Dale Yu: Essen Preview – Kraftwagen (V6 Edition)

Kraftwagen (V6 Edition)

  • Designer: Matthias Cramer
  • Publisher: Stronghold Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 75-120 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by Stronghold Games

kraftwagen

In Kraftwagen, players take on the role of car company owners, trying to build the most successful car company in Germany.  Over the three turns in the game, players will develop their cars, improve them on the racetrack (as well as earning money for this) and then work on selling their new cards to buyers.

 

The gameboard is split into a few large areas: an action track, a race track, a buyer area, and places for research and awards.  The Action track is probably the most important area for the game.  There are ten action tiles which are set up on the track, and then the player markers are randomized behind this line of tiles.  Each player gets his own player mat where he can keep his workers as well as track the development of his cars.

kraftwagen-board

At the start of each of the three rounds, a set of price markers is set out in the market; there is a specific different colored set for each round.  Players will then take actions until either six cars have been placed in the market or there are no more buyers.  Unlike most games, players do not take turns around the table.  Turn order is instead kept on the action track.  Whichever player is at the back of the line on the action track takes the next turn; even if this means he takes multiple actions in a row!  In general, when it is a player’s turn (because his marker is in the back of the line) – he moves his marker forward onto any action tile.  The player takes the action(s) shown on the tile and then that tile is moved all the way to the front of the line.  The active player then gets the chance to play a car into the market, but this is optional.  Now, you look to see which player is at the back of the line (which could be the same player), and then that player gets to take a turn…

kraftwagen-action-track

The actions are:

 

  • Hire workers – add a worker from the supply to your game board
  • Research – there are always 2 face up research cards on the board, choose one of them and add to your area; discard the other.  Deal two new face up research cards to the board
  • Car Body – Take a car body piece equal to the number of body research points you have. This goes into one of your three car workshops on your player mat, displacing a previously placed piece if needed
  • Engine – Take an engine piece equal to the number of engine research points you have. This goes into one of your three car workshops on your player mat, displacing a previously placed piece if needed. Alternatively, you can place the engine in your Grand Prix car
  • Buyer – Take one of the available buyers and add it to the lowest numbered empty buyer slot (there are 4 available). If all the buyer slots are filled, move the buyer  pawn on step closer to the end of the track.
  • Grand Prix – Race your Grand Prix car on the track. Your car moves forward on the track a number of spaces equal to the level of the engine in your Grand Prix car on your player mat.  Spaces occupied by other players are not counted.

 

Again, you take any/all of the actions depicted on your action tile.  You then get a chance to move a car to the market.  To do so, you must have a car body in one of your workshops as well as an engine in another workshop.  To this pair, you must add at least one worker (but can add as many as you like).  Remember that there were a set of price markers laid out at the start of the round.  You choose any available price marker that you want and combine all pieces on one of the six spaces in the market.  If you have an applicable Engineer card (obtained thru the Research action), you may modify your car with a single Engineer card.

 

If after this placement, there are six cars in the market OR if pawn is at the bottom of the buyer track; the round ends immediately and there is a scoring round.  There are two parts to the scoring.  First, you evaluate the Grand Prix race.  7/4/2 VPs are given to the cards in 1st/2nd/3rd place on the track.  Additionally, all cars score VPs based on the number of laps they have completed.  Then, the four (or five) buyers are evaluated from top to bottom in order.  Each of the four colors of buyers has a different preference (car body points, engine points, low cost, or number of workers).  The first buyer uses his desired criteria and buys the car which best meets his preference. If there is a tie, the buyer will go for the lower priced car.  The owner of the sold car takes the price marker as VPs and puts it in front of him.  Then the next buyer buys from the remaining cars.  Any car sold to the lowest price buyer gets double the value of the price marker (i.e. that player takes an extra matching chit from the supply).

kraftwagen-buyers-card

There is one other way to score points.  At the start of the game, you lay out a bunch of bonus tiles on the board with things such as first to complete a lap on the track or first to have an engine of level 7.  If you are the first person to achieve the feat, you grab the tile and will score these points at the end of the game.

kraftwagen-race-track

At the end of three rounds, the player with the most points wins.  There is no tiebreaker rule.

 

The additional tiles in this box are the V6 expansion.  I have only played with them once as I am still fairly new to the game.  The rules recommend that you do not use the expansion V6 tiles until you have played the basic game a number of times.    The expansion gives you three sets of four action tiles, one for each of the three rounds in the game.  In each round, the corresponding set of 4 expansion tiles for that round are shuffled, and one is drawn randomly to be the eleventh action tile in setup.  When this tile is chosen, the next tile from the expansion stack is the one placed on the front of the line.  In this way, you will constantly get a new action tile in every set of eleven, and the actions on the expansion tiles are slightly more powerful (or at least different)

 

My thoughts on the game

 

Kraftwagen is a tightly designed game that hits a lot of my sweet spots. It is the sort of game where you always want to do more than one thing when it’s your turn, and you have to figure out which of the options is the best to do.  All of the information is in the open here, so you can see what everyone else is doing on their player board – and hopefully, you can use this information to try to figure out what other people are planning to do themselves.

