Friday, August 19, 2005

"Mississippi Queen" by Rio Grande Games

Why do teenagers feel the need to drive so recklessly? Is it a form of disobedience? Freedom of expression? Pure lunacy? I have no idea, but I do know that I was among the crazy.

I was wild. I inherited my mom’s ‘88 Honda Civic, and to this day, I do not know how I survived the next few years. I mean that literally.

This particular Honda was a hatchback, and everybody called it that. The hatchback got the best gas mileage, and this feature made it the most popular vehicle to ride in. At my peak of recklessness, I managed to fit nine people into it, cramming one small friend into the trunk space.

I used to play chicken with parked cars. I also found a small stretch of road where I could go 95 mph without fear of being pulled over by the police. I used to cut across fields just to win a race other drivers. I did this all in a car which hovered two inches off the ground.

My luck ran out eventually, as it always does. I fell asleep going 80 mph on a Texas highway. Although nothing serious happened, the reckless days came to an abrupt end.

Then one day I found Mississippi Queen, and the cycle started all over again. Mississippi Queen was created by Werner Hodel and is produced by Rio Grande Games. Believe it or not, recklessness is encouraged.

Mississippi Queen is a steamboat race. The goal is to reach the final docks with at least two passengers (shaped like southern belles). It doesn’t matter how pretty or ugly your journey is, just so long as you finish first.

You start off navigating a steamboat with two dials, one representing speed (set to 1) and the other representing surplus coal reserves (set to 6). Each turn, you may increase your speed by one for free before you move. You may also have one free turn at any point during your movement. Any extra speed and/or turns must be paid for using your coal reserves. It’s a good idea to hold on to your coal until well past the middle of the game.

Your boat is placed at one end of a long winding river composed of hexagons. There is an element of randomness in the formation of the river, as players in the lead must roll a die to determine the placement of the next river segment. Hanging back to see which way the river goes (left, right, or straight ahead) is a good idea.

Passengers can be found at various islands along the river route. You must approach their docks and slow down to 1 speed to pick them up. This process can get a little tricky, and it definitely makes the game interesting.

However, the most fun aspect of Mississippi Queen by far is the bumping. If there is a steamboat in your path, you may bump them if you are going fast enough. In my last game of Mississippi Queen, one player spent all of his turns bumping other players. Sure, he didn’t win, but he had a great time losing.

The outrageous speeds and wild maneuvering in Mississippi Queen reminded me of that crazy time in my life as a teenage driver. I thought that time had long since passed, but Mississippi Queen reminded me that a little spirit of those days lives on, if only over the board.

Cost: $39.95
Players: 3 to 5
Age: 10 and up
Time to play: 30 to 45 minutes
Rating (1 to 10, 10 being the best): 7
Additional Comments: The mechanics in this game are very unique. Best with 4 or 5 players.


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