Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy Roll And Write by Adam's Apple Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy Roll And Write by Adam's Apple Games
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Title: Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy Roll And Write
Designed by: Ryan Lambert, Adam Rehberg
Publisher: Adam's Apple Games
Year Published: 2019
MSRP: $99
0-99p | 25-35 min | 14+

Send your food truck team to score sales at various venues throughout town. You can only visit each venue once and will need to carefully plan your route and take sales opportunities when they are arise. Drive efficiently and score bonuses, or race to the finish and hit the big-time payouts on the way. Plan your route but expect the unexpected in your path to food truck infamy!

Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy Roll and Write is a stand alone game and follow-up to the original Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy. It throws navigation, risk mitigation, and press your luck into the same meal pack for you to digest.

In Truck Off Roll and Write, all players are driving their food trucks around a grid system town map, and marking off venue locations in a secondary location called a route tracker for each venue they visit. All players will visit a new venue each turn and then mark the value of their corresponding venue dice directly scoring them points. If you mark three venues in one row or one column of the route tracker, you gain a bonus. Bonuses help you navigate around town, allow you to reroll your dice more, drive farther, drive faster, and promote venues to make them more valuable.

Each turn, the active player rolls the set of polyhedral dice. The active player may reroll up to one die to help the sales on their route or hurt the sales on their opponents route. Then all players select one open venue to drive to if possible up to 4 spaces away following a grid movement system. Each player then marks the value of the die on the corresponding location of their route tracker always progressing their route tracker.

Route Tracker: The route tracker is made up of six columns, one for each of D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, and D20 venues. However, the route must always progress forward from D4 to D20 and snake back to D4. If you skip a venue in your route, then you may not return to that venue on the route tracker. The route tracker will play a big role in your pathing around the town and also allows you push the game toward end quicker than your opponents expect.

To win the game and score the most sales, you'll need to plan your efficient route, take high sales opportunities when they present themselves, and figure out how to reroute your food truck if you deviate from your plan.

-description from designer

Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Simple rules make it great for casual or new players.
  • Fun solo experience, especially with turns limited to 18.
  • Roll and write with a full set of polyhedral dice!
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • I've only played with up to two players due to the environment, but I'd like to play with more when I can get together with my game group again.
  • Two different maps have different bridge layouts and bonus goals to give some variability to games.
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Strategy sometimes seems superficial.  Most of the time you'll want to go to the location you can reach that has the highest value, making the game rely heavily on luck.
  • The rules have several unclear spots.
  • The player count is 0-99 players (not sure why zero is a player count), but as player count increases the benefit of rerolling for being the active player becomes more irrelevant and eventually unfair.
  • Final scoring is a LOT of math.  Just addition, but have a calculator ready.
Final Thoughts:
I've never played the original Truck Off, but I love the theme.  Racing around town selling food out of a truck is a ton of fun.  I also have really been enjoying the surge of roll and write games lately, so I was excited to try out Truck Off RAW.  I really like that the game uses different polyhedral dice, from a d4 all the way up to a d20.

I've mostly played Truck Off RAW as a solo game since the current stay-at-home orders have put the kibosh on my regular game nights.  I have played some 2-player games with my kids though.  So this review is mainly based on the solo experience and a bit of extrapolation about multiplayer games based on my 2-player games.  The rules are very simple and straightforward though, so the game will be a piece of cake to teach to new players, even players that aren't familiar with modern games or roll and write games.

There are a few minor issues with the rules though.  I had to check with the designer to get a few clarifications.  When you get the reroll bonus so you can roll a second die on your turn it's not clear if you have to roll two different dice or can roll the same die twice (you can roll the same die twice).  Also, it's not clear if the Move Your Truck bonus can be saved for later or has to be used right away (it must be used right away).  These are minor though, and easy enough to implement once you know the answers.  And if you don't know the official answer, doing it the wrong way doesn't change the game substantially.

As a solo game, Truck Off RAW does what I like in solo games.  It's a quick diversion that provides some interesting choices.  It's a bit lighter than I really prefer, but I've still found myself pulling it out at night after the kids have gone to bed when I want something quick to wind down to.  I can knock out a solo game in about 20 minutes.

However, my first solo game was rather disappointing.  The rules for a solo game are exactly the same as a multiplayer game, which means there's no pressure to race to the end.  So I simply tried to maximize the locations I visited, figuring a skipped location wasn't worth getting a slightly higher value at the next location.  This made the game more about finding the most efficient path through the map (which is essentially static - the two map sides have different bridge layouts) so that you could hit as many locations as possible and then just hoping for high dice rolls instead of making any strategic choices.  I did come up with a very simple solution to this, however.  Simply limit your turns to 18.  That you have to make important decisions about skipping locations in order to reach column bonuses and this makes your route planning much more critical.  I found the game a whole lot more engaging with just that simple change (and the designer said it may make it into an official variant).

In a multiple player game you still have the potential issue of everyone just trying to hit as many locations as possible, but if even one person decides to race to the end it'll force the others to make more interesting decisions.  I think the biggest issue with a multiplayer game is that the active player gets the opportunity to reroll one or two dice.  This is fine in lower player count games, but as the player count increases that benefit becomes less important.  If you're only the active player once or twice in a game the benefit of rerolling is minimal.  And at very large player counts some players may not ever be the active player.  This makes the game mostly reactive and reliant on luck at higher player counts.  Even at lower player counts and solo this is a game that swings more by the roll of the dice than strategic choices. 

The strategy comes in planning your route to ensure you don't block yourself into an area of the city that will prevent you from reaching any location on the next round.  Sometimes that gets to be a challenging puzzle in itself, especially when you try to plan your route for several turns ahead.

Overall I enjoy Truck Off RAW, especially as a solo game.  I'm curious about how it plays with a group of 4-6, but I'm happy playing it solo for now.  I do wish the two map sides were more varied.  The locations are all in the same spots with only the bridges changed up a bit and the bonuses on different rows and columns.  I can see this with a variety of different map layouts.  I also wish the game was a little less reliant on lucky dice rolls, but I do like the simplicity that the game presents.  If you like roll and writes like Qwixx or Twice as Clever, but want something a little more thematic (and at times a bit simpler), or something that plays great solo, Truck Off RAW might be a good game to add to your collection. 

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bud!  This game definitely has some
great moments.  It's good for several plays
and should appeal to most gamers, especially
if you enjoy other games like this.

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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

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