Design by Randall Hoyt
Published by Jolly Roger Games
2 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
The road to getting a board game published can be a long and arduous one, more often than not proving to be a dead end. While I have never designed a game—nor do I have any desire to do so—I have many friends who have traveled this road and all confess that it is a very difficult and trying journey.
In the documentary film The Next Great American Game, producer Douglas Morse chronicles the story of Randall Hoyt and his tireless efforts to get his board game published. Hoyt was convinced that his design would become, as the title of the film suggests, the next great American board game. After years of fruitless pursuits, the game has finally been published by Jolly Roger Games as Road Hog: Rule the Road. Does the game live-up to the designer’s aspirations and expectations? Let’s take a look.
The theme of Road Hog will certainly resonate with anyone having to drive through a busy city. Players are challenged with navigating the many road hazards–particularly traffic congestion—in order to successfully exit the busy city ahead of their fellow commuters. Unlike the defensive driving skills we should all practice in real life, here aggressive driving is the key…including blocking and impeding the progress of one’s opponents whenever possible.
The race takes place on the highway, which is constructed using a combination of the ten square boards provided. Each board tile depicts three-to-five segments of a highway, which is usually three lanes wide. Most of the highway is straight, but there are a few curves. In addition, a few depict special features are depicted, such as a toll booth, road work section, etc. These usually force players to slow down or swerve to a new lane. Finally, each section lists the number of neutral cars and trucks that are placed, which can number up to two dozen for the entire track. Players can vary the number of road tiles to create longer, shorter or more challenging games.
A player begins her turn by rolling the two dice. One die regulates the movement for a player’s vehicle (2 – 4 spaces), while the other indicates the type of neutral vehicles (car or truck) a player may move, including how many spaces and in which direction. The player may mix the movement of his own and the neutral vehicles, which in theory provides the player with the opportunity to move vehicles out of his desired path and perhaps into a position that makes movement difficult for his opponents.
In addition to the movement allowed by the movement die, the player may also play as many cards from their hand as they desire. These cards are of four varieties—traffic, driver, aggression and reaction—and usually allow the player to supplement his movement or impair an opponent’s move, move or place new neutral vehicles, or cancel an opponent’s card. The cards certainly add needed spice to the game, but also add an immense amount of chaos. After executing all movement and card actions, the player draws cards to refill their hand to three, thereby ending their turn.
As mentioned, the goal is to exit the track before one’s opponents. Moving fast and avoiding the neutral vehicles and obstacles is key. The game has a puzzle-life feel that is reminiscent of the popular Rush Hour game. Players must figure out how to mix their movement, cards and neutral car movement in order to optimize their progress and, if possible, move neutral vehicles into the path of their opponents. Well, at least this is the idea. In practice, though, the board becomes a cluttered mess. Every player is attempting to block the progress of their opponents, so neutral vehicles are almost always moved in a fashion that causes road blocks across all four lanes. This can and usually does accumulate several spaces deep, causing movement to grind to a halt, much like what occurs in downtown Atlanta during rush hour. This congestion can last many, many turns, with players spending all of their turn simply trying in vain to move vehicles out of their way. This problem was so acute in the games I played that one player quipped the game should have been titled “Road Rage” since that is what we were all feeling.
This frustrating congestion causes the players’ options to be severely reduced and often completely eliminated. The game loses its puzzle-like feel and instead devolves into one of extreme frustration and boredom. It is simply a matter of too many neutral vehicles on too narrow of a highway. While this may mirror road reality in major cities, it does not make for a fluid or fun game. Indeed, it is a game no player with whom I played ever wanted to play again.
About the only good thing I can say about the game is that the production is quite nice. The road tiles are thick and backed with a rubber that has a tire-like feel, preventing the tiles from sliding during game play. The vehicles are thick wooden pieces, and the cards are, for the most part, clear and well illustrated.
Unfortunately, the praise abruptly ends there. The game loses any semblance of fun once the board becomes congested, which is such an obvious flaw that it is difficult to conceive how this made it past the developers and play-testers. Removing the number of neutral vehicles would likely reduce the chance of this maddening congestion occurring, so that is perhaps an option for those who find promise in the game. For me, there are far too many better games to play. I can definitively state that Road Hog has no chance of becoming the next great American game.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it):
1 (Not for me): Greg S.