Saturday, 17 March 2012

New team racing game

I was walking home yesterday when an idea for a two-team competition popped into my head. It's a new variation on the race idea I mentioned at the bottom of a previous post. I don't want to just yet claim I invented this game without more research, but as far as I know there's never been mention of it. Here's how it plays out:

Equipment needed: two standard racing batons, one for each team.

People needed: Five per team (Why five? It's what most running teams are used to in cross country. Otherwise it's arbitrary. More per side might be fun). 

Setup: The two teams (of five runners) start on symmetrically opposite sides of a standard 400m or 200m race track, as shown below. When the start pistol sounds, the teams run in the same direction about the track (i.e. both move counter-clockwise)
The object of the game is for the team member holding the baton to pass the opposing team member in possession of their teams' baton. There are a few important rules that keep things interesting. Read on.

Rules after the start gun fires:
  • For every instance that a team member passes an opposing team member, at least one will drop out of the race or the game will end, depending on several possible scenarios:
1. If a non-baton holding member (of team A) passes a non-baton holding member (of team B), they both drop out and the race continues with one fewer runner on each side.    
Team A chaser about to sacrifice themselves against a team B guard
2.  If a baton-wielding member of team A passes a non-baton wielding member of team   B, they must both drop out and team B wins by default. Effectively then the baton-holding member of one team cannot pass anyone on the opposing team except their baton holder, in which case the pass is a victory, by definition.
Were the team A chaser to pass here, team B would win
Team A chaser, if he/she overtakes the team B baton holder, will win the race (unless the team B baton is passed ahead to another person, if any remain
3. A non-baton holding member of the team cannot pass the a baton wielding member of the other team. Hence the baton holder is immune to attacks by any but the opposition's baton holder. They may therefore create a temporary barrier for the remaining team (except against the opposing baton holder) but must continue to move forward.
A chaser cannot pass the baton-holder. Team B has made a protective against the chaser (until team A's baton holder catches up)
4. The direction of the runners cannot be reversed (I may have to think about this one. What would happen if it could?)  

Other rules:
  • Baton: At least one teammate must be holding the relay baton at all times. You can pass to any other teammate at any time during the race. Two (or more) persons cannot have simultaneous prolonged contact with the baton (more than 1 ~ 2 seconds). If the hand-off is deemed incomplete when an opposing baton-holding member overtakes them, the chasing team is considered to have passed the opposing baton holder and wins.
  • If a team member drops out (due to injury or otherwise), the game is forfeit unless caused by the opposition, in which case the injured team wins. Necessary rule because having fewer players means you cannot win. Note: I am still trying to think of a way to allow a team with fewer members to still win.
  • Team proximity: Each team may spread over the track surface as widely or as closely to other teammates as desired. Closer proximity will able the team to more freely pass the baton.    
  • Time: there is no time limit to the game.
Inevitably then each team will whittle down to one per side (the baton holders); may the fastest runner win.

The rules are simple enough, but the strategies, as far I pictured them, could get interesting. For instance, a team could 'bluff' at the start of the game. Since fast runners must sacrifice themselves to slower ones, the team being chased could trick the opposition into using their best guys; it becomes a bit of a chess game where trade-offs are made. After the number of runners dwindle, the chased team could -having played possum- increase in speed suddenly and round the track for a win.  Such strategies are tricky, and would require much planning. Also running on a 200m indoor would make for a fun spectator event.

Since the total distance run is unknown, having a mixed team of sprinters, middle distance, and endurance specialists could all be required. Having a mixed gender team would also be a nice break from the typical competition gender divide. Perhaps there's a flaw with the game designed as is, but I hope it's a start. I'm want try this out with our Montreal club team. Any volunteers?


  1. I am not clear on that last rule where if you pass a baton holder, but you do not have a baton, you have to drop out.

    It could end up being pretty long on an outdoor track, depending on the quality of the runners. It would take a while for even a real endurance specialist to build up a 200m lead on someone. I am interested to see how it would play out. We may do this in a couple of weeks.

    1. You said it. If they are holding the baton and you are not, you cannot pass 'em. The idea was to prevent a quick decimation of the other team's roster. But rules were made to be broken, or amended...

      Actually I'm having second thoughts on restricting the number of runners to five. It'd be really interesting with over a dozen on each side. More fun than a beer mile! (maybe)

  2. This reminds me somewhat of the rules for roller derby.

    1. I must have been subconsciously inspired after watching Whip It.