I’ve been lucky to have some good friends who are usually very enthusiastic about helping me out with my quest to review all of the Spiel des Jahres winners. I say usually because when I inquired about Auf Achse, there was a cacophony of groans and a few outright wails. I heard comments like, “That was one of the first Euros that I tried, and it almost kept me out of the hobby” and “Ugh, you are on your own with that one.”
How could an SdJ winner elicit such negativity? I’ve played some winners that weren’t exactly my style, but I’ve never played a Spiel des Jahres winner that I absolutely hated. I’m not in a big hurry to play Focus again, but I didn’t hate it. Surely, a game about driving a cargo truck around Germany can’t be that bad, right?
Auf Achse, which according to my Langenscheidt Pocket German Dictionary means “On the move”, is a pick-up and deliver game designed by German designer all-star, Wolfgang Kramer, who gave us such monuments of gaming goodness like Tikal, Top Secret Spies, and The Princes of Florence. Kramer has won the SdJ more times than any other designer and Auf Achse was his first back in 1987. I played a copy of the revised edition produced by Schmidt back in 2007. I have no idea what was revised. Maybe they added more truck flavor to the original recipe. They probably should have added a chimpanzee, because if I’ve learned anything from pop culture, it’s that trucks and apes go together like frosting and Graham crackers.
Auf Achse will accommodate from two to six players of ages 8 and up. I played in a game of four with a rocket scientist, a systems architect, and a Disney imagineer, which sounds like the start of a great bar joke. I find that it’s easier to maintain some sense of self-esteem if I repeat “I am not a loser” over and over in my head when I sit down with certain people. The game is supposed to take about an hour, but we took a bit longer because we were unfamiliar with the rules. I think the 8 and up applies to a simplified version of the game. Playing Auf Achse with more than a couple 8-year-olds would probably result in a pick-up and deliver-the-game-to-the-other-side-of-the-room scenario. Yes, it was annoying to have to type all those hyphens but I felt that it was necessary.
Auf Achse is all about accumulating the most money by fulfilling delivery contracts. A contract requires that you pick up goods in a certain city and then drop them off in another. This is made a lot easier by the fact that the only goods Germans care about are little black wooden cubes. On your turn, you roll two dice and that determines how far you can travel, which can be a little irritating if you are rolling badly, but that is mitigated by the fact that you roll two dice and only choose one. If you land on a city with no remaining movement points, then you can initiate a bid for new contracts. Obviously, the less you spend on acquiring a contract, the more profit you make when you fulfill it. There are also special event cards that throw some fun into the mix and a road block that you can place to slow down your opponents. This is probably where your truck ape gets out and knocks over a tree or something.
When all was said and done, we had a pretty good time. I’m not sure if that was because our expectations were so low, but I’m sure it helped. I thought it was okay. It’s difficult to evaluate a game that may have been ground breaking in 1987. I’m sure that subsequent designs were influenced by Kramer’s Auf Achse, so let’s give Wolfgang some credit. You can try it online at http://www.brettspielwelt.de/ or seek out a used copy.
This is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 1987 winner, Auf Achse, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.