There is a new Sonic the Hedgehog board game. And having spent the last week playing with my children, I think beyond Mania maybe be the best sonic I played in years regardless of the medium.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Crash Course – designed by Sean Mcdonald and published by IDW – is a family board game for 2-4 players. It is designed for people over 8 years and should take 30 to 40 minutes from start to finish.
It is a racing game, which in terms of thematic adjustment may at first seem rather strange. After all, sonic The games are (usually) platformers, all about exploration and villains and bosses, and the goal is to defeat Eggman in battle, not in a walking race.
However, a racing game is actually a great way to express Sonic's most important brand: Speed.
The game is played by laying tiles that build a lane. Players take turns moving their character, picking up items or repairing damage, and the Crash Course Strategic demands revolve around deciding which of these actions to perform and in what order.
It's built for 2-4 players, but playing with only two was not so good; I found that races and hijinx were a lot better with three or four, with the extra chaos being the slight increase in downtime between shifts.
The way the lane is built is perhaps the best and most part of Sonic-y Collision course, because you do not plan the entire course, you start by building a few parts. You only add a new piece when the player is ready to cross it.
It's a brilliant idea that translates to the speed of old 2D console games – where you could not see what was coming until you were right on top of you – for a tabletop experience.
The rest of the thematic implementation of the game is not so elegant. Beyond the act of actually running / advancing, the other important element of Crash Course design is the use of items. Instead of finding certain enemies and speed increases scattered throughout the course, players take possession of items from the board and can place them manually.
To like Mario Kartbasically, this alone is not Mario Kart.
Not that this is a big deal; is really a very smart and fun way to deal with running strategies. The course is filled with spikes and enemies, and it's great to drop items that can divert a rival into damage or reverse positions.
Any thematic oddities – indeed, this could / should have been a Mario Kart game instead of one sonic one – are more than compensated by the joy of using a booster to play the Tails in a nest of spikes.
My only complaint is that although the game's race generation system is legal, it could have done more parts and more variety; there's only one straight, one kind of curve and some shortcuts, which is fine, but it can also get a bit monotonous. Some other types of terrain may have tempered things a bit more.
And that's all there is to it. Collision course! It's a very lightweight game, aimed at the department store crowd (anyone looking for a similar but heavier sonic racing board game must check Battle pilots), so it is not overloaded by many rules or components.
But what is there is a well-designed racing experience with a really cool way to play very fast video games in a very slow setting.