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Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Kraftwagen V6 for Two
In Kraftwagen, you will become the owner of a car startup company in the time when cars were coming to maturity in Europe. You will use an action track to select your action each turn and your actions will involve researching powerful technologies that will improve the prestige of your car bodies and engines, gaining workers, gaining car bodies and engines, attracting buyers to the market, and testing your cars in races.
At the start of the game, each player will select a starting bonus tile in reverse turn order. You will start the game with the bonus depicted on this starting tile, 4 workers, and a garage that shows 3 spaces for engines/car bodies and 1 space for your race car.
The game board is divided into 5 distinct sections, but the central one is the action track. Each turn, the player whose disc is at the back of the track will take an action and continue to perform actions depicted on action markers until his is no longer the last action marker on the action track.
The actions shown on action markers consist of the following 6 actions, sometimes alone and sometimes in combination.
You take 1 worker from your stock and add it to your garage.
You take one of two face-up technology cards. Technology cards may be engineers, who will generally provide some advantage throughout the rest of the game (Porsche, for example, allows you to move your race car an extra space every time you take the grand prix action), engine/body upgrades, which must be manned by workers and which increase your engine/body level for the rest of the game, and instant technologies, which provide various benefits.
You take a car body of the highest level allowed by your techs. You must be able to store this car body in your garage.
You take an engine of the highest level allowed by your techs. You must be able to store this engine in your garage or must immediately replace a lower-level engine in your race car with this new engine.
You move your race car the number of spaces along the race track shown by the engine in your race car.
You select one of the 4 types of buyers from the market and move him/her to the active side of the buyer pool. You also receive a coin marker from that buyer if one is available. If all buyer slots are filled (and only 3 are available in a 2-player game), you move the marker (which begins at 2 in a 2-player game) one space down.
Each time you take an action, you move the action marker you used to the end of the action marker line.
At the end of each of your turns, you may place one of your cars on the market. To do this, you will take one of the car bodies from your garage, add an engine, and add a worker and place the whole shebang on an available market space. You will then put a price marker on it.
Each round of the game ends either when the buyer marker reaches 0 or when the market is filled with cars. In a 2-player game, the market only has 4 available slots. At this point, each of the buyers is evaluated from top to bottom and each buyer will buy a car that best fits the category he/she is interested. There are buyers who look for the cheapest car, there are buyers who look for the best body, there are buyers who look for the best engine, and there are buyers who prefer prestige, which is abstracted in the game as the number of workers on the car. The player whose car best fits the category desired by each buyer receives the price marker placed on the sold car and ties are broken in favor of the car with the lowest price. Any unsold cars are simply removed along with their price markers.
After evaluating buyers, you will evaluate which player's race car performed the best at the grand prix. The player whose car is furthest ahead gets 7 points and remaining players get fewer points, with the 4th getting 0 points. In a 2-player game, dummy cars are placed on the 3 and 6 spaces of the race track and remain there throughout the game. Additionally, if you have managed to go around the race track several times, you will receive a bonus for having done so.
In addition to gaining points for sold cars and great race cars, you can gain points during the course of each round by completing objectives. There are 10 objectives and the first player to satisfy the conditions shown acquires it. Objectives reward things like being the first to produce a level-4 or level-7 engine, being the first to have 3 engineers, and being the first to go around the race track once and twice, among other things.
At the end of the game, players tally their points and the player with the most wins!
The V6 expansion adds some additional action tiles that change in each round and are replaced once taken.
Played prior to review 6x
1. Simple, pleasant, and functional art and graphic design
The artwork in Kraftwagen is not the most colorful or vibrant or impressively intricate, but it is perfectly pleasant and fitting of the theme. Like the black-and-white photographs of early cars we see today, the art evokes another time in history very well. Only a few icons are used in the game and these are clear and consistent, making it a breeze to learn the game and (likely) pick it back up after an extended vacation.
2. Tight action economy that generates many tense decision points
Like Cramer's Glen More before it, Kraftwagen relies on an action track that encourages players to very carefully appraise the value of every action that they take and only skip to actions further ahead if vitally necessary. Because skipping ahead on the action track only gives your opponent more actions to take, you may take slightly less attractive actions in order to prevent your opponent from getting double actions. However, if the actions that you are skipping would not benefit your opponent as much as the action you have selected would benefit you, you may want to take it. A good portion of the game is spent evaluating that tradeoff, which changes as the game goes on. Where to land is often a tension-filled decision because what you want and what you don't want your opponent to have will often be mutually exclusive.
