Review by Bob Rossney.
Auf Achse is an excellent trucking game for 2 to 6 players that won Spiel des Jahres in 1987.
The board is a simple network of circles and lines representing the major cities of central Europe. Each player starts out with a truck and a collection of cards representing shipping contracts. Each contract requires you to deliver a certain number of goods (represented by little hard rubber cubes) from one city to another, in exchange for a payoff.
Each turn you roll a die and move your truck. If you stop on a start city (and there's room for the cubes in your little plastic truck) you pick up goods and lay the card down for all to see. If you stop on a destination city for one of your exposed contracts, you dump off the requisite number of goods and collect your money.
The meat of the game comes from the open contracts. At any time, there are four unclaimed face-up contracts on the board. If you end your turn on any city, you can put one of these contracts up for auction. The high bidder pays for the contract (so open contracts are less lucrative than the ones that are in your hand at the beginning of the game) and adds it to his hand.
There are a couple of other elements. There's a deck of chance cards that comes into play if you land on one of the many chance spaces. There are trailers available for purchase that increase the number of goods you can carry. And that's about it.
Though there's a fair amount of chaos in this game, what with all the die-rolling and chance cards, I think I can fairly say that when I lose this game it's because I make mistakes. Mistakes like thinking that just because I have a Flensburg-to-Vienna contract and a Vienna-to-Berlin contract I should spend whatever it takes to pick up that Berlin-to-Graz contract. Meanwhile my opponents are picking up and dropping loads on lucrative short-haul contracts left and right. It's the money, stupid. (Ken - Warning! Cultural reference: Clinton's slogan in the 1992 presidential elections - "It's the economy, stupid!")
This game is Eurorails built for speed. And at about 90 minutes playing time, it's a lot more fun. Everything about the game is designed to make it easy to learn and fast to play. For instance, the bidding on open contracts is controlled by a table on each card listing an increasing set of bids, and detailing the profit the buyer will make bidding at that level. If I paid attention to this table I'd win more often.
The translation of the rules that I have (from Mark Green) is a little spotty in one critical area -- it doesn't tell you how the game ends! We play that the game is over when all of the open contracts have been auctioned off and one player finishes all his contracts, which we're pretty sure is the right way of doing it.
Copyright 1994, Bob Rossney.
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell