Roller Coaster Rush
Have you ever wanted to build a roller coaster, and not just in a video game?
Two to four players bid on coaster sections and try to arrange them into the most exciting, highest value, working plastic coaster in this game by Scott Almes. Roller Coaster Rush is published by Pandasaurus and it’s rated for ages 8+.
How to Play
Every player starts with $20 in cardboard coins, a marble, a launching track piece, and an investor card, along with 4-6 random blueprint cards (depending on player count).
Everyone takes the plastic track pieces represented by their blueprint cards. Return all the rest of the track pieces to the box; they won’t be used in this game.
Design a model coaster by connecting all your track pieces, with the launching track at one end.
Let’s go build some coasters! Players take turns in clockwise order.
On your turn, you may either Call an Auction or Demo for Investors.
Call an Auction
When calling an auction, you pick any blueprint on the table – whether it’s in front of you, or in front of another player. That blueprint is now up for auction, and the winner will get to build it.
Roller Coaster Rush uses blind auctions – every player secretly decides how much they’re willing to bid. When everyone’s ready, reveal at the same time.
Whoever has the highest bid pays their money to the bank. Then they take the blueprint card, flip it to the “constructed” side, and add the plastic track piece to their coaster, wherever they’d like. (If they already owned the piece, they don’t get to move it.) That track piece may no longer be bid on for the rest of the game.
Changing your model coaster makes investors interested! The player who won the auction flips their investor card to “interested” – and so does the player who lost a track (if there is one).
If there was a tie to win an auction, the tied players hold another round of secret bidding, showing how much they’re willing to add to their initial bid. Whoever wins must pay the entire sum they bid. (Bidding nothing is always an option!)
Demo for Investors
But maybe you’re running out of money. How can you get more? By demonstrating your coaster for interested investors.
If your investor card is on the “interested” side, you can choose this action. Drop your marble on the launch piece of your coaster model and see how far it goes. If your marble didn’t reach the end, you can try a second time to see if it can go a bit farther. Take $1 from the bank for each track section that the marble completely passes on the better run. Sometimes the marble will roll back onto a piece it passed. It’s up to your play group if that matters.
Then flip your investor card back to “uninterested”.
Game End: Grand Opening
Once all the blueprints have been auctioned, it’s time for the Grand Opening – revealing everyone’s coasters to the public.
Just like the Demo for Investors, drop your marble onto the launch ramp and note every track piece it completes – and you may try a second time. Count up the number of flags on all your completed track pieces; that’s your final score. Whoever has the most flags has the best coaster!
While it’s very cool to have a game where you really assemble a roller coaster track, Roller Coaster Rush can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Is this a fun little dexterity game to build a working marble coaster? Or is it a serious auction game where you need to balance your resources to get the most points?
Building a Mystery Coaster
There are a surprisingly high number of plastic tracks in the box. But you’ll only get to play with a few in any given game.
It’s frustrating that you’re not “allowed” to play with the coaster you made, until you Demo for Investors. It dampens the toy factor quite a bit, since there are so few opportunities to test and re-arrange the tracks. Without experimentation, it’s hard to tell which hills the marble will actually make it over, and the seams where tracks join tend to slow the marble down.
But I can’t quite take this seriously as an auction game, either. Especially at two players, we’re just trading off who wins; if you won the last auction, you’re likely running low on money. And it’s rarely clear which of the high-value track pieces (if any!) will actually award points at the end of the game – since they need to be completed by a marble with only a little bit of kinetic energy.
Roller Coaster Rush includes an advanced mode, where players draft Showstopper cards that award bonus points if certain conditions are met. Even these can’t really save the game – you have to draft the cards before anyone starts building, and it’s tough to guess if you’ll be able to meet the requirements. Many of the Showstoppers only award points if your marble completes at least two sections in a specific order.
An Unhappy Marriage
It is possible be strategic in a building dexterity game without bogging it down (see our Tournament of Towers review). Unfortunately, Roller Coaster Rush removes most of the fun of the coaster building by disallowing experimentation. This makes sense with the rules, but ruins a primary draw of the game.
This issue is worsened by keeping the game at a reasonable price point; it isn’t economical to make modular, lightweight roller coaster pieces with the kind of tight tolerances that keep the marble rolling. This manufacturing limitation means you won’t see anything wild here: no loops, jumps, or anything like that. Our investor-funded, audience-approved coasters were about as interesting as a kiddie ride.
At the end of the day, the two primary mechanics in Roller Coaster Rush are wildly different. It’s hard to marry the strategy of blind bidding to the fun of the roller coaster building, and it takes a special kind of gamer to find delight in both of them here. The idea is neat, but the implementation is rickety at best.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Roller Coaster Rush from Pandasaurus for this review.
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Roller Coaster Rush
Age Range: 8+
Playtime: 15-30 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4