Roadkill Rivals places 2-4 players in endless stretches of highway that cross the Southwest U.S., where they will compete to score the most points by turning desert animals into roadkill. It’s got a silly theme, although not for the squeamish, a simple and straightforward ruleset, and takes less than 30 minutes to play. It’s solid as a filler game, but doesn’t have enough depth to be anything more than that.
The setup of Roadkill Rivals is simple enough. Deal 4 cards face up to the middle of the table, called The Freeway. That’s it, you’re done. The cards themselves are simple too. There are simply 3 different types: Vehicles, Animals, and Roadside. Animals are worth points when scored, vehicles are used to score animals, and roadside cards are the specials—it’s a card game, so of course there are special cards. Again, simple and straightforward. You’ll probably spend more time shuffling than you will explaining the rules and setting up Roadkill Rivals, and that’s always a good thing for a filler game. As players add cards to their hands, their hands are actually face-up too, so the game is less about hidden information, unlike most card games, and more about predicting what your opponents will do.
On his/her turn, each player will take one of four different actions:
- Take a card from the Freeway (and draw a new card to replace it).
- Create roadkill to score points: combine a vehicle card with animal card(s) with an equal or lower value and placing them in your discard pile.
- Wreck an opponent’s vehicle (using a 5 or 6 value vehicle in your hand to discard a smaller vehicle in their hand).
- Attack an animal (using a Rattle or Coyote in your hand to discard an animal in an opponent’s hand).
This sort of action selection is one of my favorite game mechanics—right after simultaneous action selection and asymmetry. Sadly, it falls a bit flat in Roadkill Rivals. Half of the actions are unavailable if you don’t have the specific cards they require, and of course only the draw action is available if you don’t have any cards. Furthermore, often the best action is painfully obvious—did the Lottery Ticket just appear on the Freeway? There’s almost never a reason to not take it.
This flaw is further exacerbated when playing 2-player, as a player who manages a point lead can completely shut down his opponent by using a large vehicle or a deadly animal to attack his opponent each turn. The other player has no recourse until one of the few cards that could save him show up on the Freeway. The end game is a bit weak as well, as the game ends when the last card is drawn and players score any points in their hands.
That isn’t to say that Roadkill Rivals fails overall. There are certainly times when it shines. Deciding whether to score something right now, or instead taking a good card to setup up something for next turn, or spending your action to attack an opponent—these decisions are what make the game. The hidden score piles help too, as unless you’re writing down scores as people create roadkill, you can’t be certain who is leading, and thus who it might be advantageous to attack.
A few tweaks could really go a long way to improving Roadkill Rivals, as it isn’t fundamentally flawed but merely lacks a bit polish. Making the attack cards worth fewer points, or even negative points, making the end of the game variable (a game over card shuffled into the bottom few cards), and some rules changes for 2-players would improve it greatly.
A note on chrome: Although I was playing a prototype printing of Roadkill Rivals, the designers included a few sample cards of the finished product. The sample cards were thick and felt durable, moreso than most card games.
The bottom line: Roadkill Rivals isn’t bad, but it’s not quite good either. Some tweaks (whether from house rules or some further development) could take it from “disposable filler game” to one with some solid replay value.
Get this game if:
You dig the silly theme
You’re in need of a simple and fast game that is still fun
You want a card game that won’t need sleeves, even with frequent plays
Don’t get this game if:
You’re looking for a a lot of depth
You find the idea of running over desert wildlife offensive
Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by the designer for the purpose of this review.
Roadkill Rivals is a quick and fun game with a silly tongue-in-cheek theme. It's a little lacking in depth, but still manages to be enjoyable.