(2014 – Stronghold Games)
“The dashboard melted….but we still have the radio….”
For fans of strategic Euros, Vinhos and CO2 have been two of the more interesting economic/strategy hybrids to release in the past few years. Their common characteristic? Designer Vital Lacerda. Lacerda has a way of taking unique and innovative design mechanics, and combining them with themes in a way elevate their function and entertainment. Who would have known a game about global warming and energy conservation could be so, well….fun! CO2 saw both Meeple Choice and Dice Tower Award nominations in 2012. Lacerda’s newest design about car factory production, entitled Kanban, looks well on its way to even more award nominations for 2014.
Kanban is a worker placement game in which each player controls one individual worker as they begin their career within an automobile production facility. Players can choose which department to work in each day, ranging from taking shifts on the assembly line, working in the design department, ordering parts from logistics, etc. Each department has a specific function that is important to the overall production cycle of the factory. Players can also train within these departments in order to unlock extra bonuses and in some cases additional actions available to them in the game.
The most interesting mechanic within the game however, involves Sandra. Sandra is the boss that will evaluate player’s performances in each of the individual departments as she visits them throughout the week. Players will also attempt to earn Seat tokens by completing various goals within the departments. These “seats” are what allow players to speak to Sandra during each board room meeting. Speaking to Sandra will allow players to complete performance goals, that will result in the main way for players to collect Victory Points. As with an auto production facility, there is a massive amount of moving parts in Kanban. It may be a bit intimidating to new players, but I would like to attempt to break it down piece by piece, as I believe it is worthy as one of 2014’s greatest board game designs.
– Kanban game board
– Player boards
– Performance Goal cards
– Part Order cards
– Car Part tokens
– Car Design tiles
– Car tokens
– Car Demand tiles
– Factory Goal tiles
– End-Game Goal tiles
– Reward tiles (Banked Shifts, Training Books, and Part Vouchers)
– Bonus Action tiles (Banked Shifts, Training Books, and Part Vouchers)
– Red Seat tiles
– Player Seat tiles
– Lock tiles
– Workers (one for each player color)
– Training markers (a set for each player color)
– Certification markers (one for each player color)
– Sandra marker (the boss) & Week marker
– Pace Car & Production Cycle markers
– Meeting token
– Testing Track boards for 2 & 3-players
– Summary Sheets
The board layout can be a bit overwhelming for new players when trying to learn the game, so I’m going to try to focus the first portion of this review on the different areas of the board, the setup involved for each area, and the different functions they will provide during the game. I think once you get a grasp on how each area works, it will be a bit easier to learn how the game plays during the later gameplay section.
Though before we get into the departments of the main game board itself, let’s take a look at each player’s personal player board. A player’s personal board represents his own workstation, where he can house the cars, auto parts, and designs that he is working on, as well as his training manual and part invoice collection
. There are four main areas to each workstation, that are essentially divided into rows.
The two rows along the top of the board contain the player’s garage area. The top row is used to store the model of cars that the player obtains from the test track to tinker with. The row underneath it will provide the listed bonus immediately after placing a car in the garage space above it. There are initially 4 spots available in the player’s garage at the beginning of the game, with a possible 5th spot that can be unlocked during the game. Because this spot is locked, a Lock tile is placed on it during setup.
Below the garage area is the player’s warehouse. This is where he will store any car parts obtained through the Logistics department. Player’s begin the game with 5 storage areas for their car parts in the warehouse, with a possible 6th spot that can be unlocked during the game. As with the garage, a Lock tile is placed on this spot during setup and will remain there until the space is unlocked by certification training in the Logistics department.
The next row is used to keep training manuals, part invoices, and red seats collected during the game. These tokens are kept here until turned in by the player for their effects. I’ll discuss more a bit later on how each of these items can help a player during the game. All players will begin the game with 1 Part Invoice tile on their player board.
The bottom row of the workstation is used to keep the various designs players will obtain from the Design Department. Players can use these designs to either tinker with the car models themselves or attempt to upgrade and innovate specific car parts within them. Players must have obtained the designs for the car models in order to do these actions. As with the other areas of the workstation, the space for collecting designs is limited to 4 until the player becomes certified through training with the Design department. A Lock tile is placed on this 5th space at the beginning of the game.
One more Lock tile is placed on the space on the right side of the player board. During the game players can become certified through training with the Testing & Innovation department, which will unlock this space to allow the player to gain an extra bonus when upgrading a car model’s part.
At the beginning of the game, each player also receives a Worker and Certification marker of their color, two random Part Order cards, and three random Performance Goal cards. These will initially be placed near the player’s workstation board.
Main Game Board
The layout of the main game board represents all the different departments of a car factory
. Each department has a specialized function, and the various departments are organized in a way so that the departments that directly complement one another have been stationed adjacent next to one another. For instance, the Design Department is adjacent to the Testing & Innovation Department, which is then adjacent to the Assembly Line and Logistics Departments.
While each department has a specialized function along with game mechanics that are solely tied to that individual department, they all include a section of desks which players can place their Worker to work in that department for a number of shifts, as well as where Sandra (the boss) will visit to inspect the performance in that area. Each department also includes a training track. The more time a player spends in a particular department, the more opportunity he has for training in that area. Increasing this training enough will earn the player certifications in that department as well as awards and possible speaking opportunities during the next meeting (I’ll discuss meetings a bit later). Let’s take a look at the functions of each department as well as the department’s initial setup at the beginning of the game, starting with the Design Department:
All car part and car model designs first originate in the Design department. This is where workers can take design ideas back to their workstations (individual player boards) and tinker with them, before eventually sending them to the Testing & Innovation department for test runs
. Each car design is depicted by a tile with one of the five different factory models printed on them. In addition, a majority of these tiles also list a part icon in the top left corner of the tile that can be used by Testing & Innovation to upgrade the listed car part design in that model.
Player’s will choose whether to use the tile to obtain the designed model in their garage, or use it to upgrade the listed part design in the model. Once a part design has been upgraded for a particular model, if that player also has that model type in their garage, it is considered a tested design and can score the player extra Victory Points during and at the end of the game.
There are two main areas that make up the Design department. The offices to the left house the creative team, whom initiate the designs before they are sent to the other offices of the department (spaces to the right). During setup at the beginning of the game, after all of the design tiles have been shuffled, one tile is randomly placed on each of the right-side office spaces. After this is done, the remaining tiles are separated into three stacks and placed on the three left side creative team spaces. At the start of the game, players will only be allowed to choose from the eight single office spaces when choosing a design tile. Once a player has earned a certification with the Design department, he can then start choosing tiles from the three large stacks in addition to the eight office spaces.
Next, each player will place one of their training markers on the bottom desk of the training track. Each of the main departments in the factory includes one of these training tracks. As players work shifts in a department, they have an opportunity to train in that department. As their training increases, they will gain certification within that department (unlocking areas of their player boards), as well as gain bonuses within the department itself. At the highest desk space of each of the training tracks, three Plaque tiles are randomly placed in a stack, with a Seat tile placed on top. The first person to reach the final section of each training track gets the Seat tile. Once obtained, these Red Seat tiles can be traded in for a Seat tile matching the player’s color. At the end of each Round (or week) player’s will have a meeting with Sandra the Boss. The player’s Seats are used during the meeting to claim Victory Points. Players will attempt to meet the different goals listed on their own Performance Goal cards, as well as those in the Administration department during the game. However, players can only claim a goal for each Seat they have during that meeting.
Going back to the training tracks in each department, player’s that reach the end of the training track may also look through the plaque tiles and choose one to keep, returning the rest to the stack. These can contain training manuals that can be traded in for additional training, extra shifts that player’s can use or save up during the game, as well as Part Invoices for gaining new parts. There is even a plaque that will award straight up Victory Points.
The Logistics Department handles the ordering and supply of the various car parts
. There are six different car parts in the game and each is represented by a different colored cube: Brakes
(blue), and Turbo
(orange). Engines, Suspensions, and Brakes are stored on the left side of the Logistics Department, while Chasis, Transmissions, and Turbos are stored on the right. As previously discussed, these car parts can be used to upgrade designs collected from the Design Department by testing those designs in the Testing & Innovation Department. Car parts however are also needed in the Assembly Line Department in order to build the actual car models themselves.
