Friday, 9 September 2011

Giro d'Italia

Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

Giro d'Italia is a card game about competitive cycling. Each player controls one or more cyclists. The game is played over a fixed number of rounds. Whoever's cyclist is furthest in front by game end wins.

The game is a little abstracted, but many aspects of a cycling race are represented. A peloton card represents the main group of cyclists who cycle close to each other to save energy. You need to spend extra energy to break away from the peloton, but once you're on your own, you'll be spending more energy. If you don't cycle fast enough, e.g. when lacking energy, the peloton may catch up and you'll be absorbed back into it, wasting your previous effort.

Every cyclist starts with the same amount of energy, so conserving energy and using it at the right times are important. The race course has uphill, downhill and flat sections. Some cyclists do better when going uphill, some when on flat land, and some are generalists who do moderately well on both terrain. Slopes are dangerous and if you cycle faster than a certain limit, you may fall, or get exhausted, or even get a puncture.

The row of pink backed cards in the centre are an abstract representation of the race track, it's main purpose being to mark the relative positions of the cyclists and the petolon, who race around this rectangle. There are now two cyclists that have broken off from the petolon. The four horizontally placed cards are also a representation of the race track, focusing on terrain. The race track starts with flat land (green), followed by a downhill slope (black) and another flat stretch, and finally ending with an uphill slope (red). The numbers on these cards represent distance, and also determine the number of rounds to be played, which is 10 here (3+3+2+2).

The Play

I have only played one game, and I'm not entirely sure I got all the rules right. I definitely made a mistake with the event cards, making accidents less likely than they should be.

In our 3-player game, Han, Allen and I each controlled two cyclists. We broke away from the peloton quite frequently and early, just because we wanted to see what would happen. It turned out to be not such a good idea, as cycling fans (obviously I'm not one) would already know. Our cyclists fell or were eventually caught up by the peloton. In the end it was one of my cyclists, a climber who had never broken away from the peloton and thus had conserved most energy, who broke away in the last round to win the race.

The Thoughts

My first game was definitely more an experiment than a game, trying to learn how the game system works. I find that the game is mostly open information, the uncertainty being only the speed of the peloton every round (but there are only 3 possible outcomes), and whether an accident happens when you speed uphill or downhill (but you know the odds are about half). So you actually have much control. You decide how much risk you want to take. Being a mostly open-information game, the game becames one of trying to outmanoeuvre your opponents, taking into account all the factors that affect your cyclists, e.g. which player is controlling the peloton, the current and upcoming terrain, how tired your opponents are, and the positions of every cyclist.

Slipstreaming is interesting. If your cyclist is exactly behind another, he gets an extra move next round. However being one step behind means it is more likely for the peloton to catch you. Tricky decision. This game has educated me on competitive cycling.

The rules are a little disorganised and I should look up to clarify some points before I play again, to make sure I don't miss anything.

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