Rallyman: DIRT by Jean-Christophe Bouvier is a competitive rally racing game for 1-6 players. Games typically last 60-120 minutes.
This, with its companion game Rallyman: GT, is the second major edition of the Rallyman game system, first published in a limited printing in 2009. This version was produced by Holy Grail Games, which went bankrupt during the Kickstarter fulfilment process, but copies are gradually becoming available.
How To Play
Choose or design a race, choose cars, and lay out the first track. These rally races happen in stages with a staggered start: on the first round, only player A will take a turn. On the second turn, A and then B (the car furthest forward always moves first). On the third, A moves, then B and then C. It’s rare for cars to get close enough for overtaking to be a factor: you’re competing for the shortest clock time, and your time accrued each turn is based on the speed you’re doing at the end of it.
On your turn, you’ll have a number of dice to lay out, indicating your planned move. In each space you can speed up or slow down by a gear, or carry on at the same speed with a “coast” die. You choose how you’ll tackle hazards, including tight bends, streams that flow across the course, bumps in the road, and muddy short-cuts. Then you have a choice: you can go flat out and roll your dice all at once, gaining extra second tokens that you can spend for safer driving later; or roll one die at a time, maybe spending some of those seconds to use some dice without rolling them at all, and stopping when you think you’re accumulating too many hazards. Take a card matching your final gear.
Each die has one or two hazard symbols on it, and if you get three in a turn, you’ve lost control. Take a card from the deck for the speed you were doing and flip it over, and this will show how bad the results are, from a minor skid and restart to major damage to your car (which usually means losing some dice for future turns) – though you can almost always continue the race.
Once you cross the line, add up your cards to work out your stage time (and take off any seconds you didn’t spend). If there’s another stage, you may be able to get your car fixed, or have to carry on in the state it’s in; you’ll set off in order of total time so far, with the fastest player first. At the end of all the stages, add up your stage times to determine the rally winner.
Rallyman: DIRT, and its older cousin the original Rallyman, are well-suited for solo play, with ongoing monthly challenges on BoardGameGeek. Multiplayer games still have some room for interaction, though, with the possibility of blocking as well as slowing your opponents by spraying mud onto the track in the corners. Often the first player will also have to use more hazardous “leader” dice in place of their “coast” dice, modelling the debris they’re helpfully sweeping off the track for the following cars.
In RallyMan: Dirt there are 32 track tiles, including a start and a finish line and one that’s added on to show when repairs are available, all double-sided with more complex and hazardous terrain on the “B” side – so there’s no shortage of possible track layouts, even once you’ve mastered the six three-stage rallies laid out in the rules. The slight downside to this is that setting up a track takes a few minutes, compared with simply unfolding a board.
The car miniatures are distinguished mostly by their colour and the custom dice (each with 1-2 hazard faces) will need to be passed around between players, unless you buy extra dice packs – this certainly isn’t necessary, but does make the play experience smoother.
The game relies heavily on cards (as your vehicle dashboard showing which dice are available, and for keeping track of accumulated time) and on tokens. If you’re not happy with mental arithmetic (of the order of “30 + 50 + 20 is 100 seconds, less 13 second tokens is 87, so that’s one minute 27”), using a calculator to add up the seconds you took on each stage can be helpful.
Art in this edition is by Joëlle Drans and Loïc Muzy, the latter of whom was responsible for the look of Rallyman: GT. The track tiles and cards mostly just need to convey information clearly, and they do; but incidental illustrations in the rulebooks are effective in setting the mood that this is not a clean track-bound race.
Every turn is a puzzle. You’ll work out how to use your available dice to get through the hazards in front of you, ending at the highest possible speed but with an eye to the course ahead. Other players are more an extra class of hazard than they are head-to-head opposition.
Compared with some other racing games, this has a relatively thoughtful feel rather than being about quick decisions. You’ll plan your way along the track, commit yourself to the mercy of the dice to follow through, then start to think about your next turn while other players may be racing on different sections of the course.
Expansions bring more track tiles and other modes of racing, including different car classes, hill climbs with custom-designed cars, snow and ice races, and RX races, which can cross over with Rallyman: GT.