When I learned that Bicycle was going to enter the modern board and card game market, I was instantly intrigued. Bicycle is an iconic American brand known for making quality playing cards. They’ve been making them a LONG time, with production going all the way back to 1885. But just because they’re experienced in making a traditional deck of playing cards, doesn’t mean they’ve got the chops to compete with the sea of smart designs released every year in this burgeoning game market, right? Well, I actually think they did a pretty good job. Let’s take a look at one of their first titles, Shuffle Grand Prix.
Shuffle Grand Prix is a clever family-weight card game featuring racing, take that, and variable player powers. A game of Shuffle Grand Prix takes about 30 minutes to play and accommodates 2-4 players.
Thematically, it reminds me of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky Racers. Although, that copyright was already designated to another title, released by CMON earlier this year. Sorry Bicycle! It would have been a great fit for a licensing play. In Shuffle Grand Prix, a player takes the role of one-of-eight zany race car drivers, each with his own special ability and unique deck of action cards, as well as a co-pilot to help him tag-team the race. Each of the cards has very fitting artwork, matching the theme of cartoon characters engaging in silly racing hijinks.
On your turn you draw a distance card. The player with the longest distance at the end of the game is winner. After drawing a distance card, players can play one of their three action cards from their hand. These include such items as equipment cards that stay in play and enhance your driver, nerf cards that attach to your opponent’s driver and hinder their performance, and cards that damage your opponent’s vehicle.
Each driver has 4-health points and if they ever drop to zero, you spin-out and your co-pilot becomes the active driver. You also lose your top distance card and your opponent earns a trophy. Trophies can be used to swap drivers out, or if you have two trophies, they can be spent to play an additional action card on your turn.
That’s pretty much how the game flows. For the most part, it’s a race to draw a greater number of longer distance cards and perform a series of actions that negatively impact your opponent.
While not entirely devoid of strategy, it also isn’t very rich in it. But, it isn’t to the game’s detriment. It just isn’t that type of game. Shuffle Grand Prix is a light, fun game that pretty much anybody can get into and have a fun time playing. Experientially, it straddles the line between party and strategy games. You can expect uproarious exclamations during play—all without any bluffing, hidden information, or other mechanics often associated with the party games that evoke such reactions.
There’s a number of clever things in Shuffle Grand Prix:
I particularly like the system of tracking driver health in the game. To track an active driver’s health, you rotate him along a health card every time damage is done. It keeps health-management card based (it’s Bicycle after all) and eliminate’s the need for a cumbersome tokens or dials.
The system of determining the winner at the end of the game is relatively unique. The distance cards have a line on their center, positioned differently on each card based upon their numeric value. If you spread the cards out, placing each card along the previous one’s line, the cards form a track of cards. One player’s will be physically longer than the other’s player’s track. This way, there’s no need to add up the values on distance cards and the winner can be eyeballed.
The asymmetry of the different drivers is well done. Not only are the powers different from one another, but so are the action cards. They are distinct in distribution of card type and abilities. Since, you combine the decks of two drivers together, you can form interesting and strategic tag teams during set-up.
Overall, I’m impressed with Shuffle Grand Prix and have had fun playing it. While, it’s never going to be a go-to game for me, I might pull it out with the right group and will always enjoy playing it.
Note: Bicycle has done a great job entering the market and I’d also recommend checking out some of their other games as well. For instance, It’s Blunderful is also good if you’re looking for a family-friendly party game.