3. Number of different routes to victory
The chief way of gaining points in Kraftwagen is through selling cars on the market, but the increase in value of the price at which you are able to sell your cars over time and the availability of alternate routes to accumulating points mean that the market need not be your primary focus in each and every game. There is variety even in market-based strategies, as you can focus on engines, bodies, or workers. You can go for a lowest-price strategy if you can acquire the engineer who triples the amount of money you get for selling low-priced cars. Or you can just go wild and try to flood the market with your crappy cars and hope you get SOMEONE to buy something!
However, this isn't the only way to accumulate buckets of points; you can also build awesome race cars! Upgrading your race car's engine and racing around the track can be a lucrative source of points from round to round, particularly if you are able to make several laps per round. The player in the lead gets 7 points, which can make a huge difference, particularly in a two-player game if your opponent neglects this aspect of the game.
And speaking of racing, you can also race for objective-based bonuses that are also lucrative sources of points. While this isn't necessarily a source of points that is distinct from the others, it is something that you have to keep in mind as you form your strategy. If you have decided to make lots of points through racing, you may be able to get the objective bonus for being the first to make one and/or two laps around the race track, but only if you work on your strategy quickly! The objectives create another race themselves and encourage a razor-sharp focus on certain strategies from the start of the game.
4. So many decision points all over the place
Kraftwagen is tight, tense, and filled with interesting decision points. The action track is the first of these and I described some of the things you are forced to think about there. If I jump ahead to an action I really want to take, will that benefit me more than the actions I've skipped over will benefit my opponent? Which actions will my opponent be able to access easily after my move?
The market is another major source of interesting decision points. First, you are faced with the question of which buyers to add to the market. When you take the buyer action, you gain either one or two points, so you have a slightly higher incentive to take the two-point buyer. However, your decision of which buyer to add to the market will also be affected by your strategy and your opponent's strategy and your foreseeable ability to stay ahead on the demand of the buyer you are placing. If you are working on bodies, but your opponent's bodies are almost as good, you might want to pick a different buyer. Or not, because in addition to deciding which buyer to place, the market also demands that you place a price on your cars. How you evaluate that price will depend on the prices of cars that came before and your judgment of the ability of your opponent to compete with you for the buyers' demands. If you see that you alone are able to produce high-valued car bodies, you could simply race to put the highest price marker on your car. If, on the other hand, you can see that your opponent may be able to compete, you might pick a lower price, to ensure that if he does manage to pull ahead, he'll be able to undercut you for a lesser amount of points/cash.
Between the action track and the market, there are so many things to consider in Kraftwagen. Add to that the difficulty of choosing between two good technologies, the challenge of managing your worker pool, and all the thought that goes into an efficiency of actions needed to be the first to fulfill the objectives in the game and Kraftwagen becomes a surprisingly hefty little game.
5. Variable with high replay value
Kraftwagen has plenty of variability to generate a lot of replay value!
First, the action track is populated by action markers in a semi-random fashion, which creates a different set of choices for the players in each game.
Second, in a two-player game, you will only have the option of taking 2 of the 4 possible starting bonus tiles, creating a different situation for you to work with in each game.
Third, technology cards are randomly drawn throughout the game. Because they are so influential over your strategic direction and your turn-to-turn tactical decisions (i.e. how far you are willing to jump towards the research actions to take them), the order in which they become available can hugely impact the way the game proceeds. If you are able to obtain a lot of engine power and Porsche (+1 move on the race track every time you perform the grand prix action), you will probably want to follow an engine/racing strategy. In another game, a glut of body techs may encourage you to follow a body-based market strategy.
Fourth, the V6 expansion adds to the variability in the game with its unique single-use action tiles! There is absolutely no shortage of variability in this game!
6. Fast paced and fast playing...but not too fast
Kraftwagen moves along at a good clip. Every action you take is short and sweet and rounds can be over very quickly if players are being aggressive by placing cars on the market or quickly populating the market with buyers. A typical two-player game lasts about 45 minutes, which is quite fast for the level of depth, tension, and interesting decision points in the game.
7. Simple and effective changes for 2-player game
The designer and developer made clever changes that make the game feel tight and tense when playing with two players, which is important!
First, the fewer number of slots for buyers and cars in the market creates a tense market situation even with two players. You are able to produce cars quite quickly in this game, which means that rounds can be over very quickly if players are aggressively trying to populate the market as quickly as possible, even when playing with only two players! This limitation also effectively scales the utility of a purely market-based strategy and allows racing to be as (but not more due to the change below) viable as it would be when playing with more players.
Second, the dummy cars on the race track ensure that the player in second place doesn't get the full points for being in second. You have to put a decent amount of effort into racing each round in order to gain any points for that category.
These simple changes that do not require any setup or upkeep-related fiddling over that required for a 3 or 4-player game are effective in generating plenty of competition when playing with only 2 players.
1. Lots of pieces so a little annoying to set up and tear down
This is a self-explanatory point. There are many little pieces and chits that have to be arranged on the board at the start of each game and re-arranged in each round. This makes the game feel a bit fiddly, but not so fiddly that I would hesitate to play it.
