Billabong Boardgamers

The Great Balloon Race


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Julian Clarke writes:-

Number of Players : 2 to 8
Duration : 15 – 25 minutes
Complexity (Learning) Low
(Playing) Low
Manufacturer : Parker
Designed : Nik Sewell 1991
My Rating : 8/10
(good, light, short & for 8 players)


The Great Balloon Race is a simple family game of hot Air Ballooning, which is simple enough for children of 5 or 6 to play. The game was deleted around 1994 or 1995, & I was lucky enough to pick up a copy in Toys 'R' Us, remaindered, at about half its original price.

Card The aim of the game is to be the first player to have all three balloons shown on their hidden card across the finish line. There are 8 different coloured balloons, and eight cards, each with 3 balloons on it. Therefore, each balloon appears on 3 cards. This means that there is a good chance that more than one player wants each balloon to finish.

The rules are very simple. Each player takes a card, and keeps it hidden. This card shows 3 different coloured balloons, (we have found that each player will check their card at least once every turn, so memory really doesn't matter here!). All the balloons are massed before the start line. The board is made up of a curvy track of spaces, which contain a variety of symbols, one per square. Only one balloon may occupy each square. Should a balloon want to land on an already occupied square, then the balloon which was there is bumped off, & goes to the nearest empty space according to the standard movement rules below.

One player is chosen to start and they roll the 6-sided die. That player can move any of the eight balloons the distance shown on the die.

The squares contain the following symbols:

  • Standard_Square Most have an arrow, usually pointing forwards along the race, though a few have arrows pointing backwards. These are standard squares. Balloons which are on these squares must travel in the direction of the arrow when they move off.
  • Sunshine_Square Four squares have rays of sunshine. If a player causes a balloon to land here as a result of the die roll, (NOT as a result of being bumped), they get another go, & may continue to do so as many times as they land balloons on sunshine.
  • Lightning_Square There is a single square near the beginning, which shows a Lightning Bolt. Any balloon which ends up on this space returns to the start immediately.
  • Deflated_Square There are 2 squares showing a deflated balloon. A balloon which ends up on these squares may not move unless (i) it is bumped off, or (ii) it is the last balloon in the race, where it can move normally. Movement from these squares is forwards.
  • All of the balloons on your card must have crossed the line before you can claim a victory. They do not need to be the only balloons to have finished. If you move the last of your balloons across the line on your turn, then you can claim victory immediately. However, if another player moves it across the line, you have to wait for your turn before announcing victory.


    This is a simple game, requiring neither deep thought or background knowledge. Each turn can be played on its merits. There are certain tactics which can help, but they will become apparent after few outings. Children are often not able to think about 3 balloons, and can often be poor at disguising which is their balloon.

    If you get a chance, buy a copy of this game. You won't find better pieces in a game, which is astounding for a British produced game.

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