In an earlier post I commented on my first play of The Great Heartland Hauling Company, by designer Jason Kotarski, published by Dice Hate Me Games. In that post, I commented that I had been looking forward to the game, but was a little disappointed in the experience. Specifically, I was a little unsettled by the mechanic where you HAVE to move at the beginning of your turn, and I felt it was a little out of theme. I speculated that early prototypes had likely involved being able to pick up/deliver before meeting.
Well, Jason, the designer, replied to me on twitter. "No prototypes involved being able to pick-up/deliver before moving. Forward motion creates tension." Furthermore, on the theme, his comment was "Thematically, my thought has always been; truckers are on the go. Gotta keep in the road to make $$$."
Well, I had been thinking more on my early impressions, and I wanted to try it again, so I picked up a copy for myself (and let me just say again - I LOVE the "18wheeleeples"). After it came in, I got a chance to play a 2-player game with my wife, Becky.
Let me say right off the bat, that I 100% agree with Jason's first comment - the forward motion does create more tension. In fact, I think if you were able to pick up right in the same spot where you had delivered, it would be a much duller game. So, from a game design aspect, I completely understand the rationale behind the mechanic, and think it was a smart decision. Theme-wise, I still think I disagree with Jason somewhat. In order to maximize $$$, you wouldn't make half your trips with an empty spots on your truck. However, this is really a minor nit to pick. Hobby boardgaming has exploded in the last decade or so - with a million games with a million themes. A lot of them are very pasted on, while others excel in tightly knitting the theme to the game. I think Great Heartland Hauling Co. falls somewhere in the middle for me. I don't think I quite get fully immersed in "simulating" a trucker out to maximize profits...but the 18wheeleeples and card-created map which resembles the maps I used to love looking at as a kid on long road trips - they do provide quite a bit of atmosphere and thematic elements.
So, in the end, I'm glad I picked a copy for myself. I can see it being a good "filler game" (and I mean that in a good sense) between meatier games. I also see this getting more play time with Becky. I will say, that like Ticket to Ride, I think this game plays better with more players. It makes the game that much more tense having to worry about 2 or even 3 other players blocking you out of certain spaces. But it's still a fine 2 player game. With Becky, we just played the base game, but based on my first play of the game, I'm also still of the opinion that I like including the truck stop "inspansion" cards over just playing the base game.
10-4 Good Buddy!
(Did I already mention that I'd like to see an expansion that comes with a little black trans-am meeple so you can play as "Bandit"?)