Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Game Central Station: Um Reifenbreite

Another Game Central Station page last updated in 2004... it's still the best one-page overview of this game on the web.
I worked long & hard to find a copy of this classic game... reading about it on The Game Cabinet positively had me salivating. Finally, I obtained my copy (thanks to FunAgain) and... it was worth the wait!
Um Reifenbreite deserves the awards it's been given (Spiel des Jahres 1992; Deutscher Spielepreis 1992, rank 2) and the 5 different printings it's had. That's right, I just typed "five different printings"
It's a long and twisted tale that I'm going to try to piece together from a number of different places & authors (Tim Trant, Mike Siggins) on The Game Cabinet website. It was originally published in 1982 as Homas Tour... but most of the copies were burned in a warehouse fire. (Of the original print run of 20,000, the designer guesses that less than 1/2 survived.) It's rarity only helped to build the game's reputation... one that was born out when it won Spiel des Jahres for it's re-release as Um Reifenbreite. (At roughly the same time, the game was also released in a French edition, entitled Demarrage!)
In 2002, Jumbo is released a 10th anniversary edition of Um Reifenbreite... as far as I know, the game was not substantially changed.
Amazingly enough, the designer, Rob Bontenbal, has not published another game - at least according to Luding (the best database for finding German games on the web). Nearly ten years ago, Mike Siggins wrote in Sumo that Rob was working on a new game system based on the Olympics, but it's never seen the light of day (as far as I can tell). Gotta tell ya, I'd be more than happy to try it!
The rule are a bit, well, long - for a very simple game. (Lots & lots & LOTS of examples...) So, I shortened 'em down.
Finally, have you ever wondered how to pronounce the name of this game (which, roughly translated, mean "By a Tire Width")? Geenius at Wrok, noted poster to rec.games.board & author of the German Game FAQ, shares that it's correctly pronounced: [oom RY-fen-BRY-tuh].
So What's the Difference Between Homas Tour & Um Reifenbreite?
Note: I've never even SEEN a copy of Homas Tour, so I'm getting this all second-hand from a rec.games.board post from David Fristrom.
  1. There are some cosmetic differences ("Strength" cards in Homas Tour are called "Energy" cards in Um Reifenbreite, the cards look different, the colors of the track are different, etc).
  2. The "Stimulants" rules in Homas Tour was changed (and tinkered with) to become the "Cheating" rules in Um Reifenbreite.
  3. The "Yellow Jersey" rules have been changed... the original rules in Homas Tour didn't, according to David, make a lick of sense.
  4. The "Stragglers" rule from Homas Tour was omitted. In Homas Tour, the race ended before all the cyclists crossed the finish line, which had the unfortunate side effect of causing the stragglers to cheat like crazy because they had nothing to lose.
  5. The "Extra points for Escaping" rule from Homas Tour was also omitted. In Homas Tour, a rider was given extra points for breaking away from another player (which doesn't exactly make sense.)6. There are also some changes to the way stages are organized and some of the Chance cards, but the description in David's post doesn't give me enough information to comment.
The answers in this FAQ are from Alan Moon, Ken Yousten, Mark Jackson,Ted Cheatham, Manu Soeding, Marianna, Matt Hearst & Chris Lohroff...
Q: Why can't you play energy cards or draft on the first turn?
A: [Ken Yousten] Don't bicycle races start from a standstill? (Honest question - I've never followed the sport, but have vague memories of seeing a race or two start while waiting for baseball scores on Sportscenter.) So drafting would be out, right? And strength cards from the start would make the first sprint line a choice rather than a competition, which may work well with some games, but isn't in spirit with this one.
Q: What's with the Yellow Jersey rule? As written in the early 90's edition, it seems majorly unbalanced.
A: [Alan Moon] We only used the yellow jersey rule in the first couple of games we played, then discarded it. It was too much of an advantage if a rider got out front early, and hurt the strategy of holding back a little at the start to try to get your team together.
Q: OK, but I want to use the Yellow Jersey rule anyway. How does it work?
A: [Alan Moon] I believe the jersey only changes hands at the end of a round, after each rider has moved. And these are just my opinion, but I'd say he gets the 2 point bonus at the end of each round, after the jersey is exchanged or remains in place, and he shouldn't get points after he finishes.
A: [Matt Hearst] When using the yellow jersey rule with stages, use cummulative yellow jersey points to determine the wearer, as this keeps the carrot out there for the people who don't have the yellow jersey.
Q: I don't get the "mass fall" card... the card translation I have states that anyone who has not already moved falls... is this correct? Does this include riders who are not adjacent to the mass fallee? (The translation on The Game Cabinet reads: "You cause a mass fall! The rider falls and doesn't move this round. Because the fall costs strength, he must discard one of his Energy Cards. All riders who haven't moved yet also fall and must sit this turn.")
A: [Mark Jackson] Yep... never has made sense to me either. "All riders who haven't moved yet?!" Anyway, I ran this by two different folks who are fluent in German & English... they both came up with: "If other riders fall (as well), none of the fallen ones may move in this turn..." which makes a whole lot more sense. (Thanks to Manu & Marianna!)
Q: When you are instructed to lose of gain an energy card, what do you do if the rider in question has none to either lose or gain?
A: [Ted Cheatham & Chris Lohroff] You can lose a joker, but you cannot recover it. Here's the quote from the rules on http://www.gamecabinet.com... "With some chance cards a rider either gets or loses energy cards. Riders only get energy cards associated with their number (either played or lost). If a player must discard an energy card and he has no more with his number then he must discard a joker energy card. If he has no joker cards left then he does not have to discard a card."
