Questions on game rules just comes with the territory in sports board games, I've come to understand. My feeling has always been I'd rather have a shorter rules booklet and leave some gray areas up to gamer common sense (for which most in this hobby have developed a strong capacity) than try to cover every nuance of every game mechanic in a rules book that starts to approach triple digits in length.
Some questions get asked more often than others. When that happens, we either add a note to the rules booklet or post an explanation online to which we can point people. Such is the case with the topic of chip expenditure in RWBR when BOTH the challenger and targeted driver have chips. How are these challenges resolved?
To begin, let's go to the rules booklet. It reads, "To simplify the procedure when playing the game solitaire, it’s considered that a driver who HAS a performance chip automatically SPENDS it to salvage a failed challenge or defense. Also NOTE that If BOTH the challenger and defender have a performance chip, then the red-white-blue roll will determine who wins the challenge, and an additional odd/even die roll will determine whether both drivers SPEND a chip[odd], or both drivers RETAIN their chip[even]."
What this doesn't specifically spell out is what happens when both drivers have chips, but one of them has MORE chips than the other. It sounds more complicated than it really is. Laurence Davis contributed this innovative way of approaching it recently on the PLAAY Games Delphi Forum: "I've found the simplest and fairest method is to (1) roll for the challenge to determine the winner, then (2) allow the guy with the extra chip to spend it IF needed." That's a pretty solid house rule, simple and fair.
Here are a couple of thinking points that might illuminate this aspect of the game event more.
First, assuming you're using the (recommended for simplicity) rule that chips are always spent to salvage a failed challenge or defense, the driver with more chips is always going to prevail. The only thing to resolve is how many chips he will have to spend to do so.
For example, let's use this scenario: Dick Exham in fourth place is challenging Wayne Montana, the leader. In our first example, Exham has one chip, Montana has two. Right away, we know that Montana is going to hold the lead--because he has more chips. We resolve the challenge by rolling the red white and blue dice. If Exham wins the challenge—let's say we rolled a red "1" and a blue "6"—then all chips are going to be spent, in this order: Montana spends to defend, Exham spends to overtake, Montana spends to defend and remains in the lead. If Exham loses the challenge--which would not be unexpected--Exham will spend the first chip to overtake, Montana spends to defend, end of challenge. Montana maintains in the lead and still has one chip remaining.
Another example, same scenario, but this time Exham has two chips, Montana has one. Again, right away, we know that Exham is going to overtake Montana for the lead—because he has more chips. We resolve the challenge by rolling the red white and blue dice. If Exham wins the challenge—let's again say we rolled a red "1" and a blue "6"—then chips are going to be spent, in this order: Montana spends to defend, Exham spends to overtake and takes the lead, he'll still have one chip remaining. If Exham loses the challenge, he'll spend the first chip to overtake, Montana spends to defend, Exham spends his second chip to overtake. Exham takes the lead but has no chips remaining.
Back to Laurence Davis, who does it a little bit differently. Laurence limits chip expense to ONE per turn. "For two chips against one, roll to determine who wins challenge, then if the loser has the extra chip he can spend it. Ignore the rest of the chips and keep racing." Thus, on Laurence's game table, the driver who loses he challenge will often keep at least one of his performance chips. Let's go through the same scenarios as above, using Laurence's method...
Dick Exham in fourth place is challenging Wayne Montana, the leader. In our first example, Exham has one chip, Montana has two. As before, we know that Montana is going to hold the lead—because he has more chips. We resolve the challenge by rolling the red white and blue dice. If Exham wins the challenge—let's say we rolled a red "1" and a blue "6"—then Montana, with the extra chip, spends to defend. That's it. Exham and Montana now each have one chip, and the race continues. If Exham loses the challenge—which would not be unexpected—no chips are spent at all. The race continues, Montana with two chips, Exham with one.
Second example, same scenario, but this time Exham has two chips, Montana has one. Again, right away, we know that Exham is going to overtake Montana for the lead—because he has more chips. We resolve the challenge by rolling the red white and blue dice. If Exham wins the challenge—let's again say we rolled a red "1" and a blue "6"—then NO chips are spent, Exham will take the lead with two chips, Montana will drop back to fourth with one chip. If Exham loses the challenge, he'll spend a chip to overtake Montana for the lead, but both will still have one chip.
"ONLY if the drivers both have the SAME number of chips do I use the odd/even roll (recommended in the rules) to determine if both lose one chip or both keep them." The way Laurence plays it, a driver would only ever lose ONE chip per roll. If both have two chips, for instance, Laurence rolls to resolve the challenge, then rolls odd/even to determine if both drivers lose ONE chip, or not. "This is the simplest easiest way I have found to deal with racers and a lot of chips." I would point out, though, that using this method will allow chips to accumulate more easily and hang around longer. In other words, you'll have an easier way to deal with more chips—but also more chips to have to deal with.
A second thing to consider is the narrative aspect of forcing a driver to burn chips. By limiting the chip expense to just one chip, you galvanize a driver who has picked up multiple chips, giving him what could be construed (depending on your viewpoint) as an unfair advantage.
For example, let's look at the previous scenario as if it were to occur at or near the end of a race. Further, for the sake of discussion, let's assume that a TOP group PIT TURN has given all drivers in the TOP group a performance chip. Dick Exham in fourth place is challenging Wayne Montana, the leader. Exham has one chip, Montana has two. Exham loses the challenge. Under Laurence's rules, no chips are spent: Exham ends the race with an unspent chip and Montana holds the lead and both chips. Under our rules, Exham leaves it all on the track and forces Montana to burn a chip. Not only does this have stronger narrative, but this distinction has HUGE implications for the drivers in second and third place. Under Laurence's rule, Montana in the lead with two chips late in a race is going to be nearly impossible to overtake. Under our rule, Montana in the lead with three or four chipped drivers on his tail—that's going to be a memorable finish!
Of course, you're welcome to use whichever method you prefer!
Another thing to think about is what the chip situation looks like when expense is NOT automatic. Yes, it makes it more complex—which is why we offer the "automatic" suggestion. But for gamers who like to be more engaged with the decision-making, or for the head-to-head racing rules we were planning to discuss at the convention, choosing whether or not to spend a chip can have strong strategic implications. In our above example, early in a race it could very well make sense that Exham would choose not to spend his chip on a failed challenge, whether the leader had an extra chip or not. A leader with no brake symbols, for example, is easier to dislodge than one with one or two of them. Maybe Exham bides his time, hoping to win a challenge for the lead outright and keep the chip for defense.
After spending a good amount of time thinking about it, I think it's my fault that this aspect of the game generates questions so frequently: while I intended to simplify the decision making, the suggestion I came up with is contradictory. On the one hand, it suggests automatic chip expense as a way to keep things simple. The second half of the rule directly contradicts that, allowing a scenario under which both drivers might keep their chips. In retrospect, I should have excluded that last part from the rules and made the odd/even roll an "advanced option."
So, to clarify, here's what I would say in summary as the "official RWBR word" on this...
I hope this article has helped you understand the thought process! If you have questions or comments, let us know--we're always happy to help!
Thoughts? Comments? We'd love to hear from you!