Mad Rush Rally Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 6 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Emotional Coping Skills
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Get ready to race as fast as you can and dodge squirrels!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

You’ve built your car and are ready to race! Pulling your vehicle up to the starting line, you size up the competition. Pfff! Amateurs! You don’t see any car packing a bomb thrower or a mounted extendable arm. This is going to be easy! Then you notice that the next car over has a caged squirrel in the front passenger seat. The squirrel turns, locks eyes with you, and frowns menacingly.  Hmm, you think, this might be an interesting race after all.

Mad Rush Rally, designed by Sean Dallas McDonald and published by TowerGuard Games, is comprised of 4 Car pawns (in 4 different colors), 70 Item tokens, 1 “Start” Track card (double-sided), 5 “Short-Cut” Track cards (double-sided), and 18 Track cards. That game components are either made of solid plastic or durable cardstock. The game is small and fits nicely in a tiny box that is easy to store and to take on trips. It’s also worth noting that this game was a finalist in the Game Crafter’s Map Builder Design Challenge.

Pre-Race Tune-Up

To set up the game, first determine who will be the first player using whatever means the group decides. We suggest Thunderdome. Give each player a Car pawn of their color choice at this time, too.

Second, find and place the “Start” Track card. Note that the “Start” Track card has 2 sides. One side has a one-way strip of racing track and the other has a two-way strip of racing track. Place the “Start” Track card in the middle of the playing area with the one-way racing track strip face-up for a standard game. See “Game Variants” below for additional details on the two-way racing track strip.

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The “Start” Track card: one-way on the left and two-way on the right

Third, separate the Track and the “Short-Cut” Track cards into two different piles. Shuffle both piles of track once completed and set the “Short-Cut” Track card pile to the side of the game playing area and within easy reach of all the players. Deal an even number of Track cards, face-down, to the players. Any remaining Track cards not dealt are removed for the duration of the game.

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Normal Track card on the left and a “Short-Cut” Track card on the right

Fourth, separate the Item tokens by number (1 through 4) into 4 different piles. The number used should be the one that is on the crate side that also says “Item”. Depending on the number of players, only Item tokens of a specific number will be used.

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Item tokens “1” and “2”

  • 2-player game uses Item token numbers “2” and “4”
  • 3-player game uses Item token numbers “1”, “2”, and “4”
  • 4-player game uses Item token numbers “1”, “2”, “3”, and “4”

Place the used Item token number piles off to one side of the game playing area and within easy reach of all the players. We suggest you use small cups to help keep things organized. Any unused Item token piles are removed for the duration of the game.

Fifth, players will not place their Car pawns behind the starting line located on the “Start” Track card in turn order sequence. Players can place their Car pawn in any available space, but only 1 Car pawn can occupy a Track space at a time.

That’s it for game set up. Racers, start your engines!

FLOOR IT!

Mad Rush Rally is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. On a player’s turn, they will have 3 Action points to spend. The player is welcome to take any action they like and must declare to the table what actions they will be taking and in what order before continuing their turn. The actions the player can spend their Action points on are summarized here.

Move Car

A player can spend 1 Action point to move their Car pawn 1 Track space. When moving, a Car pawn can only travel to an open Track space that it’s adjacent to. Diagonal and backwards movement is not allowed. When moving through a curve, a Car pawn can move to any adjacent space that shares a side with its currently occupied Track space. A Car pawn can never go through or end its movement on a Track space that another Car pawn occupies. Some Item tokens will also block a Car pawns movement. It’s perfectly possible to get boxed in by opponents, so players should keep their Car pawns moving as often as possible.

When a Car pawn’s movement would take them across a “Short-Cut” Track, the entire short-cut is considered one Track space, regardless of how many “Short-Cut” Track cards the short-cut is comprised of. In essence, the “Short-Cut” Track is like the dividing line between two Track spaces that the Car pawn passes through. Like movement on a Track card, a Car pawn cannot use the “Short-Cut” Track if another Car pawn is currently occupying the Track space where the short-cut returns to the Track card.

