Baby, you can drive my car

automobiles-cover

This week’s session saw new arrival Automobiles going through a test drive, courtesy of Peleg, Sheer, and I. The game was designed by David Short, and is published by AEG. Was it a smooth ride, or did we crash and burn? Read on and find out…

Automobiles is a neat twist on a deck building game. Here, the cards are fixed and never enter your hand. Instead, you have colored cubes – each colored cube matching a single action card – which you acquire, and put in your very own draw bag. The actions may help your car move on the race track, or do different things dependent on your current or used cubes. Each turn, you draw seven cubes from your bag, and take actions according to those cubes. You do not have to use all the cubes each turn, with the remainder being available to purchase new cubes. When your draw bag is empty, you put all the cubes back there, and continue.

To match the race car theme, some actions and movement on the race track force you to acquire wear cubes. These are not good to have. Think Curse cards from Dominion, and you get the idea.

There are several types of card for the colored cubes, and the mix and match interaction has echoes of other deck building games. So, while some combinations are given, you can experiment to your heart’s content. Also, because there is only one card for each color, it is a whole lot easier to come up with home brewed variations, since there is no need to manufacture a ton of cards, with the need to replicate shape and quality.

The winner is the first past the post, or furthest past the post if there is more than one finisher. The game can take five – though annoyingly my copy only came with four draw bags – and has a low to medium complexity.

So, how does it play?

Overall I would say that it is a good game, with lots of challenging decision making, and a hefty does of fun. It’s easy to play, but not so easy to play well. The components are high quality, clear, and easy to use. However, I hear I am not the only one to suffer from a missing draw bag. The rules are clear, especially after you take the time and trouble to properly sort the cards before playing. (That’s an in joke at my expense. I complained there was no clear way to use the cubes for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth gears. Then I bothered to check the cards.)

The one potential blot is that it may take too long to play for four or more players. With three players, we managed a couple of complete three lap games – some card sets come with a recommendation to do five laps – inside two and a half hours, including rules explanation. In theory, because you can see your cubes in advance, you should be able to plan your turn ahead. In practice, I found myself checking out the board to see what the others were doing, and that slowed things down. I would try it with four, at least once, but maybe there’s a reason there were only four draw bags…

automobiles

Anyway, true to form, Sheer cracked the right combination in both races, and won. He was untouchable in the first. In the second, both Peleg and I did better, and were in contention until the last couple of turns.

I definitely want to try this again, as it was fun, and it’s been the most successful race game experience I have had in quite a while.