Daytona 500

Daytona 500 (Milton Bradley!) is supposedly a remake of a game called Formula Eins (Yes, Virginia, it's based on a EuroGame) with a few of the glitches worked out. I picked it up a Games Unlimited for seventeen dollars, so it isn't very expensive either. The box claims it is from 2-4 players, but I think it could work with 2-6.

The game comes with a mapboard, 6 cars (of different colors), 6 bidding cards (one for each car) and 48 race cards.

The Play

The game consists of three races, at the end of the game the player with the most money (!) wins. All players start the game with $300,000 before the first race. Each race has the following steps:

The Cards

There are 36 cards dealt evenly to all player. All cards do the same thing, move one or more cards forward. The simplest cards move one car forward 5 spaces (or until blocked). Then there are cards that move 3 cars, some that move 4 cars, and some that move all 6. Some of the cards have wilds on them, and you may move any car. A closer examination of the cards: After everyone has there cards and has examined them, the bidding begins.

The Bidding

One of the six colored cars is chosen at random and it is auctioned off. The auction is in player order, in units of $10,000. Once you drop out, you may not re-enter the bidding. Once the first car is auctioned off, then the second is auctioned off. The person who wins a car gets the bidding card (to show ownership) and the 9 card of that car's color. There are a few additional rules to cover bidding. First off, everyone has a maximum number of cars they can own (2 in a 3-4 player game, 3 in a 2 player game). Once you own that number, you are out of the rest of the auctions. If nobody bids on a car (unlikely) it is placed on the map and runs, but nobody collects it's payout. Also, each player must get a car. If at the last auction, you are the only person without a car, you get it for $10,000. I don't like this rule...I think you should get it for the minimum price any of the other cars went for.

The car that is auctioned off first gets the pole position, (inside lead), the second car gets outside lead, etc.

The Race

The player owning the pole position car goes first, then the ohter players go in order. During a players turn he plays one card and moves all cars the card says to move (in order, from car that moves fastest to car that moves slowest). Cars can move directly forward or forward and diagonal. If a car cannot make it's full movement, it stops short. Note that wilds must make their full movement, you can't play them for a car that can't use them.

The big note is that you control all the cars you move during your turn, whether you own them or not. So, you could move someone else's car into a position where it is blocked by cars in front of it.

The other two big factors in the race are drafting and turns. Whenever a car moves and there is a car directly behind it. The following car moves forward one space (this can cause a chain of cars to move). Secondly, on the turns, the track narrows from 3 lanes to 2 lanes. The outside land is called the Red Land. In the Red Lane, you have to move twice as many spaces to move the same distance, and, in addition, you may only pass in the Red Lane, you may not end a move in the Red lane. This makes the two turns of the race into `choke points' where passing isn't always possible and costs a hideous amount of movement even if you do pass.

Other Details

Also, once a player's last car has passed the finish line, he does not play any more cards. This could lead to a situation where, after 5 players are out, a player doesn't have enough cards to finish. In that case his car doesn't payout.

Prizes are:

  1. $300,000
  2. $200,000
  3. $150,000
  4. $100,000
  5. $80,000
  6. $50,000


Well, the strategy, like the race, is in two parts. In the bidding, your main goal is to figure out which car is going to win. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Each car starts off with the exact same movement. However, not all cards are going to get played. For example, would you want to play a Move Red 5 Card if you didn't own Red? Definitely not. However, you might get forced into playing it. So, which car to bid on? Well, one that you have a lot of cards on obviously. That way you can play the cards.

How much to bid is another question entirely. The total payouts are $880,000 so that averages to over $145 thousand a car. But, that assumes all the cars will finish, which may not happen. Also, if you bid $100 thousand for a car, you have to finish 4th just to break even. Also, because of the rules, you don't want to strand someone without a car and let them get the last car for $10,000. At $10,000, even if the car doesn't finish it isn't that bad a loss...and if the car should be 2nd or 3rd, it's incredible. The other big question is do you want to get a 2nd or 3rd car? Of course, it all depends on the price (I'd probably try to pick up a 2nd car I had OK cards for if it were 20-30 thousand. If I had good cards for it, I'd go up to 40-60). The problem is that racing two cars is harder than racing one, so you may not be increasing your payout by much.

The racing strategy isn't so straightforward, either. You are going to have to move other players cars. So, the trick is to play those cards when they can't take full use of the movement. For example, if I control red, and I have a 6-4-2 with Red as the 2, I'll try to use it when the 6 and 4 are blocked.

Of course, getting your car into a drafting position is very useful. However, getting your car in a position where others can draft off it might entice someone to play a card moving your car.

The turns are treacherous. Getting stuck behind 2 cars in a turn (with no spaces between them) makes it difficult to pass (you need a 6 or 5 of that car, or a 4 with the 6 being the lead car (which will let you pass the second car). But when you pass on the outside, you are burning up precious movement for your car. Each car has 71 spaces of movement on all the cards. There are also 42 wild spaces, of which you should expect to get 1/6th = 7. So you're car has 78 spaces of movement. No problem, you think. But it's easy to lose movement. Each car you pass on the outside adds a space of movement. You can lose spaces in chunks when players play a card that has 6 points of movement for you when you are blocked. You might not get your fair share of wilds. And most importantly, if you are far behind the pack, they'll all discard their hadns when they cross the finish line...

Of course, you can balance some of this by drafting. And you do have to lose ~30 movement points to not finish. But it can happen if you are overly agressive or overly passive.

Winning is another proposition. My main suggestion is don't move the leader, and always move yourself when possible. Set up good drafting runs for you, avoid them for others. And be in the lead during the 2nd turn. A final comment on running 2 or more cars. Unless your hand is just amazing for one car and so so for another, stay in the pack until after the first turn...don't burn good cars for either car. Then take your lead car and try to run. Remember, a 1st and sixth pays as well as a second and third, so takeing the checkered flag should still be a primary goal.


This is a cute little game, expecially for the price. The rules are very simple, and the play is very simple, but the strategies are complex. I haven't gotten my copy of Formule De yet, but I doubt that any auto-racing game can be 3 times the game Daytona 500 is, although I know they can be 3x the price.


This was written by Brian Bankler.

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