Review: Championship Formula Racing Replicates F1 Driver Challenges
Driving a race car involves much more skill than just the random roll of a dice, yet that’s what most motorsports-themed board games reduce the sport to.
Unsatisfied with that chance-based gameplay, game designer Douglas Schulz and Jolly Roger Games aimed to create a Formula One-inspired simulation that replicated the tactical planning real driving takes. Their creation, Championship Formula Racing, is a must-play game for car racing fans.
Championship Formula Racing:
A skill-based motorsports game simulating F1 racing
Publisher: Jolly Roger Games, Ultra Pro
Designer: Douglas Schulz
Illustrator: Ginger Ludden
Release: 2018 (second edition)
Box Dimensions: 11.5″ x 11.5″ x 2.75″
# of Players: 1-12 people
Ages: 13 and older
Category: Movement programming race
Play Time: 45 minutes per lap
How to Play Championship Formula Racing
After determining which track you’ll use, how many laps you’ll run, and what color cars everyone wants, each player receives two decks of cards. One of them is a stack of attributes that they immediately select from to customize the specific capabilities of their race car, such as top speed, fastest acceleration rate, and braking speed.
Once everyone customizes their cars, they bid for starting position, secretly selecting and simultaneously revealing how many wear and skill tokens they’re willing to sacrifice to begin closer to the starting line. Cars are placed on the track based on bidding results, and the race begins.
Each round, all drivers simultaneously choose and reveal their new speed, which correlates to how many spaces they can move (e.g., 120 mph is six spaces). That speed will remain their current speed until modified the next round, and it can only increase or decrease from the previously selected speed within that particular vehicle’s acceleration and deceleration attributes.
If a car takes a curve too quickly, they have to sacrifice wear tokens and roll to spin out. In some cases, if the car is moving too fast or has depleted all its wear tokens, it can crash and leave the race.
Through a combination of following the best paths at curves, pushing through occupied spaces, and pushing their car past its limits at the opportune times, the car that ends up furthest past the finish line at the conclusion of the last lap wins.
Championship Formula Racing includes:
- 12 plastic race cars
- 2 double-sided board (totaling 4 different tracks)
- 2 six-sided dice
- 244 cardboard tokens denoting wear, skill roll modifiers, and attributes
- 8 speed card decks
- 8 driver card decks
- 5 strategy mats
- 4 historical driver cards
- Various markers denoting pit stops, player colors, and tire type
This might not be a big box for the price, but man is Championship Formula Racing heavy! Those two boards, 300 cards, and 250 tokens really add up to fill the box. It’s nearly overflowing with components, and all of them are sturdily, cleanly made. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room for all the tokens in the box. It seems like it wasn’t calculated to fit them all past their initial packaging.
The biggest compliment I can give CFR’s design is how streamlined it is. Unlike many other motorports games, it’s neither chaotic nor bland.
The art and graphic designs are simple yet effective. The colors are modern and bold and the layout of the visuals are uncluttered and easy to identify. The important elements are clearly differentiated in the foreground from the subtle visual textures and flairs in the background.
This edition is the second printing of CFR, following its initial version that debuted the previous year in 2017. This reprinting improves on certain shortcomings of the original version and greatly expands on the replayability, adding more players, ore tracks, and even a solo mode incorporating real-life drivers as “A.I.” competitors. If you’re going to buy CFR, definitely make sure you get the newer version.
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Thoughts on Learning Experience
Championship Formula Racing may seem complicated when you first crack open the instructions booklet, but you’ll soon realize that a lot of the text pertains to optional rules that you don’t have to learn your first time through. The organization of the book tries to simplify the gist of it, but sometimes it refers to concepts that are defined later on, so it could take a couple full reads to comprehend. Skimming the included quick-start guide is a great way to understand the overall flow of the game before delving into each specific rule.
One issue we had was that the instructions don’t clearly point out when and how to use the dual function cards in a standard game. We had to familiarize ourselves with the solo/circuit campaign rules to understand what card functions to use and which to ignore.
Thoughts on Playing Championship Formula Racing
Championship Formula Racing feels like it was made by a real motorsports fan who wanted to capture the technical qualities and driving skills of real races. The racing theme really pervades the core mechanics. For instance, I love that the game allows you to risk pushing your car past its limits instead of being indisputably constrained by movement rules. Clearly, it’s heavily modeled after real track conditions and vehicle capabilities.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to draw comparisons between Championship Formula Racing and another motorports racing game: Formula D. The latter uses dice instead of cards that you manipulate to determine how fast or slow you’ll travel on your turn.
What sets CFR apart from Formula D is that instead of choosing what gear you’re in and hoping to roll a good number, you’re specifically choosing how many spaces you’re going to move on your turn based on your speed. There aren’t any surprises with CFR: It’s about planning, not risk.
That might not appeal to every person, since it takes a lot of thought. It has its pros and cons depending on your preference. Complete control over your car keeps the game moving quicker because you already know what you’re going to do next, but if you’re losing, there’s not much you can do to catch up without destroying your car.
So, you have to be willing to play CFR often to hone your strategy, both in how you build your car’s traits for the track and how you race on the track itself. This isn’t a game that you can introduce to people and expect them to get a full, satisfying experience on their first go. If you choose the wrong combination of specs when assembling your car, it could ruin your chances of winning from the onset.
That’s why CFR leans heavily on replayability and customization. It needs to be part of your regular rotation to fully appreciate.
If you’re tired of the random elements and chance-based gameplay of other motorsports racing games, Championship Formula Racing is a well-crafted alternative that prioritizes planning and forethought. It promises to deliver an increasingly satisfying experience the more you play it and hone your strategy.
You can purchase Championship Formula Racing on Amazon.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). 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.