Three Ring Circus: Automobiles

 Board and Card Games, Reviews  Comments Off on Three Ring Circus: Automobiles
Feb 192017
 

If tracksuit bottoms are “give up on life” pants, then I am at the stage in life where I drive “give up on life” cars. I’m past the need for speed BMWs and sporty VWs, instead I like my cars to be tax efficient and thrifty.  With this in mind it is appropriate that I have found a car racing game that doesn’t like waste and even gives you a hybrid option.

Automobiles is a racing game with a difference, because you’re building the engine that drives your car as the race goes on. It’s a bag building game, where you are drawing coloured wooden cubes to drive your car around the circuit. It plays from 2 to 5 players, with the game time dependent on how long you want to make the race.

The game comes in a pretty big box.  Inside there’s a double sided board with an oval circuit on one side and a more Formula 1 style track on the other. The rest of the components are; two plastic cube trays to hold the 10 different colours of cubes, 5 bright red bags, player boards and a slim set of cards. Finally you have a wooden car and lap marker for each player.

Setup

Set up for the game is very quick when compared to a deck building game because the cubes act as a proxy for different cards sets, and this means that you won’t be pulling cards out of a box for fifteen minutes.  Once the board and cube trays are out, all that’s left is to select a set of action cards to use.  There are four cards for each of the five colours and they are themed around; gears, garage, pit, handling, performance and engine.  So you might get the green Gearbox card, which lets you move the same number of light grey spaces as your race position, (and one extra if you are last), or the blue Rotary engine, which moves you as many white spaces as you have different colours in your discard area.  The game has suggested combinations which will keep you going for a few games and, after that, you can go wild.

Every player has a set selection of cubes in their bag at the start and these are added to with a one off buying phase. How much you get to spend depends on grid position. How you spend them is up to the player, upgrades or gears?

Play

Over the course of the game you will be building a bag of cubes and drawing from it to propel your car around the track with increasing speed and efficiency.   

You draw 7 cubes from your bag at the end of your previous turn so you have time to think about what you’re going to do.  

The race? It’s in the bag.

The rules split each turn into 5 sections:

    • Actions.  Which is where you use cubes to activates the power of the associated card colour.  Actions are split between those that manage the cubes you have available and moving your car around the track.  The former are activated and placed in the used area on the player board and the rest go out on the track to plot the course of your car on that turn. The track is colour coded.  Higher gears let you go faster / further and this is reflected in the board’s design.  On the home straight you can pootle along in 3rd gear which takes 8 white cubes, or fizz down in 6th, which only takes 2 black ones. You can switch to adjacent lanes and not through other competitor’s cars, which adds a slight puzzle element as the order you use the cubes can make a difference to your distance travelled and the lanes used.
    • Buy.  Any cubes not used in the action phase become spends.  Each cube has a value and you can buy new cubes up to that value.
    • Car.  Here you move your car as far as your cubes, (placed in the action phase), let you.

      Yellow is moving through the gears.

    • Decline is where you clear the track of your cubes and take wear for your track movement and any, wear inducing, actions.  If you manage to position your car directly behind another competitor you are considered to be drafting and this reduces your wear overhead.  Wear cubes don’t do anything apart from slow you down by clogging up your draw bag.  Incidentally, if you  draw a hand full of wear you can choose to take a pit stop.  This is like a “miss a turn” option, but you do get to return that wear to the supply.  You finish your turn by placing your used cubes into the discard area of your player board.   
    • End  Draw another 7 cubes from your bag.  If you don’t have 7, all the cubes from your discard area go into the bag to be drawn.

Play continues until a player makes it over the finish line. All players take the same number of turns and whoever makes it furthest past the chequered flag is the winner.

Playing with Three

Three isn’t quite the magic number with Automobiles. There is definitely a bit more on track action in a four or five player game, but it’s not a drastic improvement, just a case of drafting and manoeuvring having more importance.  

How easy is it to teach the game?

The game is mainly about the turn structure; actions, moment, buying, taking wear and cleaning up.  Passing that on isn’t too hard and movement can be covered with examples.  The rule book is really well written and helps a great deal.  The one area that needs to be stressed is the difference between the cost of a cube and its buying power. It can be a bit confusing.

Can complexity be scaled?

There is a suggested first play set up which eases players into the game. The standard game is three laps. Playing with 2 laps doesn’t change the complexity, but it will level the playing field, as the benefits of building a good bag tend to come out in lap three onwards.

Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?

I haven’t tried it.  Increasing starting money for the initial cube buy should work fine.  One thing to consider is playing with Gearbox because it gives a great catch up mechanic.  It’s no coincidence that it’s in the suggested first play set up.

How likely is your child to flip the table half way through?

Seeing you car being lapped can be a dispiriting experience, shorter races could help.

What do I think?

Automobiles is a solid game and having a deck-builder that doesn’t rely on victory points is refreshing. Does it replicate the action of motor racing? Not really, but that doesn’t matter so much, because it does translate the tension of a closely fought race.  The last race we ran saw 6 white spaces between 1st and 3rd and the difference between winning and losing coming down to a single cube colour not being there when you needed it.  OK, I was the one in 3rd and I’m not bitter about that.  I made some buying mistakes and got what I deserved.