Take Item

For 2 Action points, a player can take 1 Item token. A player must take an Item token as their first action if they plan to do so on their turn. Depending on their Car pawns place in the race in relationship to where the finishing line might be, they will randomly take 1 Item token from a specific number pile. The further back the player’s Car pawn is, the higher the Item token number pile they will use. For example, in a 4-player race, a player in 3rd place will take an Item token from the Item token number “3” pile.

The more powerful and useful Item tokens are found in the higher numbered Item token piles. If you have ever played Nintendo’s Mario Kart, you know how this works. The “Blue Shell”, for example, is only given to those karts that are dead last. The same logic applies in Mad Rush Rally. The further back a player’s Car pawn is in the race, the better their odds of claiming an Item token that has a bigger impact on the race as a whole. How and when the player spends their Item token is up to them.

A player can only ever have 2 Item tokens at a time. When they collect an Item token, it’s placed in front of the player, face-down. If a player has 2 Item tokens and wants to draw a new one, they must select one of the two Item tokens they currently have and discard it to claim a new one. When discarding an Item token or resolving an Item token by removing it from a Track card, it’s placed back in the Item token pile number if was drawn from.

Fix Car

During a race, players should expect to be bombed, hit, and bowled over. Depending on the severity of whatever debris they run into or is thrown at them, the player’s Car pawn will be effected. A minor hit will force the player to place their Car pawn on its side. A major hit will force the player to place their Car pawn on its back. When a Car pawn is on its side or back, it cannot move on the track (obviously) and serves as a fantastic roadblock.

For 1 Action point, a player can take their Car pawn on its side and flip it back on its wheels to once again join the race. Note that a Car pawn that is on its side can be hit again. If it’s before the player has the opportunity to put the Car pawn back on its wheels, the Car pawn is placed on its back.

If the player’s Car pawn is on its back, the player loses their following turn. When the player once again can take their turn, the Car pawn is placed back on its wheels automatically. Note that a Car pawn on its back cannot be hit again.

Zero Cost Actions

There are a number of actions the player can take on their turn that do not cost them any Action points.

  • Place New Track  and “Short-Cut” Track Cards: There are two ways to do this. A player can either turn in an Item token or simply move off an existing Track card in play. If a player spends an Item token, the player selects a number of Track cards or “Short-Cut” Track cards equal to the number found on the Item token’s face (not the Item token number found on the crate side). For example, an Item token with a “3” on its face would allow the player to select and play 3 of their Track cards or 3 of the “Short-Cut” Track cards. If moving off a Track card, the player selects 1 of their Track cards and attaches it to the previous Track card, thus extending the race-track as a whole. When placing a Track card, only those found in the player’s pile can be used, all the lanes must line up, and a new Track cannot terminate the race-track or loop back to the “Start” Track card. If placing a “Short-Cut” Track card, the “Short-Cut” Track card must line up its dirt path with the sides of the Track cards, cannot cut off the main track, and it must be completed before the player’s turn is over. Any “Short-Cut” Track card found in the pile can be used and the player determines which of the two sides of the “Short-Cut” Track card will be face-up. Items have no effect when spent for tracks.
  • Use Item: There are two types of items. Item tokens with a blue background are played and resolved immediately. Item tokens that have a black background are placed on any open Track space and do not get resolved until they are activated by a player. To play an Item token, the player reveals it to the table, identifies the target or the space in which the Item token will be placed, and completes the action by either resolving the Item token or placing the Item token on the space identified. Items can be anything from bowling balls, ramps, oil slicks, a territorial squirrel, or the dreaded bomb. The game’s rule book describes the effects of each item in detail.
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Example of two different Item types

Once a player has completed their turn, they announce to the table they are done and the next player in turn order sequence takes their turn. This continues until the race comes to an end.

