Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
Publisher Daily Magic Games is quickly making a name for themselves. I first took notice of them with their excellent Valeria line of games, now with its 3rd offering in Quests of Valeria (review coming soon).
Today we are going to be looking at the first game from Daily Magic I’ve played outside of the Valeria line, Food Truck Champion. Now in funding on Kickstarter, Food Truck Champion uses a familiar lead-follow action system that drops players in the driver seat of their own food truck. So let’s dive in and see if this is a game worth backing on Kickstarter.
In Food Truck Champion, each player is the owner of a food truck out to make a name for themselves. As the owner, you will be hiring staff, taking orders and preparing meals… all with the goal of earning awards and increasing your popularity.
As you complete orders, you will earn the right to expand different areas of your food truck, giving you much more flexibility. At the end of the game, the truck owner with the most popularity is the winner.
How to Play:
Each player begins the game with a food track player mat, an owner card, their starting order card and a hand of 5 cards. The marketplace is then dealt face up cards (based on the player count). The popularity token stacks are created (values 1, 2 and 3) with Critique Tokens inserted after every 3 tokens or 4 tokens (based on player count).
Cards in Food Truck Champion can be used in three different ways: as an employee, as an order ticket, or as a food ingredient.
Each turn, the active player choose one of three different actions to take:
- Market Research: Draw cards equal to your draw value (hand limit 6).
- Take Charge: Take your owner card from your food truck into your hand.
- Lead a Staff Action: Choose a card from your hand and play it to your food truck. Each other player may then choose to play a matching card to follow you.
Different staff actions include:
- Driver: Take an ingredient from the marketplace and add it to the fridge section of your food truck.
- Cashier: Take an order ticket from the market and place it in your food truck’s plating area.
- Prep Cook: Move an ingredient from your fridge to one of your order tickets.
- Executive Chef: Play an ingredient directly from your hand to one of your order tickets.
- Manager: Take a staff card from the marketplace and add it to the employee section of your food truck. From now on, whenever a player takes that action (yourself included), you gain a bonus use of that action for each matching employee you have on your food truck.
After all players who lead/followed have finished their action, the staff cards used to play that action are placed in the market. Note: the marketplace can only have 6 (or 8) cards. If excess cards are sent to the marketplace, they are placed on top of existing cards. Then the next player takes their turn.
After a player has completed an order ticket, they take the matching popularity token (the value equals the amount of ingredients required for the order) and adds it to their food truck. Whichever area they add the token to will increase the ability of that area.
If a critique token is revealed, there will be a food critique at the end of the round. During a critique, a player that has completed any orders can choose one order ticket to move to the awards area of their food truck. Each truck has a flavor profile and these tickets are used at the end of the game to make sets for bonus points.
The game ends when either the draw deck (and discard) or 2 popularity stacks are exhausted. Players earn points based on the value of their popularity tokens, 1 point for each completed order matching their truck logo, and 5 points for each flavor profile set they complete.
Right away, many gamers are going to notice some inspiration for Food Truck Champion being drawn from the much sought after out of print title Glory to Rome (review here). Both the lead-follow mechanic, and also the hired staff mechanic are inspired from that classic game.
However, I can attest that Food Truck Champion is also not a direct retheme of Glory to Rome. There are enough differences between the two games that Food Truck Champion can happily sit on the shelf next to the game that inspired it.
One thing I like about Food Truck Champion is how even the game play is. Sometimes in these lead-follow games, there is a quick ramp up of player powers (thanks to abilities from played cards) that causes a rapid escalation of player abilities. With Food Truck Champion, it’s all about completing those orders and using your actions wisely.
While it’s true that you can expand your capabilities with completed orders, most of these are fairly benign, such as being able to work on an extra food ticket or draw an extra card.
I also like how the marketplace works in the game. We actually tested an earlier set of rules where every card was added to the marketplace when played. This ended up being a sprawling mess with players hunting for cards with their logo. With the new ruleset, the cards in the marketplace are capped. This not only makes things cleaner, it also adds a layer of strategy as players can cover up cards they know their opponent’s are coveting.
One area where I think Food Truck Champion could use a bit of tweaking is when a player has extra cards in their hand. I’m not sure on the exact distribution of staff cards (the rulebook didn’t say), but more than once I’ve found my hand clogged with cards I had no use for. My fridge would be full, but I’ve got a hand of useless driver cards.
The way that Food Truck Champion tries to alleviate that is through the use of the owner card, which can be played as a wild. The problem with that is that it takes a full turn to add it to your hand. In a game where you want your actions to be as efficient as possible, this can definitely slow you done.
Now I said tweaking, because a player can use the follow action to draw cards or grab their owner card instead of doing the staff action, which I thought was a fantastic idea. However that does still rely on another player actually leading with your needed staff action. I really wish there would just have been a rule that let you use 2-3 matching cards as wild.
But other than that gripe, I found Food Truck Champion to be a really solid game. The lead-follow system works really well here, and once new players can wrap their head around the mechanics (which can be a bit of a struggle for some), turns will go by quickly with minimal down time.
I’ve been a fan of the lead-follow system since I first tried it in Glory to Rome and am always interested to see it used well in other games. I loved it in Villages of Valeria and I think Daily Magic Games has another winner on their hands here with Food Truck Champion.
The game also scales well from 2-4 players, but is probably best played with 3-4. Playing with 2 players has a neutral player that just leads an action from the top of the deck each round.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.