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Run! It's The Great Desert Race

by htamale


The Great Desert Race looks at first glance to be a simple board game, but looks can be deceiving. Your job is to guide Tomos, Nabile, Brucey, and Osiri from Qasala through the obstacles of the Lost Desert to Sakhmet. Some of the obstacles speed you up, some slow you down and some give you bonus neopoints, which is always well received in my experience. This is done by rolling the dice and moving your character around the board.

Sounds simple? Well, it is, really, but the game's versatility comes from some of the pre-game selections you can make. The first choice you have to make is how many players are involved. If you pick one, then you play against the computer. If you pick two, three or four, then you enter multiplayer mode which works in a way unlike any other neopets game.

Multiplayer mode in The Great Desert Race involves two, three or four people sitting at your computer, all playing from the same terminal. “But I can’t share my neopets account with anyone; that’s breaking the rules!” I hear you cry. Well, normally that’s true, but in this instance, playing The Great Desert Race in multiplayer mode means no neopoints can be won. As you can’t earn neopoints and the game has clearly been designed that way, I think it's safe to say that you are not going to get frozen for playing multiplayer The Great Desert Race.

Having selected the number of players, you get to pick your character. The characters are Tomos, Nabile, Brucey, and Osiri. They don’t have special abilities; it's like choosing whether you want to be the red or blue counter, so pick the ones you like best (no arguing, folks!). If you are playing one or two player, you will be controlling two characters. I would suggest, if you are playing one player, make one of them Brucey, as he is easier to distinguish from the others and helps you not move the wrong character.

Obstacles and Bonuses

The first thing to note as you look at the board are the little neopoint bags. Land on these and you receive a small neopoint bonus to your score. Not really relevant in multiplayer as you don’t earn neopoints, but helpful in one player.

The first unique item you come to is a map. The character that picks this up stores it in their inventory, which can be seen at the bottom of the page under each character. This helps avoid the affects of a obstacle later round the board, which I will cover when we get there.

Next on our path is a red tile which you can see taking a short cut across next to the pyramid. Land on that red square and you will spin across the path. It only works from left to right, and if you are racing other players, it is very handy.

The next two tiles beyond the red tile are coloured gold. If you land on these without the map, then you will become lost in Sutek’s Tomb and be returned to the start. If you have the map, it works like a normal tile. Best avoided, especially if racing.

Next up are some tiles with food on them. Landing on these will allow you to avoid the effects of a couple of later obstacles, so they are always nice to have. They are more useful when in a multiplayer race than in single player mode.

As you start to move back to the right, next up is a quicksand tile. Land on this and you miss a go. Not helpful if you are racing, but if you are playing one player for a high score, it doesn’t matter.

The tile after the shortcut exit is coloured gold and will give you a random event from Coltzan’s Shrine. Either nothing happens or you will either gain or lose a small amount of neopoints. Not relevant when racing; clearly in one player it’s nice to get a neopoint bonus, but as it's random, just treat this as a normal tile.

Next up is the most important tile when playing in one player mode, the Tug O War tile. If you land on the Tug O War, then you pick a character (doesn’t matter who) and roll the dice. Score, four, five or six and you win one hundred neopoints. One, two or three and you get nothing. The one player tactics later on explain how to get the most from this tile.

Continuing onwards as we dash through the vastness of the Lost Desert, you will see an ummagine. This will allow you to avoid a later obstacle.

Next comes another red whirlwind. Land anywhere on this and it will whisk you down to the end. Very handy in a race!

As you turn the corner, you will see a gold square with a thief standing next to it. Land on this tile and you will miss a turn unless you happen to have in your inventory the ummagine, in which case you hand that over and can carry on your way without delay.

More than halfway there now, but the sand dunes stand in your path. If your final stopping place is on the sand dunes, then you will slip back two spaces. So for example, roll a three and you would move forward three spaces but then slip back two, in the end making progress of only one square. This can be very irritating in a race, especially if you roll a one and end up going backwards one space! Some nice high dice rolls are what is needed to get through here quickly.

Next up is the scamander. This little lizard runs up and down and if you land on him, you have to guess one of four exits to avoid the Scamander swarm. Guess correctly and you get to move forward five spaces. Guess incorrectly and you will lose a turn, unless you have some food in your inventory, in which case you feed that to the ravenous swarm and continue as normal.