Players can essentially spend shifts to perform two different types of actions while in Logistics. They can place an order for new parts (referred to as a Kanban Order) as well as obtain parts to take back to their personal workstations (player boards). When ordering new parts, the player will place one of his two Kanban Order cards onto the order space (as seen above). You’ll notice that the order space itself is longer than the Kanban Order card. This is because players must decide whether to shift the card to the left or right side of the order space. Up to six car parts can be ordered with every Order card, however the Logistics department can only fulfill a part order if the car part on the card is shifted to the same side as where that part is stored in Logistics. This may sound a bit confusing, but let’s take a look at an example.
Player A is currently working in the Logistics Department and decides that he would like to order some new parts. If he places his Kanban Order card as seen above (shifted to the right side), he would be attempting to order four car parts from the right side and two car parts from the left side. In this case, he would be successful in ordering two Turbos (orange) and a Chasis (black) since the colors on the right side of the card match the parts on the right side of the Logistics Department. He would be unsuccessful in ordering the Engine (pink), since it is listed on the right side of the card, but is housed in the left side of the Department.
At the same time, he would also be able to successfully order Brakes (white) since that color is listed on the left side of the card, and Brakes are stored on the left side of the Department. He would not however be able to order the listed Transmission (blue).
If Player A decided instead to shift the Order card to the left, he would successfully be able to order an Engine (pink) and Brakes (white) from the left side, and two Turbos (orange) from the right side.
When a Kanban Order is filled, one cube of the matching color is placed into the designated spaces for each part that was successfully ordered. The player will then draw a new Kanban Order into his hand. Once parts are in stock, players can choose to obtain parts by taking an action. The player can collect any or all parts from a specific car part space for each action taken. So if there were 3 Turbos (orange) in stock, as seen in the above pictures, Player A could take an action to obtain all 3, or simply 1 or 2 if he chooses. He could not however take 1 action to obtain a Turbo and a Chasis for instance. Any car parts collected are placed into the vacant part storage spaces of the player’s personal workstation. Therefore, players can never take more parts than available spaces on their player board.
If you remember at the beginning of the game, players only have access to five storage units designated for car parts on their player board. By increasing their training far enough along the training track in Logistics, they will be allowed to unlock the 6th space. Additionally, becoming certified in Logistics will allow a player access to an extra type of action while working in Logistics that allows the player to obtain a Parts Voucher.
This action can be used once per day. A player can turn in a Parts Voucher at any time on their turn in order to take any part from the general supply, instead of having to take one from his player board when needing to use it for building a model car in the Assembly Department or when upgrading the part in the Testing & Innovation Department.
During setup, all Kanban Order cards that were not passed out to players are shuffled to create the draw deck. The top card is flipped over and all 6 parts matching the card are placed on their designated spaces in order to prefill some of the Logistics Department before the game begins. As with all Departments, players will place their Certification markers on the 1st space of the training track, and the award tiles on the top space.
Before we leave the Logistics Department, it’s also important to point out the Recycling Center, located outside of the factory (directly below the Design Department on the game board). Players may trade car parts freely using the Recycling Center as many times as they wish, at any time during the game (excluding during meetings). The player will simply take a car part from his player board and switch it out with one other part on the Recycling Center. The Center will never have more than 3 parts on it at a time, only one cube is allowed per individual space, and at the beginning of the game, three parts are randomly selected for setup.
The top left corner of the factory houses the Assembly Line. This is where all five car models in the company’s line are built and manufactured
. This department contains a pushing mechanic, that triggers when new models are constructed at the beginning of the line. This will essentially push the cars in front of it, eventually resulting in a car rolling off of the assembly line (thus a fully manufactured car), which is then placed onto the test track of the Testing & Innovation Department. They are then available for players to collect in their personal garage or can be used to upgrade specific parts in the car’s design itself (which I talked about earlier).
When a player begins the construction of a new car, he must place a car part token on one of the available spaces located at the beginning of that particular model’s assembly line. Normally, a player may place any car part here to start the construction of a car. However, if the car parts of that particular model has been previously upgraded during the game, the first player placing a car part at this model’s line must place one of the upgraded parts to begin. Each additional player must then place a different upgraded car part, if applicable. Only after all upgraded car parts have been placed can a player place any type of car part to build that model. Sounds confusing, but let’s take a look.
