Go Truck Yourself
The best thing about Truck Off isn’t that its headlines write themselves, though that’s nice too — and by the way, alternate titles include “What a Trucking Game” and “Mothertrucker.” But again, it isn’t that. Rather, it’s that Truck Off offers a surprisingly solid primer on how to craft a dice game that doesn’t completely turn on the roll of the dice. What a novelty! Sort of like the food truck craze itself!
As a food truck magnate and professional strainer of the definition of “magnate,” it’s your job to earn as much cash as possible from the sale of under-cooked and over-priced meat dishes at events where people are desperate to eat anything that doesn’t come from a stadium vendor that reeks of month-old hot dog water. Sounds easy, right? And yeah, it is. But your true goal is to sell more than all those other so-called “food” trucks. That’s where things get tricky.
Right away, Truck Off sets itself apart by being a dice game that doesn’t hinge all your hopes on how the dice will tumble. Sure, there’s still some element of odds-taking. Your first act each round is to assign two food trucks, everybody at once, to the venues spread across the city. Each venue has its own die, from the humble four-sided pyramid at the brewery to the honking d20 dwelling at the gaming convention. These represent that location’s potential sales, which will be split between all the food trucks there at the end of the day. The question is an obvious one: since the possible payout of the sporting event and nerd gathering are the highest, should you always send your trucks there? Or will too many trucks split your profits too many ways?
On its own, that question is vaguely interesting but nothing to pin a game on. Your trucks roll out, the dice are rolled, and everybody divides the profits.
Fortunately, Truck Off inserts a critical step after the actual rolling, and it’s there that the game transforms into something far more compelling — and far more dickish.
With all the trucks and daily profits laid bare, that’s when the action cards come out. It’s a two-step process, first planning what you want to play and then enacting those plans while praying to the dodecadeity that your chosen abilities are still relevant after multiple cards have been revealed.
I’ll give you an example. In addition to a few regular abilities, like rerolling dice or moving a food truck, there are also cards that disrupt the venues entirely. You can shut down a venue, which removes it from play, or launch a promotion that bumps up the profits of any venue hosting a bunch of trucks. Just like that, a packed location becomes desirable. When paired with something else — like doubling your truck’s payout with a squeeze-bottle of secret sauce — even low-yield locations can turn a startling profit.
But that’s only if some jerk doesn’t call in a health code violation and get your truck shut down. While it’s possible to send a third truck to a flush venue and trigger an early payout, the fact that each magnate can only play one card at a time provides ample opportunity for sabotage. The dice are merely the stage being set; the game is about wisely parceling out abilities and hoping your plans come to fruition.
It only gets better once you add daily specials. These appear every round, adding new parameters to your usual selection of venues. A celebrity appearance can turn a dud convention into a total door-buster, while an unexpected tornado may force you to flip your truck to determine whether you’ve weathered the storm and earned your payday. This variant sparked one of my favorite moments when, thanks to an untimely shutdown of the stadium and gaming con, all those desperately hungry nerds and jocks converged on the local brewery and my lonely truck stationed there. Even McDonald’s was jealous of my sales that night.
The result is a surprisingly satisfying slider, albeit a rather confrontational one that demands constant fudging with your opponents. Its real problem is that its cleverness only carries it so far, devolving into brute guesswork rather than letting you actually out-think your competitors. It’s possible to play cleverly to a point; beyond that, it’s about hoping you’ve selected the right venues and action cards, which is only a slight improvement on hoping the dice roll your way. At times, I performed just as well by selecting my venues at random.
Still, it’s suitably reminiscent of truck food: appetizing in small doses, blasts through you with laxative fury, and somehow lingers in the mind enough to lure you back for another shot. Fans of jerky dice games could do a lot worse than to chow down on Truck Off.
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