You fly past the rabbit on your trusty rooster, laughing as the gremlin on top eats your dust. You saw the Waldgeist veer off the track a while back, that walking tree looks terrifying. But the finish line is in sight, and you get a weird feeling like there's something you forgot. How many racers were there? You hear a slight whooshing sound, like something large is getting closer, you turn in time to see the barrel strike you, knocking you into a puddle then off the track. The pig squeals as it rushes pash, and you swear it's smiling but you can't be sure, and then the mud swallows your vision as you land facefirst into it, quickly followed your rooster and then your dreams of glory. Next time Bayou Bash. Next time.
Bayou Bash is a self-contained stand-alone racing board game, set in the swamps of Malifaux, the skirmish game from Wyrd Games. One to four players pick gremlins riding a variety of farm animals and race to the finish, collecting fans along the way. The winner at the end is the player with the most fans, not necessarily the racer who crosses the finish line first, although it does help.
Players initially decide on the type of race track and rules they want to use. Tracks can be randomly built, or templates from the back of the book are provided. They can be either a set amount of circuits in a circular track or a length of track with a start and end. A variety of track pieces are provided, to keep games varied, and they're also double-sided with a grassy and swamp side, with the swamp side having more obstacles on them.
Players then choose between the four available racers which each have their own special abilities to use each turn. The Rooster, who's quick and agile. The Pig, who's less affected by water and has a little reach. The Rabbit who can give nearby opposing racers stagger tokens and who has a long jump and the Waldgeist, a tree spirit who's very stable and is actually rewarded for hitting rocks.
Each turn players draft cards for movement, choosing in reverse order of the racers track position from a number of face-up cards. These cards have a number of movement dice shown on them, and those dice are then rolled for movements points that turn. There are three types of dice, Nimble, Swift, and Dashing, which gain an increasing number of movement points on their faces, but also an increasing number of stagger symbols, which can cause a random movement at the end of your turn. The cards also have barrels on them, which are placed on the tracks and can be knocked into opponents, and also carrot tokens, which are collected and used to activate abilities each turn.
The game is won by the player with the most fans at the end of the game, and players gain fans by ramming into opposing racers, sometimes on the stagger dice, each turn the racer in the lead gains two fans, and the racer who crosses the finish line first gains three. Fan tokens are then placed on the track and can be removed by opposing racers to keep their score down. Different game modes are also available, with Destruction Derbys (where players can only gain fans through ramming), Stubborn Jockeys (with limited jockey cards for each player), Time Trial (for a solo variant), and Night Racing (where the track emerges as the race progresses).
Bayou Bash is a lot of fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and games can be very random, but it's still a very rewarding experience and feels very much like a tabletop Mario Kart with gremlins. The different race options add a huge amount of variety, and the random card draw each turn, with players drafting in reverse order keeps most of the racers bunched up for regular chaos. The card text and abilities names are incredibly on theme, along with the coloring throughout, which makes it a much brighter game than the Malifaux setting.
The game includes tokens, and unique racer meeples for the different racer options, which at first I thought was strange, as the racers are the four miniatures in the Malifaux Bayou Starter Set. But this actually increases the accessibility of the game. Without the miniatures, it keeps the product cost down and opens it up to the board game community, for which it is entirely suitable because it's a great game, and no Malifaux background is required to play. Players of Malifaux with the Bayou Starter Set or players who want to pick it up will find miniatures that look awesome on the tracks. The bases are slightly too big, so have to be placed overlapping during the game, but this looks entirely in keeping with the carnage of Bayou Bash.
The Bottom Line
Bayou Bash is a fantastic racing board game. Although it is set in the skirmish wargame world of Malifaux, no knowledge or wargaming hobby experience is required, which is great, because Bayou Bash is very accessible, crazy, random, and great fun. The different racers, tracks, rules varieties, and movement card drafting give Bayou Bash a huge amount of replayability out of a very simple package.
Get This Game If:
- You want a great race game.
- You love randomness in your games.
- You want to knock a barrel into a giant chicken.
Avoid This Game If:
- You don't want a racing game.
- You want a game with strict competitive rules.
The copy of the Bayou Bash used to produce this review was provided by Wyrd Games.