Player B has decided to build one of the Eco-friendly hybrid model vehicles (green). During the game, both the engine and chasis of this model has been upgraded. That means that to begin this vehicle’s construction, Player B would either need to place a pink (engine) or black (chasis) tokens on one of the available spaces at the top of the green car’s assembly line.
Let’s say that he chose to place an engine part (pink) there. The next player that decides to build one of these models must place a chasis part (black). There is now one available space left for players to place parts in order to build an Eco Hybrid. Since both upgraded parts have already been placed on the spaces for this model’s line, the next player can place any car part there. If the players had previously upgraded 5 of the model’s parts, any 5 of those parts can be placed on the three spaces, but all must be different from one another.
When players first take their turn at the Assembly Department, they are allowed to clear out all of the parts at one of these assembly line stations. When Sandra visits the Assembly Department during her weekly evaluations (which we’ll take a look at in a bit), she will clear the car parts from all of the assembly line locations. After a part has been placed on the assembly line location for a particular model, the player will shift cars around using the “pushing” mechanic in order to make room for the new vehicle. Cars may be pushed in any direction the player wishes, as long as they match the directions of the arrows printed on the assembly line floor of the game board. This will not only result in adding a new car to the assembly line, but can also force one of the models to exit off of the assembly line itself. There are three exit spaces, the two outer spaces award the current player 1 Victory Point for a model exiting through it, while the middle space awards 2 Victory Points. The car exiting the assembly line is then placed onto the testing track located in the Testing & Innovation Department.
Using the previous example, Player B chose to place a part and start the manufacturing of a green model. If he wanted the 2 Victory Points for forcing a car out the middle exit, he could simply push the previously placed cars straight ahead to make room for the new green model. This would force a yellow model off of the assembly line and onto the testing track.
Lets say that he would like to force a black model onto the testing track on a future turn since he is looking to add a black model to his personal garage later in the game. In this case, he could place a part on the blue model assembly line and push the cars (following the direction of the listed arrows) in a way to force a black model to the center area of the assembly line.
This would result in pushing a green model car off the assembly line for 2 Victory Points, but would set the black model in place to eventually come off the center line (possibly scoring him another 2 Victory Points if he is the one taking the action).
At the beginning of the game, a set of each model car is placed on the first two spaces of their respective assembly lines. Two Demand tiles are randomly placed (one on either end) next to the exit spaces. The Demand tile will list how many Seat tiles to place on top of it. When a player pushes a model off of the assembly line, if it matches one of the models listed on the either Demand tile, that player will be awarded one of the Seat tiles, thus earning another Seat at the end of the week meeting.
As with the other departments in the game, players will place their Certification markers on the lowest space of the training track, and the Award tiles and a Seat tile on the top space of the training track. When players become certified in the Assembly Department, they will unlock the final garage space on their personal player board, thus allowing them to keep five cars in their garage instead of four.
Testing & Innovation Department
We’ve previously discussed some of the benefits of the Testing & Innovation Department, including the ability to upgrade car parts on specific model designs, as well as collecting cars from the testing track
. But now lets take a look at how this department functions. There are two main areas within the department. The testing track is located in the upper half which is used to bring cars from the assembly line and house them until players are ready to collect them on their personal player boards.
The testing track also acts as a game timer. Each time a player takes an action to collect a car from the testing track, the pace car will move one space along the track itself. When the pace car has crossed the finish line, it is determined that testing has been completed and a new meeting is set to begin. Remember, players will attempt to collect Seat tiles throughout the game that will allow them chances to score Victory Points during these weekly meetings.
The bottom half of the department is dedicated to upgrading parts and designs. If you remember, a player that has a design tile and its listed part, both on his player board, can take an action at Testing & Innovation in order to upgrade the specific car part on the listed car model. When this is done, he will place the car part token he had spent from his player board onto one of the available spaces under the corresponding car model section of this department. Each car model has 6 available spaces for the 6 various car parts. Some spaces will award bonuses (victory points, extra shifts, extra training) when a car part is placed on the space, so players have the option of choosing which available space to take. The player will then remove the car design tile that was upgraded from his player board and flip it to its alternate side, placing it to the right of his player board. This will not only score him immediate Victory Points, but will also give him the opportunity to score bonus Victory Points at the end of the week. Also, every time that a specific car part is upgraded, that car part becomes more valuable to the company, and is therefore increased one step along the Car Part Value track.
