The Inquisitive Meeple Investigates… Rocky Road a la Mode

The Inquisitive Meeple Investigates and Reviews, Rocky Road a la Mode. For 2-4 players, Rocky Road will be coming from Green Couch Games and will be on Kickstarter June 20, 2016.

If the games of Patchwork and Splendor had baby  (a weird frozen dessert treat baby), it would be Rocky Road a la Mode. My first reaction to seeing the game laid out as I read the rules was that this had to be inspired by Patchwork and Splendor. After I played it, I would call it almost Splendor Lite. It is different than Splendor, but still has the same vibe.  Is it good? How does it play? If you already have aforementioned Splendor is it still worth getting? How does it compare to previous Green Couch Games? We will get to all of that in this review.  But first we have to start out with the basics….

In Rocky Road a la Mode, players are running an Ice Cream Truck business – selling strawberry ice cream, blueberry (or blue raspberry) Popsicle and frozen orange juice push pops. The object of the game is to have the most loyalty (a.k.a. victory) points at the end of the game. The first one to 9 loyalty points triggers the end of the game.

One important thing to understand is that there is no set turn order in Rocky Road. Instead there is a time track (see below) and who ever is the furthest back on the time tract goes first. If there is a tie, the player with the token that is on top is considered furthest back (as they are the newest on the space).

The Rocky Road (Time Track). In this example it is the “orange” players turn.

On your turn you take 1 of 3 actions – each action will cost you some “time” on the time track. The actions are:

Stock Up (Draw cards) –  You announce how many cards you are drawing (hand limit of 5 cards), take the cards and then move that many spaces on the time track. For example if you take 2 cards you move 2 spaces on the time track.

Attract Customers – You take a card from your hand and place it under your truck. You move 1-3 spaces on the time track according to the number indicated next to the loudspeaker. Each card has 2 customer orders you will need to fulfill on future turns. You can only be working on 1 customer card at a time.

Serve Customers – You can play cards from your hand to fulfill a customer order and you move 1 space on the time track.

As you may have guessed cards, have multiple uses. You can see this in the diagram below:

When you fulfill both customer orders on a card, you then rotate the card behind your ice cream truck. Example:

Completing a card can give you either loyalty points or a permanent frozen treat bonus. These permanent frozen treats have two uses: 1. They can stand in for a treat in an order and 2. They can be used to obtain Location Cards (see photo below) which in turn give you loyalty points.

Location Cards

The only other thing you need to know is there are 3 “wild” chips on the board (they stand for the red, white and blue Rocket Pops) that can stand in for any treat when fulfilling a customers order. To get these tokens you need to land directly on them on the time track.

First to get 9 loyalty points triggers the end of the game. Play continues until the player who triggered the end of the game is the furthest back on the road.

Typically, I would try to keep my opinions to the end of the article, but because of the structure of how this review is set up and wanting to do some comparison, I thought it would be best to outright state my thoughts ahead of time. I really like games that fall into that filler or gateway game area of our hobby. I also enjoy games with cards that can be used in multiple ways.  In this, Rocky Road doesn’t disappoint. Is it the most fun game I have ever played or the deepest game for a filler or even the best new game of the year? – um, no. However, between my 1st play of the game to my 2nd, there was a 3 day gap. During the 3 days, I found the game on my mind quite a bit and wanted to play it again. That is always a good sign in my book when it comes to games. One of the people I beat in that first game was my 10-year-old son, his response after losing was that Rocky Road “… was really really fun even though I lost.”

I have played Rocky Road both as a 2-player and a 3-player game and both games were enjoyable. I have played with many different ages of players, from adults to a children as young as 7-years-old. All enjoyed the game, and were able to understand the rules and the how the game is to be played without really needing any help. In fact the game makes sense in a way that you shouldn’t have to look back at the rulebook once you learn the rules.  The game is pretty quick, and doesn’t seem to overstay it’s welcome. In fact, you may feel like you wished it last a little longer.

All of this is to say that Rocky Road is far from freezer burned, this game is a refreshing treat. It is easy to teach and understand and plays as smooth as soft serve ice cream.

I don’t think there is any way to get around the fact that Rocky Road feels like Splendor Lite. Due to this, I thought I would take a few moments to compare and contrast a little between the two.  I would like to make a note that I have never played a physical edition of Splendor, I do play it via pass and play via the Android App.

