Game Buzz: Automobiles

Today’s game actually came out a year ago.  However, I’ve recently been introduced to it through its implementation on Yucata.de, and so I wanted to write a post about

image by BGG user dshortdesign
image by BGG user dshortdesign

Automobiles is a game by David Short that was published in 2016 by AEG.  It’s playable with 2-5 people, and takes anywhere from 45-75 minutes to play.  Automobiles is the third game in AEG’s Destination: Fun line, following Trains and Planes.  In fact, that’s the real reason I ignored this when it came out – it seemed like more of a cash-in than anything.  However, after running through a few games online, I think it’s a lot stronger than I initially gave it credit for.

The game comes with a double-sided board, 5 wooden race cars, 5 double-sided player sheets, 5 wooden lap markers, a starting player card, a wear card, 4 gear cards, 4 garage cards, 4 pit cards, 4 handling cards, 4 performance cards, 4 engine cards, 5 draw bags, 30 white 3rd gear cubes, 28 light gray 4th gear cubes, 24 dark gray 5th gear cubes, 16 black 6th gear cubes, 80 brown wear cubes, 40 yellow garage cubes, 16 purple pit cubes, 16 red handling cubes, 16 green performance cubes, and 16 blue engine cubes.  To setup, choose a side of the board.  Randomly select one of each type of card (or use the standard setup – Manager, Crew Chief, Suspension, Gearbox, and Hybrid Engine).  Each player gets a car, a player sheet, and a bag filled with 12 cubes – 2 light gray, 5 white, 5 yellow.  Based on starting position in the race, each player will have $10-$14 to spend on more cubes for their bag.  Each player draws seven cubes and places them in their active place on their sheet.

image by BGG user Camdin
image by BGG user Camdin

A race is typically three laps around the track, but the board has spaces for up to seven.  There’s nothing really stopping you from doing a 500 lap race, but that might get slightly tedious.  Just like real auto racing (yes, I went there).  In other racing games like Formula D, first place goes first each round, but here players remain in the same order for each turn.  On a turn, you go through five steps: action, buy, car, decline, end.  ABCDE (love it when games can mnemonimize the actions like that).

ACTION: Use as many of the cubes in your action pile as you like for their effects.  White, gray and black cubes are gear cubes that will move your car around the track.  Simply place one white, light gray, medium gray, or black cube in each available space in front of your car.  Each cube must be placed in front of the previously placed one (no going backwards or sideways) and must be placed in the same or an an adjacent lanes (no skipping lanes).  You also cannot land on a space containing an opponent’s car (or move through it), though you can land right behind them.  And sometimes you want to for the drafting effect.

Colored cubes have different effects described on the cards selected in setup.  You’ll use these one at a time and then place them in the used pile (not the discard).  Once you’ve used as many cubes as you want to, move on to the next phase.

image by BGG user MikeTuna
image by BGG user MikeTuna

BUY: Each cube has a monetary value as indicated in dollar signs at the bottom of each card.  For each cube still left in your active pile (not used for actions), you may use the total money value to buy some more cubes (cost listed in the upper left or right corner of each card).  Any cubes you buy are placed in your used pile.

CAR: Now, you move your car.  Follow the trail of cubes you left to its end point.

DECLINE: Consult the wear chart.  The darkest color that was used in moving your car earns you brown cubes that represent wear.  So, if all you used was white, you get one wear, but if you used a black cube, you get four wear.  These are placed in your used pile to clog up your draws later (unless you can get rid of them).  If you ended your turn right behind another car, you are considered to be drafting and you earn NO wear this round.

END: All cubes that were out this round (used or not) are moved to the discard pile.  Draw seven new cubes.  If you don’t have enough cubes in your bag, put all cubes from your discard pile in your bag, shake ’em up, and keep drawing.

Instead of doing the ABCDE actions, you could choose to take an alternative turn of taking a pit stop.  To do this, remove all wear from your active pile back to the supply, perform the end phase, and continue with the next player’s turn.

The game continues until someone crosses the finish line.  Because all players get the same number of turns, if the last player crosses first, he wins.  If another player in turn order crosses first, and later players also cross, the player who got the farthest wins (with ties broken by the player on the inside).

image by BGG user MikeTuna
image by BGG user MikeTuna

I’ve been having a lot of fun playing this game online.  I really like the ways you can build your pool of cubes, as well as cull them.  The customizable part is really interesting too, with different powers for the cards.  This helps with variability of the system.  I’ve enjoyed playing it online, and would really like to play in real life sometime.  I know that doing all of the calculations and bookkeeping would be up to me, but that’s part of what I like about board games – actually having to DO things myself.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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