Player A is currently working at the Testing & Innovation Department. On his player board, he currently has a design tile that lists a blue model car with a design to upgrade the car’s suspension (yellow token), as well as the yellow token itself amongst his other parts on the board. He decides to spend one shift (action) in order to upgrade this car part on the blue model design.
When doing so, he will remove the yellow token from his player board and is allowed to place it on one of the available 6 spaces that correspond with the blue model car in the Testing & Innovation Department. He decides to place it on the space that immediately awards him 3 Victory Points, though he could have chosen instead to gain additional training or extra shifts (actions) if he wanted. The engine of this model had previously been upgraded by another player, thus why the pink token was already present here.
Since he has improved the suspension in all blue models for the company, this suspension technology has become more valuable and he will then move the yellow token onto the next space of the Car Part Value track. At the end of the game, any player that has a tested design next to their player board, he will score Victory Points according to where that design’s listed part has ended on the Car Part Value track.
Finally Player A removes the design from his player board and flips it to its alternate side, which shows that he will be awarded an immediate 2 Victory Points. This also designates which cars he can complete as tested designs and also which parts he can include during end-game scoring.
At the end of the week Sandra will award players for testing these upgraded designs. A player must have a matching colored car in his garage to be considered “testing the design”. For each car in the player’s garage, he will receive 1 Victory Point for each token that is located on that model’s section in the Testing & Innovation Department. He will receive an additional Victory Point for every one of these that he upgraded himself. This can be referenced by the upgraded design tiles next to his player board.
For instance (using the above example), at the end of the week, if Player A had three blue cars in his garage, Sandra would award him 9 Victory Points. 2 for each blue car, since two parts (suspension and engine) have been upgraded in this model, plus an additional point for each car since he was the one that had upgraded the suspension in that model (referenced by the design tile listing the blue model and the upgraded suspension next to his player board).
When a player has become certified through training in the Testing & Innovation Department, he unlocks the space on his player board to place an upgraded design tile. When doing so, he will be allowed to increase the part’s value by 2 on the Car Part Value track instead of 1. This can only be done once per game.
At the beginning of the game, the Pace Car marker is placed on the starting checkered space on the testing track, the Production Cycle marker is placed on the “0” space of the Production Cycle track, and the Meeting marker is placed nearby.
When the Pace Car enters a checkered space on the track, a new meeting is triggered and the Meeting marker is removed from the Testing & Innovation Department and placed in the Administration Department. After the meeting has concluded, the Meeting marker is then returned to Testing & Innovation, and the Production Cycle marker is increased to the next space.
One of each colored car part token is placed in the area to the left of the Car Part Value track. As a car part’s value increases during the game (through upgrading part designs), that colored token is moved to the next space of the track.
If you remember in the Assembly Department, players were rewarded Seats for assembling the listed model types shown on the face-up Demand tiles. There are two sets of similar Factory tiles where players can claim Seats as rewards in the Testing & Innovation Department; one for claiming a certain number of cars from the testing track, and the other for upgrading a certain number of designs. During setup, these are placed on their designated section in the department with two Seat tiles on top. Finally, as with all departments, player’s certification markers are placed on the bottom space of the certification track with award tiles and a seat tile placed on the top space.
Administration actually serves as a multifunctional department. As with many worker placement games, there will be times when players wish to go to a certain location on the board, but are blocked from previously placed workers. In Kanban, players can work shifts in the Administration Department in order to take actions from any other department (as if they were actually in that department)
. In a thematic sense, think of this as delegating your work to others within that department while you supervise from Administration. The only disadvantage to this is that all other departments allow for more actions if a player is actually working hands on within that department, whereas Administration allows for fewer actions. So players can go to Administration if they are blocked from placing their worker in a specific department, but he will probably take less actions than normal.
Players can also choose to spend their shifts in Administration on increasing their training along the training track. After becoming certified in Administration, the player will unlock a 5th seat space for himself at the conference table. Players start the game with only 4 seat spaces each. Each time they earn a Seat token during the game, they will place a Seat token of their own color on one of these spaces. These will represent how many times they can score Victory Points with Sandra during meetings. Since a player only has a limited number of spaces at the table, any Seat tokens he earns past his 4 seat spaces (or 5 if he has become certified) are kept on his player board and can be used during the following meeting.
