Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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Game Controls Rating:
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Don't look for a cardboard cousin of Cargo Runners in a brick and mortar store. There isn't one. Developer Trouble Brothers is pioneering a new type of board game - one that doesn't require a physical precedent. Instead, this is a virtual board game in all ways possible - and it works beautifully on the iPad.
Like the best of its board game brethren, Cargo Runners is a simple game to learn, but a difficult one to actually win. Players are cargo ship captains, navigating a global map in an effort to collect cargo from various ports and deliver it to others in order to fulfill multi-million dollar contracts. In a two-player game, the first player to collect $12 million wins, but the game can be played with as many as four players (with an adjusted win condition of $8 million to keep the game at the ideal 30 minutes of play time).
Each turn, players roll the dice and make one of several possible choices: sometimes the need to move to another country and collect cargo is paramount, sometimes the decision is driven by the need to unload cargo as quickly as possible for a profit, and still other times the best decision is to cause as much mayhem as possible for an opponent. All are viable options, and it's this sort of light strategic gameplay that makes Cargo Runners a game that can be played again and again.
Graphically, Cargo Runners looks wonderful. The game board displays needed information efficiently and intuitively (not to mention quickly - the UI is peppy, even when playing online multiplayer) and a variety of animations help the game feel slick and modern at every turn. Likewise, sound adds tremendously to the ambience of the game, with the effects of sea storms, cargo lifters and more used lightly but effectively throughout the game. Music, which can often become repetitive to the point of monotony in games like this, is actually a calming, varied use of stringed instruments that did nothing but enhance my enjoyment of the game.
In an interesting move, there is no AI present in this current iteration of Cargo Runners. Players can either choose to play locally (up to four around a single iPad), or online using Apple's Gamecenter protocols. Since the game has just been released there aren't a huge number of online opponents available, but I assume this number will grow exponentially in the coming days and weeks. Still, it would have been helpful to play a game or two against a computer opponent - if even a step-by-step tutorial game - before venturing out against other humans. The developers have wisely included a virtual rulebook to pull up at any point deemed necessary, but I'd still like to see a full tutorial integrated into the game at some point in the future.
Particularly as a 1.0 release, Cargo Runners is amazingly polished and is a wondrously enjoyable board game. There is care and attention to detail through all levels of the game's design, and its nuanced blend of luck and strategy make it more than easy to recommend.