Each game set up needs a different approach and picking the cubes for the job is where the nub of the game lies. It is a nice marriage of strategy, in building your bag, and the tactics of using your 7 cubes to the max.  There are questions to answer on each turn and, because a cube can be used for its action or currency,  they are more varied questions than a standard deck-builder.  There’s a great balance to the game play and the pace is good too.  It starts slowly and revs up to the final laps, which can pass in just a turn or two.  

If you like deck-building and want something a little different, it’s definitely worth giving Automobiles a run out.

About Neil Robinson

Some say Neil spends too much time thinking about board games. I disagree. What is true, is that I moved to the coldest and wettest part of England, guaranteeing plenty of chances to play games with my family.

Today’s thanks to another awesome publisher for Extra Life charity support – Alderac Entertainment Group!

 Board and Card Games, Role Playing Games  Comments Off on Today’s thanks to another awesome publisher for Extra Life charity support – Alderac Entertainment Group!
Sep 032013
 

aeglogo

This year’s Extra Life campaign is live! I’ll be playing table top games for not 24 hours  but 25 hours straight to raise money for Children’s Hospitals. Please check out my Extra Life page and DONATE!

This year I’m treating this one (granted full) day event as my own little convention. I had the somewhat crazy idea to reach out to game publishers and see about getting some prize support for those folks who’ll be joining Team Troll and themselves raising money for Extra Life.

Alderac Entertainment Group (or as most of us know them, AEG) generously supplied several games towards my campaign and Team Troll! AEG provided us with Guildhall, Card of the Dead and Maximum Throwdown! Some will be heading out to team members, some will be played by yours truly! I’d also like to point out two of my favorite AEG games!

Love

First, Love Letter. Very simple, 16 cards, a few wooden cubes and a bag – but infinitely repayable with just enough back stabbing goodness to make it really fun. This game is also the darling of our Google Plus Board Games community – it seems most gamers love it, and it’s cheap to boot!

smashup

Next, a game that’s been out for a while, but which I finally had a chance to play this weekend, and fall in love with. Smash Up! The base game comes with 8 different faction decks of 20 cards each. Such things as robots, ninjas and dinosaurs to name a few. Each player grabs two different decks, smashes them together and then attempts to take over as many bases as they can, while also fending off the other players. Well worth grabbing as a fun, 30-45 minute game for 2-4 players.

I know for a fact that these two will also be making an appearance during my 25 hours of gaming!

As for right now, these games will be played during my 25 hours of gaming, and then given to some lucky folks invited in to my home to assist. These folks will also be playing games in the hopes of raising money for Extra Life and the free games are my way of giving them some extra incentive to get out there before hand and raise some cash. I’m also looking into sending games off to my remote team members to encourage them to play more and raise more money!

extralife

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Alderac sets Thunderstone free – Print and Play the original for nothing but the cost of ink and paper

 Board and Card Games, Role Playing Games  Comments Off on Alderac sets Thunderstone free – Print and Play the original for nothing but the cost of ink and paper
May 312012
 

I thought everyone out there should know that Thunderstone, the original version, has gone free. Now for the first time, you can download the heroes, monsters, and village cards from the first Thunderstone set, the one that started it all, absolutely free.

You can read the announcement here or skip the niceties and get right into your monster killing and shopping by downloading the cards as PDFs here.  You can grab the rules as a PDF from BGG here.

From AEG:

These cards are updated to the Thunderstone Advance standard, and the art has been “remastered” for this print and play edition.

We included the basic decks from Thunderstone Advance as well, so when you download the rules, there’s no confusion. Just print, cut, sleeve, and play. You can mix them seamlessly with your Towers of Ruin cards, and with Caverns of Bane coming out in July. (We’ll start previewing those in a week or two!)

Don’t have Towers of Ruin yet? Just in case that slipepd by you somehow, we put a coupon in the download as well. Get 10% off if you order it from the AEG online store with the special code inside!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Mar 122012
 

The third in our series of sneak peeks in partnership with Deniath, a geek informed marketplace where 72 hour sales are announced at significant discounts.  It’s a big one!

That's a lot of Nightfall!

Retailing at $149.96 for Nightfall and the three expansions, Blood Country, Martial Law and The Coldest War – this is an amazing deal. What is Nightfall?

Nightfall is the deck-building game of modern horror action from Alderac Entertainment Group.  Designed by David Gregg, Nightfall puts players in control of minions of the night, fighting one another for control of an Earth shrouded in eternal night. Werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and those who fight them see no need to hide from the public, waging their war in the streets.  Featuring direct head-to-head game play, card drafting, and the unique “chain” mechanic, Nightfall is unlike any other deckbuilding game on the market.

Remember that you do need to be a member of Deniath to take advantage of these sales. You’ll have to either know someone who can get you an invite, or apply for membership through Deniath directly. Or, you now have until March 23rd to take advantage of our special Deniath Member drive. All you need to to is email community@deniath.com to request one. Be sure to include Troll in the Corner in the subject line and you’ll have your membership in less than a day!

 

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.