Review of Wolfgang Kramer’s Downforce: The Game of High Stakes Speed
A stellar improvement to an already-excellent board game
Nothing brings the family together on a Sunday afternoon like a televised race. For the rest of the nights when the asphalt is cold, a great way to keep the family together is by having game nights. If you’re looking for a board game that the whole family can play—which also feeds your love of motorsports—Downforce is a solid option.
Restoration Games’s goal is to retool and relaunch classic board games to give families the chance to experience forgotten titles. The publisher selected the work of Wolfgang Kramer as one of its first titles to bring back to life, which has resulted in Downforce, a game of fast-paced motor racing and high-stakes wagering.
Review of Wolfgang Kramer’s Downforce: The Game of High Stakes Speed
Publisher: Restoration Games
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
Box Dimensions: 11.25 x 11.25 x 2.75 inches
# of Players: 2-6 people
Ages: 14 or older
Category: Car racing and betting
Play Time: 30-45 minutes
Interested in Games About Automotive History? You might also like Matthias Kramer’s Kraftwagen
How to Play
Downforce pits players against each other on one of two available race tracks on the double-sided board. The competition begins with each participant receiving a handful of movement cards that will be used to advance the cars along the track during the race.
Before the race begins, each of the six vehicles are put up for auction, with all players simultaneously revealing a card to win sponsorship of that vehicle and hopefully earn a payout at the end of the race based on that car’s final rank.
The race itself consists of participants revealing movement cards and advancing vehicles accordingly, jockeying for lead position and closing off competing vehicles from advancing. The challenge is knowing which cards to play when to give your car the biggest advantage and giving the least advantage to competing vehicles.
Throughout the race, players place bets on which vehicles will finish the race in first place. Depending on the results, participants can earn money for accurate predictions and final standings (minus their initial auction cost).
In the end, the player with the most money wins.
- 1 double-sided game board
- 6 racing car pawns
- 48 speed cards of varying amounts
- 6 player power cards
- 6 driver identification plaques
- 1 pad of score sheets
- Rule book
Restoration Games did an excellent job re-implementing Kramer’s work while also updating the component designs to be more stylish and modern.
The first thing that struck me about Downforce was the box. The vast majority of racing board games, for being all about speed and excitement, have such underwhelmingly bland and stagnant box covers. Not Downforce, though; its kinetic cover design is easily the most attractive racing-themed publication I’ve seen. It captures the intensity and fervor of racing. Inside, the components are just as colorful as the box cover.
All the components, from the cards to the plastic vehicles, are of respectable quality and are made to hold up over time. The pad of scoring papers came out warped and folded, but that doesn’t really matter once you tear sheets off to use. And if you’re concerned that you’ll run out of sheets, more can be downloaded and printed from the publisher’s website.
The movement cards have a lot of blank space on them, but their vibrant contrast to the muted background does make them easy to read. The inclusion of the colors in word form on the cards make the game accessible for those with colorblindness, and the rule book suggests customizing the plastic cars to differentiate them, too.
More Great Board Games: Relive the invention of the horseless carriage in LudiCreation’s Gear & Piston
Thoughts on Learning Experience
One of the aspects of Downforce—and Wolfgang Kramer’s auto racing games in general—is the ease of learning and teaching it. Downforce is intended to be widely appealing to draw groups of new players in, and its rules presentation supports that. The instructions book is not very long compared to most game manuals and balances thorough written explanations with visual examples. Every section has its own corresponding visual aid, and the abundance of clarification. Even if you’re not a “gamer,” you’ll be able to understand it if you read it.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable for a person to read the directions while setting up their very first play-through and be able to immediately teach a group of participants how to play. That makes Downforce the type of game you’re going to bring with you to family gatherings, office lunches, and dinner parties.
Thoughts on Playing the Game
I’ll admit that I’m a big fan of Wolfgang Kramer’s other auto racing games (I’ve reviewed Daytona 500 and Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix for The News Wheel). His games have a board appeal to them and a creativity in their mechanics that make each game feel fresh and exciting without being overly complicated. The group movement cards and initial auction keep players on their toes.
Sadly, Kramer’s games aren’t easy to find anymore, being out-of-print, and aren’t always affordable. Thus, I had high hopes for Downforce being able to fill that void and do justice to Kramer’s earlier work.
Amazingly, Downforce exceeded my already-high expectations.
In addition to the excellent component quality and artwork I already mentioned, its enhancements to the gameplay reduced the few aspects I didn’t like in the original games while enhancing their best aspects. Downforce eliminated the outdated, tedious paper money and improves the auction process to force players to bid high, thus upping the stakes. Plus, it offers more chances to bet on the race results. The addition of unique player powers give each person a unique edge over their opponents, further enhancing replayability. Downforce is equally fun if you’re playing it for the first time or the fifteenth.
Downforce a title that should be on every gearhead, gamer, and family’s shelf. Not only is it an easy game to teach that takes under an hour to play, it’s engaging, fast-paced, looks stunning. Restoration Games did an excellent job updating the graphics, components, and gameplay to create the definitive version of Wolfgang Kramer’s auto racing titles.
If you’re going to have one automotive racing game in your collection, make it Downforce.
Downforce can be purchased through Amazon, the publisher’s website, and other online retailers.
Product provided for review by manufacturer
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.