Gimmick Road Rallye
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A Gimmick Road Rallye (sometimes just called a Gimmick Rallye) is a type of instructional puzzle in which solvers follow convoluted directions while driving (or following a map), in order to reach a particular endpoint and record certain information along the way. Sometimes called 'conundrums on wheels', classic gimmick rallyes tend to intentionally put misleading, confusing, or just-slightly-off information in their instructions, daring drivers (or more likely their navigators) to catch on to the tricks.
Background[edit | edit source]
Since the start of COVID-19 pandemic, online rallyes have become increasingly popular, with various rallye clubs either hosting online rallyes exclusively or making them a regular occurrence between physical rallyes.
Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]
Gimmicks[edit | edit source]
Gimmick Rallyes, regardless of time, place, or runners, will almost always share a similar penchant for tricks in the rules, otherwise known as gimmicks. Some gimmicks are relatively common, whether it's due to ease of use or popularity, and others are very situational, requiring specific street arrangements to pull off. Some of the more popular gimmicks are as follows:
- Taking Things Literally - Gimmick rallyes often come attached to stories or themes, meaning that flavorful information is sometimes presented alongside more serious instructions, or more mundane instructions might pop up in the introductory sections. Things like specifying that no bodies of water will be crossed, or that the route will 'go through commercial and residential areas' might seem like basic rules, but navigators should stay on the lookout so the driver can avoid crossing Pacific St. and make sure to pass through Commercial Avenue.
- Example: You're participating in a rallye themed after The Godfather. The introduction is written in character as Don Corleone, and ends with the phrase 'Don't you dare cross me'. Since 'me' isn't likely to be a street, instead teams should make sure not to cross any streets with the names 'Don' or 'Corleone'. A u-turn while approaching Corleone Ave. is taken into account by the RM.
- Wonky Definitions - As the instructions given to rallye teams during registration often have basic information attached as well, some rallye masters slip in new definitions to what would normally be easy terms and directions. Alternatively, some terms may not be defined at all. Since rallye instructions are meant to be taken as literally as possible, any instructions that involve those terms have to be ignored (if a 'tee' isn't defined, how are you supposed to turn right on one?).
- Example: An instruction says 'R on Athabasca'. However, the definition list provided lists 'L' as meaning 'A turn to your left', and 'R' as also meaning 'A turn to your left'. As a result, 'R on Athabasca' means to take a left on Athabasca.
- Signspotting - Signs are a goldmine for rallye writers, as many rallyes will allow for the involvement of a lot more signs than a driver would be used to using for navigation, including the usual street name signs (both perpendicular and parallel) but also attraction signs, road signs, and even businesses (sometimes). Rallyes also often have specific rules for what can or can't 'be seen' by drivers, changing what should be taken into account when making turning decisions.
- Example: You're driving on a boundary road, where street names are different if you turn left or right. An instruction says 'Turn right at Dr. Watson'. There is no street named St. James, but you spot a signpost that contains Kendall Dr. and Watson Blv., pointing in two different directions. Since these together form 'Dr. Watson' (according to the rules for this rallye), you should turn right at that intersection.
- Prepositions - Words like 'at', 'on', and 'onto' all have very different meanings (assuming that their definitions haven't been intentionally changed). 'At' means performing the action as soon as you see a sign containing the word(s) after 'at' where the action is possible. This can mean a parallel street sign, a perpendicular street sign, or some other sign (if the rules allow for it). 'On' is much simpler, and requires turning onto the street sharing the name with the text after 'on', resulting in the team then driving on that street. 'Onto' is trickier, as in rallyes going 'onto' a road implies that you must stay on that road no matter what (turning when it turns, U-Turning when it ends), until another instruction relieves you of the 'onto' rule.
- Example: A series of instructions tell you to 'turn right on Bellevue', 'turn left at Bucknell', and 'ONTO Burberry'. The first instruction would be followed as soon as you can turn right onto a street called 'Bellevue'. The second could mean to turn left onto 'Bucknell', but if Bucknell is only the name of a street to the right, you'd have to turn left onto whatever street is across from Bucknell (which happens to be Burberry). Lastly, you should stay on Burberry until you encounter another instruction telling you to stop, ignoring any other instructions that would take you off of Burberry.
- Order of Operations - Not only is there an order of precedence for following different types of instructions, but many instructions are also numbered or ordered in a particular way. This order can easily be interrupted in many ways, including swapping numbers around, introducing decimal places, or swapping to other types of numbers (like roman numerals). Any one of these gimmicks could result in missing entire instructions, so it's always a good idea to read through the instructions thoroughly before setting off.
- Example: A series of instructions labelled as 12, 13, 1.4, and 15 are about to be followed. You should follow instructions 12, 13, and 15, since there's no instruction 14. However, it should also dawn on you that you should have performed 1.4 way earlier, between instructions 1 and 2. Oops!
