Kanban Automotive Revolution

De mensen van Stronghold vroegen ons om deze review in het Engels te schrijven.
Voor één keertje zal je dus meer over dit spel te weten komen in het Engels...

Kanban Automotive Revolution is a game about cars and it shows. The theme is very strong here: you are running a car factory with different departments, and you have to manage and switch between them carefully in order to get resources (car parts and designs) and build cars and create upgrades for them. As if that's not enough, your boss is auditing one department each turn and issuing benefits or penalties (depending on her mood) to the player on the highest/lowest training level.

There are a lot of parts involved: wooden cubes, discs, meeples and cars, and plenty of tokens to punch out. No extra zip bags included though, so you will have to organize the box yourself. A few of our players complained that some of the resource cubes were the same color as a player color, but personally I didn't mind. The shapes are very different and there's no reason to get them mixed up.

The gameboard looks very busy, but once you get used to it you'll notice that everything has its function. A nice touch is that even places that end up covered with cards or tiles have drawings on them instead of just leaving them empty. It really adds to the mood to see the cubicles in the design department filled with desks where your people slave away on your designs.

Setup seems daunting at first: the manual lists over 20 steps to perform before you're ready, but it's explained quite nicely. After a few games you'll get the hang of it, it's just a matter of knowing what each department does and which items are involved. There are some deviations according to the number of players though, so keep that in mind as well.

Each player also has a personal board to keep track of his resources. Some sections start of locked (with a lock token) and get unlocked as you improve your training level in each department. An issue we had here was with the design tiles: normally you keep your tested designs off the board, but one tile is kept on the board for a special scoring bonus. This one was nearly overlooked twice during a scoring round. You could blame us for being unattentive, but maybe it would be clearer if the tile had to be placed partly over the edge of the board.

On to the manual. During the preparation for this game I came across some posts complaining about the structure of the manual. Honestly, I had no problem with it. Sure, some things are not fully clear on the first read but in non-linear games where nearly everything touches everything else it's not easy to explain it in a linear way. Once you get the global picture, things start coming together on the second read. During the game, when we had to look something up for clarification, there was never a discussion about ambiguous or missing rules. That's always a good sign.
What I also liked about the manual is that is partly told from the boss's perspective. Again bonus points for originality and atmosphere. Another nice touch is that the bottom of each page contains a playing hint.

Ok, now you're set up to play. How does a round look like? Before answering that question, I want to point out that I'm only providing a rough description here for brevity. If you want more details, just download and read the rulebook.
Kanban is in essence a worker placement game, with a single worker. Each department has two spots available; one with 3 shifts and one with 2 shifts (a shift is an action). The departments are resolved in a specific order, with the lower shift spot going first. Each turn you have to move to a different department, with the player at the leftmost spot going first. The catch is that other workers remain at their position, so you won't always get what you want.

Each department offers a few actions that take a shift to complete. In the Logistics department you can pick up car parts (resource cubes). In the Design department you get to choose design tiles. In the Assembly Line department you can produce a car with a single resource cube. In the Testing and Innovation department you can claim produced cars or upgrade a design for a specific car type and car part (increasing its value). Finally in the HR department you can delegate your orders and access the actions of a specific department (like a wildcard, but with fewer shifts to spend). Each department also offers the possibility to advance your training, which eventually will get you a certificate and unlock extra options. While performing these actions, you can gain several bonuses in the form of points, extra shifts, resource cubes, books (for free training advancement), seats for the board room and so on.

There's also a boss meeple that walks through the departments. When it's her turn, she'll audit the department she's in. If you choose the 'nice' mood, she'll reward the player(s) with the highest training level and that meet the department's standards by awarding points equal to their saved shifts. In 'harsh' mood the reverse is true: the player(s) with the lowest training level and that don't meet the standards loose points also based on their saved shifts (but the more shifts you have, the less points it costs). After the audit, the boss performs its own action in the department (e.g. clearing resource cubes in the Logistics department).

In addition, the game provides two types of intermediate scoring that are triggered at least twice and at most three times. One is the end of week scoring that relies on the combination of the cars you claimed and the tested designs you (or other players) possess. The other is the board meeting where each player has the chance to score a specific goal that was set for that period. 4 of these goals are public and known at the start, but each player also has 3 goals in hand of which he must choose one to reveal. Most goals can be scored by multiple players, but with diminishing return. Note that each goal you score costs one seat (obtained as bonus from actions or progress), so again choices will have to be made (order of scoring, saving seats for later).
At the end of the game there is also a final scoring involving final goals, unused resources, car values, car part values for your upgraded designs and position on the training tracks.
So, how does it play? Well, I played two games: one 2 player game in 'nice' mood to learn the basics (so not really competitive) and one 4 player game in 'harsh' mood with experienced players (in similar games that is).
The feel was definitely quite different. In the 2 player game there was hardly any conflict: there was always a spot available with maximum shifts, it was simply a matter of synchronizing the game flows. Of course there was an occasional steal of opportunities, but nothing severe to mess up your plans. The 4 player game on the other hand was a constant struggle for position, adapting to missed chances and making the most of fewer shifts. The HR department (with its wildcard actions) was very popular here.
It became also clear that you can't afford to slack off in any area. One player didn't get a car until late in the game, and was punished for it: after final scoring, he was nearly doubled on the scoring track. As a side note, the winning player circled the track twice (almost thrice); a feat that I never saw in any game before. Scores were spread very widely, so either it's difficult to catch up a winning combination, or the guy was very lucky. The game lasted more than three hours (including explanation), but you never felt like waiting for your turn. Susbsequent games should run more smoothly, so the announced duration of 30 minutes per player seems reasonable.

Regarding the two moods it can be said that they indeed affect gameplay differently. 'Harsh' mood is mainly felt during the first half of the game, while you don't have the necessary items or reserve shifts. 'Nice' mood affects mostly the final half of the game, when you do meet the requirements and cash in on your shifts. Comparing both I think the points gained in 'nice' mood definitely outnumber the points that can be lost in 'harsh' mood. The struggle for first place in training will also be much more fierce than not being last, so overall I'd say that the 'nice' mood has the larger impact of both.

My conclusion:
Kanban is a very thematic game with plenty of challenges. It may have a bit of a learning curve, but once passed it it plays nicely. It's probably not suited for everybody, but if you're in to it, it will not disappoint you. I definitely look forward to playing it again.

This game was donated by Stronghold Games and can be played at gamingclub Het Geel Pionneke from december on.
Kanban is for sale at Spelmagazijn.be with 10% discount for our members.


Number of players : 2-4
Age : from 12 years
Playing time : 2 hours


Populaire posts