Passing the Finish Line

Players continue to take turns until one player moves off the end of the last Track card able to be played from their Track card pile, winning the race as a result. For example, moving off the last Track card currently in play and not being able to place a Track card legally given what the player has left in their pile or there are simply no Track cards left to play would result in a win. The player’s opponents have the right to review what Track cards the player has to ensure that the victory is legal.

Gamer Variants

If a shorter game is required, remove 1 Track card for every player before dealing them out during game set up. For a very short game, remove 2 Track cards per player. Expect a much more intense race as a result.

The game includes the “Fork in the Road” game variant, but requires at least 3 players before it can be used. During game set up, use the two-way side of the “Start” Track card. This divides the track into two branches (a left branch and a right branch) and players must choose which of the two track branches they will race on. Players can only play Track cards to the track branch their Car pawn is currently on, but the “Short-Cut” Track cards can be used to allow players to jump front one track branch to the other. Item tokens can still be placed on any open space found on the racetrack.

To learn more about Mad Rush Rally, visit the game’s website on the Game Crafter.

Prediction

Now here is an interesting race game. Normally, a racing game requires the players to do all they can to stay in front of the pack to win the game. The same applies for Mad Rush Rally, but the players are also required to manage the racetrack in front of them and their opponents. A player’s position in the race also determines the usefulness of the Item tokens collected, which very well could be used as a game changer. In this way, Mad Rush Rally is a race game not only about speed, but also about positioning and timing. Neat!

The rules are very easy to understand and the pace of the game will keep our Child Geeks engaged, but not pushed. I have no doubt they’ll enjoy Mad Rush Rally, especially when I tell them it’s like Mario Kart. I believe the Parent Geeks will enjoy the game, too, especially those who want to play a race game with their Child Geeks but have no idea who Mario is or how a video game controller works. The Gamer Geeks? Hmm… Let’s ponder for a moment. Mad Rush Rally is pretty straight forward, but I wouldn’t call it simple. There is a lot to think about, but never to a point where I think a Gamer Geek would consider Mad Rush Rally as anything other than a light game. That should not imply anything negative, but light games ironically have a heavy burden to bear. They must be fast, fun, and engaging and must be so right from the start or fail in the eyes of the gaming elitists.

My only real concern over the game is the player’s ability to target an opponent. When I watch my little geeks and other Child Geeks play race video games, the level of tension and frustration at times is borderline absurd. Especially when one of the Child Geeks get smacked by another player or hit by some weapon. They take it a bit too personally. Unlike a video game, however, Mad Rush Rally does not keep pushing a player forward. Every player has time to think. I hope the lack of constant forward moment is enough to help the younger Child Geeks keep a cool head, otherwise we are going to see some meltdowns. This is why I have listed Emotional Coping under the Geek Skills. Our younger players will be wrestling with the fact they can be targeted on purpose and with full intention of hindering their chances of success.

Teaching the game is very easy. The rules are not overly complicated and any player who has ever played a race game, seen a race, or played a video game where racing is involved will immediately understand the game’s concept and intent. After that, it’s just a matter of making sure players understand how to spend their Action points, how Track cards are placed, and how Items are used. All very straightforward, really. None of our players ever had any questions and were eager to get behind their Car pawn’s steering wheel. No reading is necessary to play, but number recognition is. Older players can read the Item’s description and use to younger players without upsetting the game’s balance or level of fun.

After teaching the game to my two oldest little geeks, I asked them their thoughts on Mad Rush Rally so far.

“Very cool! I love that it’s like Mario Kart!” ~ Liam (age 8)

“Oh, yeah! I’m going to totally win this race!” ~ Nyhus (age 6)

Pumped, gassed, and ready to go! Let’s start our engines and see if Mad Rush Rally makes it across our players’ finish lines and into the winner’s circle.

