Brought to you by the developers of Wizard Hex, Cargo Runners is a classic board game made originally for the iPad (it’s not based on a physical board game, but rather an original creation for the iPad. That’s not to say it won’t eventually find it’s way to physical world, mind).
The game of Cargo Runners is about collecting goods in such a way that they match one of 12 starting contracts. You are the captain of an international freight ship, which seeks to transverse the globe in an amount of time no water bearing mass of metal has a right to. So it can be classified as one of those rare physics-breaking games.
Each captain charts their freight ship to various ports around the global continents seeking to pick up one of eight goods at the various ports. Once they have the right combination of four goods, they return to the main port of a given continent with the correlating contract and collect money. The winner is the first person to a target amount of money that is inversely proportional to the number of players.
At its most simple, the game is about rolling a die, moving the ship up to the amount of moves acquired, with unused points held over to subsequent turns (this last part is a clever twist as it lets you turn a pure chance generator into a partial strategic element). On occasion, the dice will allow you to move to the location of another ship on the board (and maybe steal their cargo), or outright switch places with them. This tactic can be exceptionally useful to stymie opponents or fly across the globe through even more physics-defying abilities.
The game is also complicated by the inclusion of a number of communique cards, which allow you to steal cargo, collect multiple cargo in a single turn, and otherwise allow you to slip the already loosely applied physics of this alternate reality. Dare you slip defiantly through the heart of an ocean hurricane? Dare you scoff haughtily at a continental embargo or labour strike? Dare you play fast and lose with the laws of physics themselves? Well you’ve found your game!
Perhaps the biggest let down of this game is that there is no solo mode. There are no compu-captains set to antagonise you late at night when the last thing you want to do is trawl through potential players for a little fun. Since I am naturally averse to online play, I found myself having to play against myself in order to explore the game in its full depth. It was a very self-depreciating experience as I gleefully plundered my own ships. However, there is an option for online multiplayer as well as setting the iPad on the table for all to gather round. So don’t feel you have to rely on imaginary friends for help.
Additionally, the other thing severly lacking from this app is a tutorial. There are rules and instructions that are accessible, but since there is no real world comparison and no option for solo play, there are few options to discover the game by yourself. Admittedly if I wasn’t set on reviewing this game, and if it weren’t for the graphics, I might have thrown my hands up in despair and not even bothered. Having done so, I can tell you that it takes less than half a game to figure it out and it does make sense once you’ve had a go. I recommend playing
with against yourself for the first round.
The graphics, sounds, and animations are better than the average fare. It is obvious that the designers cared about the presentation and wanted to facilitate the immersion of the game. They are no Days of Wonder, but should be recognised for this guilty pleasure.
6/10: A fun game with a reasonable amount of replay value, but certainly not worth a higher score until the aforementioned major flaws are addressed.
Note: An update promises they will implement a solo player option in the ‘near’ future.Cargo Runners,