If you’ve ever wanted to drive an ice cream truck, this game is for you. Stock up on frozen treats, turn on the tunes, and hit the road—Rocky Road a la Mode.
At a glance: Rocky Road a la Mode is a game by Joshua J. Mills for 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 20–30 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $19 for a copy of the game. (Shipping is free in the US, $7 to Canada, and $15 everywhere else.) The game is kid-friendly and you could probably play with even younger kids as long as they have some tabletop experience already.
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- My review is based on a demo prototype, so final components may vary some from the photos.
- 4 Ice Cream Truck cards
- 4 wooden player tokens
- 4 Rocky Road cards to form a board
- 3 Rocket Pop tokens
- 36 Treat cards
- 8 Location cards
The game is cleverly designed so that the Treat cards tuck under the truck cards and slide or rotate depending on the status of the card. The artwork and graphic design is by Adam McIver, who has worked on many games, and has a very fun, cheerful style. The only changes I hope they make are to the board itself: the lines between spaces can be hard to see at a distance, and the center of the board is just a plain grassy area that could use something fun, like kids running around outside or a playground. (Note: since this is a prototype, it’s still subject to change, so I’m putting my vote in for some fun artwork there as a future stretch goal.)
Green Couch Games has published several other games via Kickstarter, and they all come in a small, portable box, so I’m sure Rocky Road a la Mode will also have the same form factor.
How to Play
The goal of the game is to score the most loyalty points.
To set up the game, lay out the board and place the Rocket Pop tokens on the potholes. Each player takes an Ice Cream Truck card, the matching player token, and 3 Treat cards from the deck. The Location cards are set near the board, arranged by location, with the higher-scoring card on top for each location. Treat cards are set near the board. The player tokens are placed on the start space, stacked in a random order.
The turn order in this game isn’t just going around the table as in most games, but is determined by your position on the board. If you’re currently the furthest behind on the board, you get to keep taking actions until you pull ahead of somebody. (When stacked, the player on top of the stack is considered furthest behind.)
When it’s your turn, you may Restock, Attract Customers, or Serve Customers.
Restock: Choose a number between 1 and 5. Move that many spaces forward, and draw that many cards from the deck.
Attract Customers: Pick a card from your hand and move forward the number of spaces indicated on the card. Then tuck the card under your Ice Cream Truck card so that both groups of customers are showing. (If you already had an incomplete card there, you pick it up and put it back in your hand.)
Serve Customers: Move forward 1 space, and then serve the current group of customers (the ones closest to your truck) by discarding cards from your hand with icons in the top left corner that match the treats requested. When you serve the first group, you slide the card up and there will be a second group to serve. When you’ve served the second group, the card is turned horizontally and tucked under your Ice Cream Truck card so that the points and bonuses are shown behind your truck.
Some of the customer cards have points, and some have ice cream icons that are displayed after the customers are served. The ice cream icons are permanent supply bonuses, which automatically serve a treat of that type without having to discard cards from your hand. If you acquire the right bonuses, you can claim a Location card for bonus points.
If you ever end your movement on a space with a Rocket Pop token, you pick it up and place it in front of you. Rocket Pops may be spent as a wild, taking the place of any single treat for a customer. When spent, it goes back on the board in the next available pothole space.
When one player reaches at least 9 points, then play continues until that player is furthest behind on the board, and then the game ends. Highest score wins. In case of a tie, the tied player furthest back on the road wins.
Rocky Road a la Mode is an interesting mix of mechanics: a little bit of set collection and engine-building, with that twist that lets you trade time for actions. That little twist is a really great mechanic that I’ve seen in a few games but not many. Every action you take moves you forward. The more cards you want to draw, the further ahead you’ll move, and the longer you’ll have to wait until it’s your turn again. Sometimes you can attract customers quickly, only moving you one space, and sometimes it takes a while, moving you three spaces—but usually the longer waits result in more points or better bonuses.
Fulfilling the ice cream orders reminds me a little of Splendor: you collect treats to fulfill orders, and sometimes fulfilling orders can get you points, and sometimes it gives you fewer points but helps you fulfill future orders more quickly. The Location cards, in this analogy, are like the Noble cards: you get points for getting the right types of bonuses—but only if you claim them quickly.
There’s a nice balance between going after points right away and building up bonuses. Bonuses make it easier to serve customers, plus there’s a chance that you could get a nice bump in points if you get a set of them. However, while you’re spending cards (and turns) building up those bonuses, your opponent might be simply racking up points.
Overall, I think Rocky Road a la Mode is an excellent little game, and fits in with Green Couch Games’ motto of “great little games that make great big connections.” It’s family-friendly but has enough to hold the interest of more experienced gamers (though it is a little short to be the main course for a game night). The individual mechanics aren’t entirely new, but the combination feels fresh, and I think they’re presented in a way that is easy to introduce to players who haven’t already seen them elsewhere.
For more information or to back the project, visit the Rocky Road a la Mode Kickstarter page!