I have enjoyed playing plenty of racing board games like Circvs Maximvs or Formula De. I also spent a lot of my childhood playing video games like wipeout, F-Zero and Mario Kart. Why do I mention all of these other games when I am doing a review of Nicolas Fournier's Megapulse? I mention all of these because if you like any of them your going to be impressed with Megapulse.
Megapulse is a fast paced hover car racing game set in the dystopian future. You and up to 3 of your friends take on the unique roles of the Trickster, Champion, Expert or Freak and Race your Hover cars which also have unique features around a customizable track. There is so much replay value in this game due to just those three factors but there is also a card drafting/hand building aspect to the game that will upgrade your cars.
To setup the game each player chooses a vehicle and an pilot and setsu up the modular track. The track is very futuristic looking like if rainbow road and f-zero had a baby together. I played a pre-production copy on tabletop simulator so what I played might differ from the final game that comes out of the kickstarter that starts November 9th. I did get to see a prototype at gencon this year also and the physical copy looks great as well.
Once all the players have chosen the two cards they are going to use for the round then they are all revealed. This is when the fun starts.
The players all start shoulder to shoulder at the start line there is no pole position or off set starting. Each player has the same 7 base cards with one exception there is an augmented card for each player depending on what vehicle they have chosen. To get the race started all the players choose 2 cards and place them face down next to their player/vehicle mat. The cards include adding nitro power changing speed placing bombs on the track and shooting the other players. Once all the players have chosen the two cards they are going to use for the round then they are all revealed. This is when the fun starts.
This gives you a lot of flexibility in strategy unlike other programed move games.
There are two kinds of cards in each players hand, there are instant cards and normal cards. During the reveal each player that has an instant card resolves them first in the current turn order. After that each player plays the rest of or all of their cards in turn order. There is also an additional action each player gets during their turn, and that is the race or repair action. You can choose what order to do these in, for example you can play your first card then execute the race action and play a second card. This gives you a lot of flexibility in strategy unlike other programed move games. So back to race or repair, when you race you move forward your current speed level or you can repair the damage on your hover car during this action.
As you are whipping around the track at high velocity you will run across boost pads on the track. These give you bonus speed, side movement, repair or Nitro. This really helps give you that f-zero/mariokart vibe. as you progress through the track there are checkpoints and the start/finish line and every time you cross through one of them you get an upgrade token. You can use these to buy upgrades from the drafting line of cards (4 face up cards and one face down to choose from). These cards can replace cards you have in your hand, add to your hand, or are passive upgrades to the car and are always on.
So there are plenty of ways to damage the other car and yourself throughout the race. From superbombs to bouncing off of eachother or just miscalculating a turn and hitting the sidewall. This is the point you may ask what happens when you are destroyed? Well your not out of the game and you wont be left so far behind that playing the rest of the game seems silly. You will have to take some time to repair and then you will get to get back into the race. When you damage your opponent they track who did the damage to them on their vehicle mat. If they are destroyed each player who did damage gets a frenzy token for each damage they did to that player. You can use these to move an additional space during your turn.
Each racer has a pilot in the car and the pilots have the mechanism that keeps the race tighter. This is called the catalyst. The Catalyst will give you speed or other advantages to stay in the race and it scales up the further back you are in the race so that no racer ever feels like they are out of the race. When I played this game (I came in 3rd out of 4) I always felt I had a chance of winning the game and felt compelled to keep playing. There are times in other racing games where you can crash out or get so far behind that continuing the game just seems silly. Not in Megapulse.
This is a fast pace racing game that leaves no player out of the mix the entire game. Megapulse has a modular board with modular racer/vehicle combos and a large upgrade deck that will have you playing this game often. The game is easy but it is not mastered quickly. I recommend this for the race fanatic in your life or for anyone looking for a fast paced lighter weight rules racing game. This hits Kickstarter on November 9th and is sure to blow the doors off of Kickstarter.
Published by: Orion Games
Year Published: 2022
Recommended Ages: 14+
Time to Play: 30-90 minutes