At the end of the 19th century, the automotive industry began to gain momentum. This turbulent period in the car industry is central to Kraftwagen. A beautiful story from this time is about the wife of car maker Carl Benz. She wrote car history in 1888 by (without permission of her husband or the authorities) making a long distance drive from Mannheim to Pforzheim in a prototype built by her husband. When the gasoline was exhausted she bought the ingredients from a chemist herself with which she mixed the fuel. She also pierced a blocked fuel line with her hatpin when this was necessary. Bertha (her name) was clearly not inferior to her husband.
In Kraftwagen we can all follow in the footsteps of Bertha and her husband. Each player has his own car company. All companies try to build ever more beautiful cars and faster engines to meet customer demand. And of course there is racing on the ciruit to show what your cars can do.
The central game mechanism is a track with action tiles in a row with tiles of the players behind it. The player at the back of the track always has his turn and may choose an action chip. With the chosen actions you can build cars, build engines, recruit workers, attract customers, race or innovate. On some action tiles there is one action, on some 2 and on one tile there are even three actions.
By innovating you can build better cars and/or engines. You can use the engines to race, but you can also put them in a car for sale. If you have a car and a motorcycle, you can bring it to the market together with a mechanic (not all buyers are as handy as Bertha) by putting a price tag on it. You just don’t know in advance if customers are waiting for it (not all cars are sold).
There are four types of customers in the game: customers who love beautiful cars (the engine doesn’t matter then), customers who especially want a fast engine (and what the vehicle looks like then is not important), customers who want a lot of service and customers who pay attention to their money and just want a cheap car. By choosing the corresponding action, more and more customers come onto the market (the player chooses which type of customer wants to buy a car and gets a bonus). So you have to try to build the cars that the customers want or to acquire the customers that want your cars.
Money (and thus points) cannot only be earned by selling cars or by doing well on the track. You can also earn bonus chips by being the first to achieve certain goals, such as building a motorcycle with a certain strength or by racing two laps on the track first.
The game lasts three rounds and whoever has earned the most points at the end of the game wins the game.
Kraftwagen Review Summary
There are a couple of thematically weird things in Kraftwagen, like that the bank pays the purchase price of a cheap car once more or that during a race you skip the boxes of other cars while running. But that shouldn’t spoil the fun because for the rest the theme is correct and it is really funny to imagine that a top motorcycle is put in an old-fashioned carriage because the maker only invested in the development of his engine. That this also happened in real life at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th can be seen in museums.
The central game mechanism runs like a well-lubricated 6-cylinder. Sometimes you would like a certain action (racing on the circuit) but the question is whether you would also like to skip a number of action chips for it. If you do this you will have to wait longer before it’s your turn again and the other players may be able to perform several actions in a row. And what can the other players do with these actions? For example, can they make sure that only customers are shopping who are not interested in the type of cars you build, so that your cars end up unsold in the demolition. So it is very important that you keep a close eye on your own options and those of the other players. But because the actions themselves are fairly simple, the game plays on smoothly and it is often clear what the best action is. I think the luck factor in the field of innovation is too high. If you choose the innovation action, you can always choose from two cards. The strongest of these cards can differ quite a bit.