Standing next to the next gold square is a mummy. Land on this square and unless you have some food you will have to move back two spaces. Not helpful in a race!

Zipping round the sharp turn, you come to another red square. This is critical in both one player and multiplayer games. The square will whirlwind you back to three spaces in front of the Tug O War. Now obviously in a race this is a disaster as you’ve just moved back to less than halfway round the board. If you are in a two player game, then if your roll will move one of your characters onto this square, then move the other one! However, if you are chasing a high score, this tile is vital. By moving back to being in front of the Tug O War, you can have another go at winning the Tug O War and picking up 100 neopoints. Combining this with another tactic can result in scores in the thousands if you have the patience and some good luck.

Assuming you didn’t land on the red whirlwind square, the final obstacle is quicksand, which if you land in it will cause you to miss a turn.

So now we are within touching distance of the finish line, but the game has a final twist. You need an exact roll to finish. For example, if you are three squares away and roll a four, then you will have to miss your turn and try again next turn. In a race this can turn the whole game on its head. Someone may zoom around the board throwing sixes every turn and then get one square from the end and find they can’t roll a one, allowing others to catch up and overtake. Many multiplayer games end up with a final scramble as to who can roll the right number to finish!

Multiplayer Tactics

If you play multiplayer, first to get all their characters to the end wins! Neopoints are irrelevant (as you can’t earn any) so it’s a flat out race for the line. Landing on the obstacles that move you forward are the best and ones that move you back the worst. In three and four player mode, as you are only controlling one character, it comes down to pure luck. In two player mode, as you are controlling two characters each, picking the right character to move is important so that you get the most forward movement out of each roll. The only prizes are bragging rights but it is fun to play with friends or family for bragging rights! A flat out race round the board doesn’t take very long either, perhaps ten minutes to finish a game, which is within even small children’s attention span limits.

One Player Tactics

This is all about getting a high score, which means collecting neopoints. The squares that delay you are an aggravation but at the end of the day don’t really matter. A glance at the high score table will show players scoring in the thousands. One lap around the board is not going to score you anywhere near that. Here is how to score in the thousands:

Make sure you have a couple of hours to spare – this is going to take some time.

Look carefully at the dice. If you read the number incorrectly, this could mess up your whole game.

On one player mode, move your first character around the board and get it positioned one space from the finish. Use the other character if you get a roll that would mean the character finishes the race.

With that character in position, move the second character and land on the Tug O War tile. To make sure this happens, if you roll a number too high so that you would go past the tile, select the other character near the finish. As you can only finish on an exact roll, you will skip a turn. Keep repeating this until you get the correct roll to land on the Tug O War. If you roll a one whilst trying to do this, move your character one space nearer the Tug O War. Do not move the character near the finish as they will move to the finish and the tactic is ruined.

Try and win 100 on the Tug O War. Win or lose, go around the board until you get within a dice roll of the red whirlwind tile near the end. Make sure you land on the red whirlwind tile. If you roll too much so that you would move past it, move the character you have positioned next to the finish and skip that turn. Eventually you will get the right roll to land on the red tile.

You now have a character three spaces in front of the Tug O War and a character one space from the finish. Repeat the trick to make sure you land on the Tug O War and try and win one hundred neopoints. Make your way to the whirlwind square and land on that. You continue to loop around and around, landing on the whirlwind and the Tug O War, using the other character to absorb rolls you don’t want.

You get points for moving around the board but you lose them for moving backwards on the whirlwind. Overall, if you do a lap and don’t win on the Tug O War, then you will have fewer neopoints than when you started the lap. However, given that you should on average win the Tug O War fifty percent of the time and that you win one hundred neopoints, which is considerably more than you lose from doing a lap, you will slowly start to build your neopoints.

Keep doing laps until you are happy with your score, at which point I suggest you run your characters to the finish line as they get a point bonus for finishing, and send your score. The luckier you are with your Tug O War results, the faster you will build your neopoints total. The fact that the computer opponents finish first doesn’t matter; it makes no difference to your score. To score in the thousands, you are going to do a lot of laps; you have been warned!

I hope you enjoyed this guide and find it helpful to have a lot of fun playing The Great Desert Race in its various forms and hopefully adding a nice shiny trophy to your lookup in the process. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to neomail me.

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