Racers, start your engines and get ready to roll … dice! Project NOS is a real-time racing game that requires speed, split-second decisions, and a bit of luck.
At a glance: Project NOS is a dice-rolling racing game for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes 10–20 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge of $20 for a copy of the game. The game is quick and requires speedy dice-rolling, so it’s kid-friendly but some players might benefit from a dice tray so that they don’t throw dice off the table.
- 4 Car cards
- 12 Stock dice
- 15 Modification dice
- 12 Modification cards
- 18 Track cards
- 8 Redline cubes
Note: My review is based on a prototype that featured unfinished artwork, so the components are certainly different than what you will see in my gameplay photos. I can’t judge the final component quality, but you can see the finished artwork in some of the images here.
The game is fairly compact (at least the prototype is), with a small set of cards, dice, and cubes. The finished artwork is a huge upgrade from the prototype version, and makes it feel a bit more fast and furious, if you get my drift. I also like that each car has a logo symbol along with its color, so that color-blind players can easily distinguish their spaces on the race track cards. The car cards are just used to indicate which player you are.
The dice will be fairly standard six-sided dice—the stock dice are white, and the modification dice come in yellow, blue, and black, matching the modification cards.
Each track card has a number from 1 to 6, along with four car spaces, one for each car color.
How to Play
You can download an early Print and Play prototype from Mind the Gap Studios.
The goal of the game is to score the most points in three races.
The race track is a series of cards with values from 1 to 6 on them, along with four spaces for the four different car colors. Shuffle the deck, and randomly deal out 6 cards in a row, with one end as the start and the other as the finish line. (Note that the cards will probably not be in numerical order.)
Each player starts with a car card and 3 stock dice (white). Then players take turns modifying their cars by taking modification cards and dice. There are three colors of modifications, with two different types of mods in each color. You can only have one modification card per color, but you could also take additional dice of a color that you already have rather than getting a different mod. At the end of the setup, each player will have 6 dice total: 3 stock and 3 mods.
When the race starts, players will simultaneously roll dice and try to place them onto the track cards from start to finish. You may roll any two of your dice at a time, and if you match the current card’s value, you place your die on the card, pick up another die, and continue rolling to get the next number.
You can also place a die that doesn’t match the card exactly, but it will force you to take a redline cube. You can take a redline cube to place a die that is 1 under the track card value, or any number over the value. However, you may only have up to 2 redline cubes—any more, and your engine would explode.
The modifications will allow you to manipulate your dice a little. For instance, the Spoiler prevents you from taking redline cubes if you’re exactly 1 under the track number. The Turbocharger makes it easier to roll 4 or 5, because you can use a few different values as 4 or 5. The Nitrous lets you store a blue die that you rolled, saving it for later on the track.
Players earn first place, second place, etc. when they place their last die on the last track card. Once everyone has finished the race, players take turns picking track cards to keep as points.
Between races, you reset all modifications and take turns modifying your cars again—but you also have the choice of skipping a modification to remove a redline cube, since those will carry over between races. (If you do so, you take dice of a color not matching your modification cards to make up your set of 6.)
Whoever has the highest score after 3 races wins the game!
Project NOS is a game where both the theme and the mechanics are racing, which is a really nice fit. Now, I have to admit that I like frantic real-time games, whether they’re cooperative or competitive. There’s something exhilarating about that “ready, set, GO!” moment, and I love the barely controlled chaos that erupts when everyone starts rolling dice. But I know it’s not for everyone—I have friends who feel way too stressed out with real-time games, and if that’s you, then this is probably not the game for you. The game is fun but brief—players who find real-time games difficult may be okay with playing a round of Project NOS because it’s over quickly, but if you’re the sort who likes high-intensity games to last longer, the races might be over a little too soon for you.
The core of the game is quite simple: roll dice, match the number, move to the next card. Repeat. In those terms, it’s really a luck game—the faster you roll, the more likely you’ll get the required numbers, but somebody with a really lucky roll might be able to win anyway.
However, the modification cards and the redline cards add just enough of a tweak to give it a bit of strategy. Since the track is laid out before you make your modifications, you get a peek at what’s to come, like scanning the route to see where the tricky spots will be. For instance, that Turbocharger would be awesome if there are a lot of 4s and 5s on the track, but totally useless if there aren’t any. (There’s also a Supercharger that makes it easier to roll 2s and 3s.) Or you could go with either the Wide Tires or Spoiler, which allow you to avoid redlines for being 1 under or 1 over.
Once you have modifications, you have to decide—in real-time—when to use the modification dice instead of the stock dice, because the special abilities only apply to those dice. When do you risk a redline cube, and when do you keep rolling to avoid taking the damage? These may be important decisions, but you can’t stop to mull them over for too long, or your opponents will zip past and leave you in the dust.
It’s also interesting that the players get to take the track cards as points—which means that, on rare occasions, third place might get the same number of points as first place. Knowing the stakes ahead of time can affect whether you spend your modifications repairing redlines, or how much you’re willing to risk taking redlines during the race. If you can score just as many points a little later, then it might be worth rolling your dice a couple more times before placing one to avoid taking the damage. But if it’s a high-stakes race (for instance, there’s one 6 card and all the others are low numbers), then it may be a good time to push your engine to the limit and take the damage to to go a little faster.
Overall, Project NOS is a quick little game that gives you a heart-pounding street race in a small package. It’s not terribly deep, but it can be a whole lot of fun—you know, kind of like a particular blockbuster movie franchise.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Project NOS Kickstarter page!
Disclosure: I received a prototype of this game for review.