Despite the growing popularity of board games, it can be fairly difficult to suss out a solid middle-ground game for new game night attendees. It’s vital to cast a wide net for family members or friends with various comfort levels, who fondly remember the hits of their youth but haven’t been following the hype around Gen Con or this past weekend’s PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia. This audience of post-Candy Land casuals is ripe with potential players on the cusp of getting pushed into something more engaging, and with the right games to nudge them, could be brought into the fold and thereby increase game-night attendance and quality to heights hitherto unseen.
To achieve this goal, the best games utilize a combination of aesthetic flash, initial simplicity for ease of entry, with a little chaos and depth to be doled out as a game is figured out and played. This is a hard basket of nuts to crack, a somewhat uncommon lineup of attributes that many games strive for, but for whatever reasons doesn’t hit with regular accuracy. A party game with pizzazz, that’s more than guessing, randomness, or being told what the best course of action is and merely following orders. Well, it just so happens that we are in an age of 80’s worship, what with Stranger Things and the return of cassette tapes, and the recent tabletop light-cycle race and crashing game Lazer Ryderz is cashing in on the craze while burning with great design, ease of entry, and tabletop madness with peak efficiency.
Developed by Cardboard Fortress Games, who I’ve had my eye on and spoken with a few times in the past, Lazer Ryderz stands out immediately with its Betamax boxed set of beam-jockeys. There’s no board, just the need for a 3×3 foot table or larger to spread out and blaze across. Each player chooses a character based on a preference for sharks or skulls, sheriffs or surfers, and pulls their respective tape from the box. Each of these includes hologram-splattered tracks, prisms, and character standees that all represent the walls of energy each character leaves in their wake as they zoom across the table.
That table, which serves as the arena for 2-4 players, is soon criss-crossed with racing players, and much like a giant multi-player round of snake, if you go through someone else’s lazer path, you crash and your light-trails are removed along with most of theirs. Each player is trying to zip through hexagonal prisms, which, when done successfully, claims it for themselves. After a player claims three of these prisms, they hoist the fluorescent chalice of victory high above their head, but captured prisms can be stolen as the game goes on.
Lazer Ryderz is loud: it blasts your eyes with glimmering color, and each surfer praises their luck for snatching glory and curses their competitors for sniping it away. The rules are fairly intuitive, allowing fresh faces and old hats to drop in with relative ease, and since pre-measuring is prohibited players are forced to just make a call and hope for the best. A crash can be spectacular but not necessarily catastrophic, as one may often want to restart and aim towards a newly dropped prism. This ease of entry makes the game a solid bet for small parties or family gatherings where maybe some Monopoly barons might have previously sucked all the oxygen out of a get-together. Making a clutch turn isn’t always successful but that bit of randomness keeps everyone on their toes and thinking about maximum speed vs. peak turning ratios, so no matter your playstyle everyone has a valid approach on their cosmic road to victory.
This is a fun, quick, simple game that screams out from the shelf. Like Snake meets Tron with a little Jack Kirby and Lisa Frank for good measure, this is one I’ve been hearing about for a while and I’m glad I got the chance to snag it at PAX for casual game nights as I slowly convert my skittish colleagues towards meatier fare, on the back of a ghost cosmonaut blazing across the sky.
Lazer Ryderz is available for order now on Kickstarter.