- Number of Plays: 8 (+13 more on Yucata.de)
- Game Length: 45 – 75 minutes
- Mechanics: Bag building, racing
- Release Year: 2016
- Designer: David Short
Here’s an odd confession to make as an adult man. I don’t like driving cars. I’ve actively avoided getting a drivers license for years until I got a job the required me to have one. The even stranger part of this confession is that I enjoy piloting other forms to transportation; Ski-doo, Sea-doo, bicycles, dirt bikes, ATV’s (4 and 6 wheelers), boats. You name it and I’ve had fun driving it. Something about driving my normal ‘big boy’ car through the streets of my city just creates and stupid amount of anxiety. I prefer to ride a bicycle to and from work, lest I have to put myself into the headspace that I need to drive every single day. If you do catch me on the roads, I’m usually the one driving slower than most of the other traffic and wishing that I were already at my destination.
Automobiles tries to emulate the life of a race car driver. You begin the game with a set number of cubes in your bag (5 white, 5 yellow, 2 light grey), and one card of each colour on the table. The normal colours (brown, white, light grey, dark grey, and black) are always preform the same action. The yellow, blue, green, red, and purple cubes all do different things based on the cards that are selected during setup.
The game begins by everyone getting a ‘buy’ action based on their placement (first player gets $10, second gets $11, and so on), then everyone draws 7 cubes from their bag. On your turn you use your cubes in any order to propel yourself around the track, or modify the cubes that are in your play area. Any cubes you don’t use generate income that you can use to buy more cubes to add to your bag. As you drive, you will generate wear that has to added to your discard pile. If you ever need to draw a cube but cannot because your bag is empty, you pour the entirety of your discard pile into your bag, give it a hearty shake and continue to draw until you reach your 7 cube limit.
Probably the most important part of this game is making the engine noises with your mouth when you move your car around the track. Seriously, it’s the most fun. Especially when you coerce your usually stoic friend into doing it too. The bag building element does a good job of conveying momentum as you speed around the track lap after lap fine tuning your bag. If you ignore your wear and push your car hard, you’ll end up having a turn or two where you only draw one useful cube with everything else being wear that goes back into discard pile. If you’ve built a good engine, you can clear half a lap in a single turn and clear the wear out of your discard at the same time.
The last time I played this game on the table, the green cube specifically lent itself to some great moments. The ability “Move as many light gray spaces as your current position. If you’re in last, move an extra light gray space” created situations where we all were sling-shotting past each other, trying to move our selves into positions so we’re barely in last place so we could rocket toward the finish line!
Usually, buy the end of the third lap, people more or less stop buying cubes, as they have what they want in their bag and adding any more cubes just lowers the chance of drawing the ones you really want. This is slightly changed when you play the season campaign.
The season campaign has you decide on 3 maps ahead of time, and your bag carries over from race to race. I’ve only played this variant on Yucata.de, but I really enjoyed my time with it. Especially when you have a race that requires white and light grey cubes, then the next race that benefits having black and dark grey cubes. At some point between these two races you need to pivot and try to remove some of the cubes that you’re relying on for this race in order to put yourself into a better position for the next race.
The season campaign does require buying expansion, which also includes variable player powers and ‘managers’ who give you money and/or the ability to remove cubes in between races. Honestly, the base game is fun for at least a dozen plays, especially if you have kids of non-gamers involved, but if you find Automobiles racing up the track of your favourite games list and you have someone who wants to play 3 games in a row, the expansion with the season campaign is absolutely worth your time and money.
Automobiles usually gives me the feeling of speed and momentum, with the tension of a car weaving through a space barely big enough to get ahead of someone, and narrow photo finishes. Sometimes the game comes to a screeching halt as you find yourself pulling a handful of cubes but none of which move you forward because they are the entire wrong colour that you needed or the only way you could move forward is blocked by another car. As much as I feel a sense of momentum from the game I can’t deny I’ve had a turn where I do almost a full lap, breaking away from the pack, only to have the next two or three turns in a row stuck in a single spot because I didn’t draw the dark grey cube necessary to move from the black lane to the other lanes. I don’t fault the game for that though, it feels way more like my own failing to plan than anything.
- Great game for lots of gamers, from beginners to experts
canmust make the vrrom vrrom noises with your mouth
- the each of the special power cubes have 5 different effects, meaning lots of modularity and variability
- the base game only comes with 2 maps, one of them being a boring oval.
- luck of the draw can have you pull all ‘good’ cubes, but you are unable to move because of your current lane, or because other players block you.