Game Review: Matthias Cramer’s Kraftwagen: V6 Edition
The world of tabletop gaming offers unprecedented opportunities for people to simulate historic and fantasy scenarios. For car lovers, these opportunities range from racing in a Formula 1 competition to establishing a start-up automotive company. The latter scenario is exceptionally and enthrallingly captured in Matthias Cramer’s Kraftwagen, in which players act as owners of early automotive companies producing and marketing their latest products.
The V6 Edition of Kraftwagen is the English second edition and adds a handful of new action tiles that offer players greater opportunities each turn. This release is third in the Great Designers Series from Stronghold Games, which showcase the work of exceptional game creators from around the world.
Kraftwagen: V6 Edition Board Game Review
Publisher: Stronghold Games (USA) / Blackfire (International)
Designer: Matthias Cramer
Artist: Harald Lieske
Release: August 2016
Box Dimensions: 9.8 x 13.8 x 2.4 inches
# of Players: 2-4 people
Ages: 10 or older
Category: Industry/manufacturing strategy
Play Time: 75-90 min
Love Automotive History? You’ll also enjoy this innovative game about building the first horseless carriage
How to Play
A brief introduction included in Kraftwagen‘s rules book sets the stage: it’s the early twentieth century and automobiles (“Kraftwagen”) are becoming increasingly prevalent in Europe, especially Germany. Each player takes the role of an owner of a start-up company during that time, gathering research to produce the best cars to attract buyers and gain notoriety on the grand prix circuits.
Kraftwagen‘s gameplay centers around an action track in which players choose their next action, weighing the benefit vs. hindrance of choosing the option they want most. The better the action, the longer the player must wait until their next turn. Available actions include advancing on the grand prix track, gaining research cards, obtaining new engines or car bodies, selecting buyers, and recruiting workers.
At the end of a player’s turn, they may bring a completed vehicle to market and assign a price to it. Once six cars are on the market or enough buyers are selected, the round ends and cars are purchased by the buyers, with points being divvied out. The next round begins, with the market being wiped and play continuing from where it left off.
After the third round, the player with the most points (gained by selling cars, winning grand prix races, and meeting goals) is declared the winner.
Unboxing & Game Components Evaluation
Kraftwagen: V6 Edition includes:
- 1 Gameboard
- 4 Player mats
- 50 Research cards
- 10 Action tiles
- 10 Award tiles
- 8 Buyer tiles
- 1 marker token
- 41 Car body tiles
- 39 Engine tiles
- 12 Specialty tiles (V6 expansion)
- 56 Price Markers
- 9 Engineer Markers
- 4 Cars & Start Tiles
- 56 Worker Discs
- Instructions booklet
What first attracted me to Kraftwagen was its cover design. For a gearhead-gamer like me, the simple, streamlined artwork of a classic car’s front grille caught my attention; the theme of the game is clearly announced through it. Plus, it’s indicative of the detailed, retro artwork contained in the rest of the game.
I have only good things to say about the quality of the components contained within the box: the tiles and tokens are sturdy, the board lays flat and isn’t flimsy, the cards aren’t too big or small, everything fits in the box, and extra storage baggies are even included. You certainly get your money’s-worth in Kraftwagen.
I do wish the box itself were a bit sturdier, with thicker cardboard; the copy I received got a dent in the mail, despite being packaged in bubble wrap.
More Great Games: Formula motor racing comes alive in this clever game
Review of Learning Experience
At first look, Kraftwagen may seem overwhelming, but thanks to a clearly-written instruction booklet and naturally fluid game design, it’s fairly easy to pick up and teach to new players.
The 12-page directions guide is divided up into sections identifying setup, sequence of play, scoring, winning, etc. Each portion is numbered/bulleted in short sentences and includes multiple accompanying images. Reading it once through from cover to cover gives players a comprehensive yet digestible idea of gameplay. First-time players may want to have the board set up in front of them for reference when reading the directions, but those familiar with this type of game will be able to follow it based just on the words and pictures.
Our only point of feedback on the directions would be to include a more thorough guide to the symbols on the research cards and start tiles, as only some of them receive explanations and the rest are left to interpretation.
Still, after the first round of play, we were able to pick up on the flow of the game and only consult the directions a few subsequent times (a testament to how naturally and deftly the game is engineered).
Blacktop Brutality! This hilariously morbid card game is all about making roadkill…
Review of Playing Experience
I’ve played a lot of automobile-themed games, from the classic Mille Bornes to complex racing titles like Thunder Alley, and few have enthralled me as much as Kraftwagen. I’ll admit, judging purely on the premise of the game, it didn’t sound like it would become one of my new favorite board games (there are many other games out there with wilder themes and flashier components). But it has, and it’s one I’d recommend to anyone who loves cars or strategic games.
We tested Kraftwagen with a number of fellow writers from The News Wheel as well as friends who aren’t into cars, and everyone greatly enjoyed it. The presence of characters like Diesel and Bugatti, and the construction of real-life cars like the Benz Victoria and Mercedes 630, add to the historic realism but don’t have to be recognized to enjoy the game.
Petrol-heads will love the theme, but the true quality of the game lies in the orchestration of the gameplay. The turn-by-turn experience keeps everyone involved and competing fairly, with just enough interaction to be competitive without stirring animosity. The freedom within the game is empowering without being overwhelming; for instance, there are multiple ways to gain points from buyers but all follow the same format.
Kraftwagen is a great introduction to more complex manufacturing and business management games like Kanban or Automobile: Wheels to Wealth, but still a vastly rewarding game in its own right. I’m proud to share this game with The News Wheel‘s readers, as I’m sure they’ll find it as satisfying as I did.
Kraftwagen: V6 Edition is available for purchase through the publisher’s website, Amazon, Cool Stuff Inc., Miniature Market, and other retailers.
Product provided for review by publisher.
- Aaron WidmarSenior Editor
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing... See more articles by Aaron.