|Cost: $50 From: Gold Sieber Players: 2-8 Playing Time: 15-45 minutes Type of game: Family Complexity: 2 Skill level: 9 Reviewed by: Peter Sarrett, Issue 4.3, Spring/Summer 1997|
Also available: Carabande action set|
Add a chicane, narrows, jump, and extra curves. A must!
Who needs rules?
Jean de Poul is a game inventor known for showing up at the annual Essen game fair in Germany with a gorgeous game including beautiful wooden components... and poor gameplay. If only his products played well enough to justify their lavish production and price. Then last year he adapted the classic game of Carrom to the racetrack and hit it big with Carabande.
This puppy throws the heft-meter off the scale. The oversized box contains fourteen large wooden track segments (eight straight, six curved). Each end is cut like a jigsaw piece, making it possible to connect the track segments in virtually any configuration. Plastic rails fit (with a bit of effort) into grooves on one edge of each piece. Eight wooden discs (two each in four colors) represent the race cars.
By now you've probably already figured out how the game is played. It's a race to complete a certain number of laps. Each player goes in turn, propelling his car by filliping— flicking it with his forefinger. With practice and skillful use of rails, a disc can be propelled quite a distance. Opposing discs might get in the way, causing ricochets and elastic collisions (ooh, my physics teacher would be so proud! Or are they inelastic collisions?). It's all fair game unless someone's car falls off the track, in which case all cars get reset to their original positions (or as close as you can manage).
That's it. The whole deal. Simplicity itself. No complicated tactics, no obscure rules. And certainly no play depth. But as a beer and pretzels activity it satisfies brilliantly.
How many of us had something similar as a child? Some people had those florescent orange Hot Wheels strips. For me it was a wooden train and jigsaw train tracks. There's something uniquely appealing about Carabande's oversize wooden track segments. Setting up the track is a creative exercise. Want a fast-playing track? Try a simple oval, where the discs can skim around the curves with a minimal loss of momentum. Want finesse to play a bigger role? Bend the track a few times and long flicks become more difficult.
Carabande generally works very well, but there can be a hiccup in the form of the joins between pieces. The tracks aren't 100% uniform, which means that sometimes two joined pieces won't lie flush with each other. When discs run over the hump, particularly from the lower piece to the higher one, they can jump and fly off the track. Then again, that's one of the hazards of the road.
It's taken me a while to get the hang of filliping. Too often I'd flick the disc right off the track, wasting my turn. I've finally found the secret, though: don't snap your finger into the disc. Instead, set your nail against the disc and push it rather than strike it.
For a beer and pretzels diversion, Carabande is well on the expensive side but most people forget the price when they see the sleek wooden track. And now there's an expansion which adds a narrows, a chicane, two extra turns and a ramp(!), allowing for figure-eight tracks (compatible only with the newer edition of the game, which smooths out the track joins). If you don't like physical games Carabande will hold little interest for you. But if you don't mind the price, it will be one of the more unusual games in your collection.