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Subject: Advanced Gameplay Review - Tiny Epic Trucker rss

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I got this game because I was intrigued by the end-game reminiscent of Galaxy Trucker. I had also been looking for a survival game for quite some time. After about 20 games with 3 different casts of characters, I think it’s time to write down my findings regarding the gameplay.

The fog of the winning condition and how it affects strategy

The players win by fulfilling the resource requirements on the Road Cards, plus a few random Resource Cards (the Toll), after triggering the end-game either forcefully or by having the event deck run out. The number of requirements cards scales based on the player count.

So the game is basically resource gathering with a timer. But there is a catch. The players must get 2 things right : which type of resources, and how many. At the start of the game, only one Road Card is drawn faced-down, and it only shows which type of resources it will require. To reveal more Road Cards before the end-game, players need to Scout, and to turn one of them face-up, to Explore, both of which are costly actions that will delay resource gathering in an already tight schedule. In most games, there won’t be enough time to Scout and Explore all Road Cards. A key decision will then be : how many actions are you willing to sacrifice in exchange for information ?


The face-down Road Cards show that meds, food and fuel will be required. How much is unknown. It could be 1 med, 3 food and 6 fuel, or 4 meds, 2 food and 4 fuel. In a 2-player game, a third Road Card needs to be revealed, either by the players or during the end-game.


You can partially math out the guessing game, because the requirements abide by certain laws. If a food card requires a lot of food, then the fuel requirement on this card will be low. As a result, if 2 or more Road Cards feature the same resource types, then it would be pretty safe to plan for an average number of resources per Road Card, for example 3.


Unbalanced requirements on multiple food Road Cards tend to average out. I would estimate that I need about 3 food and 3 fuel per food Road Card. The Road Card with the meds is more of an unknown, and would definitely be worth exploring.



Exploring the Road Cards reveals that the food cards actually required 6 food and 4 fuel total. My prediction was in excess of only 2 fuel.


Flexible end-game. Trying to win the game early or to make it last.

The default approach is to gather as much as possible. This means trying to milk all the available game rounds, even though the players can choose to end the game earlier. But some circumstances may compell the players to do otherwise, for example if they’re on the brink of defeat. Some combinations of Road Cards can also heavily weigh on the decision to cut the game short. To give the reader an idea, I have won twice after triggering the end-game with 3 turns remaining. Of course, I have also lost a bunch attempting the same thing.


All characters will receive wounds through the first 2 Road Cards. The third card adds marauders around the compound. Character loss and maurauders can cause the players to immediately lose. The longer the game goes on, the more likely it is for characters to receive wounds and marauders to accumulate. In this example, it is advisable to try to collect as much fuel as possible, plus a few items to pay for the Toll, and trigger the end-game as soon as possible. 9 fuel (3 per Road Card) is likely to cover the fuel requirement.



Flipping the Road Cards reveals that 9 fuel were just enough.


A “baby steps” game. Push your luck and risk management.

A character goes on a search by moving to locations outside the Compound, which is basically the “safe house” of zombies games. This move costs 1 player action. Then the character can pick up 1 item there. If there’s none, they can search for items to pick up with a later action.

As a character turn consists of only 2 actions, it is over quickly and can look like little was accomplished. Ideally, a character turn looks like either of these :


1. Moving into a location, then gathering.



2. Gathering twice at the same location.



3. Gathering once and moving back to the compound to unload the resources to the truck.


Then it’s the next character’s turn. The very short turns take some getting used to, and can feel underwhelming during the first playthroughs. But the short action window is certainly informed by the theme. It basically means that, unless you play Emily who can spend 3 actions per turn, you cannot wander out of the compound, pick up a resource and get back safely, all in one turn. Instead, any character looking to gather resources must face significant risks for at least one turn.

Technically, the most productive turns are those where characters gather twice. But like most well-designed games, the more productive the turn, the more risks. The more characters stay out there, the more they’re exposing themselves to various threats, starting with the threat dice at the end of the players’ action phase.


Locations have a threat level that increases each time players are searching there. The number of threat dice is equal to the threat level + the number of characters at the location. Here Hank rolled 2 wounds.



The wounds force Hank to drop a resource of the player’s choice.



In addition to the threat dice, events from the Apocalypse deck (your usual co-op game event deck) can cause wounds to turn face-up, causing various ailments such as additional wounds.


The game then becomes a balancing act between letting characters out in the open, and getting back to the safer compound before the resource gathering versus resource dropping ratio becomes counterproductive.

Bad resource draw mitigation through resource conversion

Assuming the players do get the opportunity to get on gathering streaks, they still need to draw the right types of resources. That’s where the dual use of resources comes in.

Even when the types don’t match the Road Cards, gathered resources can still be discarded to perform useful actions. Food gives an additional action. Meds heal wounds (this uses up a player action). Fuel is used to move up to 2 characters. Ammo allows to re-roll the threat dice.

