Aug 152012
 
GD Star Rating
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Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the Kickstarter project page. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 10+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Picking up and drop off cargo as quickly as you can to locations who want them the most, making a tidy profit for your trouble

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The nation might stretch from sea to shining sea, but it’s the black ribbon of asphalt that keeps it tied together. On these roads travel the men and women who keep commerce and goods flowing. There is always a demand to be met and the only way to do so is to get it there as efficiently as possible. Every trucker is attempting to do just that, but there are only so many goods to go around. Keep your eyes on the road and the prize, as you attempt to be smarter and faster than your competition.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co., by Dice Hate Me Games, is comprised of 46 Freight  Bill cards (15 soy beans, 15 corn, 8 cattle, and 8 pigs), 19 Fuel cards (in values of Move 1, Move 2, and Move 3), 12 Location cards (double-sided), 1 Distribution Center card, 8 Score/Cargo cards (2 for each player, in 4 different colors), 4 Semi Truck playing pieces (in 4 different colors, 1 per player), 4 Scoring pawns, 60 wooden Cargo cubes (representing green soy beans, yellow corn, black cattle, and pink pigs, 15 of each color), and 4 Player Reference cards. As this is a review on the final prototype, I will not comment on the component quality. I will state, however, that the team at Dice Hate Me Games have put a great deal of thought into the components and game design, with a reported final game offering looking very professional.

Example of the final artwork for the cards used in the game

Logistics

To set up the game, first count the number of truckers. Depending on how many will be playing, the game set up is different.

Four Truckers

Find and place the Distribution Center card in the middle of the playing area. Now shuffle the Location cards and deal them out in a diamond shape around the Distribution Center card with the black diamond icon showing on each Location card.

Three Truckers

Find and place the Distribution Center card in the middle of the playing area. Remove 1 type of each Location card (remove 1 soy bean, 1 corn, 1 cattle, and 1 pig). Shuffle the remaining 8 Location cards and deal them out around the Distribution Center card, boxing it in. Now the two other players (not the dealer) each pick 1 of the Location cards that were removed and place it adjacent to any of the dealt Location cards. Discard the 2 remaining Location cards for the duration of the game.

Two Truckers

Find and place the Distribution Center card in the middle of the playing area. Remove 1 type of each Location card (remove 1 soy bean, 1 corn, 1 cattle, and 1 pig). Shuffle the remaining 8 Location cards and deal them out around the Distribution Center card, boxing it in.  Discard the 4 remaining Location cards for the duration of the game.

Providing Goods

Regardless of how many truckers are playing, 5 Cargo cubes of the Native Goods found on each Location card are now placed. Nothing is placed on the Distribution Center. Then each player will choose a color and take the matching Semi-Truck and Score/Cargo cards, and Scoring pawn. The Semi-Trucks are placed on the Distribution Center and the Semi/Cargo cards are placed in front of their owning player with the Scoring pawn placed on the card’s “5″ space.

Example of cubes being distributed on the Location cards

Shuffle the Freight Bill cards and Fuel cards together and deal each player 5 cards, face-down. Place the deck of cards off to the side of the playing area (this is now the draw deck) and draw 3 cards from the top. Place these three cards next to the deck, one after another, in line and face-up.

That’s it! Pick the first player and get behind the wheel!

Hammering Down the Big Slab

Each trucker will take a turn which is made up of 3 phrases. Once they have completed their turn, the next trucker going clockwise has a chance behind the wheel.

Phase 1: Move

In this phase, the trucker must choose to complete one of the 3 following actions:

  • Discard Fuel Cards: For every number value on a Fuel card discarded, the trucker can move their big rig, but only up to 3 spaces (cards)
  • Pay 1 Point: For the cost of 1 point on the trucker’s Score/Cargo card, the trucker can move 1 space (card), but only up 3 spaces (cards)
  • Discard/Draw: Discard and draw as many cards as needed by paying 1 point

Phase 2: Take an Action

In this phase, the trucker must choose to complete one of the 3 following actions:

  • Load: For every matching Freight Bill card discarded at a location, the trucker can load 1 Native Goods Cargo cube in their big rig, or for every 2 matching Freight Bill cards discarded at a location, the trucker can load 1 non-Native Goods Cargo cube
  • Unload: For every Cargo cube and Fright Bill card that matches the location’s demanded goods, the trucker’s points are increased by the good’s Location value
  • Discard/Draw: Discard and draw as many cards as needed by paying 1 point

Phase 3: Refuel

The trucker now draws cards from the face-down deck or takes any of the face-up cards next to it, filling their hand back up to 5 cards.

End of the Road

When one trucker has reached a certain number of points during their turn (30 or more for a 4-player game, 40 or more for a 3-player game, and 50 or more for a 2-player game), all truckers are given one final turn to unload goods. For every Cargo cube the trucker still has in their big rig when their turn is over, they will be penalized by a number of points as indicated by the Distribution Center card. After all the points have been adjusted, the trucker with the most points is the winner and the King of the Road!

