Neon Knights 2086 is best described as racing game meets cyberpunk and Euro mechanics. With such a unique and interesting mix, our club was eager to get this game to the table- and it did not disappoint.
Each player takes the role of a racer. In the first phase of the game, players take turns upgrading their car. They can do this in several ways. They can buy car parts or weapons/other items from the shop for money. In order to fund these purchases, players can pick up corporate sponsorships instead- but they have to wait until “pay day” (turn 4 of 5) to collect these bonuses. In addition, players can draw goal cards that award VP and other bonuses for meeting a certain condition (such as winning the race with 3 speed).
Then, the race begins. The track is generated more or less at random, and the player with the highest speed goes first (if there is a tie, the player with the highest power goes first. Power comes from various car parts). A player can move spaces equal to the amount of speed that they have. If they cross a red or orange line, they must roll dice to determine whether they crash into the side of the track for going too fast! The amount of dice rolled is determined by how fast the car was going. There are 4 speed ranges: 8-10, 6-7, 4-5, and 2-3. If a player crosses an orange line, they roll 1 die for being in the 4-5 speed range, 2 dice for being in the 6-7 speed range, and so on (one additional die is rolled for crossing a red line). Each dice have several possible outcomes- 0 damage, 1 damage, or 2 damage. If a player takes damage, their speed decreases by the amount of damage that they take, and they also lose that much armor (a car that loses enough armor to put them at 0 will immediately be set to 2 speed instead). A player will also lose a fan (each fan = 1 VP) each time that they are damaged, up to 5 times. Comparatively, winning the race gives VP equal to the number of players, coming in second gives VP equal to that minus one, and so on.
We really enjoyed the opportunities for decision making in this game, and it seemed like players could decide to play it safe to keep their fans- or speed through the race to try and get first. Both paths seemed to be equally rewarded. We also liked the opportunities to upgrade your own car with special powers and car parts. That being said, it did seem like buying car parts was a significantly better investment than buying anything else.
The english rulebook is very difficult to read through. We constantly had to flip through the rules to figure out what all the different symbols meant, and had to make certain educated guesses to play the game. I think that this is one of the major shortcomings of this game, and something that made the experience playing much more dreadful than it should have been. This is potentially due to translation issues, as I believe that the original game was made in Spanish.
To be honest, the game mechanics don’t support the theme super well. The idea that you lose fans once you crash your car into the wall is a bit dubious- we thought this might be better dubbed as “insurance points” or something like that. The cars also break the laws of physics by being able to pretty much ignore momentum. It felt more like we were people running around than racers in a high-speed race. While these seem like minor issues, it still detracted from the immersion of the game.
Art and Components
We really liked the artwork as we found it highly thematic and well done. The components seemed sturdy and durable. Our only complaint here is that the artwork is a bit dark, making it hard to make out the text sometimes.
We felt that Neon Knights 2086 overstayed its welcome a little bit due to the fact that you are supposed to repeat the race 3 times. I think that this would be fine, except for the fact that each race is preceded by a very long process where each player meticulously upgrades their car. I almost feel like it could be better if players just got random upgrades on their car (especially if it is their first time playing) and went to race immediately. Alternatively, reducing the amount of races would go a long way in speeding up this game.
The game itself was a lot of fun, though there were major issues with the rulebook, and some of the mechanics were named awkwardly in a way that did not make a lot of sense. For those willing to look past those shortcomings, Neon Knights 2086 is a delightful and highly unique game.
And here is a link to the Black Sabbath song, Neon Knights, which is part of the reason we decided to play this game in the first place:
Have you ever played any cyberpunk themed games? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!