As a result, players have incentive to carry as many items as they can, irrespective of type, because all of them cater to pushing your luck outside the compound, effectively turning Move actions into Gather actions. Meds heal the wounds inflicted by the threat dice. Ammo prevents such wounds from happening in the first place. Fuel can be discarded to move 2 characters for free. The additional actions provided by the food can always be used later to pick up the right resource types once they come up. They essentially help the players implement resource conversion.

Pro tip : Don’t forget to take the food that was put in the truck during set-up.


Collected resources can also be used to mitigate various types of events.


Let’s look at an example of resource conversion.


What the survivors badly need is meds and fuel. There is only food, but it is still worth picking up. Note that Luong Chi’s location is in “overrun” status, which means that search actions only fetch one resource at this location.



Luong Chi now carries 3 food. He moves to another location, and performs a search action there to reveal 1 med and 2 fuel. His turn should be over, but he discards the 3 food. With the additional actions, he picks up the fuel and the med, then returns to the compound by activating the special location ability.


A character-driven story

Each player controls 2 characters: one with a strong ability, the other with an impediment. Players take turns playing one of their unplayed character, until all characters have been used. This simple system gives rise to a surprising variety of group dynamics and storytelling, to the point where you can get emotionally attached to your team of heroes and not-so-heroes, especially if you put them through several games.


At 3 actions per turn, Emily is an all-star character. Her only downside is the low stamina, so she needs shielding. In my games, I had her paired with Jose, the coward. But I always kept them away from each other, since all injuries caused by the threat dice would go on Emily. Jose would usually be by himself, because nobody was really keen on getting injured for him.



Meli, the “oblivious” character, shuts down location abilities. The group would ban her to some place with an unneeded location ability such as the sewers.



Susan Davis, the impaired girl, takes an additional action to move, so that her whole turn could consist of just one move. To get around her weakness, she would focus on gathering. Another character would then join her, discard a fuel and motor her back to the compound.



Ivana is the annoying character who delays everyone she meets at a location. Frieda should be moved out before Ivana moves in, or she would be delayed by Ivana. You can just picture the guys scrambling their way out to avoid the bitching.



Character turn order should be carefully planned to work around Ivana’s “special power.” The first player must begin by playing either Frieda the medic, or Yuma the old lady. If Yuma needs to return to the compound, then the first player is better off playing Frieda first, so that she can get out of Ivana’s way. Then the second player can move Ivana back to the deserted compound. When the player turn comes around to first player, Yuma can move to the compound.



There was this one time when I moved Carl next to Ivana at the satellite stations, and then used his special abiliy to order Miriam the “clumsy” girl to trigger the location ability : delay AND wound a character (Ivana in this case) to explore a Road Card. Payback time !



Hank is the careless guy who attracts marauders to the compound when he moves back in. When I had him paired with Dante, Dante would be at the compound, using his special power to help unload Hank so that the latter could stay out just a little bit longer.


Very well playtested nail-biter

You’d guess that revealing and resolving the Road Cards one by one, simulating a journey across the desolate country, makes for an epic end-game à la Galaxy Trucker.


Flavor text of a face-up Road Card


In the 2-player game, the end-game felt underwhelming, for there are only 3 Road Cards. This is probably less of an issue at a higher player count.

But my feeling evolved. Since the game proved to be consistently challenging game after game, it now feels like each fulfilled Road Card is a big obstacle overcome. A lot of my defeats usually come down to 1 or 2 missing resources, which is a testament to good design and playtesting.

The game belies its short playing time, because high difficulty and tension make it feel longer. Even in under an hour, the game manages to feel epic, and honors its theme of struggle for survival with surprising character-driven storytelling given the deceptive simplicity of the character system.


------

For more Advanced Gameplay Reviews, you can check out this geeklist : Advanced Gameplay Reviews
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Michael D. Kelley
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This is an incredible review! It's uncanny how much your analysis is spot on with our thought process designing the game. Get out of our heads, man!

Galaxy Trucker is in my top three games of all time, by the way, and I was directly inspired by it in the initial design of the game. I love building things up only to have them fall apart
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GameMasterX0 wrote:
This is an incredible review! It's uncanny how much your analysis is spot on with our thought process designing the game. Get out of our heads, man!

Galaxy Trucker is in my top three games of all time, by the way, and I was directly inspired by it in the initial design of the game. I love building things up only to have them fall apart


Thanks for the great game ! One thing I didn’t mention in the review, is that the short playing time and the theme left me craving for a kind of sequel. What’s behind Salvation ?? I like to think of the possibilities
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Steve M
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Totally amazing review fella - seriously impressive. Easy to read, entertaining and sums up my experiences, certainly in a solo context. Perfect for anyone new to the game or (the sad ones) who've yet to experience it.

Kudos to you my friend. One query - presuming you've played this solo (based on the link in the 1PG guild/forum) I wanted to ask what your preferred set-up was? Personally, I've always gone for 3 player hands (so 6 characters) and randomly pick the heroes and survivors each time. What about you?

Each game is so different depending on the characters in the game, their order and who they're paired with - it adds a whole new level of strategy and dynamism to a game embarrassingly rich in all that already... as your review attests to.

