On Your Marks… Top Sports Games

The summer of sports (another one, will they never end?) is here! And that can mean only one thing… that’s right, let’s stay in and play board games! Here are some sports board games you might wanna check out.

HEAT (PEDAL TO THE METAL)


Easily one of the best new games in recent years, “Heat” puts you behind the steering wheels of 1960s race cars as you attempt to push your engine to the limit (but not beyond, never beyond!) to be the first to get the chequered flag.

A race game that can play up to 6 players (and more with expansions) the gameplay here is all about managing your personal deck of cards with different numbers for how fast you go that round and fittingly, rounds are fast and furious. There is a ‘lil plastic gear stick you can move up or down to indicate how many cards you’ll play that round, but why not just go as fast as possible all the time? Good question, friend! Well lemme tell ya, there’s skill in second guessing where the other players will go to try and slipstream and crucially there are numerous corners with limits on how fast you can go around them.

What really gives players space to make their own choices though is the heat cards themselves, a resource you can burn to do things you shouldn’t be able to, maybe take a corner too fast, move an extra amount etc, but these cards then fill up your draw pile and you can only get rid of them in lower gears, it’s like taking out a loan of cool actions with the promise to your car you’ll do a boring turn later on.

One-off races are great fun but even better is the 3 race tournament with different rules added as you go with obligatory spraying of champagne (or just fizzy water, there’s a recession on after all) for the winner at the end.

LONG SHOT (THE DICE GAME)


But before there were cars, we had nature’s cars, horses! One of the few animals that loves to do a sports, horses are the stars of this super portable, super fun game of betting on a race whilst also being the ones moving them. You aren’t the horses, don’t be silly, but you CAN buy a horse mid race. Classic sports!

This plays great with more players, it goes up to 8, and I’ve had great success introducing it to non-gamers and usually unenthused family members. The gameplay is simple and addictive; each turn one player will roll 2 dice, one will be a colour relating to one of the 8 horses, the other a number 1-3, showing how far round the track they’ll go. The colour also relates to actions you can do on your personal little game board. It’s a “roll & write” game with the classic small dry wipe markers that entails.

There’s a lot of strategy in which action you’ll cross off that turn, coupled with the random luck of which horse is going to move, it makes for a great mix of real tension and laugh out loud moments when a horse that seemed sure to win starts running backwards or one horse simply refuses to start racing at all.

FLAMME ROUGE


Before Heat gave us cars, we had bicycles! From the same designers, this is the game that Heat built upon, so you could say having both on this list is a bit of a cheat, but I love them both and think they are just different enough to list the two.

The setting is an old school Tour de France-style race, with mountains and flat roads giving different choices and what’s more, you get to build the track before each race like back in the day with Scalextric!

The great trick here is you get to control two different riders, one sprinter with the fastest cards but not many of them, and one more reliable rider. Using them in combo to slipstream into position is very satisfying, but being out in front adds fatigue cards to slow down your deck.

Easy to pick up with a nice emerging skill curve and great table presence, the only thing missing are the long awaited campaign/tour rules but they should hopefully, finally, be out later this year.

BLOOD BOWL

Not based on an actual sport but about as close as board gaming gets to being a sport, Blood Bowl has been around forever. It’s a Games Workshop design with all the good and bad that brings, so you’ll need to enjoy glueing plastic orcs together. This is very loosely American Football but played by goblins, elves, halflings and giant rats. It’s the Warhammer world, but a fun take on it all that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

A two player game of who can score the most touchdowns over the course of a game, it’s a lot of positioning your 11 players and even more trying (and failing) to roll to pick up the ball. Not one for people who don’t like dice, but in terms of pure fantasy sports narrative, it’s hard to beat. A lot of people (myself included) run leagues where you can collect star player points to level up your players, buy new recruits with the money you earn etc. Our one has around 14 teams, its own fanzine and glittering prizes to be won. Just like real sports!

The latest base game edition is great, it comes with two fun teams and plenty of fun extras. More teams are easily bought, just be warned the dice are weirdly hard to come by and sometimes a team box won’t have quite enough of the best players (we see your plan Games Workshop!)

And we go to extra time! Here are two more quick ones for you…

CATAN : SOCCER FEVER

Yes, this is real. No, I have not played it. But how could I not mention one of the most insane expansions for a board game of all time? This adds a sideboard to a regular game of Catan where you flick a cardboard ball at a goalkeeper. Less a recommendation more a, can you believe they made it?

BASEBALL HIGHLIGHTS: 2045

A two player deck building game about future Baseball, now with robots and cyborgs! It’s a fast playing game where your cards simulate batting and pitching at the same time (as if watching TV Highlights, hey that explains the name!) with your cards going up against each other rock, paper scissors style. Expanding your team from a marketplace of players is great fun, getting rid of that rubbish card that lost you the last game? Even better.

Written by Tom Bell

If you want to pick up any of these games, check if they’re in stock at Zatu. Buying them there supports No Rolls Barred via our affiliate partnership. Read more here.