Chance Cards
There are a number of folks out there (including Alan Moon, designer of Union Pacific & Elfenland) who don't use the chance cards included with the game. Instead, they use one of the following variants:
Alan Moon
If your roll or combination of roll/cards equaled 7, you roll one die again. If you roll a 6, your rider falls.
Eamon Bloomfield/Derek Carver
If your roll or combination of roll/cards equaled 7, roll the dice again, plus a 10 sided die.(D10)
If you roll a 0 on the 10 sided die, you fall, bringing down any other rider adjacent to your space, and then they bring down any other rider adjacent to their spaces etc. A fall "massif" in the Dutch rules.
If you do not roll a zero on the D10 then check the placing of the rider involved:
  • If he is in the first 4 race positions, take the amount on the higher of the two dice and DEDUCT it from 7. That is his move.
  • If he is in the last 4 race positions, take the amount on the higher of the two dice and ADD it to 7. That is his move.
If he is not in the first 4 or the last 4, check the total of the 2D6.
  • If the total is odd, take the amount on the lowest of the two and deduct it from 7. That is his move.
  • If the total is even, take the amount on the lowest of the two and add it to 7. That is his move.
Ignore all 7's on the first round.
If some riders have finished the race, then treat them as still in the race for determining the position of riders in regard to the above rules.
Brent Carter
This is similar to Eamon's rules, only you don't have to use a d10 and falls are a bit less common.
When a SEVEN is ROLLED, RE-ROLL the 2D6.
  • A 2 or 12 means you FALL bringing down all adjacent riders as per the rules for MASS FALL.
Anything but a 2 or 12 means the riders move will be based on the roll and the rider's position in the race.
  • If the rider is in the FIRST 4 POSTIONS his move will be 7 MINUS the number on the HIGHEST D6.
  • If the rider is in the LAST 4 POSITIONS his move will be 7 PLUS the number on the HIGHEST D6.
If the rider is NOT IN EITHER of these groups CHECK the 2D6 TOTAL.
  • If it is ODD his move will be 7 MINUS the number on the LOWEST D6.
  • If it is EVEN his move will be 7 PLUS the number of the LOWEST D6.
Riders who have already finished are still counted to determine position in the race.
Other Variants
Playing With 3 Players
Variant #1 (c/o Ted Cheatham)
One of the joys of Um Reifenbreite is the crowded track... and it's just not crowded enough with 3 players... so we use the cyclists from the fourth team to increase our team size to five cyclists. Using the colored bases from the yellow jersey guys (so you can tell which cyclist goes with which team), we randomly distributed the #2, #3, & #4 riders and their energy cards. It works great.
Variant #2 (c/o Chris Dorrell)
If playing with less than four teams (particularly with 2 players) we have lifted an idea from Ausgebremst (another good racing game) where non playing cars are still involved in race.
With 2 players/teams we place the four riders from an unused team on the start with first choice of position. Throughout the race both players agree on the best move for each rider in the third team subject to these rules:
Always try to move as many squares as possible but make best move possible.
  • If total on dice less than 5 use a card if available to replace the lowest of the dice.
  • On a roll of double one or double 2, use 2 cards.
  • If dice throw means fall - use a card as above if possible.
  • Always follow another rider if throw is more than 4.
We have tried this a few times and the third team manages to keep involved quite well and present some nice tactical problems for the real players.
Playing With 5 Players
(c/o Mark Jackson)
While this doesn't work as well as the four player game, you can use the yellow jersey figures to create a 5th team. Keep track of their energy card use on paper or make up your own cards. You'll also have to come up with an alternate way to create a fair starting grid and add points to the end of the scoring pad for the remaining positions. (We've done this a couple of times... it runs a little long, but it does allow you to play it with five players.)
Limited Cheating
(c/o Mark Jackson)
The cheating rules as written encourage widespread cheating if you get even a bit behind... which makes the game kind of mean & frustrating. There are three different ways to fix this:
  • draw three photo cards (rather than two) at the finish of the race, giving a 50% chance of disqualification.
  • limit each racer to one cheat card draw per race. (Exception: a racer in last place may cheat regardless of how many times he's cheated before.)
  • eliminate cheating altogether.
Sprint to the Finish
(c/o Pat Brennan, who collected it from r.g.b.)
If you are in the last 12 spaces of the race, you can't follow. You have to finish the race on your own. This way there can be a massive sprint for the victory. You pull your rider with the most energy cards available in the last 12 spaces so he can finish it off.
(c/o Pat Brennan, who collected it from r.g.b.)
Design your own "special" riders... They are divided among the players and these cards are assigned to riders of their choice.Some suggestions:
  • mountain specialist: +1 uphill
  • drafting specialist: may follow even if he is on different terrain
  • solo rider: +1 if he starts his turn alone
  • sprint specialist: +4 breakaway once per game
  • fast start rider: +3 to his starting roll
  • speed demon: +1 downhill

1 comment:

Kevin_Whitmore said...

Hi Mark, Um Reifenbreite is one of my favorite games, so I really enjoyed reading this post. Every time we play we enjoy the battle up the hills and the interesting drafting situations.

We also omit the cards. If a 7 is rolled (with or without a used card), we roll the 2d6 again, and if another 7 result happens a fall occurs.

Good stuff! Thanks for the blog post.

Kevin Whitmore