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   [#]