Every time a player becomes certified in a department, he will increase his level on the Main Certification track. When the player advances to a new level, he can place his marker on any of the available spaces within that level, and is then awarded the bonus listed on the space. For instance, as seen above, Player B is currently a level 1 certified employee, meaning that he has completed one certification at the factory. On a later turn, he ends up completing his certification in the Assembly Department, meaning that along with earning the bonuses tied to that specific certification, he has now become a level 2 certified employee. He can then move his marker on the Main Certification track to one of the level 2 spaces. He chooses to place it on the first space of the level 2 section, immediately scoring him 2 Victory Points and another Seat token for meetings.
This Main Certification track is also important in that the higher level employees are the ones that will be able to speak first during meetings. Administration Department houses the conference room where meetings with Sandra will take place after the Pace Car in Testing & Innovation has reached a checkered space. There are four Performance Goals cards located in Administration which reference the goals that Sandra would like to see met before each meeting.
These can vary between Victory Points for collecting Parts Vouchers, Victory Points for collecting each type of model in a player’s garage, even points for completing a certain amount of Certifications. Each player also has a set of these Performance Goal cards in their hand (3 each), hidden from all other players. Starting with the player furthest along on the Main Certification track, each player will take turns showing Sandra which goals they have completed. A player can only do this for each active seat that have at the table, so you can see why earning Seat tokens during the game are of huge importance. You can have worked extremely hard to complete a goal, but if you didn’t earn a spot at the meeting table, Sandra will never have the chance to know about it.
On one of their turns during the meeting, each player must place 1 of the 3 Performance Goal cards in their hand in front of them. Once placed these are available to all players during the meeting. Players can wait until a later turn, but before the meeting is over, they must place one of these in front of them to score, even if they haven’t completed it themselves. One a player’s turn, they are allowed to remove one of their active Seats at the table and place them on one of the Performance Goal cards they’ve completed (either in Administration or on another player’s face-up card). They will then score the Victory Points listed on the card based on how many times it has previously been presented to Sandra.
Sandra likes to hear about completed goals, but she gets a bit frustrated with people who try to brag about completing a goal that someone else has already completed. Because of this, each card lists a base Victory Point amount on the top left corner of the card, and a number on the top right corner of the card showing how many times it can be scored. If it is this first time a completed goal has been presented to Sandra, that player will score the base Victory Points (listed on the left side) for the full amount of times (listed on the right). Each time this goal is presented to Sandra, the number on the right will go down by one. When it can no longer go down by one, Sandra is fed up with hearing about it and will no longer award any more points for that goal.
For instance, Player A, B, C and D wish to score the Performance Goal seen above, which awards a player 3 Victory Points for collecting each car model type in their personal garage. The Performance Goal card shows a “3x” in the top right corner. Since Player A presents it first to Sandra, he will actually score 9 Victory Points (3 Victory Points, 3 times). When Player B presents it second to Sandra, he will score 6 Victory Points (3 x 2). Player C then presents it to Sandra. Becoming a bit bored by everyone’s need to show her how diverse their garages are, she only awards Player C 3 Victory Points (3 x 1). Player D can then present this goal to Sandra, but by this time she is disgusted and screams, “Did anyone not do anything else?!”. Suffice to say, it would be in Player D’s best interest to present a different completed goal, since Sandra would award him 0 points for being 4th to present this one (3 x 0).
At the beginning of the game, four of the Performance Goal cards are placed face up on the conference table area inside the Administration Department. There are also a set of Final Goal tiles that each list three different end-game goals that players can attempt to complete by the end of the game. One of these tiles is randomly placed on the bottom area of the department. For instance, the tile seen here will reward 7 Victory Points to a player that has 2 red model cars in their garage, 8 Victory Points if a player has 5 upgraded Designs, and 6 Victory Points to a player that has completed the Administration certification.
To the right of this tile is where the Round marker will go to keep track of which week players are currently in. Every time Sandra makes her way back to her desk at the Administration Department, the current week comes to an end. If you remember, Sandra will award players for testing upgraded designs at the end of each week. As we’ll discuss later on, the game will end when either the Round Marker in Administration or the Production Cycle marker in Testing & Innovation is on the 3rd space on its track, at the same time the marker on the other track is on its 2nd space. At the beginning of the game, the Round Marker begins on its “0” space, while Sandra starts the game at her desk.
