Game Buzz: The Great Heartland Hauling Co.

When I was a kid, I (like most kids) played the Honk game.  You pass a truck, you pull down in the air with your fist, and the truck responds with a big honk.  For some reason, it always gave us a thrill to hear that blast.  It got me in big trouble one time when my parents weren’t expecting it.  Anyway, that’s what I think about when I look at

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The Great Hearland Hauling Co. is a new game from designer Jason Kotarski and Dice Hate Me Games.  The game (30 minutes, 2-4 players) was Kickstarted back in September of 2012, with about 352% of their original goal.  It’s a card game where you’re delivering goods all around the Midwest portion of the US.  I missed talking about it when it was on Kickstarter due to the deluge from GenCon and Spiel, but now that it’s actually finding its way into backer’s hands, I thought I’d check it out.

The box includes 46 freight bill cards, 19 fuel cards, 12 doule-sided location cards, a distribution center card, 8 score/cargo cards, 4 cardboard semi-trucks, 60 cargo cubes, and 4 reference cards.  The board is set up with the 12 location cards in a diamond shape around the distribution center card (a square in 2-3 player games).  5 cubes go on each location, and players put their truck on the distribution center.  Each player gets five freight bill/fuel cards (they are shuffled together), as well as beginning with their scores set at 5.  The three topmost cards of the freight bill/fuel deck are turned face up, and you’re ready to play.

Let me start by complimenting the start player mechanism here.  I generally don’t like the ones that try to be thematic as they tend to be very subjective (the pointiest ears, last one to ride a train, etc.).  Here, the player with the best mustaches goes first, or the one with the longest hair.  If one player has a nice mustache and another player has the longest hair, it’s settled with an arm wrestling match.  That is awesome.

On your turn, you move, take an action, and refuel.  To move, you either discard fuel cards and move the indicated number of spaces (never more than three); pay one point per space you want to move (never more than three); or put your truck on the distribution center and take the discard/draw action if you have no fuel cards or points.  Trucks can’t move diagonally, can’t backtrack over a space they already crossed this turn, and can’t stop on a space where another truck is parked (though you can move through it).  If you can move, you must move.

In the action phase, you have three options:

  • Load – Discard any number of matching freight bills from your hand to take cubes from your location.  If the cubes are native goods, you get one on your truck for each card discarded.  If they are not native to the location, it takes two per cube.  Your truck holds up to eight cubes.
  • Unload – Each location indicates cubes that are in demand at a location, as well as points that will be paid for each cube.  If you have those cubes, you can discard any number of freight bills to unload those cubes.  You may only unload one type of cube per turn, and there can only be eight cubes at a location.
  • Discard/Draw – You can also choose to discard as many cards as you like, then draw new cards.  This action costs you a point.

Finally, refuel.  Draw from the supply (either face up or face down cards) until you have five cards in hand.

When one player reaches 40 points (50 in a two-player game), the other players get one more turn and the game is over.  Cards remaining on your trailer cost you points as indicated on the distribution center, and the player with the most points wins.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. seems to be a fairly light pick-up-and-deliver style game.  I like the theme – trucking is an interesting profession that hasn’t been explored much, despite the prevalence of pick-up-and-deliver games (most of which are train-themed).  Thematically, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that you unload cubes that are in demand and are paid for them, but when you pick up those exact same cubes, you just have to discard cards.  It’s like they are paying you just to hold the cubes for a while.  It’s a minor thing, I guess.  I also can’t tell if there’s anything stopping you from delivering non-native cubes to the same location you picked them up from.

Thematic quibbles aside, this looks like a nice fast game.  As with games like Ticket to Ride, there’s not a lot to do on a turn, so downtime should be at a minimum.  I think it’s interesting that you can choose to pay cards or points for movement, and it seems like it will be harder and harder to collect goods as the game goes on with the number of available native goods dwindles.  This means you’ll have to discard more cards for cubes.

In short, I’m interested to see what this game looks like.  It seems like it will fit into the filler game category quite well, and looks portable enough that it could be “trucked” around to different places for play (sorry about that).  Thanks for reading!


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