- Number of Plays: 12
- Game Length: 30 minutes
- Mechanics: Pick up and Deliver, Hand Management
- Release Year: 2013
- Designer: Jason Kotarski
- Artist: Brian Buckley, Christopher Kirkman
Great Heartland Hauling Co., designed by Jason Kotarski and published by Dice Hate Me Games, is a clever little game packed into a small box. The rules for Great Heartland Hauling Co. can be distilled to a single card, making it perfect for teaching people who only have a cursory interest in board games.
No room for bananas here!
Great Heartland Hauling Co. uses the theme of truckers rushing up and down the American interstate, picking up goods and dropping them off at the next town over for a huge profit. While spending hours driving in one direction may be the bulk of a haulers job, it’s difficult to make an invigorating game about rolling your truck on a straight road through the flat prairies. Luckily Great Heartland Hauling Co. doesn’t focus on the dozen brain melting hours in-between stops, and focuses on the excitement of buying and selling goods, and pushing your luck that the correct waybills will appear just when you need them.
How to Play
This land is ripe for truckers
In the beginning, the landscape must be created. The distribution centre location is laid down in the centre of the table, where all trucks are born. Surrounding the distribution centre are location cards, each one loaded with 5 cubes representing the type of good that can be procured from that location. Everyone gets a hand of 5 cards, and the player with the best moustache or longest hair gets to go first.
In Great Heartland Hauling Co. there are two different types of cards: waybills and gas cards. You use any number of gas cards to move from one location card to another (max movement is 3). When your truck ends its move in a city, you may discard waybill cards to either load or unload goods at that location. Once you’ve moved and loaded, you refill your hand to 5 cards and your turn is over. It’s important to mention that two trucks cannot exist in the same city at the same time, for long haul truckers are territorial creatures and are likely to shank each other in the gas station shower.
It’s not recommended to have a wide variety of goods
If you find yourself beginning a turn without any gas cards, you can spend money to move instead; $1 for each space you want to move. Be careful to not rely on this however, as money also represents victory points. It’s also important to note that you may not mix gas cards and money for movement – you must choose one or the other for the turn.
Each location has a pair of goods they are willing to buy from your truck, as well as the advertised amount they are willing to pay you for said goods. Should you arrive with the appropriate goods and necessary waybills, you can unload those goods and collect a tidy profit. The first person to hit the money threshold ($30 in a 4 player game, $40 in a 3 player game, and $50 in a two player game) triggers the end of the game. The rest of your fellow truckers get a final turn, then money is deducted from each trucker for the goods they left to spoil in the back of the truck. The person with the most money is the winner.
Great Heartland Hauling Co.’s small form factor has caused this game to live a life of constantly travelling in my backpack. I’m sure my copy of Great Heartland Hauling Co. has seen more of the British Columbian coast than most of my prairie saddled family! It’s a light game to drop into your pack and simple to pull it out at a coffee shop when you’re in Gibsons and have an hour to kill before the ferry back to Vancouver departs. Also, if you find yourself at a Serious Coffee table with 3 others and 90 minutes to burn between a wedding ceremony and the reception.
Pick-up and deliver is not a mechanic I often feel drawn toward. Games with this mechanism often feel like a race without the feeling of momentum or speed. Great Heartland Hauling Co.’s satisfaction comes from the quick turnaround of picking up goods and being able to deliver them the very next turn. It can be frustrating when you begin your turn with 3 pig cards, spend all 3 waybills to get those 3 pigs onto your truck, then several turns go by without any more pig waybills becoming available, so you’re forced to take those pigs on a countryside tour.
Don’t get caught with leftover goods!
One thing that I really appreciate in games is forcing players to make decisions. In Great Heartland Hauling Co. you are forced to move each turn, which makes you decide if you want to take gas cards or fill your hand with waybills,. Also, because you cannot exist in the same town as someone else, you may find yourselves tripping over one another, squatting in the spot you know they need to go to, forcing them to delay their payday by an entire turn! The various locations also offer different values for the goods they’re demanding. You can choose to ferry all the corn from one city to the next for $2 per ear, but if you haul it clear across the country they’ll pay you $4! It’s double the money, but also wildly increased shipping costs. If a game doesn’t offer you good or interesting decisions, then why am I even involved? Great Heartland Hauling Co. makes me feel involved.
As I alluded to before, Great Heartland Hauling Co. is a simple game to teach and play. Because of it’s small size and easy to learn nature, I’m constantly introducing this game to new players, and even using it to showcase that board games are more than just Monopoly and Connect Four. Because I’m always introducing this to new players, I haven’t explored the “Inspansion” content that includes player powers and special effects. I look forward to one day exploring the game further, but for now, I really enjoy the simplicity of play offered by Great Heartland Hauling Co.
One of the ways that I have changed things up a bit is by changing the shape of the board, utilizing one of the suggested map layouts. Unfortunately, this made Great Heartland Hauling Co. feel more like a dreary slog in a hot cabin with no air conditioning. While the idea of having a different board layout is exciting, the shape we chose had two long corridors running nearly parallel with only one space where you could move between columns. This ended up dragging the game out extensively. We spent more money to move further as there were less alternative towns to visit when the particular space that we needed to go to was occupied by another player. One time the economy was so choked due to us spending so much on gas and the highest paying customers being so far away from the goods they wanted, that we were ending up with a net profit of $1 per good delivered. This experience really highlighted the limitations of the game and how modifying the route structure makes it a significantly less fun game.
I know that sounds incredibly critical, and it is, but here is where I come to grips with my opinion on Great Heartland Hauling Co. It’s a light, easy to teach game that is perfect for introducing people to the hobby. Having said that, it’s too light for my regular game group gatherings, so we naturally pass it over in favour of something more complex. Great Heartland Hauling Co. is a great game and it certainly won’t be leaving my backpack any time soon, but it’s rarely on the list of games that I’m desperate to play again.
Try as I might, I cannot fit my lunch in this box.