Development, the F1 Board Game
Russell Degnan

I can easily recall the first sporting event I was allowed to forgo "bed time" and stay up late for: the Wimbledon men's final of 1987. Whether my parents' realised it, or were merely helpless to prevent it happening anyway, this represented a watershed in what became (and has continued to be) an endless series of late-night sporting vigils for cricket, cycling, tennis, football, and in the immediate years after 1987, Formula One.

This was something of a pity though, because 1986 and 1987 represented the best two years of F1 racing for probably the next twenty-five years. Five drivers won races from four different teams in both those years, with three drivers contending for the championship decided in Adelaide in 1986. Subsequent years were less kind, as first McLaren then Williams dominated the standings.

The highpoint in my interest, and my board game making and playing, was in 1990. The cars lack any of my brother's precise (albeit much older) hand, but offset it with surprising detail in the colours and shape of the air intakes. There were plenty of teams and obscure names in those years for the aspiring anorak, and hand drawing each and every one of them was a handy starting place.

In around 1989, my brother made a wooden and paper-mache version of the board, now stored at my parents, complete with hills and painted colours. It was magnificent, but couldn't deal with number of cars, or an expanding sense of what made a good game. Other tracks were created, three A3 sheets big and coated in contact. Future board games would get cardboard backs and computer printing, but this depended on rulers and smudged ink.

Racing lines were introduced, and pass cards (for lapping vehicles). Somewhere there is a clipboard full of race results, each lap recorded against the number of turns, and the fraction of each turn used to cross the line (I can still calculate fractions for every number up to 24). Fastest lap times and time gaps, carefully recorded, and whole seasons run on the floor of a bedroom.

Probability simulations became something of a hobby as my mathematics knowledge (and my general nerdiness) increased. This came to its fullest fruition in cricket, but there were changes in F1 too. There was an obvious difference between a real race, with a small handful of passing manoeuvres in tens of laps, and a board game where a car could run back to front with a handful of lucky rolls.

Some basic ideas were developed around gears, where a car would accelerate out of corners, keeping its position; on tyre wear; and in making the better teams very slightly faster, turn on turn. There are further notes on game practice and recording results efficiently, and a multi-coloured board that made good use of a derwent pencil set.

And then? Computers happened. Microprose Grand Prix specifically, which was quicker to play, and somewhat more fun. Then serious school (sort-of) and university. The bits and pieces got filed in the cupboard, appearing only recently, when I decided to revive the board game. But that's another post.

Formula One 6th April, 2015 23:10:48   [#] [2 comments] 

Beginnings, the F1 Board Game
Russell Degnan

The Melbourne Grand Prix will mark 30 years (minus several months) since Formula One racing returned to Australia. For young boys accustomed to watching motor racing only from Bathurst, and only in its most bogan Australian form, the mix of international drivers, gorgeous livery and high pitched squeals was something else.

Board games were a constant in our household, not least because, with books, they offered a present option for basically nerdy children. My brother was sufficiently inspired by the Adelaide GP, and his acquisition of motor magazine, to make a basic board game.

The collection below is what I still have of the original. The Bathurst influence is there in the board choice, although for (I assume) space reasons, it isn't the most accurate representation, with Skyline misplaced, and a more rectangular shape. It also pre-dates the Chase, back in the days when cars could roar down Conrad all the way to the final corner.

The board is a single A3 sheet, folded many times, with tape over the track proper to keep the paper/ink from rubbing/bleeding.

The cars of this edition were shorter (1.5cm) than later versions, and flighty - meaning they tended to blow off the board if you breathed. The top was the 1985 version of each driver, the bottom their name, team and number. Each precisely drawn as my brother tended to be. Some of them with accurate helmets - Senna, my brother's favourite driver with his yellow - and instantly recognisable. A simple piece of tape on each side finished them off, and glossed them up.

1985 liveries were special. I've never smoked a day in my life, but the colours of F1 cars in the late 1980s is indelibly printed on my memory. Today's cars that hint at that era - like the black and gold JPS Lotus are inspired nostalgia. I'm not even sure the companies themselves even exist, so thorough has been the advertising cleansing. But brand awareness: not a problem.

This was F1's greatest era, when cars could pass on multiple parts of the track; when drivers were stars (Lauda, Piquet, Prost, Rosberg, Senna, Mansell...); the season well structured and evenly contested; and the money and glamour poured in. Tactically, it was also the most interesting, with tyre changes making huge lap speed differentials, turbos making fuel management paramount, and retirements from failing equipment a constant issue. I pushed these little pieces around tracks so often I could almost name the grid of 1985 even today. Until computers took over the imagination, and barring an extended period of cricket simulation, this was my favourite game for the next half decade.

Certain aspects of the game weren't thought through in great depth. The squares on the straight are aligned, which made it hard to swing through a normal racing line. The red squares - which required picking up a card of probable danger - are randomly placed, making for annoying places where you'd seemingly randomly crash on the straight. The green cards allowed a car to pass if it had sufficient moves to do so, with some attendant risk. It made the game one of pure luck: dice and cards. But then, I played most of them by myself, so it was luck for the eponymous pieces, not myself.

By 1986, a larger board (presumed lost) and 2cm cars provided the next edition. Only one car, the paper split, remains from the set: Alan Jones Haas Lola.

But there were plenty more to come...

Formula One 11th March, 2015 21:22:19   [#] [0 comments]