Finally, player’s seats are placed face down around the conference table. As players earn Seat tokens from performing various actions in the factory departments, they will be able to flips these seats to their active position to show how many times they can present completed performance goals to Sandra during a meeting. As with all other department locations, players will place their certification markers on the bottom space of the certification track and the award tiles and seat tile on the top space.
We’ve now taken a look at the function of each department and the mechanics involved with resolving actions in each. Now let’s take a look at what players can actually do on a turn. Kanban is at its core a worker placement game, though unlike many worker placement games, each player only controls one individual worker. On a player’s turn, he will move his worker from one department to another.
Each department has a set of desk spaces with “clock” icons listed on them. When placed on these spaces, the icons represent the number of shifts (or actions) the worker can perform in that department when resolving his turn. One shift is equal to three hours on the clock, so if we take a look at the Assembly Line Department desks (seen above), we can see that placing a worker on the desk to the left will allow him to take 2 actions (2 shifts) on his turn in this department, while the desk space to the right will allow him 3 actions.
During the game, players may be rewarded extra Shift tokens. When doing so, they will increase their marker on the Shift Bank track. Players can spend these extra shifts as they deem fit, so a worker on a space that provides 3 shifts, could actually spend 2 shifts on the Shift Bank track and take a total of 5 actions in that department.
Turn order will resolve from left to right among the various desk spaces on the board. Because of this, turn order is essentially determined by where workers spent their shifts during the previous day. For instance in the picture above, we can see that Player A and Player C both worked in the Testing & Innovation Department yesterday. Player B spent his day in the Assembly Line Department. Player A would be allowed to move his worker to a new department first, since he is the furthest to the left. Notice that even though both Player A and Player C worked in the department furthest to the left, Player A still gets priority since his current desk space is the furthest to the left.
Even though he gets priority, Player A is on the space that only gave him two shifts during his last turn, while Player C is on the space that gave him three shifts. So even though placing his worker on the leftmost space gives him priority in turn order during the following turn, it gives him less action for the current turn. When Player A moves his worker to a new department, he can only place it on an available desk space. So players will still block opposing players from certain spaces even though they don’t go until later in the turn. After Player A and Player C have both moved to a new department, it will now be Player B’s turn to move.
Once all players have moved to a new department, players will resolve the shifts in their new department moving again, from left to right. In the previous section I discussed all the various actions that can be taken within each department. Each action taken is worth one shift. The only way for a player to take additional shifts than their desk space allows is to spend the extra shifts they’ve accumulated on the Shift Bank track. Once all players have resolved their actions, players will again move their workers to new departments, resolving from left to right.
Sandra will also move amongst the departments each day. When resolving turn order, once it becomes Sandra’s turn to move, she will always move to the next available department space (though not within the same department). Sandra’s movement is important in that when it is her turn to take actions, she will evaluate player’s performance along the certification track within that department. Sandra will either reward players for meeting her expectations within that department or place demerits on them, depending on whether players are using the “good mood” or “bad mood” Sandra rules.
Sandra will also perform a task at the department that will affect some the game in some way, depending on the department. For the purposes of this review, I’ll cover the “bad mood” demerits that Sandra will place on the player that is on the lowest point of that department’s certification track, along with the action she will perform in that department. When Sandra penalizes the player, she will check to see how many extra shifts that player has on the Shift Bank track.
If the player has less than 5 extra shifts, she will deduct 1 Victory Point for every shift below 5. So for instance, if the player earned a demerit from Sandra and currently had 3 extra shifts on the Shift Bank track, he would lose 2 Victory Points.
– Demerit: A demerit is given to the players on the Design certification track that have less than 3 car designs on their player boards.
– Action: In the Design Department, Sandra will return the four oldest design tiles in the Design Department office spaces and shuffle them back into the central draw deck.
– Demerit: A demerit is given to the players on the Logistics certification track that have less than 3 car parts on their player boards.
– Action: In the Logistics Department, Sandra will remove all but one car part from each warehouse space.
