The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Horseless Carriage, Redux

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I’ve now played four games of (Hush hush, keep it down now), Horseless Carriage, and I am reminded a hiring decision. We’d gotten a new contractor (temp-to-hire). After a few weeks, We had a meeting (without him) and discussed the decision.

“Well, he’s a bit prickly, but he seems to know his stuff.”

“If you stay on top of him, he gets his work done.”

Etc etc.

And at my turn, I said, “Well, I was going to give a criticism, but everyone seems to be saying ‘He’s bad, but he’s not that bad.’ Am I reading that right?”

And we let him go.

And after all of my games of Horseless Carriage, I said (and heard) statements like that meeting.

“I think it’s too spatial, but that’s probably just the first few games.”

“The sales phase is too fiddly for what it does, but its not the soul of the game.”

“Once you get past the confusion it gets better.”

Etc etc.

One player in last night’s game said “If the game ended on the turn it did or the next one, it would have ended the same way.” Impressive, given the Splotter “If you can’t win on the first turn, why have it?” jibe. One player had messed up their research and suddenly found themselves unable to build a minimum technology that turn (they had the tech, but no space for it in their layout), so that player is last.

So, time to admit that I want to like Horseless Carriage more than I actually like it. I’ve spent $30 on organizers trying (successfully) to trim the setup/teardown costs of the game.

I suspect that one of the real problems is that when you lose Horseless Carriage it feels like a personal failure. “Oh, I blocked myself off from this tech,” “I didn’t see that coming,” “I didn’t suspect that part would run out.” “I would have been fine if I’d been 2nd in turn order instead of 3rd.” Horseless Carriage’s systems are entangled so that you can predict it.

You can see Design is going to come in next turn, and you’ll need more Design, but how hard will others fight for it, or will they be content with having an OK design and setting up the fight for turn N+1? Because that’s hard to gage. The game rules are already a bit rough (until you know them) but the game state seems illegible, not offering any guideposts as to what to do and players wind up foundering and crashing. So the winner is the one who simply founders the least.

“Perhaps when we are better then that will not be the case,” I say to myself.

“See opening anecdote,” I answer myself.

I am not yet at the point of letting my copy go; there are definitely people who want to play again and I am one of them. But I am not nearly as hopeful as I was a month ago.


Written by taogaming

May 23, 2023 at 9:18 am

Posted in Reviews

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  1. […] talking about Horseless Carriage I called the game state “illegible,” but now I realize that was imprecise. The current […]

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