Ghenos Games line-up for Spiel 2011, and while I've yet to lay my hands on the games themselves, what I've seen so far is enough to make me sizzle in the waiting. Let's look first at Leader 1: Hell of the North, which will include rules in Italian, French, English, German, Dutch and Spanish and be co-published with Blackrock Editions and The Game Master.
Originally an expansion, Hell of the North is now a new standalone version of Leader 1, the fascinating bicicyle-racing simulation game. Players are free to recreate cycling races, to choose how their own cyclists advance, to manage their energy, and to define the peloton and the breaking away tactics.
Hell of the North includes settings that let you recreate the northern Europe one-day races, the tough cobblestone classics. However, the characteristics of the epic mountains, the fearful downhill and the stage races are still kept: sprints, breakaways, falls, cracks, punctures, made and broken alliances, final sprints. All of the components are compatible with the earlier version of the game.
So what's new and different in Hell of the North?
-----• Three types of asphalt: normal asphalt, treacherous and cobbled paving.
-----• The team's support riders are represented by a token, and the team has a number of 6 pursuits to use during the race.
-----• The peloton card, which represents the riders in the peloton and the leading team. For the riders: they can be placed in the back or front of the card. Only riders in the front can break away. The placement of the support riders token determines the pursuit choice and the breakaway team's choice.
-----• A new game turn is introduced: the movement of the riders in the peloton (front to back or vice-versa).
-----• The consequences of some events have been reduced.
-----• On cobblestone, a player risks a puncture and fall when crossing treacherous asphalt during the "paying" portion of his movement.
-----• Six weather tokens are randomly placed face down near the track, and as a player nears a token, it's revealed to indicate the weather in this section of the race – hot, rain, favourable or contrary wind – which will lead to positive or negative consequences for the cyclists.
Now on to an overview of the game itself...
Preparing the Race
Players choose and place the route hexagons one after another in order to form a race. There are four types of routes (Flatland, Hills, Mountains and Downhill) and three types of asphalt (normal asphalt, treacheourus and cobbled paving).
Players then place a "start line" token at the beginning of the race and a "finish line" token at the end, along with one or two "bonus time" tokens when playing a stage race. They then place one "sprint zone start" token before the finish line and before every "bonus time" token, one "mountain climb category" token at the beginning of each mountain, and one or more "feed zone" tokens. Players then shuffle the 36 "feed zone" tiles and place them on the table face down in three piles (green, yellow, red).
Each team is composed of three cyclists (rouleur, leader, and climber) and one token (the team's support riders), which always stays on the peloton card; the order of these tokens determines both the pursuit order declaration and the team's pursuit order.
All cyclists begin the race with the same amount of energy and all the teams (support riders' token) begin the race with the same number of available pursuits. During the race, the cyclists consume their energy according to the number of squares they move more than the given free ones (the number of which depends on the characteristics of the route). A further quality is given to the cyclists: sprinter, descender or fighter. If a team decides to pursue the peloton, their support riders use up their pursuits.
This is one of Hell of the North's novelties. Aside from the peloton tile which moves along the track, the peloton is also represented by a card. All cyclists in the peloton are placed on this card (as well as the support riders' token which always remains on the card). The card has a front and a back. Depending on the players' strategy, cyclists can stay in the front (where they can break away) or go in the back (where they pay less after the peloton's movement).
The race is played in game turns:
-----1. Movement of the cyclists that broke away according to the classification order.
-----2. Breaking away.
-----3. Movement of the riders inside the peloton.
-----4. Notification of the peloton's pursuit and peloton's movement.
-----5. Movement of the cyclists dropped by the peloton (if any) according to the classification order.
On top of the movements, situations occur that give the game a more realistic flavor:
-----1. Slipstreaming – when a cyclist ends its movement exactly behind another, it will enjoy the benefit of one free movement.
-----2. Cracks – which can occur when, after a movement on mountains, a cyclist exceeds the mountain category token's value – and falls – which might happen when a cyclist passes or ends its movement on treacherous asphalt during the "paying" portion of his movement.
-----3. Puncture – which occurs when the peloton die is rolled and it falls on the red face.
-----4. Cobblestone – when a cyclist passes on treacherous asphalt during the "paying" portion of his movement, he risks a fall or a puncture, which is resolved with a die roll.
-----5. Weather – when preparing the race, players decide the number of weather tokens they want to play with and place them face down along the race. A weather token is turned face up as soon as the first (cyclist or peloton) enters the second-to-last hexagon before the one with the token. The weather condition shown on the token determines positive or negative consequences for the cyclist.
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