Both games require players to fulfill a card’s requirements, which give you a permanent goods (and Victory points). These permanent goods not only  help  you to more easily obtain cards but also help you get special victory point cards that can only be purchased via permanent goods. In Rocky Road the special victory cards are Location Cards and in Splendor they are called Nobles.  This idea of trying to gain permanent treats to build an engine to get cards easier and to use them to buy special cards that help end the game come faster is what gives Rocky Road a Splendor like feel. However there are more than a few differences. To name some:

  • In Splendor there is a shared market when it comes to fulfilling an order to capture a card, in Rocky Road there is not, each customer is for just for the player that played the card in front of them.
  • In Splendor – there are multiple level cards out at a time that make up the market mentioned above. You have to get some Level 1 cards to get Level 2 to get Level 3, but in Rocky Road you play one customer card at a time in front of you (each card has 2 orders you have to fulfill to earn the benefits of the card). There is also no levels, but some cards cost more to serve than others.
  • In Splendor there is a set turn order, but in Rocky Road there is not.
  • In Splendor you use chips you draw to make up a hand to fulfill/buy market cards. These gems are all public knowledge, and you choose what you want to take as long as you follow the rules to such. Rocky Road doesn’t offer anything like that. Instead it has cards that have multiple uses that players have to draw – only 3 are ever face-up (and you can choose a facedown card).
  • Wild tokens are gotten in Splendor by reserving cards. In Rocky Road you cannot reserve cards and wild chips are gotten on the time track, by landing on them. (That would also be another difference the time track).
  • In Splendor there are 5 types of gems in the game that are used towards orders plus a wild chip. In Rocky Road there is a wild chip, but only 3 types of frozen treats.

Easy to see that there are more differences than similarities, but it still feels like Splendor. I say Splendor Lite because you are not balancing as many good types and it takes half the time to play.  The first time I played Rocky Road with my wife, it took us all of 15 minutes to play, then preceded to play Splendor (on an android tablet) and that 2-player game took over 30 minutes to play.

Now, if you have Splendor already, is it worth getting? I think if you really enjoy Splendor you will enjoy this. You may find that it has enough differences to own both. If you don’t have Splendor and was thinking about getting it vs. getting Rocky Road a la Mode – both Mrs. Inquisitive Meeple and I would recommend Rocky Road a la Mode over Splendor – it is cheaper, gives the same vibe but does it in half the time. Also, I would say Rocky Road would be easier to teach to new gamers or families/children over Splendor.

Rocky Road, if funded, will be the 6th title in Green Couch Games library. Let me say up front that I have played every game Green Couch Game has in its line up – with the exception of Fidelitas – so while I cannot compare it to that one, I can compare it overall to other games in the Green Couch line. (For those that are not familiar with Green Couch Game’s library you can find out more by clicking here.) First off, let me say this feels like a Green Couch Game.  For some that may be all you needed to know to back the game on Kickstarter, for others they may want to know what that means. Green Couch Games, makes small card games that fit in that “filler” category – easy to understand and plays 20 minute games – and while they are meant to be families/non-gamer friendly, they have something in the gameplay for the more seasoned gamers.

So how does Rocky Road a la Mode compare to other Green Couch Games? Perhaps the first thing that stands out is that it is perhaps the easiest to understand and teach to others of all their games, straight forward enough that that my 7-year-old son was able to understand it without any real issues.  With some other Green Couch Games, the “twist” in the gameplay can confuse some new gamers or children. This isn’t a criticism, nor does it mean they are mean they are complicated games it just may take a little extra time explaining or helping out someone. With Best Treehouse Ever it may be taking time to talk about the balancing of the treehouse. With dexterity card game, Wok on Fire, while pretty straight forward during play, the end game scoring system may confuse some children or non-gamers and you may have to help them score up their food.  In JurassAttack it may be how certain cards interact with each others or with Avalanche on  Yeti Mountain there can be a bit of bookkeeping going on that may confuse some children. Whatever the case is Rocky Road is the most straight forward of all the Green Couch Games.

When I (p)reviewed Best Treehouse Ever in early 2015, I said that it would become an “evergreen game” for Green Couch Games – one that will always be a big seller for them and one they will be known for.  Since that time JurassAttack and Avalanche on Yeti Mountain have come out and I have played a preview copy of Wok on Fire (their last Kickstarter game that is currently being printed). While some of those games I do really enjoy – I think Green Couch Games has their next big hit on their hands. Rocky Road has a good chance being yet another evergreen title for the game company. Even though we own a preview copy of Rocky Road, we have enjoyed it enough to definitely be backing day 1 of the Kickstarter.

Instead of closing with a rating, I will close with this:

  • If you like card games – don’t hesitate to get it.
  • If you like unique themes – don’t hesitate to get it.
  • If you like to have a game to play with family (including children as young as 7/8) – don’t hesitate to get it.
  • If you like fillers – don’t hesitate to get it.
  • If you like Green Couch Games other games – don’t hesitate to get it.
  • What if you are lactose intolerant? Don’t worry you are not eating the cards, so you guess it! Don’t hesitate to get it.

For those interested in the Rocky Road Kickstarter, you can find it here by clicking on this link. 

The Inquisitive Meeple Note: A review copy of the game was given to The Inquisitive Meeple. Any positive opinions/feedback on the game are our own. They were not solicited by publisher or by the designers.

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