The Cardboard Hoard: Review of Project Nos
Project Nos is the latest game design from Peter Newland of Mind The Gap Studios. In this real-time street racing game, players will draft upgrade cards for their cars and then face off and chuck dice to see who can win two races first. The game is a card and dice game, and the "board" is a six-card track where each card has a number on it. To win a race, players will need to be the fastest to roll dice that match the number on each of the six track cards, in order.
In the first phase of the game, which is not in real-time, players will take turns drafting from various car upgrades -- from a larger engine, to a spoiler, to a nitrous oxide tank. Each upgrade will come with a colored die that matches the card. Players will draft for three rounds, either taking three different upgrades with one die each, or adding multiple dice to a single upgrade. Most of the strategic decisions in the game take place in this phase, as there are a limited number of upgrade cards and dice, and certain cards work better for tracks with lower or higher numbers on them. After the draft, players take their three upgrade dice and add them to their three standard dice, making up the dice pool of six dice they will each have for the race.
In the second, real-time, phase of the game, players will simultaneously start rolling dice -- two at a time -- in an attempt to be the first to complete each of the six cards that make up the track by matching their rolled dice to the number on the card they are on. The upgrade cards will give bonuses, such as allowing the player to be one lower or higher than the number on the track, or letting the player roll and extra die, but the upgrades only work with the matching dice of that upgrade's color. Once the upgrade dice are placed on the track, they can no longer be used by the player. However, players are also allowed to "red-line" their engines, placing dice that do not match the number on the track. But red-line cubes stay with a car from race to race, and if a player takes three red-line cubes, their car engine explodes.
While this game is about as light as can be, there are still fun decisions to make in both the drafting phase and the racing phase. Since the actual race will likely be measured in seconds, the decisions there will not be calculated, but frantic and rushed, as dice are flying around the table and players are standing up, simultaneously trying to advance along the track as fast as possible.
Pros: A small box game that is very easy to learn and play. The real-time element definitely evokes its car racing theme. Frenetic fun, as player's plans are often waylaid by dice rolling off the table, or being just a second late to place their final die. The theme is friendly for all ages, which is a must as children are likely to gravitate toward this game. Has a solo mode, although a stopwatch is needed.
Cons: A very, very light game with little depth. Players that do not like the randomness of constant dice rolling, or the stress of real-time games will not enjoy this experience. For a game that creates a standing-while-playing, raucous atmosphere, it only plays up to four players.
While nobody will mistake Project Nos for a big-box strategy game with a deep decision space, for what it is -- a fun, quick playing, real-time street racing game -- it is a success.
Full disclosure: I received a preview copy of Project Nos from the publisher, but have no financial interest in the Kickstarter they are running for the game.