Assembly Line Department:
– Demerit: A demerit is given to the players on the Assembly Line certification track that have less than 3 cars in the garage of their player boards.
– Action: In the Assembly Line Department, Sandra will clear all of the car parts from all of the assembly lines spaces.
Testing & Innovation Department:
– Demerit: A demerit is given to the players on the Testing & Innovation certification track that have less than 3 upgraded designs beside their player boards.
– Action: In the Testing & Innovation Department, Sandra will move the Pace Car to the next space of the testing track.
– Demerit: A demerit is given to the players on the Administration certification track that have less than 3 completed certifications amongst all departments.
– Action: As we’ve discussed earlier, when Sandra is in the Administration Department, the Round marker is advanced and she will reward players for tested designs.
As mentioned before, when either the Round Marker in Administration or the Production Cycle marker in Testing & Innovation is on the 3rd space on its track, at the same time the marker on the other track is on its 2nd space, the end game will trigger. Players will continue to resolve actions until the Round is completed. At that point the game ends and players receive the following additional Victory Points:
– First, player’s collect all of their face-up Seat tokens in Administration and place them on their player board. Then players can choose to score goals listed on the Final Goal tile. They are allowed to score each goal one time if they are able.
– 1 Victory Point per shift on the Shift Bank track.
– 1 Victory Point for extra Training Book tokens, Part Voucher tokens, and Seat tokens on their personal player boards.
– Victory Points are awarded for player’s positions on the individual department training tracks (5 Victory Points for 1st place, 3 for 2nd place, and 1 for 3rd place).
– Victory Points are awarded for each completed Tested Design according to the part’s value on the Car Part Value track.
After these are scored, the player that has accumulated the most overall Victory Points is declared the winner.
Kanban features an incredible mixture of theme and heavy Euro mechanics that packaged together will no doubt receive 2014 Game of the Year nominations. The amount of ingenuity and innovative bits and pieces that make up this game is quite remarkable, beginning with Sandra. The Sandra mechanic not only forces players to work towards their certifications in all areas of the factory (thus keeping players from solely focusing on one area only, ignoring the others), but she also takes the role of minor cleanup steps when visiting a department, can affect player’s decisions on their options for turn order, and can also affect the length of the game based on how often she visits her office in Administration. The use the Sandra mechanic and the way she’s designed to urge players to rush against time to take actions and complete goals that will please her is thematically brilliant. No one wants to be last in their training when she comes to review the department. No one wants to be the 3rd person in line to tell her how they’ve completed a goal that two other people have already earned her favor for. Everyone wants to please Sandra, but in the back of their mind, everyone is a bit afraid of her. That’s a true boss mechanic, and it works great in Kanban.
While the game board can seem quite busy for new players, the departments are laid out in a way that makes sense once you can grasp the theme of how an auto factory works. Parts are needed from Logistics to supply the Assembly Department with what they need to build the cars. Once the cars are built, they go to the testing track where players can test them to upgrade the parts within or use the designs from the Design Department to pull them into their personal garages. Players compete to complete daily goals that will earn them seats at the next meeting. The more seats they have earned, the more opportunities they have to impress Sandra.
Certifications are also thematically woven into the confines of the game. As players become certified in the various departments, they become more valuable to the factory itself, thus they are given “raises” that will allow them a larger garage, available parts vouchers, an extra seat at the meeting table, etc. Even the idea of using “shifts” as the action mechanic works well thematically. The more time spent in a department, the more actions you’ll be able to take. Players can earn extra shifts and spend those extra shifts as overtime to do additional actions, even if the space they are on don’t allow it. Sandra is even a bit more lenient on those that have failed to work on their certifications in certain departments if she sees that they have earned extra shifts.
As a Euro-driven strategy game, Kanban is well designed and well worth heavy praise. But being able to merge a theme so well within the mechanics themselves places this game on a whole new level. I’m not someone that could tell you anything about how a car works or explain to you where you could even find a Chasis on one. I don’t even change my own oil. I could really care less about a car factory and would probably be pretty bored if I were to ever tour one. But Kanban makes me care about doing what I need to do to please Sandra. I continuously try to complete goals and order the car parts I need to be able to build the cars I need to test designs and earn Victory Points. When a game provides that type of engagement, it’s well worth a look.