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October 24, 2009

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Devil Take The Hindmost Reviewed

It's not about winning - it's about not coming last!

DEVIL TAKE THE HINDMOST
FIENDISH GAMES
(Produced under licence from Lambourne Games)
DESIGNED BY TERRY GOODCHILD
3-6 PLAYERS
REVIEWED BY STUART DAGGER
REPRINTED FROM COUNTER MAGAZINE

Terry Goodchild is one of the best, if not the best, designers of sports games, but it is very much a niche market and his work doesn't often engage the rest of us the way Lambourne Games fans think it should. However, seven or so years ago he did design one game which, while remaining true to his general aim of producing games that capture the spirit of the sports that inspired them, did successfully reach out to a more general audience. This was Devil Take The Hindmost and it is good to see it back in print. And even better that it should be back in an edition that does it full justice.

A 'Devil Take The Hindmost' is a particular type of cycle race. In it a group of riders race round a velodrome. Every few laps a bell sounds to signify a sprint lap: last one to cross the line is eliminated. This continues until just two riders are left and they then fight out the finish. It makes for a fascinating and exciting spectacle, with the frequent sudden death situations interspersed with the sight of the riders jockeying for position in readiness for the next dash. The game's aim, which it achieves, is to convey the flavour of such a race in a way that will appeal to the general gamer as well as the sports nut.

The equipment consists of a track, model cyclists, and two decks of playing cards, complete with jokers. Each player has a hand of cards and on their turn they play a card, move the cyclist the appropriate amount and draw a new card. It could hardly be simpler in its basic concept, but whereas you or I would have invented it as a "play a 6; move 6" type of thing, Terry has tweaked the link between cards and how far you move in a way that captures the combination of urgency and tactical positioning that characterises the real thing. It is elegant and it feels right.

At the end of each lap, the rearmost rider is eliminated and the pack comes back together in peloton formation, just as they do on the track. Each player has several riders, points are scored for how long each one survives and the winner is the one with most points at the end.

The original (the Lambourne Games version - Ed.) used counters for the cyclists, which was functional, but not very atmospheric; the Fiendish edition has plastic cyclists (3 in each of 6 colours) and a correspondingly bigger board. So now the game not only feels right, it looks right.

A very good game, and in case you are worried about the progressive elimination aspect, don't. The game moves along at a cracking pace, which helps, but it is also the case that it becomes easier to keep a cyclist out of trouble once he is getting the use of all your good cards, instead of having to share them with colleagues. Consequently, it is rare for a player to be eliminated early, despite the constant attrition for the cyclists.

The cost is inclusive of postage to European destinations. Those of you outside Europe should add two pounds.

Stuart Dagger

 

GAMES

Devil Take The Hindmost

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