- Forced Turns - A forced turn is any turn that doesn't give the driver a choice between two directions, instead funnelling them into one path via a one-way street, dog-leg turn, or other road rule. These turns can drastically interfere with instruction interpretation, as rules can vary on whether forced turns that defy instructions count as skipping the instruction and plans must be made for such situations based on a given rallye's rules.
- Example: While driving on a road under the instruction of 'continue as straight as possible', you come across a possible left turn, and a short road continuing forward with a sign stating that it's not a through road. According to the rallye rules, the only valid roads are 'public, paved, and through', meaning that while there is a road forward, this actually forces the team into a left turn.
There are other types of gimmicks one may encounter in a rallye, like Monster Gimmicks (which have lasting effects for portions of the rallye, such as forcing you to anagram certain words in your instructions), or unique named gimmicks that change from rallye to rallye. Overall, the instruction package given to teams at the beginning will be their best friend, as they'll tend to tell solvers exactly what they need to know, and what variations on certain rules and gimmicks are present for that particular rallye.
Scoring[edit | edit source]
Since Gimmick Rallyes, unlike other types of road rallye, don't take into account how fast you get from point A to point B, they need other ways to score and rank the participants. This has resulted in several different variations, requiring drivers and navigators to interact with the course and their instructions in specific ways for each.
Coursemarkers[edit | edit source]
The most common type of gimmick rallye, Coursemarker (CM) rallyes require teams to find a series of signs marked with letters and numbers placed along the correct route. Given a scoresheet to fill out, containing the letters A-Z and some multi-letter extension (either using AA-ZZ or AA-AZ), the idea is that they'll go through the course, and get some amount of the correct numbers written down, each of which contributes positively to their score. However, some craft constructors may put signs on the wrong path with the wrong numbers, or avoid using certain letters except on the wrong paths, leading some teams to lose points for going the wrong way.
Coursemarkers are a good way for RMs to quickly determine what paths were taken, assuming the navigator (or other people present in the car) were observant enough to spot the signs in the first place. Assuming they do, Course Markers also help teams return to the main path if their path took them away specifically to spot the CM. This is done through supplemental instructions numbered in the same way as the CMs, and should be followed after spotting the CM to return to the main route.
Dual-Part Route Instructions (A-B)[edit | edit source]
Dual-part instructions are exactly what they sound like: two separate instructions presented at the same time. In most cases, these will be marked A and B, and teams are instructed to only do the one that can be performed correctly first. Once chosen and performed, whichever of the two is picked gets written down on the instructions, with the final score coming from the number of correct choices made during the journey. Alternatively, some rallyes allow for a third option, C. This is usually saved for when a pair of instructions can both be performed at the same time and equally correctly.
Questions and Answers[edit | edit source]
A more puzzle-y method of scoring, Q&A rallyes ask questions between instructions (which may be just as gimmicked as those instructions) that must be answered before moving on to the next steps. Commonly, questions will either be selected so that there's correct and incorrect answers depending on the route taken, or so that questions either will or will not be answered at all, depending on whether it's even possible to find an answer for them.
Photos[edit | edit source]
Photo-based scoring is a very car-focused scoring method, as it requires a working odometer in the vehicle being taken. How it works is that teams are provided with a set of photos of things that may be encountered during the correct route. To record when they encounter these scenes, teams have to record their distance travelled (mileage) at that moment, before moving on to the rest of the instructions. While there's sometimes some amount of error to be accounted for, marking can be done on the distance travelled between each landmark, rather than from the beginning of the rallye. This helps prevent large-scale point loss if a team happens to get lost or go out of their way early on in the journey, increasing their mileage from that point on.
Treasure Hunts[edit | edit source]
Relatively gimmickless as far as gimmick rallyes go, Treasure Hunts usually have teams solve clues, riddles, or puzzles that lead to specific locations in the rallye area. Once they know where they need to go, they're allowed to travel there along whatever path they want (barring any rules that may prevent crossing certain roads or stop teams from, say, turning left). Sometimes these types of rallyes have an extra level of involvement, requiring teams to gather information at those locations that ultimately points them towards a final hidden 'treasure'.
In Puzzle Hunts[edit | edit source]
Unfortunately for their inclusion in puzzle hunts, rallyes are primarily physical affairs, and have enough of their own unique culture to sustain them outside of hunts. However, the concept has not been free of hunts entirely, with similar concepts being found in Runarounds and the theme of map-following puzzles showing up every once and a while.
Strategy[edit | edit source]
Notable Examples[edit | edit source]
- Mystery Rallye (MITMH 2008) (web) - The only puzzle in an MIT Mystery Hunt that functions like a rallye and calls itself a rallye. It contains many of the same gimmicks that proper rallyes have, including misnumbered instructions, interrupting instructions, and the tricky questions to answer throughout.
- Whose Turn Is It Anyway? (MITMH 2022) (web) - While not adhering to any particular type of gimmick or otherwise tricky instruction, this puzzle does function similarly to a road rallye, but divided into four simultaneous parts.