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GAMEPLAY Players are automobile manufacturers in early 20th century Germany. On a turn, a player chooses an action tile on the “tile rondel” and takes that action. Actions include taking a research card, taking an engine, taking a body, racing in the Grand-Prix, and selecting a buyer for the market. The chosen action tile goes to the end of the rondel, and then the player must decide if they will put a car on the market. To do this, a car must have a body, engine, one or more workers, and an available price from the market. A round ends when six cars go on the market or the buyer action has been chosen eight times, and there are three rounds. Players score VP for selling their cars, racing in the Grand-Prix, and winning achievements. THOUGHTS Kraftwagen is an action selection game with fast turns and the ability to tweak your opponents’ noses. On the rondel, players can deny opponents actions they need but opponents can always jump ahead on the track. They just better be prepared to wait while everyone else scoops up the stuff left behind. Move up in the Grand-Prix and you can get a good chunk of VP but you make it that much easier for opponents behind you as they can “leap over” your car without having to spend movement points. An optional movement is to put a car on the market: you take a body, engine, and one or more workers and set a price (read: VP). But you better hope you can get a buyer into the market who is interested in your car. There are four buyers, each with a different preference: body, engine, prestige (i.e., the number of workers you have on the car), and price. But, if say you have two level 6 engine cars on the market with an engine-preference buyer, the buyer always chooses the cheapest price. In swoops in your opponent who just got level 6 engines and – what’s this? – she’s selling for 8 to your 10?! There is no price collusion in Kraftwagen so be prepared for sharp elbows indeed. Ever since I started looking into this game, I knew I would like Kraftwagen and it has not disappointed. PROS -The art is minimalistic, which works great for me, and the components are solid. -Lots of player interaction: everything from selling a car to the simple part of choosing an action can really unsettle everyone else at the table. -Kraftwagen encourages you to go off and specialize in something but you also need to chase your opponents in other categories so they don’t have too easy of a time. -The achievement bonuses add some goals for new players while making these make or break VP for experienced players. -There’s no reason not to play with the V6 tiles. They offer a nice bit of spice for an extremely low impact tweak to the game. CONS -The research action is the crucial point of the game. If you don’t get some good cards quickly and steadily, you don’t stand a chance. I think this could be redesigned (maybe something a la a Pax game?) but considering the medium to medium-light nature of the game and how quick it plays, it’s not too severe.
Really enjoyable game with a variety of scoring. Racing seems sub-optimal and the rulebook is rough. The outcome can be swingy, a car sold or a couple objectives can push someone out to a huge lead. But, I love the turn rondel; there's a lot to think about with significant player interaction for a euro.