Game Variant

There are a number of game variants that can be applied to adjust the game’s length and difficulty. They are as follows:

  • Short Haul: truckers can only have up to 6 Cargo cubes in their big rig at a time
  • Fresh Start: The Distribution Center card is shuffled in with the Location cards, creating a random Distribution Center location for the game
  • Warehouse Mix-Up: During game set up, 3 Native Goods and one of each of the demanded goods are placed at each location
  • Alternate Routes: Use the advanced side (marked with a black diamond) of the Location cards, which will affect movement from one Location card to the next

To learn more about The Great Heartland Hauling Co. and download the rule book for more game details, see the Kickstarter project page.

Prediction

Games where you need to pick-up and deliver are excellent training for a little geek’s mind. They need to be able to think several moves ahead, determine the optimum route to achieve their mission, and then think about what they are going to do next before they even get there. Most of the time, I’d suggest that such games would be too much for little geeks to play and enjoy. There’s a lot to think about and that can often lead to vapor lock and possible nose bleeds. The Great Heartland Hauling Co., however, has streamlined their rules to make game play very straight forward. The number of actions available to a player are broken down into simple steps where you move and then pick up or unload. From a little geek’s perspective, this easy to grasp.

And if the little geeks can understand the game, I have no doubt the Parent and Gamer Geeks will have an easy time learning how to play. In fact, there is nothing about this game that jumps out at me to suggest that any of the three test groups are going to have a problem with the game play. At the most, I think we’ll see the non-gamers dislike it and not appreciate the finer points of hauling little pink pig cubes.

And so, after explaining the rules of the game to my little geeks, demonstrating the pick up and drop off process, as well as means of travel and fuel management, we were ready to play. My 5-year-old won’t have a problem playing this game solo as reading is not a needed geek skill to participate. As I set up the game for our first play, I asked them their thoughts before we jumped into our cabs and started hauling.

“A neat little card game. I like that the pink cubes are pigs.” ~ Liam (age 8)

“I don’t know, Dad. It looks OK.” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

I’m not getting a strong vibe from my 5-year-old, but he can be hard to read sometimes. Let’s play the game and see if this is going to be a great trip or an agonizing journey.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had mixed feelings about the game. My 5-year-old was never able to get a solid grasp of the phases or hand management and eventually decides to excuse himself to play with some action figures. My 8-year-old kept on trucking and did very well. He was caught with Cargo cubes during the end of the first game and played it a bit too safe after that, resulting in no victories, but he demonstrated excellent and thoughtful game play throughout. On a relevant side note, my 8-year-old kept calling the little pink Cargo cubes “ham bits”. I found this strangely disturbing.

Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game and found it to be light and casual. They especially liked the level of logistics that were needed to play the game, but done in a way that was easy to grasp and manage. In other words, a player could just bounce from one location to another, collecting a small number of points, and still have a good time. The non-gamers didn’t care for the game and found it to be a bit too much of a thinker for them.

Gamer Geeks really enjoyed the game and had a wonderful time snapping goods up before their opponents could. They all agreed this was an excellent game and worth playing.

The game is easy to learn, play, and set up, as my little geek is clearly demonstrating with his awesomeness

Gamer Geeks, this is a game about resource management on the open road. You’ll be doing a lot of trading in hopes of making points as quickly as possible. The real joy of this game will come from the surprising amount of energy you must put into your thought processes when you attempt to logistically determine the best path to take. The game is made even more challenging with other players picking up goods and moving them around. In the end, the game will be won by creating a “master plan” that is achieved one small trip at a time by the player who has the strongest hand/resource management skills.

Parent Geeks, this is a fun and light game about resource management and logical thinking. Players will need to think through their turns and consider their objectives carefully. A player must watch their fuel, their cargo space, and the other players. The worst thing to happen to a player in this game is running out of gas or being stuck with a trailer full of undelivered goods. But all the players will see these conditions coming and will have enough time to adjust their strategy accordingly. The end result is a game that will require thinking, but plays fast enough to never make anyone feel bogged down.

Child Geeks, this game is going to push you to look out and beyond the horizon. You’ll need to focus on the here-and-now as much as you will need to be thinking of what you will be doing next. Resource management is a must. Everything you do has potential to create points, but the trick is finding a way to make those points as quickly as possible. Don’t be afraid to travel around, but never be caught in a location with nothing in your trailer. You won’t make any points if you don’t deliver the cubes!

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. can be a fun and light game or a very serious and competitive one, depending on who you are playing with. When I played with the Parent and Child geeks, the game was about moving as fast as you could, and the players more or less stayed out of each others way. When I played with the Gamer Geeks, players were stealing goods out from under other players and hording them to ensure other players couldn’t score points. In both cases, the game was well received and highly enjoyed. Although, I’ll never be able to look at ham cubes on a salad again and not think “pink pig chunks”.

If you are looking for a light pick-up and deliver game with focus on resource management that can offer a wide variety of different playing experiences that includes randomized set up, look no further than The Great Heartland Hauling Co. It is sure to take you and your friends on a wonderful gaming journey.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. Game Review (prepublished version), 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

  4 Responses to “The Great Heartland Hauling Co. Game Review (prepublished version)”

  1. This game look pretty darn good and the mechanic sounds quite solid. I think I will be backing this one! Plus I love the Heartland theme as I am from Illinois.

  2. Great review. In fact, I’ve been enjoying perusing the site. I had previously enjoyed your contributions on the Dice Tower, but never made it here. My little geeks are a little older, and my 13 year old plays at an adult gamer geek level, but still, I like the multi-level presentation, the prediction/result. Well done, sir!

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