Beat Detroit

19 Apr


Beat Detroit is supposed to be a 1972 parody game by Antler Productions.  After playing once, I had to ask if it was actually designed by the Marquis de Sade.  Beat Detroit is basically a version of The Game of Life where nearly everything that happens to you throughout the game is negative.  The goal of the game is to simply survive 5 laps of the board, but they’ve not made that very easy at all.

The story of Beat Detroit is a simple one: Detroit makes lousy cars.  Cars break down constantly, costing you tons of money at the mechanic’s shop.  The only way to “beat Detroit” is to drive your car over 50,000 miles.  You start the game with a brand new car, a couple “Warranty” cards, and $7000.


Yes, red is driving the wrong way. Friends don’t let friends play board games about driving while drunk.

From the back of the box, the designers seem to want you to believe that you are in for a sarcasm-filled romp through the early 70’s car culture.  The top of the back is made to look like a mock window sticker.  Base MSRP $8, lots of “options” (dice, money, cash etc) …including a partridge in a pear tree (huh?) listed as no charge extras.  The board is (rather cheekily) shaped like a 4-leaf clover.  The game even has its own warranty!  Good for 1 year or 1,000 games!  Whichever comes first.  Based on how clean this game looks, I’ll hazard a guess…

As I said before, the goal of the game is to drive your car 50,000 miles, or 5 laps around the board.  The game is a fairly basic roll-and-move game.   When I first looked at the board, I got a strong Parchessi vibe, with the four different colors.  Sadly, there’s not even that much strategy built into the game.  Beat Detroit basically plays like a stripped down Game of Life.  You roll the dice, move, and then read what bad thing happens to you.

You may think I’m exaggerating the bad things part, but I assure you I’m not.  Out of the 52 spaces on the board: 1 is neutral, 3 are positive, and 1 is potentially positive.  Everything else costs you money, turns, your car… or worse.


Yes, that’s a 3-wheeled car. The Reliant Robin made the game!

You’re reading that space correctly.  Land there, you have to completely start the game over.  Imagine being half a lap away from beating the game, and hitting this space.  You give up all your lap progress, take $7000 from the bank and go all the way back to square one.  I believe if this happened to me in a game, there would be a table sitting legs up in very short order.  This space also shows a big logic hole in the game.  The goal of the game, as I’ve said before, is to drive your car 50,000 miles (or 5 laps of the board).  You are penalized for buying a new car by having to start the entire game over.  However, if you buy a used car, there is no time penalty at all.  How does that begin to make sense?  Neither is your original car, so neither should count towards victory!

Up until the point you start playing the game, there’s a lot of clever stuff going on.   From that box back, to the “Owner’s Manual” rule book, to the shape of the board… there’s a decent amount of sarcasm and humor evident.  But once you get into the game, that wit gets changed with just a sense of hatred for the players.  There are scant few ways to mitigate the constant barrage of negative events that will befall you.  Your best way to gain money in the game?  Hope another player lands on your space, and sue them for whiplash.  Seriously.


I’m pretty disappointed by this game.  Granted, I probably shouldn’t have expected a lot from a virtually unknown game from 1972, but I had hoped for more than I ultimately got.  I wish the creativity that went into making the box continued inside the box.

I do think the theme of trying to overcome planned obsolescence is a pretty good one.  I could see re-imagining this game in a  way that as you went along, different parts of your car began falling apart, and you had to try to find ways to repair it, or else you wreck and are knocked out of the game.  Sort of a car themed version of Galaxy Trucker, perhaps?

Next time, I’m going to reveal a guilty pleasure game…and look at several games that share game play elements with that game.






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