I've long been a fan of many of Alderac Entertainment Group's games, such as Tomb, The Adventurers, and Infinite City. This is not a bias, this is simply recognition of excellence in a very crowded market. I am delighted to announce that AEG has come through again with Rush N' Crush, and that it is an outstanding combt racing game.
This game was revealed at GenCon in August of 2009, and I was one of the lucky ones to snatch it up right then and there. My group of GenCon companions all played a copy that night and were instantly hooked on the simple mechanics, the ease of play, and the sheer Deathrace action. The art is the standard AEG fare, meaning excellent, the bits are of great quality, and the game itself is well balanced, fun, and quick to learn. In short, it has never been so much fun to drive at reckless speeds and saw through friends' tires, sending them careening off into a wall to their fiery death.
The game's components consist of ten double-sided track segments that fit together to create a multitude of track configurations and lengths and six cars in three colors, which allows for team play. There's also enough dice, markers, and tokens in the box to equip a full outfit of six players. The final, and most interesting components in the box are the six "dashboards" that depict the futuristic cars and their pilot. The weapons configuration is on the remvovable pilot section and the vehicle stats are on the dashboard itself, so you truly get to build your car with everything that you want bolted onto it. This mechanic is very well balanced, and because there's six dashboards and six pilots available, all with unique attributes, there's a tremendous number of options for you to select. All in all, you definately get your money's worth for this game, and the replayability inherent in the design will ensure that this masterpiece hits your gaming table whenever you get the itch to bust out the car-mounted flamethrower and burst your friends and family into white-hot flames.
The concept of the game itself has been around for dozens of years; Drive fast, shoot, ram, or otherwise trample your opponents, and be the first to make it to the finish. Rush N' Crush has polished this quite well by using simple, understandable rules. You start the game with a full complement of structure, heat, braking, turbo, and handling points and as the game progresses you'll slowly diminish these reserves through being attacked, entering turns at too high a speed, or a number of other things. The good news is that the ammunition supply is neverending, so you can deluge your opponents with as much fire as you want without reservation. The weapons available to the pilots is enough to make B.A. Baracus crack a grim smile: flamethrowers, machineguns, side-mounted circular saws, mines, and rams. Each has its own method of execution, and I do mean execution, and thus most cars have a 360 degree range of pure unadultered carnage.
One of the most interesting new mechanics here, I believe, is that you can be destroyed not only by simply being beaten down to a flaming hulk of scrap metal by enemies, you can overheat, which will result in your vehicle's subsequent and rapid detonation. Although Rush N' Crush does have a huge combat component, it is a phenomenal racing game at it's core, and the overheating aspect forces you to make tough choices. You can "put the pedal to the metal", forcing you to potentially take heat damage and coast on later turns, or you can take it slow and steady and stay with the pack, leaving you vulnerable to weapons and ramming.
The inclusion of collision and innovative lane-change rules as well as ample walls and blockades on the track are another factor to deal with. Essentially, the faster you are travelling, the less potential lane changes you have available to you on that turn. Thus, if you're cruising along at a high velocity and need to make a few lane changes to avoid obstacles, chances are that you may not make it and will impale yourself on a barrier. You do have a set amount of "free lane changes" in your reserve at the beginning of the game, but there is no "pit stop" and thus when you're out, you either need to get incredibly lucky around curves or just slow down. To add insult to injury, if you are destroyed, the remains of your vehicle and driver remain on the track as obstacles for opponents to avoid.
Last, but not least, the co-op team component is outstanding, adding a whole new layer of awesome sauce to the game's recipe. Pairing up with friends allows you to choose which car is the "Rusher" which is focused on speed, and which is the "Crusher" that acts as a tank to damage opponents' ability to keep up with your partner. A menu of in-game strategies evolve as the game unfolds, allowing you to do things like pin an opponent behind you so your ally can blast him to pieces with their forward-mounted cannons, or you can pin them in between your racers and run them into a track obstacle, causing rapid deceleration and an ensuing explosion while you high-five your buddy across the table. The team aspect is well balanced, and I have yet to find the "kingmaking" configuration that can win every game, solo or otherwise.
I have owned this game for almost a year now, and I still play it! That alone should be high praise as I have a huge collection of games, two gaming groups that I play with every week, and a wife who loves to game it up as well, and they STILL want me to bring this game to the table. For some reason, charring my friends and family never seems to get old!
Things I liked:
*Fast paced gameplay makes this a real treat for larger groups
*Tremendously fun team play truly adds to the experience
*Outstanding art gives a grimy, gritty feel to this bloodsport
*Great mechanics and the inclusion of a Beginner and Expert rulebook make the game surprisingly approachable
*At the MSRP price point you get a sensational value for the dollar
*Replayability value is off the charts
Things I detested:
*The vehicles are very small and hard to get a grasp on
*A pit stop track segment would've been nice to have
If you like racing games and you like blowing stuff up, this is the game for you. Great for 3-6 players, and fast playing so nobody sits around waiting for their turn.