Downforce is a card-driven bidding, racing, and betting game for 2-6 players based on Top Race, the award-winning design by the legendary Wolfgang Kramer. Players first bid to own the six cars in the race, then they play cards from their hand to speed them around the track. However, most cards will also move their opponents' cars. So figuring out just the right time to play a card is the key to victory. Along the way, players make secret bets on who they think will win the race. Whoever has the most money from their prize money, winning bets, and remaining bank wins.
Start of the game
The game is composed of:
- a game board
- six colored cars (black, blue, green, yellow, orange, red)
- speed cards with one to six lines with a color and a speed on each
- six special speed cards with a single speed line
- power cards with special abilities
A race circuit is chosen and all six racing cars are placed randomly on starting spaces. Then, six color cards are shuffled and disposed on a stack. Each player takes an equal number of speed cards.
The first color card is then drawn and every player will secretly and simultaneously choose a card from their hand to auction on it. The highest speed line matching the current auction color will win the auction and get the car, the special speed card and a power card associated to the car if this game option has been selected.
When all auctions are processed, the race begins.
During a player's turn, a player plays a speed card and moves in order every car that matches a speed line on it from top to bottom. Cars have to move as far as possible unless blocked by "traffic jams" and it is the current player that moves all cars, even opponents'. So it is possible (and advised!) to play opponents' car so bad they are stuck and cannot move.
If during a turn a car crosses a yellow line, all players must secretly bid on which car will win the race. Betting on the winner will provide additional points and sound bets can win a game even for the last of the race.
End of the game
The game ends when all of the cars have crossed the finish line. Payouts are given to players according to their race results:
- winner of the race: 12M$
- second: 9M$
- third: 6M$
- fourth: 4M$
- fifth: 2M$
Additionally, betting payouts are awarded as follows:
- first bet:
- betting on the winner: 9M$
- betting on the second: 6M$
- betting on the third: 3M$
- second bet:
- betting on the winner: 6M$
- betting on the second: 4M$
- betting on the third: 2M$
- third bet:
- betting on the winner: 3M$
- betting on the second: 2M$
- betting on the third: 1M$
Powers can be added into the game for additional complexity and more dynamic games. During each car auction, a power is attached to a car an the winner of the auction get the power. If a player has several powers, they must choose only one.
The base powers are the following:
- Aggressive: If you play a card with your car at the top the the card, you may move that car 1 additional space
- Cunning: You always move your cars, even on other player's turns
- Determined: On any player's turn, if your car moved into only rectangular spaces, you may move it 2 additional spaces
- Strategic: If you play a speed car with all six colors on it, you may ignore one color of it
- Tricky: On your turn, you may move the cars in reverse order, from lower to highest
- Unpredictable: If you play a card with a wild on it, you may use that wild for a color that is already on the card
If the "additional powers" option is selected, the powers from the Danger Circuit expansion are added into the game:
- Ambitious: On any player's turn, if your car crosses a betting line you may move it 2 additional spaces
- Experienced: On any player's turn, if any car starts its movement in a space directly ahead of your car, you may move your car into the space that car moved out of
- Tough: On any player's turn, if your car ends its movement in a space adjacent to a rumble strip, you may move it 2 additional spaces
- Bold: On your turn, if your car would move 1 or 2 spaces, move it 3 spaces instead
- Defensive: If none of your cars move on your turn, move one of your cars 3 spaces
- Reckless: On your turn, if your car moves through a Tight Space, you may move it 2 additional spaces
Two additional betting variants are provided:
- odds betting: instead of normal betting payout, multiply the current position of the car you bet on (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) by the betting modifier (3 for finishing 1st, 2 for finishing 2nd, 1 for finishing third on the first bet; 2,1,0 for the second and; 1,0,0 for the third) to get the payout at the end. For example, your first bet is on a car that is in 4th place and it ends up in 1st place at the end of the race, your payout is 4x3 = $12M! If you bet on a car that is in second on the second bet and maintains that place to the end of the race, you would only earn 2x1 = $2M. And finally, if you bet on the 1st place car on the last bet, but they end up placing only 3rd, you would get nothing because 1x0 = $0M.
- odds betting, winner only: same as above but only the winning car provide payouts, making it a high risk, high reward game of all or nothing!
There are 6 tracks for choosing in the game.
River Station and Marina Bay
There are normal boards with no special features.
This track features two crossover loops and two split sections. Cars entering the crossover loop must move into the loop. They cannot move directly from the entry to the exit directly or with a power.
This track features dangerous spaces which are too small to fit any cars and have cracks on them. They can only be used to pass another car. You cannot end your movement on it and you are forced to move back to a regular space if there is one.
This tracks features ramps which can be used to zoom ahead. They can only be used if the car has an equal or higher speed than the one on the ramp, has at least 1 space of movement remaining and the landing space is empty.
This tracks features animals including antelope, elephant and python. They occupy one space on the board and block any movement. At the end of a turn in which at least one car has passed an animal, that animal moves to its next open space on the board (or leaves the board if it was on its final space).