- Designer: H. J. Kook
- Publisher: Amigo Games
- Players: 3-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20-30 minutes
- Played with new version provided by AMIGO
This year at SPIEL 2021, Amigo is bringing a interesting Korean Racing game to the market. Originally sold as Spring Rally (back in 2018) – players race their spring driven cars around the track – the board is double sided and this allows you to race on two different circuits. Each player gets a contraption made up of two discs that represents the spring in your race car. There is a deck of cards, made up of three suits from 1-15, which can be modified for player count. The appointed cards are shuffled and each player is dealt a hand of five cards for the first round. The later rounds are longer with 7 cards being dealt in the second round and 9 cards being dealt in the third and final round. The game is won by the first player to complete two circuits of the track.
The game uses a trick taking mechanism. The first player in the trick can play a card of any color. The next player must follow suit if possible. If the next player cannot match the card led, then he can play a card of any color. This continues around the table with each successive player having to match the color led if possible. Once each player has played a card to the trick, the winner is determined.
- If all cards are of a single color; the highest numbered card played wins the trick
- If the trick has two colors, the highest numbered card of the second color played wins
- If the trick has all three colors, the highest numbered card of the third color played wins
The player who won the trick moves their car forward a number of spaces equal to the lowest numbered card played in the trick. If you land on the downward slope of a hill, you coast down to the bottom… and if you are on the upslope of a hit, you slide back down to the bottom if you’re unable to get all the way to the top! In either case, you go to the first available spot due to the rule that you cannot occupy the same space as someone else.
In addition, if that player’s spring has been wound up, the trick winner can choose to release their spring and also move forward the number of spaces shown on their spring (and then resetting their spring to the zero space). When moving forward, you skip any occupied spaces without counting them. All other players must wind their spring moving one space further clockwise.
The winner of the previous trick becomes the leader of the next trick. Play continues until all players have played all their cards (5 in round 1, 7 in round 2, 9 in round 3). At the end of the round, starting with the player in last place, each player unwinds their spring and moves forward the number currently seen on their spring. The player who is furthest ahead becomes the leader of the first trick of the next round.
The game ends when the first player finishes his second trip around the track. This can happen at any time and the game immediately ends. In the rare event that all three rounds are complete and no one has yet finished their second lap, the player who is furthest ahead wins the game.
My thoughts on the game
Stich Rallye is an interesting meld of a race game and a “Trick taking” game. There are tricks in the card play, but it is certainly not a traditional one due to the way you win tricks. At times, the game is more about who is able to slough the best. And, I’ve found that at times, you don’t have a lot of choice of what to play based on what you were dealt and what everyone else has played.
There are a number of interesting aspects of the trick taking. First, given the movement rules, there are times when you don’t want to win a trick and you would rather play a low card to reduce the movement of the trick winner. Also, there is an important timing aspect to the game, though only in the second and third rounds. The reason for this is the numbering of the spring dial. The values are: 0 – 1 – 3 – 6 – 10 – 15 – 16 – 8 – 4 – 0. You would really like to win a trick when your dial is near the maximum value of 15 or 16. In the second round, if you lose every trick, you will end up moving only 8 spaces; and in the third round, if you lose every trick, you would move 0 spaces from your spring.
I like the way that the changing spring value causes you to try to plan when you win a trick. The placement of the hills also might make you choose to unleash the spring – sometimes you just want to make it “over the hump”… I do wish that the decrease in value on the dial came earlier on (or maybe if there were more tricks) as this doesn’t come into play as much as I’d like it to. This is the most interesting part of the game (strategy wise), and the way the game is set up, there are times when I won’t even have to make this sort of decision.
The game is designed to keep things close. In general, players that are further behind have a better chance to get free moves as they pass cars in front of them. Additionally, it is harder to win multiple tricks as it does feel like the hardest position from where to win a trick is the lead – given the trump rules and the increasing likelihood of people being void in a suit – it is rare for the leader to win the trick in my experience. However, there are plenty of times when it feels like you don’t have as much control as you want when it comes to winning the tricks either.
Overall, I like the melding of the racing and the trick taking, but my notes from 2018 show that I wished there was a little bit more control over cardplay. That hasn’t changed, but I found it a bit more enjoyable the second time around. I also had the chance to play it with my nephews as opposed to just with adult gamers, and the different audience may have helped as well. I still really wish the timing aspect of the spring was more powerful/prevalent, but nevertheless, it’s still an interesting mechanism, and one not seen often in a trick taking racing game.
I’m glad that this game gets another chance, hopefully with a wider audience. I will probably not play this much more with my hardcore game group, but it’s good for light game sessions and families. I look forward to seeing more collaborations like this in the future.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor