PLAYlist 22: Food Truck Champion

Mar 21, 2018 By Austin Trunick
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Food is a theme that anyone can get behind. Consider this: you eat food, right? Think hard about it, if you need to. You probably even enjoy food on a daily basis, and I bet most of your friends eat food, too. If you did a little survey, most of them would tell you that food was something they couldn’t live without. Food!

You may not be into dragons, zombies, Cthulu, or railroad stock certificates, but chances are good that food is something that appeals to you on some level. When it comes to game themes, they don’t get any more palatable than a game inspired by food. (See what I did there?)

Food Truck Champion, from designers Nicole Jekich and Luke Turpeinen and Daily Magic Games, pits two to five players as competing food truck proprietors over the course of its roughly hour-long gameplay. At the end of the game, the player who’s prepared the best dishes for the most customers is crowned the Food Truck Champion.

Food Truck Champion is a small-box card game, which leads us to its coolest design element: each card in the game can be used in three distinct ways. The center portion of the card, read horizontally, is an “order ticket.” These feature tasty-looking menu items alongside the ingredients you’ll need to prepare them. The top of each card (when vertical) shows a staff action which can be taken, allowing you to move cards between your hand, areas of your player board, and the marketplace. The bottom of the card lists an ingredient, which you’ll use to complete orders and score points. By giving each of the cards multiple functions, players are forced to make tough choices. Would you rather play a card for its staff order action, or use it as an ingredient for one of your dishes? Or, do you atempt to cook the meal depicted in its artwork by collecting ingredients listed on other cards?

Each player begins the game with a different truck, featuring a unique flavor profile – meaning, they’ll have each have a particular assortment of food types that will score more points for them than for other players when completed. For example, the vegan truck “Herban Garden” will score more points for completing vegetable-based dishes than “Tacos De Muerte,” which score bonuses for cheesy dishes. This creates situations where the same cards will be valued differently by one player versus another. This makes things interesting, because moments will arise where you’ll want to play a card in your hand, but at the same time not make it available to one of your opponents. Whiiiiiiich…

… leads us to my second favorite design element of Food Truck Champion. Expended cards aren’t sent to a discard pile not to be seen again until future sessions of the game, but discarded to the marketplace in the center of the table. When you play a card for its staff action, you’ll put it in an empty market spot or on top of another market card. This leaves it open for your opponents to pick up and use in later turns. There may only be 95 cards in the Food Truck Champion deck, but each one presents numerous options to consider based on the lay of the game.

Actions are taken in a follow-the-leader style similar to what you’d see in a game like Puerto Rico. On your turn, you’ll announce which of the game’s five actions you’ll be leading, and play a card that matches. Your opponents then will be able to decide whether they’ll follow – take the same action by playing a matching card from their hand – or draw cards from the deck. Savvy players will be able to accomplish a lot by following their opponents’ actions, then executing the final steps of their master plan when their own turn rolls around. Players can gain bonus actions each turn as the game goes on by hiring staff for their food truck, which allows you to take a follow action (or actions) without expending a card from your hand. This creates a sense that you’re building on your enterprise as the game goes on and your personal little engine gets going. 

For the most part, Food Truck Champion is a game of logistics. The cards take on different functions depending on where they’re tucked under or beside your player board. (For example, cards can’t be used as ingredients for dishes until they’re place under the “fridge” corner of your truck’s player board.) You’ll move them around via the various staff actions. When you complete an order, you’ll take a popularity token of value equal to its number of ingredients from the communal stacks.Your truck itself can be upgraded as you earn these takens, increasing your card capacity in the different areas. If you reveal a critique token (buried in those stacks at defined intervals), each player will go through their completed orders and choose one to place in the “Awards” section of their board. At the end of the game, you’ll get bonus points for having collected complete full sets of your truck’s individual “flavor profile,” or four preferred ingredients, as represented on the orders in your Awards pile.

In the end, the player with the most points, or highest “popularity,” is declared the winner.

Like previous PLAYlist favorites like Honshu and Villages of Valeria, Food Truck Champion squeezes a lot of game out of relatively few components. Each card offers numerous options that must be weighed. The landscape is always shifting as each player drops action cards from their hands, and there’s a hefty amount of interaction. The art style is bright and colorful and, importantly, the food looks tasty. (Bravo to artist Claire Donaldson for making sure Food Truck Champion appeared appropriately appetizing.) The popularity tokens and starting player meeple-truck are cute and made of wood. With an MSRP of $25 and generally available online for much less, there’s a good amount of value to be found in Food Truck Champion.

When I think of food trucks, I typically think back to my time at South by Southwest in the fine city of Austin, Texas. While I was there for the morning-to-late-night music marathons from up-and-coming musical acts, the second biggest draw, for me, was the food, and much of what I ate came from trucks that were parked up and down the streets and in big lots flanked by picnic tables. To reflect this, I’ve put together a playlist from some of our favorite artists who were present at this year’s SXSW music festival, which just wrapped up this past weekend. May it add flavor to your next gaming session. Bon appetit!

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Previous PLAYlist columns: Ars Alchimia & LemuriaA Game of Thrones CatanTroyesTwilight Imperium: Fourth EditionFlip ShipsNMBR 9UnearthEscape from 100 Million B.C., Orleans (plus Trade & Intrigue)Whistle StopCaverna: Cave vs CaveTwilight StruggleHonshuBärenpark, Notre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.



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islamickalajadu
October 25th 2018
12:29am

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December 6th 2018
12:29am

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