Anyhow, thanks again, Steve.


PS: The only downside, is that I really, really want to get my hands on those Kickstarter promo road cards and extra locations now more than ever. Stupidly my card expired on the kickstarter pledge so missed out and had to haggle someone overseas for a retail copy. Peter and Michael - please tell me your trusty fans can get them via some store somewhere?!
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Brian Aldrich
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manserfamily wrote:

Totally amazing review fella - seriously impressive. Easy to read, entertaining and sums up my experiences, certainly in a solo context. Perfect for anyone new to the game or (the sad ones) who've yet to experience it.

Kudos to you my friend. One query - presuming you've played this solo (based on the link in the 1PG guild/forum) I wanted to ask what your preferred set-up was? Personally, I've always gone for 3 player hands (so 6 characters) and randomly pick the heroes and survivors each time. What about you?

Each game is so different depending on the characters in the game, their order and who they're paired with - it adds a whole new level of strategy and dynamism to a game embarrassingly rich in all that already... as your review attests to.

Anyhow, thanks again, Steve.


PS: The only downside, is that I really, really want to get my hands on those Kickstarter promo road cards and extra locations now more than ever. Stupidly my card expired on the kickstarter pledge so missed out and had to haggle someone overseas for a retail copy. Peter and Michael - please tell me your trusty fans can get them via some store somewhere?!


I recently bought the promo cards on the designers website. I haven't tried them yet though
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Peter Gousis
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Good news. They are available in the geek store for $7.

http://boardgamegeekstore.com/products/salvation-road-bonus-...

Of course we hope to make a sequil some day. Dante: Beyond Salvation. The possibilities

aldrichb wrote:
manserfamily wrote:

Totally amazing review fella - seriously impressive. Easy to read, entertaining and sums up my experiences, certainly in a solo context. Perfect for anyone new to the game or (the sad ones) who've yet to experience it.

Kudos to you my friend. One query - presuming you've played this solo (based on the link in the 1PG guild/forum) I wanted to ask what your preferred set-up was? Personally, I've always gone for 3 player hands (so 6 characters) and randomly pick the heroes and survivors each time. What about you?

Each game is so different depending on the characters in the game, their order and who they're paired with - it adds a whole new level of strategy and dynamism to a game embarrassingly rich in all that already... as your review attests to.

Anyhow, thanks again, Steve.


PS: The only downside, is that I really, really want to get my hands on those Kickstarter promo road cards and extra locations now more than ever. Stupidly my card expired on the kickstarter pledge so missed out and had to haggle someone overseas for a retail copy. Peter and Michael - please tell me your trusty fans can get them via some store somewhere?!


I recently bought the promo cards on the designers website. I haven't tried them yet though
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Jerry Tresman
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MonkeyGoose wrote:
Good news. They are available in the geek store for $7.

http://boardgamegeekstore.com/products/salvation-road-bonus-...

Of course we hope to make a sequil some day. Dante: Beyond Salvation. The possibilities

aldrichb wrote:
manserfamily wrote:

Totally amazing review fella - seriously impressive. Easy to read, entertaining and sums up my experiences, certainly in a solo context. Perfect for anyone new to the game or (the sad ones) who've yet to experience it.

Kudos to you my friend. One query - presuming you've played this solo (based on the link in the 1PG guild/forum) I wanted to ask what your preferred set-up was? Personally, I've always gone for 3 player hands (so 6 characters) and randomly pick the heroes and survivors each time. What about you?

Each game is so different depending on the characters in the game, their order and who they're paired with - it adds a whole new level of strategy and dynamism to a game embarrassingly rich in all that already... as your review attests to.

Anyhow, thanks again, Steve.


PS: The only downside, is that I really, really want to get my hands on those Kickstarter promo road cards and extra locations now more than ever. Stupidly my card expired on the kickstarter pledge so missed out and had to haggle someone overseas for a retail copy. Peter and Michael - please tell me your trusty fans can get them via some store somewhere?!


I recently bought the promo cards on the designers website. I haven't tried them yet though

Greatvrefview and I may go for the sequel , if they have an option for the original.

It is a shame that van Ryder games did not have this game as an add on option to Crime wave. I missed the KS for this and I rarely follow KS games at retail as they seem to be such poor value, especially without the extras from the KS campaign, probably not the case here but the GBP vs the dollar and high shipping are an issue.

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manserfamily wrote:
One query - presuming you've played this solo (based on the link in the 1PG guild/forum) I wanted to ask what your preferred set-up was? Personally, I've always gone for 3 player hands (so 6 characters) and randomly pick the heroes and survivors each time. What about you?


I soloed it 2-handed. I thought it would be too cumbersome to manage 3 hands, since turn order is so important and especially quirky given the 2-character per player system. I choose characters randomly.

My guess is that this game shines at high player counts. I imagine it works a bit like Space Alert: solo, managing 4 hands (8 characters !) would be brain-burning, but multi-player, players can divide the logistics burden.
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