Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Kanban: Automotive Revolution

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Product– Kanban: Automotive Revolution

Producer-Stronghold Games

Price– $60 here http://strongholdgames.com/store/board-games/kanban-automotive-revolution/

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60-90 minutes (2-4 players)

Type-Euro

Depth-Heavy!

TL; DR– Almost too complex…Almost 90%

Basics-Who can build the best car?  In Kanban, each player takes the roll of a car designer in the Kanban Company.  Under the careful eye of your supervisor, players choose what departments they want to work in each day for three weeks or until there are three companywide goal assessment meetings.  I won’t go as in depth as the rule book, but here is a quick summary of the rules.  The departments players can work in each day include: administration, design, logistics, the assembly line, and testing and innovation.  Players can choose which department they want to work in and place a worker on one of two spots in that determent.  These spots determine how many shifts a player can take in that determent, usually two or three, an in which order they get to work with the first having fewer shifts, but being first.  Each shift in a department allows you to do a few different actions.  Here is a quick summary of the different actions:

Design: get car designs and car designs with upgraded parts

Logistics: pick up car part cubes for yourself or place part cubes on the main board for all

Assembly: spend car part cubes to build cars

Testing and Innovation: spend car designs to get cars OR spend car designs with upgrades and a car part cube to improve a car part

Administration: use one other area’s abilities

Players also have the option to train in each area.  By training players can unlock new abilities in each area as well as allowing more storage on their player board.  In addition, when it comes time to score points later, players order is determined by who is the most training in more areas.  The supervisor will move around the board, and if you take a shift in a location with the supervisor, the boss will evaluate your performance in that section.  Here is where the game adds an extra layer with two modes of play.  One mode the boss is nice and gives you extra points if you are being productive.  In the other, the boss punishes you if you fall short!  The boss also moves between sections to move the game forward.  When she moves back to administration, she advances the week marker.  When the game reaches the third week, the game is over.

Also, when players use car designs to put cars in their personal garage on their player sheet, this moves a pace car in testing and innovation depending on how far back the car they took was.  When the pace car in testing and innovation moves to a certain point on the testing track, you have a meeting at the end of the business day.  Meetings are the major way to score points.  As you do other actions in the different departments, you will earn chairs at the business meeting.  Some of the actions to earn chairs are building specific cars or training in a number of different departments.  At the meeting, players can place chairs on goal point cards to score those points.  Most cards will allow you to have multiple chairs, but the boss will want to hear less and less about the same topic, so scoring later on the same goal card will win you less points until no one can score on that goal at all.  Also, each player can play one card from a hand of goal cards as a pet project that they and anyone else can now score on.  The first set of public goal cards are random, but the second and possibly third set of cards all come from the players hands as you start with three, use one each meeting for a pet project and then play one as a new public goal before being dealt two more cards.  The most important thing to know here is if you don’t have seats, you can’t score points!  The game can also end when the third meeting happens.

The last thing the happens at the end of the game is players can use seats to score points on the game goal conditions.  These end game goals can be scored by as many players as are out there and, as an examples, are having five cars, being training in so many departments and so on.  Then, players get points for each car they have in their player board garages, and they score points for how upgraded each car they have, but only if they have they have the upgraded the car part in one of those cars he or she has.  Players also get points for being first, second, or third on each sections training track and for how many resources they still have at the end of the game. Person with the most points in the end is the winner and best designer in Kanban!

Mechanics– WOW there is a lot going on in this one!  But, honestly in a one page summary without the pieces to play with, it’s a bit harder to digest than when you sit down and play.  It’s still a lot to digest, but it’s not nearly as bad.  The hardest thing for me to wrap my head around was scoring.  How to get the chairs at the meeting is really important, but you can make up for blowing a meeting if you have the right cars and upgraded car parts at the end of the game.  It’s a ton of fun making sure you choose the right department and actions at the right time.  It’s not too hard, and it is a lot of fun.  But, it is a brain burner to understand initially. 4.75/5

Theme– Now, the theme of being an office worker in a car company might not sound like the most fun thing in the world (I’m from Michigan, I know this!).  But, it does feel like you’re part of a company competing to be the best.  Having to get seats at the meeting does feel like you maneuvering politically to get noticed by the boss at the right time.  Having to move between the department really did feel like you were doing different jobs each day to make sure that you got everything lined up to succeed.  Even the limits on the number of activities you could do feel like a really like job.  I can’t work 30 hours in a 24 hour day.  It all adds up to some positive stress that makes a good Eurogame fun!  It’s not perfect though.  While I know Ford gives some good discounts on cars to its employees, you don’t just get to take them home for free!  It’s a few minor things that break some of the illusion of the game.  It’s fun and feels like the real offices experience, in a good way, but some minor things do break the fourth wall a bit. 4.5/5

Instructions– The instructions to this game are good, but they are not perfect.  The game comes with a link to an instructional video, and that really helps.  Also, the designer is spending a ton of time answering anybodies questions on board game geek in a thread.  It’s a really great effort by Stronghold to present this game to the players and to make sure everybody knows how to play it.  That said, the rules by themselves are ok, but it’s got a lot going on!  Even the rules themselves say that you have to read everything!  That should go without saying, but if you skip a little bit of say the Splendor rulebook, you’re going to be ok.  Miss or skim a paragraph in this one?  You will be lost and play the game completely wrong.  But, if you just want to complete board game experience without any internet guidance, the rule book itself will teach you how to play, but you have to make sure you really read this one! 4/5

Execution– As I’ve been doing lately, I made an unboxing video for this game!  Here is a link to the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6628QbxggOs  All I have to say to make my day with this one is: CAR MEEPLES!  I love what’s in this box.  It does come with some bags showing that Stronghold Games does love me!  It also comes with a ton of cardboard for seats, tokens, and car designs.  The car designs are nice chunky cardboard, which makes it hard to shuffle, but it also makes it easy to pick up and play with, so I’m happy. The art on the tokens and the main board is also great.  It’s got a lot going on, but it also doesn’t overwhelm you.  One problem I do have with this game is the same problem I have with many of Stronghold’s Eurogames.  The box is somewhat thin.  I’d like the box to be made of a bit more sterner stuff. Overall, this game has some top notch components that really stand out. 4.8/5

Summary– I really like this game.  It’s truly a puzzle.  Kanban has levels and layers that will make even the most determined and smart players have to really consider what they have to do next.  That also makes it a bit harder to explain, teach, and understand.  I love this game, but I had to work at it to get to that point.  This game is almost too hard for me to understand.  That’s the double edged sword of Eurogames.  Too simple and no one will play it.  Too hard and no one CAN play it.  This might not be my favorite Eurogame of all time, but this is one I will keep going back to as, no matter what I do, I still see new options in this game all while having a blast playing it.  If you want something simple to play game at the end of the night after you might have had too many beers to do calculus, then this is not the game for you. However, if you want a well done, extremely intellectually, surprisingly quick game, then this is for you.  I know I can’t wait to get it back to the table.  90%

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