Players each receive a deck of cards that will determine their movement options throughout the game. Their car tokens begin at the starting line and will move through the course based on the cards they play. Green cards allow limited progression but allow the player to draw new cards, while red cards allow leaps in progress but don’t allow replacement cards to be drawn; yellow cards are in the middle. If a player runs out of cards, they lose a turn and refill their hand.
As players pass stage markers (numbered 1 to 21), they have the option of triggering a “scoring” of everyone’s current standing if they possess the corresponding numbered stage card. Thus, it’s important that players be in a top position when they arrive at their anticipated stages, so they can receive more points.
Once all cars pass the finish line, the points are tallied and the racer with the most wins.
Road Rally USA includes:
- 12 race track tiles
- 21 stage cards
- 5 draw decks of 21 movement cards each
- 5 player display mats
- 5 wooden car tokens
- 101 tiles for checkpoints, turn order, stages, and VPs
- Rules guide
There are a lot of tiny pieces in Road Rally USA, and while they’re all well-made (the pieces are thick cardboard and feature incredibly detailed artwork), they’re a lot to keep track of and easy to lose. I wouldn’t have been opposed to the track tiles and tokens being a bit bigger so they would be easier to see and less likely to get bumped and thrown into chaos. Still, it’s quite a nice-looking game for the price, though its visual aesthetic is all over the place.
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Thoughts on Learning Experience
For as many small parts and lengthy setup as Road Rally USA requires, it’s not that difficult of a game to learn or teach. The rules are specific without being tedious and include many useful examples, even some half-page hypothetical scenarios. There are visual illustrations a’plenty, plus guides to special spaces and unusual circumstances. Best of all, the game begins with an introductory version of the game that teaches the basics, then introduces the “standard” elements that brings gameplay to its full potential. It’s great that there are so many available ways to modify your experience playing Road Rally USA to suit your participants and preferences.
Thoughts on Playing the Game
I’ve played many, many car racing board games, and there are enough unique things about Road Rally USA to impress me.
Its modular racetrack is a welcome departure from the boring oval tracks of most racing games and allows for more customizable racing experiences than other permanent track layouts do.
- Colored movement cards force players to actively decide if it was more important to move ahead or replenish their hand.
- The stage scoring system injected strategy into the game, encouraging players to plan ahead and take the lead only when it mattered most.
Our experience playing varied from excitement to boredom depending on what was going on in the race. By the last leg of the race, nothing unexpected happened, as no one had any stage cards left to score, so we all hurried the game along to conclude it and count up everyone’s points. This is likely a situation you’ll encounter playing Road Rally USA: reaching a point in the race when the finish line hasn’t been crossed yet but, since finishing order doesn’t determine victory, players are ready to conclude the game to tally points.
Road Rally USA has a lot of thought behind it, aiming to offer something different than other motorsports board games on the market do. While it’s a mixed bag of highlights and drawbacks, it’s a creative and unique title that’s a fun way to spend an hour.
Road Rally USA is out of print but can be found on Amazon, Ebay, and other online retailers.
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.