Flamme Rouge is a hand management, racing game designed by Asger Harding Granerud and publish by Lautapelit.fi.
In Flamme Rouge, 2-4 players control a team of bicycle racers competing to be the first rider across the line as they wind through the streets and country roads of France.
Players draft, select and simultaneously play cards depicting a distance the riders will travel each turn. Hand management and deduction are key to this game as each card can only be played once. Spending too long out in the lead or being left behind will tire your rider out, so selecting when to play each card is vital to a successful race. Tuck your rider into the Peloton and time the breakaway for the finish line. Get it wrong and get left in the dust.
Preparing for the Big Race.
Before you can slip on that Lycra and hit the road, Flamme Rouge needs a bit of set-up time. I always get the other players involved in this bit to save time. Luckily teaching the game is very quick to I can forgive the time to set it all up.
1. Each player chooses a colour and takes a pair of bike and rider miniatures, the player board, and the set of energy cards in that colour.
2. Separate your Sprinter “S” and Rouleur “R” energy cards, shuffle, and place them face down on the spaces on your player board.
3. Collectively choose a track card and build the track shown. Remember each piece is double-sided and is marked with either an upper case or lower case letter on each side.
4. Place all the Sprinter and Rouleur “exhaustion” cards in their two separate piles in the middle of the table.
5. The person who most recently rode a bike goes first. Starting with the first player, everyone takes it in turns to put their riders on the squares behind the starting line. As yet, I've not known a first player to choose to start at the back, but hey, the option is there!
And They're Off
The Flamme Rouge gameplay is split into three phases. There is the energy phase, the movement phase and the inventively named "end phase". Once you get rolling (pun not intended) you will start to pick up speed (okay, that one was intended). After this, the game pace can really crank up a gear (sorry, I'll stop, I promise).
Simultaneously, players choose a rider from their team and draw four cards from the corresponding energy deck. Select one of the cards and place it face-down next to the energy deck. The number on the card indicated how many spaces the rider will attempt to move. Place the remaining three cards face up under the energy deck. Repeat this process with the second rider in your team.
NOTE: It is important to place your used cards face-up, not face down, at the bottom of your deck. This is to hide the card you have still to use form your opponents. It is a little unintuitive at first. It's worth reminding each other until you get into the habit. When you reach your face-up cards, flip them over, shuffle them and continue to draw the cards you need.
All played energy cards are turned face-up. Riders take their turn in place order. So, the rider in the lead goes first and the rider at the back goes last.
Riders can jump over other riders and also change lanes. Where possible, your rider should finish their turn in the right-hand lane, marked by a double white line. For the purpose of movement and winning, the right-hand lane is deemed to be in the lead.
If all lanes are full you must end your turn in the last available position.
TOP TIP: You will notice that the two riders in your team have different movement cards. The sprinter has lots of long and short distance cards, the rouleur as lots of medium distance cards. Use this to your advantage when you can.
There are some sections where different rules apply to movement.
Mountain Ascents - If you start on, enter, or move through and ascent square (marked in red) movement is capped at five.
Mountain Descents – If you start on a descent square (marked in blue) then the rider will move a minimum of five, even if you play a lower number.
All played cards are permanently discarded. Next, it's time to apply slip-streaming.
Starting with the backmost pack of riders, check to see if there is a one square gap between that pack and the rider(s) ahead. A square is considered empty when there are no riders in any of its constituent lanes. If there is an empty square, slide all the riders forwards one square. Repeat this with all groups of riders as appropriate. This means a rider may slipstream multiple times during this phase.
NOTE: A rider on an ascent can never give nor receive slip-streaming.
Finally, it's time to assign exhaustion cards. A rider is exhausted if (after slip-streaming) there is one or more empty square in front of them. This means that the rider(s) on the front row of the lead pack, or any following pack that was too far behind to slipstream will receive an exhaustion card.
Take an exhaustion card matching the rider (sprinter or rouleur) and place it face up at the bottom of your deck. TIP: Over time your deck will fill up with these cards that only give two movement, try to avoid getting them. When you do get them, spend them on downhill sections where they will count as five movement anyway.
Flamme Rouge Game End
The game ends at the end of the round where at least one rider had crossed the finish line. The owner of the rider that is farthest over the line is the winner.
Enjoy playing Flamme Rouge, it's a great choice for casual gamers. I strongly recommend checking out the Peloton Expansion which adds cobblestones, one-lane and three-lane sections. It also adds a load of new courses. Also, pick up the digital companion app which allows you to create and record your own tracks. It also adds a campaign mode allowing players to compete in the Tour de France and carry their lead into the next race.