I love food trucks. Usually, they specialize in a certain type of food, and whatever that specialty is, they usually do it very well. Whether it's during a food truck rally, a special event, or one happens to be parked near your work, it's always a treat to stumble upon an excellent food truck. Food Truck Champion, by Daily Magic Games, is going to hit Kickstarter in the near future, and it aims to give players a a taste of what it's like to run a food truck of their own. Does it serve up delicious treats, or will you wish you'd ordered something else? Let's take a big bite out of the game, and find out.
*All components shown are pre-production prototypes, and are subject to change in the final version of the game. With that said, even these prototypes are very nice, and Daily Magic Games' products are usually very high quality, so it's a safe bet that the components will only improve in the finished product.
Food Truck Champion is an action selection card game in which players compete to serve up the tastiest, most critically accepted foods in order to secure the most Popularity points by the end of the game. Success in Food Truck Champion isn't simply measured in volume though. While anybody can cook up any available Order Ticket, bonus points can be earned if you cook up dishes specific to your food truck, and even more bonus points can be earned if you are able to match your truck's Flavor Profile.
Like all good action selection games, Food Truck Champion gives the non-active players the chance to act even between turns, which is a great way to keep players involved throughout the game. Another bonus for player engagement is that the cards themselves are multi-use, giving players multiple options per card, but it's not as simple as choosing how you want to use each card as you play it. To make the most out of the cards, you need to plan ahead a few turns which, again, keeps players engaged throughout the game. Paying attention to what your opponents are doing, and following up with the right action at the right time can be crucial to your success.
When held in hand, most cards can only be used as a Staff Action, which is the primary action that you can take on your turn. After the card has been played as a Staff Action it's moved to the Marketplace where it can later be claimed as an Order Ticket, or as an ingredient. In order to get the Order Tickets and ingredients you need, you'll need to plan ahead and figure out how to get the cards you want to claim into the Marketplace. It's not enough to simply hope your opponents' throw down cards that will benefit you, and it can often be a race to grab a key ingredient if multiple people need it for a recipe. Additionally, since space on your truck is limited, you can't just snatch up all of the ingredients and Order Tickets that appeal to you.
When you begin play, each truck has two slots each for Hired Staff, Fridge, and Plating Area, and each truck specifies a two card draw limit when you take a Market Research action. Hired Staff give you bonus actions, the Fridge holds ingredients, the Plating Area lets you work on Order Tickets, and, of course, the draw limit is how many cards you can draw. Because of these limitations, you can't simply snatch up every ingredient and Order Ticket that catches your eye, again placing emphasis on the need to plan ahead. As you complete Order Tickets you can upgrade your truck as you please, and increase the slots in each area, but even still you need to be choosy, even in deciding which area to upgrade. As players' plans begin to come to fruition, Order Tickets begin to fill and Popularity tokens begin to dwindle, and it's very likely that you won't be able to upgrade your truck fully before the game ends.
Order Tickets range from simple single-ingredient dishes to more complex three-ingredient concoctions, and they score Popularity accordingly. Additionally, players score extra points for each Order Ticket that matches their food truck, so it pays to cook up you truck's specialties. Stacked among the Popularity tokens are Critique tokens that show up at certain intervals that allow players to count completed dishes toward their Flavor Profile bonus at the end of the game. That bonus is gained for each complete set of ingredients that matches the Flavor Profile, so players can really rack up points based on the overall ingredients of the Order Tickets that they serve to their customers.
All of the planning and strategy in Food Truck Champion gels together really well, and gives a fun and thematic sense of controlled chaos. It actually feels like you are trying to get things organized in order to make the best food possible while pleasing the food critics, and your customers. It's satisfying to plan a dish out from a Staff Action, through the Marketplace, into your Plating Area, serving it up and then having it Critiqued, although there is just enough room for the other players to interfere with your plans if you aren't careful, but not so much room that a player can spend all of their time foiling your plans.
Every time I play Food Truck Champion I end up hungry both for the delicious looking food on the cards, and to play the game again. Daily Magic Games has a winner on their hands with this one, and I highly recommend pledging for the game once it hits Kickstarter. Daily Magic Games has quite a bit of experience with Kickstarter projects, and has delivered some very high quality games to date. I expect them to continue that trend with Food Truck Champion.
The pre-production copy of Food Truck Champion used for this preview was provided by Daily Magic Games.