So, you think you’ve got what it takes to run a successful food truck business? Pick your venues, serve up your signature dishes, and hope you come out ahead in Truck Off!
In “Reaping the Rewards,” I take a look at the finished product from a crowdfunding campaign. Truck Off was originally funded on Kickstarter in March 2017 and has shipped to backers now. It made its debut at Gen Con this year with a limited number of copies, and is now available for purchase.
What Is Truck Off?
Truck Off is a game from Adam’s Apple Games for 2 to 6 players, ages 13 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It retails for $23, and is available for order directly from Adam’s Apple Games or Amazon. The game rules are pretty easy to learn and I think you could probably play with kids as young as 8 or 10; there’s nothing thematically inappropriate for younger kids.
Truck Off Components
- 36 Food Trucks (6 per player)
- 72 Action cards (12 per player)
- 24 Daily Special cards
- 6 Venue tiles
- 6 Venue dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20)
- 72 Money tokens (in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20)
- 12 Game Play tokens (6 Double Payout, 6 Promote Venue)
- Round Tracker card
- First Player token
The food trucks are sturdy cardboard tokens that you punch out, with different names like BeeBeeQ and Fry Hard. Not all of the names are punny (at least that I could figure out), and the trucks are pretty cute, each with its own look. The first player token is a chunky wooden food truck meeple, which is also pretty cute. The punch-out trucks can be a little tricky to fit into the box insert—I’m glad the game doesn’t come in an enormous box, but this one may be just a wee bit too small.
Each player gets 12 action cards that are associated with their trucks. The card backs have colors that match the trucks, and the front of the card has the name of the truck and a close-up of the truck image. It’s a little strange to me that the card backs don’t have the food truck names on them, and instead all say “The Food Truck Frenzy” on them.
My favorite thing about the cards, though, is the names. Although each player gets a set of the same 12 actions, they have punny menu item names that go along with the food truck. For instance, Game Changers has dishes like “Brisket to Ride” and “Munchi Koro.” Fry Hard’s selections are movie-themed: “The Breakfast Club Sandwich” and “Princess Monognocchi.” I highly encourage players to read off menu names when they play the cards just to add some, uh, flavor.
The venue tiles are card-sized cardboard tiles, each showing a different venue like City Center or Sporting Event or Gaming Con, with an icon in the corner showing which die to use for each venue. The dice are a standard set of polyhedral dice in different colors that match the icons on the venue tiles. I think the only thing I might have changed is that the d10 has a “0” for the “10” face, which is standard on 10-sided dice, but I could see somebody who doesn’t often use polyhedral dice thinking that it means “0.”
The artwork on everything is fun and has a whimsical feel, though I have to admit that I was just a little disappointed that not all of the artwork featured the cut-paper illustrations by John Ed De Vera from the cover, which is pretty awesome.
How to Play Truck Off
The goal is to make the most money in five rounds of play by sending your trucks to various venues.
Lay out the venue tiles according to the number of players—the more players you have, the more venues there will be.
Then, each player takes a matching set of trucks and food carts, removing the trucks for venues that aren’t being used. Also, each player will need to remove the same 2 action cards before the game—the nicer cards have candy icons on them, and the meaner cards have apple icons. Once everyone has agreed on which two cards to remove, those are set aside and not used for the game.
Set out the round tracker card with a token on the 1st round, and give a player the first player marker.
(Note: the 2-player game is slightly different, so I’ll explain the differences at the end.)
The game takes five rounds, and each round has these phases:
- Select Trucks
- Roll Dice
- Select Actions
- Execute Actions
- Resolve Payouts
Each player secretly chooses which two venues they want to go to and selects the two trucks with those venue numbers. Once everyone has chosen, reveal all the trucks and then place them at the corresponding venues.
Roll all of the venue dice and place the dice back onto the cards. The dice show the total payout for each venue.
Each player simultaneously picks as many of their action cards as they wish to use this round. There is no limit, but you don’t get cards back between rounds, and unused cards are worth points at the end of the game. Any card you select must be played or discarded this round. Place your selected cards face-down on the table.