Final Word

The Child Geeks LOVED the game and also HATED it. They loved it when they were winning, loved it when they were able to bomb their buddies, and loved it when new pieces of track were revealed. They hated it when they were bombed, tipped, or in any way hindered by their opponents. Typical and exactly what I expected. Some of the Child Geeks melted down for a bit, feeling picked on and mistreated, but they got over it by the time their turn came up again. One Child Geek had to walk away from the table for a moment to collect themselves while everyone else waited for them to cool down. But in the end, the Child Geeks all voted to approve Mad Rush Rally for two reasons. First, winning the race was always in reach of all the players which made the Child Geeks feel like the game was made for them. Second, they loved playing a game that reminded them so much of a video game they all loved to play. “Wins” all around.

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The game was easy to learn and to play, allowing my 6-year-old to race against “The Big Dogs”

The Parent Geeks could take or leave the game at a peer level, but positively adored it when playing it with their family. According to one Parent Geek, “This is not a bad game, but not one I would want to play with other adults. But with my kids and my family, it’s fantastic!” It was interesting seeing the Parent Geeks get just as excited and frustrated as their Child Geeks, which I think also showed how well-balanced the game is. A player of greater skill and with more experience will be able to make smarter decisions in the short run, but who would win the race was always anyone’s guess. All the Parent Geeks voted to approve the game for its high level of fun, its ease of play, and for allowing them an opportunity to play a race game their Child Geeks enjoyed so much.

The Gamer Geeks initially didn’t enjoy Mad Rush Rally. From their perspective, the game wasn’t doing anything new and that made it less interesting. Gamers Geeks are funny that way. If you don’t entertain them, they tend to poop on you. When our first game started, none of the Gamer Geeks looked engaged and more or less just went through the motions. According to one Gamer Geek, “Oh, look, yet another race game.” It wasn’t until the race was about half-way through that I started to see some of the Gamer Geeks take a more engaged stance with the game. Towards the end of our first game, the Gamer Geeks were clearly split between those who enjoyed the game play and those who didn’t. After 3 games, the Gamer Geeks saw something very different in the game play they did not recognize at first. Unlike other race game, Mad Rush Rally requires the players to use their Track cards like a resource. They move the game forward, but also guide its final destination. Players found that keeping cards in reserve was important so as to ensure that a faster player didn’t win the game. The Item tokens became road blocks and the short-cuts became paths to victory. In the end, the Gamer Geeks pushed away from the table feeling very satisfied with Mad Rush Rally. According to the same Gamer Geek who initially pooh-poohed the game, “After playing the game a few time, I am enjoying it. It’s light, fast, and I can really mess with my opponents. I like that.” All the Gamer Geeks voted to approve the game and thought it made for an excellent game filler or a good way to start an evening of heavier games.

I like Mad Rush Rally for two reasons. First, it’s an easy game to set up and play with my little geeks when we have the free time to play a race game. Second, I enjoy the challenge of trying to create a race track that is one part obstacle course and one part speedway. The game play is pretty straight forward, but the players will need to consider different tactics and develop strategies in hopes of remaining competitive and winning the race. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Mad Rush Rally is a deep game, but it certainly is fun. It also does a great job of capturing the video game console feel of go-kart and other crazy racing games where players can bumped and throw things at each other. Which, of course, really appealed to the Child Geeks and the child in me.

I would recommend Mad Rush Rally to any player who is looking for a light racing game that still requires players to think behind the wheel. You need to think through your moves to be an effective driver, but you always need to keep an eye open for opportunities to skunk opponents. Keeping a close eye on Track piles is also necessary. The end of the race can very quickly come and having the ability to extended the track (and the race) for your own benefit is huge. Do look into Mad Rush Rally if you are in need of strategic, tactical, quick, fun, and easy to play race experience for your family gaming table.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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One Response to Mad Rush Rally Game Review

  1. Chris Leder says:

    Great review, Cyrus! It’s great to hear that the game was a hit with all crowds — I was particularly impressed that the Gamer Geeks enjoyed it! Having never seen a game embody the Mario Kart sensibilities so well, MRR has long been a game I’ve had my eye on! Cheers!

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