 

The action track throws another level of computation into figuring out what to do on your turn.  You are constantly having to weigh the options (as well as the relative scarcity of some of the actions) when deciding what to do next.  If there is an action that you feel you MUST do, you can jump far ahead and take it – but then that means you may be waiting a long time for your turn to come around again.  Some of the action tiles give you two different actions, and thus they are more valuable.  There is also a single tile which grants three actions – that one is definitely worth a further jump ahead on the track… but only if you can benefit from all the actions! Alternatively, you could choose to simply take the first available action to maximize the number of actions that you get.  However, if those actions don’t work with your plans, it might not matter how many of them that you get to take!  Thus, you have to plan accordingly – deciding when it’s worth it to jump ahead and lose initiative and when the close-by actions are good enough to take and allow you to be ready to take another action sooner.

 

Like most of Cramer’s other games, the mechanisms intertwine such that you can’t choose to specialize in only one aspect of the game.  It does you no good to only go for car bodies – as you cannot guarantee what the buyers will want.  It also doesn’t allow you to have competitive cars for virtually any other buyer.  Likewise, you can’t ignore things.  If you chose to never race on the Grand Prix, you would probably be so far behind in points that even the best possible cars would leave you short in the final reckoning.  Balance again is the key – surely there are some things that you will end up doing better in, but you will have to participate in all portions of the game if you are to be competitive.

 

Timing is also key.  The first and most obvious part of timing is in the action track.  Again, figuring out how to maximize the actual actions vs number of actions is a big deal.  However, there are also other more subtle areas where timing is important such as choosing buyers and sending cars to market.  Once you send a car to market, you can’t change its attributes anymore, and then all other players can use it as a benchmark to know what they have to compete with.  However, if you wait too long, you may not have the chance to get your car into the market at all!  And, by waiting, you keep your three workshop spaces full, and this slows down your production line.  It is also important to look at the order that the buyers will snap up cars because you can sometimes sneak a lesser car in at the end of a round and score big once you can foresee how the cars will be bought – this can be especially devastating if you sell a car to the lowest price guy – as you get double the price markers for that seller.

 

The expansion seems to be a nice addition, and it adds slightly to the complexity of the game.  The additional tiles feel like an organic extension of the base game.  Most of the V6 tiles have at least two actions on them, and many of them have actions which are unique to the tile set.  Thus, they can be in high demand when they come out.  Of course, if someone has to jump far ahead to take a particular tile, they lose a lot of action potential as they wait for their turn to come around again.  Unfortunately, I have only played one game with the new tiles, so I really don’t feel like I can comment on them much.

 

Overall, this is the type of game that I really like. Lots of hard decisions to be made, especially with choosing the actions.  In addition, I like having my own player board to do my own thing on, with indirect interactions on the Grand Prix track, the buyer market and the action track. But I love the fact that my opponents can’t sabotage my own progress; I’m solely responsible for that.  The game packs a lot of punch in its 1.5 hours, and it’s well worth the time invested.

 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y
  • I like it.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

 

 

 

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2016, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Dale Yu: Essen Preview – Kraftwagen (V6 Edition)

  1. huzonfirst says:

    Matthias Cramer is one of my favorite of the newer Eurogame designers. I’ve now played 7 of his games–Glen More, Helvetia, Lancaster, Rococo, Kraftwagen, Pi mal Pflaumen, and Dynasties–and the only one I haven’t liked a great deal was Kraftwagen. I’ve played it twice and both times it fell flat, despite quality opponents. The luck factor is higher than I like. The game clearly encourages specialization, but once you reach the limit in an area, increasing your car quality is much less attractive. There’s a lack of control in how you can sell a car which bothers me and the process of getting the timing of that action to work out often feel capricious. Frankly, neither of my games was that enjoyable, which given the high regard I have for the designer was definitely disappointing.

    The action selection mechanism is the same one used in Cramer’s earlier Glen More (although I recently saw a note from him which indicates that Kraftwagen might have been designed first). I think it is implemented much better in the Alea game, where it may have benefited from the influence of master developer Stefan Brueck. Thus, even though Kraftwagen has the more attractive theme, Glen More is the game of that group that I’m happy to play, while I will probably try to avoid future games of Kraftwagen. I think I gave it a fair shot and it just didn’t work for me.

  2. I’m with Dale on this one. Kraftwagen was one of my favorite games from last year. I picked up a copy shortly before the V6 edition was announced, but it doesn’t sound like much has changed about the game. I find the pricing decisions interesting, as well as some clever timing decisions.

  3. Fraser says:

    Grumble, grumble = something else to look out for. To those that know, how does it compare to Automobile?

  4. huzonfirst says:

    Automobile is much heavier, Fraser, and the selling mechanic in the Wallace game is more refined, IMO. Outside of the theme, they really don’t have much in common. Not surprisingly, the best comp for Kraftwagen is Glen More.

    • Fraser says:

      Thanks Larry, I’ll have to put it on try-before-you-buy. I quite liked Automobile but haven’t played it for ages, don’t mind Glen More either.

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