DESIGNER: Jeff & Carla Horger
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is a family owned and operated business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events. NASCAR is second only to the National Football League among professional sports franchises in terms of television ratings in the United States. In the 1920s and 1930s, Daytona Beach became known as the place to set world land speed records, supplanting France and Belgium as the preferred location for land speed records, with eight consecutive world records set between 1927 and 1935.
Stock car racing in the United States has its origins in bootlegging during Prohibition, when drivers ran bootleg whiskey made primarily in the Appalachian region of the United States. Bootleggers needed to distribute their illicit products, and they typically used small, fast vehicles to better evade the police. Many of the drivers would modify their cars for speed and handling, as well as increased cargo capacity, and some of them came to love the fast-paced driving down twisty mountain roads.
By early 1947 Bill France saw the potential for a unified series of racing competitors. France announced the foundation of the “National Championship Stock Car Circuit”, otherwise known as NCSCC. NASCAR was founded by William France, Sr., on February 21, 1948 with the help of several other drivers of the time. The first NASCAR “Strictly Stock” race ever was held at Charlotte Speedway, although this is not the same track as the Charlotte Motor Speedway that is a fixture on the current NASCAR schedule. The race was held on June 19, 1949. The first NASCAR competition held outside of the U.S. was in Canada, on July 1, 1952.
The rules for Thunder Alley are 16 pages in length. Eleven pages of this booklet are dedicated to the rules of play. The Table of Contents for the rules are;
- Sequence of Play
- Important Concepts
- Race Cards
- Wear Markers
- Event Cards
- Pit Stops
- Ending the Race and Winning
- Season Rules
- Optional Rules
- The remaining 5 pages are devoted to the following subjects;
- Race Card List
- Event Card List
- Additional Examples
The components of this game are;
- 4 Race Tracks
- 42 Car Counters
- 56 5/8th Counters
- 80 ½” Counters
- 84 Race Cards
- 26 Event Cards
- 7 Team-Specific Player Aid Sheets
The 7 Team Player Aid Sheets maintains the status of each team’s cars. It is here that the temporary and permanent damage markers are placed and kept for each car’s statuses. Each Sheet contains the status of 6 cars. It is here that you put the Temporary and Permanent markers for:
- Body Damage
These and other markers are placed on this Player Aid Sheet for up to 7 players so that important information can be easily tracked and referenced throughout the game.
The setup for this game is extremely simple and straightforward. The number of cars that each player races depend on the number of players in the game. There is the reference chart for the game setup;
PLAYERS CARS PER TEAM
- 2 6 cars each
- 3 5 cars each
- 4 4 cars each
- 5-7 3 cars each
Following this setup you use all 7 player aid cards and bring in to play the Black, Blue, Green, Pink, Purple, Red, and Yellow cars.
There are basically four different types of movement in Thunder Alley and that is;
- Solo Movement
- Draft Movement
- Pursuit Movement
- Lead Movement
Some of the “Race Cards” that are played during a turn are;
On these cards you receive all the information that is necessary to play the game. At the top of the card on the left, you see two numbers. The first number is the number of spaces a car can move while in the race and the smaller number underneath tells the player the number of spaces that can be moved coming out of the pit. Also, on the right of the card you see the damage the car would undergo if it is played. In this particular example, the player playing the card would receive “Tire Damage”. Next on the card is a small picture of a car and it can have an arrow or arrows and this advises the player what the car can do. For example, referencing the “Fast Pace” card we see that the arrow is pointing to the front of the car. This means that if played this card would have the player push any cars that are in front of his car as long as the cars are there. Then you receive some written instructions that the player must execute in the middle of the card.
Finally at the bottom of the card you see the “Team Bar”. The Team Bar is a strip of colors and symbols at the bottom of each Race Card. This bar is used to resolve various situations, when randomness needs to be introduced, or when more than one team qualifies for an event, and for setting the starting order of a race.
After all cars have been activated in a turn, an “Event Card” is drawn by the player possessing the First Player Marker. The text on the card is read aloud, and the result of the card is determined. The icon on the upper left of the card will show which wear markers are important to the card. Also, the “Event Text” is read and the results are applied as indicated. Each Event card also has a flag icon that will determine if the event causes a Yellow Flag, a Green Flag or a Red Flag. Each of these flags has a different effect on game play.
In case you can’t tell, I am very excited about this game. While it’s not the typical wargame that is published by GMT I think I can easily predict that it will become one of their best sellers if not their number 1 seller over time. You may think that there is no strategy in the game, but that is not true. There is strategy a plenty as the player, just like the NASCAR driver, needs to know when is the best time to pit or who he should get behind so they can get a good draft move and when to play the card with a high movement factor so the race lead can be taken from another driver.
This game will have plenty of crossover appeal. General gamers will love it, wargamer’s will use the game as an excuse to break away from their wargaming and finally, NASCAR fans will fall in love with the game and enjoy it immensely. Overall, I would rate this game a 10 out of 10 for pure fun, enjoyment and simplicity of play. But don’t let it all fool you as there is plenty of subtle strategy that will cause tension till the winner of the race is decided. Also, you shouldn’t lose site of the fact that this is “Team Racing” and the points of all the cars that finish will determine the winner of the season. It is very easy to lose sight of this fact when you can lose a race, but still be a season winner.
Thunder Alley is a fast paced game, that with a crowd, will have players yelling and enjoying the play of the game. You can run a single race or you can run a season to see who is the best racer and, make sure to brag about it to his fellow gamers. This is definitely the type of beer (or soda) and pretzel game, that you can invite a group of friends over to enjoy each others company and, have loads of fun.