Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2-7
Amount of time to play: 90-120 min
Age requirements: 10+
Set-up time: 5-10 min
Thunder Alley is a board game that simulates a NASCAR race. You have a team of cars and score VPs based on where each car finishes the race.
Thunder Alley is card based racing game that puts you in control a team of cars. You gain VPs for finishing position, leading a lap and for the car that leads the most laps of the race.
There are two double-sided maps included in Thunder Alley. Some races are two laps while others are three. You set the race order based on your team color. Each movement card has a sequence of the team colors on the bottom. The order snakes until all cars have been placed on the board.
You get three to six cars for your team depending on the number of players. You also get one more movement card than you have cars. So if you start with three cars on your team, you have four movement cards each turn.
Each movement card gives you some movement points. Most movement costs one movement point. But moving laterally into an occupied lane costs two and pushing cars ahead of you costs three. There are four types of movement cards lead, draft, pursuit and solo. Lead movement pulls all the cars behind you. Draft movement moves all cars in front of and in back of your car. Pursuit movement pushes cars in front of you for one movement point instead of the usual three. Solo movement just moves the car it is used on. Some movement cards also contain text indicating if you can or must make additional movement (like toward the wall or the apron).
The movement cards also indicate of your car takes damage from the movement. Some movement is permanent and some is temporary. Once you have three damage tokens your car moves slower. And if your car ever has six damage tokens it is removed from the race. You can pit at the end of each turn to remove all temporary damage tokens from your car. Unfortunately you also must move back five spaces when you pit.
Each turn before you decide to pit an event card is drawn and resolved. The Event cards can cause damage to all cars, or just cars with a certain type of damage or even remove a car from the race. Event can also cause a yellow or red flag restart. This lets cars pit under yellow and get bunched back into a group.
After one car crosses the finish line you finish all cars’ movements. Car that cross the finish line place based on the order they finish the race. Any cars that don’t finish place based on their order on the track. The car that lead the most laps gets a VP. Then you tally all your points and the player with the most wins the race.
Thunder Alley is a fun racing game that requires you play your hand well and some luck to win. This game is very accessible and once the different types of movement are understood it is easy to teach.
The components for this game are great. It is nice getting four tracks in the box and the chits and tokens are of high quality. The rules are well written with plenty of examples and illustrations.
Most racing games give you control of one car. I like that you have a team of cars in this game. How you move your cars and get them into groups that will move together is important.
Once a car is in a group you will sometimes need to negotiate help from another team with a car in that group. Some players will like to negotiate while others will just always do what is best for them. Also note there is less negotiating when there are fewer players.
The events are pretty random. You should know that going in. The yellow flags in particular can make or break the race. One game I played the yellow flag determined the winner and that annoyed most everyone. But this randomness also enables to keep most cars in the action. If the event cards bother you too much you could remove cards that bother your group.
How you play your hand matters but you can only play the cards you are dealt. Some players felt limited by this and were frustrated by their lack of options. If this bothers your group you could increase players’ hand size by one.
Thunder Alley is a fun, tactical card game that simulates NASCAR Racing. It feels like a mash up of Formula D, Formula Motor Racing and Daytona 500. I am not a NASCAR fan but I still enjoyed this game. If you like racing games you should pick this up. If you do not enjoy racing board games you still might want to give this one a try.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 3 out of 6
Luck 5 out of 6
Player Interaction 4 out of 6
Replay Value 4 out of 6
Complexity 4 out of 6
Fun 4 out of 6
Overall 4 out of 6