In turn order, each player reveals one selected card and either plays it or discards it. Play continues clockwise until nobody has any selected cards left. The actions may let you re-roll dice, move trucks around, play additional trucks, or even shut down somebody’s truck or an entire venue for the round. There’s a “double payout” card—you place a 2x token on one of your trucks—and a “promote a venue” card that adds the promotion token to a venue, which increases its payout. If you play the card that triggers a payout, everyone collects for that venue immediately and then the trucks are returned to their owners—but that venue could pay again if any more trucks are placed there before the round ends.
Although the rules don’t say so, I think everyone should read the name of the menu items on their cards as they’re played.
Calculate payouts at each venue. The die shows the total payout, which is then divided evenly among the trucks at that location. (Any remainder is lost.) Each player collects payment for their own trucks, and then gets their trucks back. Promotion tokens and double payment tokens are discarded back to the supply. Pass the first player token and advance the round marker.
The game ends after the fifth round. The player with the most money wins!
Daily Special Variant
During setup, you can shuffle together the Daily Special cards for the venues that are in play. At the beginning of each round, draw 2 daily special cards and place them above the matching venue tiles. If there’s already a card, there, replace it. These will have various effects on the payouts.
For the 2-player game, you’ll have a third auto-player whose trucks are randomly selected each round. The two players’ action cards will be shuffled and placed in a solitaire-like pattern, and you can only play cards that are uncovered. The round ends after each player has taken 2 actions exactly. (The auto-player does not have any action cards, but starts with $20.) The game ends after 4 rounds.
Why You Should Play Truck Off
Truck Off centers around simultaneous selection, which is one of my favorite mechanics (see also: Go Nuts for Donuts). Everyone is acting at the same time, and the strategy depends a lot on trying to predict where your opponents might go. Ideally, you want to end up at a venue by yourself, because then you get the entire payout. Of course, said payout might be pretty low, depending on the dice. Even if you manage to show up alone at the gaming convention with its d20, you might get a critical miss and end up with only $1.
Generally you’re hoping for a combination of fewer trucks and better die rolls. Maybe you go to the lowest-value venue because you think fewer people will be there. Or maybe you take your chances on the higher-value venues, hoping that a good die roll will make up for a crowded venue.
Then, of course, the action cards come into play. I really like the way this part of the game works—you have to commit cards first, and then decide in what order to play them. Sometimes, however, you’ll have to shift your strategy based on other players’ cards—like if you had a re-roll selected, but then somebody else re-rolled the dice and you’re happy with the result; or perhaps you were planning to play your extra truck at a valuable location, only to find that somebody re-rolled the die and made it worthless. The more powerful cards are also worth more points at the end of the game, so you want to be sure that you get a better benefit playing the card than you would just leaving it unplayed. Finally, you need to budget your cards—you have ten cards to last you five rounds, and if you play too many early on, you’ll be at the mercy of other players in the final stretch.
The variety of action cards allow for some interesting tactics that can really pay off—for instance, trigger a payout at a crowded venue, giving everyone a small amount and sending them home, and then place an additional double-payout truck there to score big by yourself. Or wait until several opponents move to a high die roll, and then shut down the venue altogether; not only did you cost them the payout, but those cards were wasted and can’t be used again.
The game still does have a lot of chance in the dice rolls—unlike a game like Go Nuts for Donuts, you don’t know for sure which venue is going to be the most valuable before you choose, so it can feel a bit like a stab in the dark. And it’s always disappointing to use your re-roll card hoping for a bigger payout and then get a lower number than before. If you keep getting poor rolls on your venues, you may not have a great experience. However, I felt that there were enough ways to mitigate bad rolls using the action cards that it’s still a lot of fun to play and leaves room for maneuvering.
In my opinion, the game is better with more players, but that’s because I enjoy the chaos when there are more locations and more players competing for them. I’m usually not a huge fan of dummy players, so the 2-player version doesn’t quite do it for me. Plus, you’re limited in which cards are available to play, so it does add even more of a luck element in the way the action cards are set up.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed Truck Off a lot. It’s a little more complex than Go Nuts for Donuts in gameplay but has a similar feel because of the simultaneous selection, and anyone who loves puns will delight in the menu item names. It’s quick to learn and just a little chaotic. Order up!
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.