Snow Tails – First Impressions

Compared to some of my First Impressions posts this will probably be pretty short. It’s not that Snow Tails is any less deserving of space but rather it’s more that the game is fairly simple to describe. I have to admit that this is one of the reasons I decided to do this post today.

There are several other games (Le Havre for example) I have played recently that I feel the need to either put up in a First Impressions post or write a full scale review about, but most of them (again Le Havre comes to mind) would take up a lot of time to discuss. Since I sort of feel that I am still recovering from Origins (and the pile of work that I came back to after being away for a couple of days) I didn’t want to tackle anything too extravagant.

I made three purchases at Origins. I picked up Rebel vs. Imperium for Race for the Galaxy along with Dominion: Intrigue, both of which I knew I was getting when I went, and while there I decided to pick up Snow Tails. It’s a game I have been looking at for a while and it seemed like something different than what we currently have in our group.

I have to admit that I had been looking for a copy of Space Alert as I was going to grab that, but it was the end of the con and I could not find a copy so I got Snow Tails instead. Still, they were both games I was interested in.

Snow Tails is a race game. Now, when I said this in front of my wife I also added that we really didn’t have a race game so this was something different and she commented that we had Race for the Galaxy. While Race does have the word “race” in it, it is not in fact a game about racing. On the other hand Snow Tails is.

Snow Tails is a game about dog sled racing where you move along a track and do your best to stay ahead of the pack so as to win in the end. Simple.

The gameplay is as simple as the concept. Players play one, two, or three cards (the cards are numbered one through five and each player has their own deck) in a turn to modify how strong their right and left dogs are pulling as well as how strong their brake is. However the cards played can only be the same number and turning is based on how much stronger one dog is pulling than the other. Thus some thinking ahead is in order, as previously played cards stick around.

While moving along the track players must take care not to run into each other or the sides of the track as this will cause dents. Dents reduce your hand size (which starts off at five) and if a player ever has five dents they are eliminated. I haven’t played a game with true elimination in a long time and I have to say that I was a bit disturbed by this. Still, players can usually avoid taking dents (though not always) but may take them on occasion for tactical reasons.

The game has a “catch up” mechanic in that if a player’s dogs are both pulling at the same strength that player can get a bonus move equal to their place in the race. I think this kind of thing is essential for a game of this type as it helps prevent run-away leaders and encourages close races that are much more interesting.

The game comes with board segments and suggested tracks (at Origins and elsewhere you can get a bonus segment called The Leap of Death though as this is not included in the base game it is also not included in the example tracks) which offer a starting point but also allow players to be creative and make their own tracks. This kind of thing increases replay ability and will appeal to a lot of gamers.

The game itself is fairly numbers-intensive. My wife and I played a game and she crushed me and then we played another with a friend and he beat us both. I don’t expect I will ever be the best at this game but as my wife has become a fan of it I expect it will see repeated play. I myself enjoy it but am not blown away by it. Certainly it is more for people who want to think about and plan things than those who adore chaos, but there is still a fair amount of randomness as you are only drawing five cards at a time.

Overall it seems like a nifty game that I am glad to have purchased. The fact that it is dog sleds instead of cars appeals to me as I am almost an anti-fan of car racing these days. While the theme will likely not jump out and grab many people the mechanics are solid, and thus if you are looking for something that is actually a simulation of racing I can recommend this.

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    ojiepat Says:

    a game with planning! where do I sign up?

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    The catch-up mechanic seems crucial to maintaining a close racing game; similar mechanics exist in many console racing games, where drivers who are behind will get temporarily increased acceleration or top speed. Sure it’s less realistic, but it certainly helps keep the game more fun.

    Good to see it present in Snow Tails. I also like the fact that you get to build the track; it sounds like Snow Tails could be a (very) distant cousin of Robo Rally.