I’ve owned this Cheapass game for years, but had never played it. Lately, many in our group have developed an affinity for racing games, so I thought it would be good to finally give this game of chariot racing a try. Jim, Willerd, Lenny and Keith joined me as drivers.
Players each begin the game with a cache of money (we used a BUNCH of pennies) and two cards, which can be used during the course of the race to enhance the speed of your chariot or somehow hinder the progress of your opponents’ chariots. Each player is then required to ante 2 ducats (pennies) into a central pot for each lap of the race. Then, a number of cards equal to the number of laps in the race are dealt face-down to each player. These cards are auctioned one-at-a-time prior to the running of the race.
The auction is done poker-style, with players anteing-up progressively higher amounts in order to remain in contention for the right to secure the revealed card. Prior to an auction beginning, however, the player revealing the card has the right to purchase it for the “Quick Sale” price listed on the card. If he opts not to do so, the auction commences. All of the money goes into a central pot, which will be divided amongst the top three finishers in the ensuing race. The quandary is just how long to remain in the bidding process. Will the benefits derived from the card be greater than the money spent to acquire it? Or, worse, will you remain in contention for several rounds of bidding, only to drop out before winning the card?
Once all cards are auctioned, the race is about to begin. Chariots are represented by dice, with the face-up number representing their base speed. On a turn, a player rolls a different die and adds this number to his space speed to determine how far his chariot may move. The number rolled on the movement die now becomes the base speed of his chariot, and his ‘chariot’ die is altered accordingly. Cards may be played by any player to alter the speed of a chariot, which introduces some clever and often nasty elements into the game system.
Some of the cards remain in play and affect a player’s chariot for the remainder of the race. Often, these cards require the player to play a maintenance cost in order to maintain the card, with the money paid being added to the pot.
The race ends once three chariots cross the finish line after the completion of the required number of laps. At that point, the player finishing first receives 3/6 of the pot, the player finishing second receives 2/6 of the pot, while the player finishing third is awarded 1/3 of the pot.
If subsequent races are to be run, then players maintain any cards they have remaining in their hands or in play. Each player then receives ½ card for each lap in the subsequent race and the auction process then begins again. This cycle is repeated until all races in the series chosen are completed. The wealthiest player after all of the races are completed is victorious and named “Caesar’s Champion”.
The game is fairly light and certainly heavily dependent upon luck. Being able to judge the worth of the cards being auctioned and choosing which auctions to participate in seem to be the major skills involved in the game. This is a cute game, but not one that will likely see repeated playings. I’m still searching for the chariot racing game that hits the spot between the chart and rules heavy Circus Maximus from Avalon Hill and the too- simplistic and luck-based Ben Hurt.
We elected to run a four-race series, but ultimately called it after three races due to the late hour. The game wasn’t taking too long – we just began it late.
Willerd, who has a PhD in History and therefore is frequently called “Doc”, immediately took a hostile approach, bashing and hindering everyone at every opportunity. Due to his brutality, we quickly named him “Doc Savage”! His aggressive tactics weren’t enough to earn him a victory in any of the three races, but he did manage to place 3rd in the first race and 2nd in the third race.
After being shut-out in the first race, I raced to a 2nd place finish in the second race, but slipped to 3rd in the final race. Keith, who also failed to place in the first race, finished strong with 3rd and 1st place finishes in the final two races.
In the end, however, Doc’s brutality and miserly bidding practices paid off, as he nipped Keith for the victory.
Race 1: Lenny (24), Jim (16), Doc (8)
Race 2: Jim (22) Greg (14), Keith (7)
Race 3: Keith, Willerd, Greg
Finals: Willerd 118, Keith 117, Greg 91, Jim 86, Lenny 84
Ratings: Keith 7, Willerd 6.5, Jim 6.5, Lenny 6, Greg 5.5