Win the Tour de France from your own living room!
2 to 4 players
Note: We were gifted a review copy by Stronghold Games for an unbiased review
Time to dust off the cycling helmet, get some oil into the chain and dig through the wardrobe for those delightful lycra shorts because its cycling season and you wouldn’t want to look out of place amongst the elites! Fortunately for you, this is only the board game equivalent of the Tour de France and you don’t need to be in peak physical condition in order to win, but you will need all your brain power.
Flamme Rouge is the first “racing” game we’ve ever owned (I used to play Totopoly -which came out in 1938!!), so I didn’t really know what to expect from it, but our gaming group instantly loved it. The premise is simple – get to the end first and you win – but you’ll be tussling with your opponents all the way to the finish line.
It is set in France in the 1930s, and represents the final kilometer of a race (Flamme Rouge means Red Flag which is used to signify this milestone in a race), where you and your opponents must make the most of the limited energy left in your legs, utilising your Sprinteur and Rouleur to slipstream, coast down and slog up hills, and finally sprint to the finish in order to become champion.
How the game works
First pick from one of the six different stage cards and build the track. The track for your first game is flat (e.g. no hill sections), but you once you’ve played a couple of times you might want to try one of the more challenging stages. The artwork on the track fits really nicely with the 1930s theme. Once the track is set up you take it in turns placing your riders behind the start line (top tip – it’s not necessarily the best thing to be out in front!) ready for the beginning of the race.
Each player has two riders, the Sprinteur (better over short distances) and the Rouleur (good all rounder), and two accompanying decks of cards, from which you draw four cards each. You select one card from each to play that round and put the other three in a discard pile. Each card has a number on it, representing the number of spaces that rider will move that round. Starting with the front riders, players move their rider forward that number of spaces unless they are blocked, in which case they’re boxed in behind two riders.
After all the riders have moved, those that are exactly two behind the rider(s) in front get to take advantage of slipstreaming and move up one space, therefore it’s possible to move forward more spaces than you picked on your card! This is crucial to winning the game because you permanently discard every card you play, so slipstreaming helps you get little bonuses along the way which might help you save your higher value cards until you need them most!
Once slipstreaming is over, anyone with a gap in front of them (usually just the leading rider, but also if there’s a big gap at the back) takes an exhaustion card (2 movement points only) into their discard pile which will slow them down later in the game. Get too many exhaustion cards and your deck will be full of 2s when you need 9s!
You keep drawing four, playing one, discarding three each round until someone makes it over the finishing line, it’s as simple as that! The mountain stages add a bit of complexity as they limit how many spaces you can move and prevent slipstreaming, but that is essentially the whole game in a nutshell.
I’m a big fan of Flamme Rouge. I don’t think you have to be into the theme to really enjoy it, I have literally zero interest in cycling as a sport and even less in the Tour de France but I love playing this game. The tactical battle of trying to balance not playing your high cards too early and get bogged down with exhaustion, with getting left behind and leaving it too late to make a dart from the back of the field is intriguing and everyone seems to take on the challenge differently.
It looks great as well, the miniatures are adorable and the artwork in the rulebook and the course pieces as I’ve mentioned already fit very nicely with the theme and era that the game is set in.
It’s also a very neat introduction to the theme of deck-building, as some struggle initially with the concept of draw cards, play cards, discard cards, recycle cards and this makes it really simple (albeit with two decks). It helps having the little player mats where you can keep a track of your Sprinteur and Rouleur decks. The whole game is simple enough to tempt newbies to the hobby so makes a perfect gateway game.
Flamme Rouge is a very exciting game where the winner could be anyone right until the last card is revealed, and its very satisfying when you time your move perfectly to overtake the field and land the victory!
There’s plenty of replayability with the additional stages to keep you playing different courses and especially the addition of the mountains really which make you think twice about your strategy!
One downside is that this game really needs the full player count to work properly. 3 player is broadly fine but at 2 players it’s not really worth it. So I wouldn’t get this game if I was primarily playing with 2 players. You need the slipstreaming and the threat of congestion to make this game interesting.
Another slight criticism is that the insert to the box is very flimsy, despite the components being top notch. Makes it a bit of a pain to put away and get out but it’s only a minor gripe. I’d rather the game be as good as it is with a poor insert than a top quality insert and a rubbish game!
But overall it’s a incredibly entertaining, visually pleasing and simple game and I’d highly recommend it- but only if you’re going to play it with at least three players. There is an expansion (called Peloton) which mixes things up even more and adds an extra two players, which we are yet to try!
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