Can’t Stop: Rolling Down the Highway
- Designers: George “Bud” Sauer, Jeff Horger
- Publisher: Gryphon Games
- Players: 2-4
- Time: 30 minutes
- Ages: 7+
- Times Played: 3, with review copy provided by Gryphon Games
Can’t Stop is one of the classic games – being a nominee for the SdJ in 1982. It was one of the first European Games that I owned. The base game is a classic press-your-luck game where you roll 4 dice each turn, making two two-dice combinations. You use those two summed numbers to move your markers up the tracks on a stop-sign shaped board. The catch is this – you only have three markers each turn, and your turn ends immediately if you cannot make a combination that matches the track that one of your three markers is on. So after each turn, you have to decide if you are going to keep going and press your luck or voluntarily stop your turn and lock in the progress that you’ve made that turn. The game wants you to press your luck because each of the columns of the board can only be topped by one player – the first one to the top – so if there is a lot of competition for a particular number, you might want to keep going lest you get shut out of that column.
The base game is remarkably simple with very few rules. I wouldn’t have even thought that an expansion would be possible for the game, but as it turns out, some of my friends from the Columbus, OH gaming group, have been working on this for quite some time.
This expansion is comprised of a bunch of square chits – these are shuffled face down at the beginning of the game and one is placed on each space on the stop sign shaped board. The game plays starts with the usual rules, players roll the dice and make results from two pairs. Each player still gets three temporary markers, and it is up to the player to decide when he wants to stop rolling and try to lock in his results.
This is where the game gets a bit different with the expansion. When you stop, you now have to deal with the chits on the different spaces on the board. All of the chits start facedown, and if you end our turn on a facedown chit, you flip it up and deal with it. If it is already face up, you just deal with it.
There are a number of different types of tiles:
Interstate signs (Red/white/blue) – these are numbered from 1 to 6. When you expose this tile, you take it off the board and keep it. At any turn later in the game, you can discard it to change the roll of one die to the number on the chit.
Traffic Hazard (yellow) – there a number of different icons, but all tiles with a yellow background work the same – when you end your turn on a yellow tile, you must instantly roll the 4 dice again and be able to make a two dice combination that matches the number of the column the tile is in. If you are successful, you keep your progress for the turn. If you fail, you remove the temporary marker and get nothing for that column. This yellow tile remains in that spot for the rest of the game
Detour (orange) – there are equal numbers of tiles with arrows to the left and the right. When you end your turn on this tile, your temporary marker follows the direction of the arrow and moves to the next adjacent column. You then have to follow the tile (if present) on the new space. If you have multiple markers in a column at the end of a turn, you remove the lowest marker. If you end up in a column that has already been won, you also remove your marker. This tile remains on the space for the rest of the game.
Plus tiles (green) – These can be either +1 or +2. You move 1 or 2 spaces further upward in your column. You must follow the rules of the tile on the new space. You could end up winning a column due to the free spaces. This tile remains on the space for the rest of the game.
Negative tiles (red) – These can be either -1 or -2. You move 1 or 2 spaces further downward in your column. You must follow the rules of the tile on the new space. If your marker is moved off the bottom of a column, it is removed from play. This tile remains on the space for the rest of the game.
Map tiles – if you land on a Map tile, you place it next to you. On your next turn, you get an extra temporary white cone to use – so you have four possible numbers to roll on that turn. The Map tile is discarded after it is used.
Lost tiles – If you land on a Lost tile, you place it next to you. On your next turn, you get one fewer temporary white cone to use – so you have only two possible numbers to roll on that turn. The tile is discarded after it is used.
Roundabout – when you land on a Roundabout tile, you may move your marker one space in any direction (up, down, left, right) and then follow the rule of any tile that might be present on that new space. This tile remains in that space for the rest of the game.
The other new thing to worry about are loops – given the possibly competing nature of the tile effects, you could end up in a recurring loop. If you even end up in the same space twice when following tile effects, your turn immediately ends (and you do not follow the tile instructions a second time).
The game still ends when a player gets to the top of his third column.
My Thoughts on the Game
Overall, it’s an interesting diversion, and a way to get a different game using the components of the base game. As I mentioned in the open of this review, Can’t Stop wasn’t really a game that I thought could even have/need an expansion. In the end, the experience of the game is so different with the tiles. What was once a purely calculable, risk-assessing, press-your-luck game now becomes a very swingy game that relies more on the luck of the draw with the tiles.
Admittedly, some of the tiles give you a bit more control over the dice – being able to exchange some of your rolls for numbered chits helps you get what you want or sometimes can save your bacon to keep your turn alive. Never knowing what the facedown tiles might have though is a big stressor. Moving back down the track can be a big bummer, but it can be even worse if your marker moves to an adjacent column – sometimes eliminating it from the game! On the other hand, you can also be the beneficiary of the marker movements and end up with a win in a column you weren’t even working in.
The game ends up taking about the same amount of time as the base game – while some of the tiles thwart your progress or make you unexpectedly change your strategy, the red/white/blue tiles that allow you to “roll” specific numbers can help keep a turn going or get you the numbers you need when you want them.
Which game do I like better? Admittedly, the base game is in my alltime top 10, so it would be hard to exceed the rating of the original. But, the new expansion does add an interesting twist to the idea of the base game, and it’s been enjoyed by my kids. The twists/turns from the random revelation of the tiles also elicits groans or laughter from the boys. Additionally, having the expansion around has allowed me to get the base game out to the table more as well – as we usually play one game of the expansion and one game of the base when we get them out.
After three games, my current rating is: I like it – though I love the fact it has helped increase my number of plays of the base game.
Opinions from Other Opinionated Gamers
Karen Miller: (1 play) I am not a fan of the expansion. It takes a great game and makes it too fiddly. I also dislike the randomness that the expansion introduces. The fact that a column can be claimed if you turn over the right tile bothers me. And there are frequent infinite loops that are resolved by simply stopping after two passes…
Fraser: My exposure to this is only through this article. If it was there set up in front of me I would probably give it a try, but I would not seek it out. Can’t Stop is a push your luck game, so yes there is luck, one could possibly argue quite a bit of luck, involved. That said, this expansion sounds like it introduces too much luck for me and diverts from the cleanness of the original game. If I wanted a game with extra luck I would play something else as opposed to this. I will admit to preferring expansions that do not change the base game too much, they may tweak something or add something, but for me they should not make more fundamental changes to the base game. For example I classify Power Grid map expansions as tweaks, but Cities & Knights of Catan is turning it a different game.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- – I love it!
- – I like it. Dale Yu
- – Neutral.
- – Not for me… Karen Miller