Luke Noonan

Grid Racer

This was a game that my Dad showed me years ago.


Materials: It is played on normal graph paper with a pen or pencil. It works best with 1-4 players

Setup: You draw a race track on the board.

Other than those, there are no real rules about what the track looks like. After you play a few races you will get a sense of what will be a fun track.

Play: Players start by marking their car’s place on the starting line. A car sits on a grid intersection, and they can occupy the same intersection. We would usually give each player a different symbol or use differently colored pens.

At the start of the race, each car starts with a speed of (0,0). On each turn the car can accelerate or decelerate by one unit on each axis, which changes it’s speed. At the end of the turn your car moves according to its speed. Here is an example showing movement:

Turn Start (x/y) Accel (x/y) Move (x/y)
A 0/0 +/0 1/0
B 1/0 +/0 2/0
C 2/0 +/+ 3/1
D 3/1 -/+ 2/2
E 2/2 -/0 1/2
F 1/2 +/- 2/1
G 2/1 0/- 2/0
H 2/0 -/- 1/-1
I 1/-1 0/- 1/-2
J 1/-2 0/0 1/-2

Players take turns. On each turn a player moves his or her car by marking its new position and drawing a line between the new position and the previous position.

If you cross the line and go off the track you “crash” and are either out of the race or forced to restart, burning some time.

Winning: When a player crosses the finish line the rest of the players are allowed one more turn to try and finish. Once the rest of the players have had their turns and the player with the car the farthest over the finish line is the winner.


I really love the lines that this game generates. The curves seem like plausible paths for a car or motorcycle. At the end of the game they seem to tell the story of the whole race. Unlike board or card games, Pen & Paper games like this one often serve as their own “analytics” system. In the image above we can see that Blue was driving much more conservatively, while orange was recklessly overshooting the turns and nearly crashed into the outside wall on the last turn.  You can almost hear the orange driver saying “oh crap, oh crap oh crap” as she slams on the breaks.

Another thing I really like about this game is that is works just as well as a single player game as is does a 4 player game. You can play against the clock to see if you can make it around the track without crashing in a few turns as possible.

When I started writing this post I decided to poke around the internet to see if any other versions of this game existed. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it not only has a decent sized Wikipedia page, but it has been around since at least the 1960’s and everyone else’s rules seem pretty close to the ones I learned. There were even links to online versions.