Flamme Rouge is a cycling game for 2-4 players, and is not to be confused with Flan Rogue, a game where an egg and cheese-filled pastry crawls through a dungeon fighting other evil pastries such as croissants, Gregg’s sausage rolls, and the 70s favourite hors d'ouvre, vol-au-vents.
Flamme Rouge was released in 2016, so it is a slightly older game. The question now is how well does it hold up to the designer’s most recent racing game, Heat: Pedal to the Metal. So in this review, I’ll tell you what I think of Flamme Rouge in its own right, and also, compare it to Heat.
How To Play
It’s a lovely surprise to see such a short rulebook. There really aren’t that many rules in the game, and only one that’s a little bit tricky to get your head around, the rule for ascending hills.
You have two cyclists, your rouleur and your sprinteur, and you’re trying to get one of them over the finishing line before your opponents. On your turn, you choose either of your cyclists and take 4 cards from their draw pile. These cards are numbered and correspond to how many spaces you move along the track. You choose one card and play it face down, the other 3 cards go face up on the bottom of the deck. Then you repeat this process with your other cyclist.
Once everyone has chosen their two cards, they are revealed and the player leading the race goes first, moving their cyclist the number of spaces their card shows. After everyone has done this, the riders are split into packs and, starting from the back, each pack is looked at to see whether it can slipstream. If a pack has exactly one empty square in front of it, the whole pack moves forward one space, creating a new pack. If this pack also has one empty space, then it will also move one space. Therefore, one of your riders may get to move a couple of extra places from slipstreaming.
Finally, any rider who has an empty square in front of them gets a bit tired and takes an exhaustion card, essentially a card with a value of 2. The only other rules are for climbing hills which limit your speed to 5, and descending hills where the card you play will at least be worth 5. This a good way to get rid of exhaustion cards: play one as you go down a hill, and the 2 is automatically turned into a 5.
Is It Any Good
Flamme Rouge is a game all about timing, working out what your opponents are going to do, and dealing with a large dose of luck. Getting yourself into the right position before a hill is paramount. You want to spend as little time on an incline as possible, and you have to think a couple of turns before to try to hit it perfectly. You also want to get as many free moves from slipstreaming as possible. All of this means that, on your turn, you’ll be considering what your opponents are going to do and then choosing a card to help you either get in position for the hill or allow you to slipstream. The problem is that opponents might not get the cards they need to make the best move and your plan falls apart. The other problem is that you may not get the cards you need and again, your plan falls apart.
Adding to this is the fact that you want your sprinteur to at least get some slipstreaming action from your rouleur so generally you want your sprinteur to have a value one less than your rouleur. But yet again, you may not get the cards you need.
This luck isn’t too bad in a 4 player game as there are lots of opportunities for slipstreaming. But in a 2 player game, it can be crippling. Let’s say you play a 6 for your rouleur. You know you've still got three 5s in your sprinteur’s deck so you’ve got a good chance of getting one. But no, you get two 2s and two 3s. So now your sprinteur is hanging out at the back with no chance to slipstream and they get the double whammy of taking an exhaustion card. If you don’t get the right cards to get back into the pack quickly, you keep taking exhaustion cards, effectively finishing your game. The Pelaton expansion adds AI-controlled cyclists to make the 2-player experience better, but should you really have to pay for an expansion when the base game tells you it can be played at 2 players. It’s not terrible at 2 or 3 but it’s not great either, so go into this thinking it’s a 4-player game to get the best out of it.
Flamme Rouge is very thematic and definitely feels like a race. You want your rouleur to be out in front of your sprinteur to let them benefit from slipstreaming. Then you have to time your final sprint to crush your opponents.
How Does It Compare To Heat
I think Flamme Rouge and Heat both have a place in someone’s collection. Heat is a masterpiece. It plays well at all player counts and has a tonne of replayability. But it isn’t the simplest of games. It’s not that heavy, but I know which of these games I would teach to smaller children or to my in-laws. Flamme Rouge is a much simpler game and if you play without hills, it’s pretty much appropriate for anyone. Even with the addition of the hills, it's not that complicated.
Flamme Rouge is a great family game. The small rule set and the amount of luck make it fun for families, but as I said earlier, make sure you have 4 players for the best experience. Heat, meanwhile, is more of a gamers’ game. It is a logical step up from Flamme Rouge. The corners in Heat are similar to the hills in Flamme Rouge, and it also has rules for slipstreaming. But the addition of the cards you draft, weather and road conditions, plus the ability to play in a championship, mean that Heat has a fair few more rules to get your head around than Flamme Rouge. I’ve got both games in my collection and play them with different groups. In that way, I’ve got the best of both worlds.
Flamme Rouge has got nice components, the track pieces are a lovely thick cardboard, and the plastic cyclists are a welcome inclusion. The dashboards you have to keep your cards organised has some cracking art on it but it also has a downside. The place where you put your cards matches the cover art for the back of the cards exactly. So when I came to pick up my cards to shuffle them, I would invariably try to pick up the ‘extra’ card too. It would have been nice if the art had been different in some way to the cards to make it more obvious. But all-in-all, the components are good.
If you primarily play at 4 players, and you’re looking for a light racing game that’s easy to learn but still has some good tactics and strategy, then Flamme Rouge is a game to consider. If you mainly play at 2 then be prepared to buy the Pelaton expansion to make the game sing. So squeeze into your lycra shorts, strap on your helmet, and prepare to sprint to victory.
That concludes our thoughts on Flamme Rouge. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Flamme Rouge today click here! Or, to read our other review on this game you can click here.