2. The technologies can make for some swingy situations
If you've read my reviews, you know that I am generally the opposite of a fan of randomness. My only gameplay-related disappointment in Kraftwagen was the way the order in which the technologies are drawn can swing the tides from one player's favor to another's.
In Kraftwagen, technologies provide abilities that are vital to determining your ability to perform actions. Engine upgrades increase your engine power and body upgrades increase the appeal of your cars' bodies (sexy body cars!!! ) and you are basically in a majority war with other players to have the most of these. Some tech cards provide a body and an engine upgrade, some provide doubles of one, and others provide only one of either an engine or a body upgrade. Clearly, some techs are better than others. It can happen that you take a single engine upgrade to catch up to your opponent only to reveal a double one for your opponent's turn.
Engineers are also incredibly powerful and if you reveal an engineer for your opponent that perfectly synergizes with his plans, tough beans! In one game, I was pushing engines and Peter ended up revealing both Bugatti (who allowed me to move on the race track every time I upgraded my race car's engine) and Porsche (who allowed me to move an extra space every time I took the grand prix action) for me to take! Oh and also a bunch of instant actions that pushed me forward 5 spaces each! That allowed me to make the maxium number of laps around the race track and undeniably swung the game in my favor for no reason other than luck of the draw.
The luck of the draw does not mar this game significantly. Kraftwagen is still highly strategic and you still feel like you have full agency while playing. And I do enjoy the fact that the appeal of the available technologies can impact your decisions in interesting ways. For example, if you see two unappealing techs (two single body and/or engine upgrades), you might want to skip over the research action and let your opponent reveal the next, potentially better, technology cards. If you see two appealing techs, you may be tempted to skip over some actions to nab them before your opponent can get there!
Ultimately, this isn't a total negative and I'm willing to take the slightly for all the .
Kraftwagen provides a much smoother ride than those antique-y cars must have. It is a game with all the elegance of a classic and is filled with tense and interesting decision points! On our first play, we failed to fully appreciate the tightness of the action economy and the fierce competition it can engender, but we quickly realized how weighty the game actually is. And like most games I love, Kraftwagen is hefty. It doesn't look like it, but it is! It gives you SO MANY things to think about and creates so much tension through the multiple levels at which to compete, including the most attractive actions, buyers, and objectives. The central mechanism of action selection using the action track works as beautifully in Kraftwagen as it did in Glen More and happily produces an entirely different game!
MINA'S LOVE METER LOTS OF LOVE
Mina's Love Meter
- I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale) Dislike
- I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale) Some like
- I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale) Like
- I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale) Some love
- I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale) Lots of love
- I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale) All love all the time
- I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)
How do you feel the new action tiles counter the luck of the technology card draw? I know that some of them can allow a player to get the last discarded technology or gain a higher level engine or body than their research allows for instance.
- Last edited Tue Aug 9, 2016 3:41 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Aug 8, 2016 11:29 pm
Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Team D20 wrote:
How do you feel the new action tiles counter the luck of the technology card draw? I know that some of them can allow a player to get the last discarded technology for instance, or gain a higher level engine or body than their research allows for instance.
They may or may not depending on which one becomes available, so they're a bit unreliable in that department. The engineers seem to be the biggest source of contention when it comes to that "luck of the draw" and the V6 tiles don't give you those sweet permanent effects. But they do help to some extent.
And yet another one goes to the wishlist.
Great review, as always.
Thanks, Mini, for giving KRAFTWAGEN - V6 EDITION much love!
This is one of those perfect mid-weight Euros, with some great interesting mechanics. I'm glad you liked it a lot.
Stephen M. Buonocore
Thanks again for a fantastic review!
One quick question - which is better, Kraftwagen or Glen More? Or a better question - if you could only keep 1 in your collection, which would you keep and why?
Right now, I own Glen More and absolutely love it. The fact that this introduces some complexity to the Glen More mechanic makes me wonder if that applies the mechanism better?
Thanks in advance
I played this for the first time last night. I liked it. This review reflects my thoughts for the most part. I like randomness, so I liked the cards even though I was not getting any engine upgrades. But this is where having multiple paths to victory compensates. I luckily got some double body upgrades early so I knew I had a chance to win that at the market. However, without engine upgrades I couldn't go after that in the market. For the first scoring round I focused on racing and was able to get both bonus tiles. After that I didn't do racing at all with my lack of engine. Instead, since I wasn't getting the cards I needed I went after the cheapest car and the most workers. I waited to be one the last people to put cars in the market so I could get those.
However, I did not win, but it was close. It was player game with the scores of 78-70-70. I did make one move that gave the first place guy 6 points so it should have been closer.