Rocky Road a la Mode Overview
Rocky Road a là Mode is a sweet little set collection game for 2-4 players set in the pools, parks, and rec fields of your neighborhood. Rocky Road pits players against each other in a race to gain customer loyalty by managing their time, their stock of cold treats, and their customers.
How to Set Up Rocky Road a la Mode
The set up for Rocky Road a là Mode is short and sweet. Separate the cards into their 3 types.
- Ice Cream Truck cards
- Location cards
- Treat cards
Give one truck card to each player, along with the matching truck token. Group the location cards together by their treat type with the highest point value on top. Shuffle the treat cards and deal 3 to each player. Lay 3 treat cards face up within reach of all players, then place the rest of the deck face down. Set up the road by placing the 3 rocket pop tokens on each of the 3 pothole spaces on the cards/board. Gather all of the truck tokens, shake them up and place them in a stack on top of each other in the first space on the road. You’re now ready to play Rocky Road a là Mode.
* The review copy uses 4 cards to form the road but the Kickstarter campaign has already hit the stretch goal required to replace the cards with a small board. This change will not affect gameplay.
How to Play Rocky Road a la Mode
Game play in Rocky Road centers around an endless ribbon of asphalt meandering through your neighborhood. Play progresses not in clockwise turn order, but in time order. Fans of Patchwork or Thebes (or Thebes: The Tomb Raiders), will be instantly familiar with this behavior. In Rocky Road, every action a player performs has an associated time cost. Draw 2 cards, move forward 2 spaces on the time track. Serve a customer, move forward 1 space on the time track. Attract a customer, move forward a number of spaces equal to the value indicated at the top right corner of that card. If a player lands directly on a space containing a rocket pop token, they make take it and use it on a future turn.
On a player’s turn they may perform one of 3 actions:
Restock (Draw Cards)
Players must indicate in advance how many cards they wish to draw, move their piece that number of spaces on the board, then draw their cards. When selecting cards, players may choose to draw a card unseen from the top of the deck or one of the face up cards, at which time the card is immediately replaced. Players have no hand limit, but may draw no more than 5 cards at a time.
Players attract customers by selecting a treat card from their hand and placing it underneath their truck card with the top 1/3rd of the card hidden. That player must then move a number of spaces forward on the time track indicated by the number in the top right corner of the treat card.
Players serve customers using any combination of the following 3 methods:
- Discard cards from their hand matching the customer’s request
- Use a permanent bonus treat earned from completing previous treat cards
- Return a rocket pop token to the road. Rocket pop tokens act as a wild and can be used as one of any treat.
After serving a customer, the player moves forward a single space on the time track. When a player has served the last customer on a treat card, the card is rotated so that the bonus treats, and/or points, are facing to the rear of their truck.
Players will also be fighting to control different locations in the neighborhood: the pool, beach, park, and rec fields. If during their turn a player accumulates enough treats in their permanent collection to control a location, they take the appropriate card and place it near their truck.
Finishing the Game
Play continues in this manner, with players leapfrogging each other as they draw cards, and attract or serve customers, until one player has accumulated 9 points from customer cards and location cards. At that point the other players may take as many turns as are needed to pass that player at which time the game ends, and points are totaled up. If the player triggering end game is behind all other players then the game ends immediately.
What I Like About Rocky Road a la Mode
Even in this unfinished state the art for Rocky Road a là Mode is simply delightful. Artist Adam McIver is seriously talented and he focuses all his ability on this game. Vibrant colors, dynamic poses and facial expressions, and yummy looking treats all make this game visually appealing. I mean how could you NOT want to buy ice cream from this dude?
But how does it play? It’s great!! It’s a light game, but you have real choices. The rewards on treat cards are well balanced out with the cost of using them. This means that you might spend the time between your turn deciding which card is best to use in attracting customers. Do I try to get 3 loyalty points at the cost of 3 push pops and 3 ice creams, or do I go for a permanent popsicle at the cost of two ice creams and a push pop? Do I focus on straight points, or is it worth going for location cards?
There’s enough choice in the game for strategic minded gamers, but Rocky Road is still light enough to appeal to casual gamers.
What I Dislike About Rocky Road a la Mode
There’s only a few small things I dislike about the game, and none of them would impact my desire to play. I love the notion of putting treat cards under your truck to simulate a line, but in practice it’s somewhat annoying. The truck card is also small enough that the customer card and the permanent treat cards will collide with each other. Not a huge deal, but worth mentioning. It could be cool to make the truck cards larger to allow for this, but that would definitely impact printing so it’s unlikely to be an option.
The only other issue I had personally is with the end game scoring. The rules say 9 points regardless of player count, but I found that with 3 or 4 players it took longer, and was slightly more difficult, to hit that total. I used a sliding scale for my games which really worked well.
- 2 players – 9 points
- 3 players – 8 points
- 4 players – 7 points
This is just my approach and not necessary to the enjoyment of the game.
Final Thoughts on Rocky Road a la Mode
So far I’ve played this game with 3 of my 4 children, my wife, and 3 adult gamers and I’ve played at all player counts. Everyone so far have learned the game easily and in fact my 5 and 7 year son’s have each won a game. It’s quick to set up, quick to teach, and quick to play. Plus it’ll be quite portable fitting nicely into the same box size that Green Couch use for Best Treehouse Ever.
Fans of Splendor, Patchwork, Thebes, and La Granja will notice many of the best mechanisms from those games. Reward cards for set collection, time track turn order, and multi-use cards all work together to make a really fun game with some serious chops.
At the time this article was published Rocky Road a là Mode had 6 days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign. The game
Meeple Mountain received a prerelease copy of this game for review.