- Designer: Andy Geremia
- Publisher: FoxMind
- Players: 2
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 20 minutes
- Times played: 5, with review copy provided by FoxMind Canada
Maze Racers is a game that I had seen at a couple of conventions (GenCon, Essen 2015), but due to the large crowds around the game, I actually didn’t get a chance to try it at either show. From afar, it looked like a blast as people held the board in their hands and tried to navigate a ball through a maze. I was tempted to bring home a copy from Essen, but the lack of luggage space come Saturday afternoon discouraged me from that plan…
Fast forward to this spring when an old acquaintance took a new job at FoxMind Canada, and he approached me about taking the game out for a try. I jumped on the chance, and in a few days, Maze Racers was in the game room ready for play.
The idea is fairly simple. Each player gets to build a maze using magnetic foamy pieces that adhere to the board. Both players start building at the same time, and each has an identical set of 76 foam pieces to use. Prior to construction, the players agree on which numbered quadrant should house the start and end cups (which could actually both be in the same quadrant).
Once that is decided, the players each build their maze. You are limited to the pieces on hand, and there must be at least one path for the ball to freely roll from the start point to the finish. There is a wooden dowel that is just slightly larger than the diameter of the ball and you can use this to ensure that your desired path is wide enough.
There is a bit of a race aspect to building – once one player is done building, he yells “Done!” and flips over the one minute sand timer. The other player must finish building his maze in that allotted time. Then, once both mazes are built, the players exchange boards and then simultaneously start to roll the ball from Start to Finish. The player who first completes their opponent’s maze is the winner of the round. The rules state that a full game is best 2 out of 3 rounds.
There are a few advanced setup cards which can be used to make maze building a bit more challenging. You can download these from the FoxMind website. Each card gives a pattern of a few foam pieces which are put in place prior to maze construction. Thus, each board is seeded with a pattern that the player must then incorporate into their maze building strategy.
My thoughts on the game
Maze Racers is a fun and educational activity that my boys and I have truly had fun experimenting with. There is just enough space on the board and just enough variety in the foam pieces to allow the maze builder a full suite of options on how to build the maze. Thus far, I have found two main strategies to my personal maze building…
1) Build a maze where the opponent has to find the right path. In this case, I try to lead the opponent down the wrong path. You can make sneaky dead ends by making passages that are just slightly too narrow… Your opponent will hopefully try to get the ball through these passages and then realize that they’ve wasted time going down a dead end.
2) Build a maze where you make the path as long as possible – hopefully causing the opponent to lose time as they have to backtrack out of blind loops or having to carefully manipulate the ball into a tight passageway to get into the right path.
Like many FoxMind games, the game is both fun and educational. Using your brain to devise a tricky maze (or to visually examine a maze prior to solving) is a great way to work out spatial relationships in your head. The actual maze building is a very good outlet for your creative side as well. As I’ve been reorganizing my game shelves this spring, I have found myself on more than one occasion sitting down with the game and making a maze just for the sheer pleasure of the activity. I’m not sure it was developed with this solo activity, but it is quite a relaxing thing for me…
Each round plays quickly, and because of that, it actually works well in larger groups. Mazes are often built in as little as five minutes, and even the most difficult maze is solved in under 60 seconds. When you have more than 2 kids around, it’s still fun to watch people build the mazes, and then race against each other. Once the real race is done, everyone can still take a turn solving the maze – and we’ve even used a stopwatch to let everyone compete on the same maze. Then, in the next round, we just switch up the maze builders, and off we go again!
Thoughts from the Other Opinionated Gamers
Jeff Allers: I don’t have much room for new games in our Berlin apartment, so any further purchases need to either replace a game I already have with one that does the same thing better, or be innovative and original–something I have never seen before. Maze Racers falls into the latter category, and it was my one must-have game from Essen last year. Many “games” that encourage creativity are not really games (the otherwise excellent Extrordinaires’ Design Studio, for example), but Maze Racers is both creative and an entertaining 2-player game. It looks great, attracts attention wherever it’s played, and because it is magnetic, it can be played anywhere. We played it several times in Essen pubs as we were waiting for our food, as well as on the train back to Berlin. My sons and I have enjoyed learning how to build traps for opponents’ marbles, and the final race is exciting. It makes an ideal travel game for those long family car or train rides. Maze Racers is an incredibly original design that falls into the “Why didn’t I think of that?!” category. Highly recommended.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y, Jeff Allers
- I like it.
- Not for me.