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How (and Why) to Play Cargo-The Game

     My brother, Mike, is a caricature artist, and has made it his living for almost 30 years.  He once had a run of seven straight years voted “funniest” by the other caricature artists at their annual convention.  He has created a hilarious board game that is itself a caricature of American society, and it’s called “Cargo”.

     The board is The United States, with several big cities on the “road” that circles it, and the object of the game is to pick up cargo and sell it if you land on a city.  The person with the most money at the end of the game wins.  Pretty simple.

     So there are “cargo” spaces.  If you land on one you collect cargo represented as chips, but to do so you must first have “employees”, so there are employee spaces.  Each of the 60 or so employees in the game have a number at the top representing how many cargo chips you get when you land on a cargo space, and most of them are 1’s.  There are a few 2’s and 3’s, and several 0’s.  A few are minus 1’s.  And they all are caricatures by the artist, with a brief word or phrase at the bottom implying their character.

     There are several rules involving employees.  There are spaces that let you fire them, and there are ways of getting other players’ employees and so forth.  Like in real life.  The sum total of their cargo designation is how many cargos you pick up when you land on a cargo space.  As the game goes on and your company grows, you can get a nice little cargo stack going (but there a 2 weigh stations, so watch it).  On most cities the cargo sells for $500 each, but it varies.  And you get $500 just for landing on the cities.

     The employees are an adorable bunch, many of them challenged in some way.  Like Matt, who wears his pants too high, or Tony T with the bad breath.  There’s Rey, the 4’ 2” playboy, and with Barry the glass is always half-empty.  Sigmund looks like a creep and has his “own views”.  Like any workplace, plenty of freaks and oddballs.  But they bring home the cargos.

     I try to talk good about my employees, during the game, I mean.  I love Blanche (that’s her on the cover), and I know she stops ups toilets.  My favorite is probably Harst, a horse.  He craps a lot, so what?  He carries the load, and he’s not real needy.  I love Harst!

     There are spaces for one of the games coolest features, “Illegal Cargo”.  There’s real money in illegal cargo, naturally.  From Guns, to Moonshine and Hot Jewelry, to Kidneys (you spin to see how many, $1000 a pop) and cigarettes, to several somewhat colorful merchandise, this quickly becomes a favorite of the young kids, so there’s a sanitized version we recommend.  Again, every picture will bring a smirk.  Like the Unflattering naked picture of a high ranking government official.  My favorite illegal cargo is the Rhino from the zoo. 

     There are several rules surrounding illegal cargo, but let’s move on.

     LOOK OUT!  It’s the COPS!   There are a dozen police officers that come with the game, starting with five, and they roam the board in a gauntlet.  There is an “add a cop space”, so the menace just increases as the game goes on.  They’re out to shake you down, and they are the key to the game.  Because each has a number, and if you land on him (or her), or if they land on you, then you have to snip the spinner and get below this number or you’re busted.  He (the artist) has chosen the offense to be DUI, and the number you are beating is the breathalyzer.  If you get four DUIs you’re out of the game.  And they come quick.

   See, no one knows how much you’re drinking and putting the public at risk with your little cargo operation.  These cops are tough.  Several spaces “move the cops”, and you spin a die and they all move.  There is a sticker over the 6 on this red die, and it reads “reverse cops, roll again”, so everyone’s in danger.  And by the way, for some reason I can’t resist making siren sounds when the cops are on the move, though technically it’s not part of the game.

     Some cops are notorious.  Clarissa (she’s on the cover) is the game’s only “1”, so you can’t  beat her, and she (accidentally) shoots one of your employees.  Billy’s a 9, and Barn’s a 7.  Butch?  4.  The game comes with a spinner.  So spin it good.  Or you’re busted.

     Yes, you can buy a lawyer.  For $2500 bucks.  There are about 20 of them, and like the employees, the cops, the illegal cargos and even the money, caricatures of people and life, and all funny as can be.  Turn up Preston Carmichael and he helps your spin by 2.  Pete Jefferson 3.  Tony Carpinello, imagine it, gets the case dismissed (he’s packin’ the heat).  Uncle Billy can’t help, and neither can Joe Klingenberg (student).   I love Weird Head Walt, and the WHW on his briefcase, and he helps my case by one.  David Gold will get you off scot-free, but only if you can pay him another $5000 bucks.

     You may go bankrupt, if you get busted and can’t pay all the bills. So like the DUI situation, there are cards you lay in front of you to denote to the other players how you’re doing with your small business endeavor.  Just three times to Bankruptcy and you’re out of the game.  

     A few more things.  First of all there are 2 white dice you spin to move, but the 6s are covered and equal zero.  So you can shake a zero and a 1.  You can roll again for double and this is an option, but not for double zero, in which case the space is played again that you are stuck on.  Just hope it ain’t a cop.

     If you land on the wrong space, you may end up going on a “vacation” to Las Vegas.  Careful there.   Bet all you own on odd, and spin?  My fortune gone?   It happens in real life you know.  You can get robbed there, and the black market space is “always open”.  (To sell illegal cargo if you land on a city you must turn over a “Black Market “ card to see if it’s open or closed.  It’s open 2/3rds of the time.)

     And try to stay out of Mexico.  Like Vegas, there’s that one space, and if you land on it you must sweat out a trip south of the border.  While there, you can get robbed.  Your employees can get shot.  And you can be shot, and you’re out of the game.  There are several illegal cargo spaces there, and a Black Market space.  If you land on Mexico City, you collect zero dollars, and lose all your cargo.  Perilous journey bro’.

     There are other spaces and rules involving cargo and illegal cargo, and you need to read the rules, or somebody does.  If you’re hauling the Aliens for example and you land on a cop, the aliens abduct that cop for the rest of the game and you don’t get busted.  Are the Dead Bodies in your trunk?  If the cop busts you with this piece of illegal freight you’re out of the game.  And much more.  But don’t think it’s complicated, because one time around the board and you’ll get it.  Ten year-olds love it and pick it up right away. 

     We’ve played cargo for years.  I think Mike told me he copyrighted the rules 20 years ago.  We finally decided to make it available, because we’re sure it’ll be a fun thing for you to do every now and then, as a small gang or family, and wherever and whenever life slows down long enough to do a leisurely thing.  How about a caricature game?  That’s Cargo.

     He has engineered the game to not last long.  An alternate rule has been that when someone goes out, that ends the game and you count up the money, and so that means a bad trip to Mexico and that’s it.  Or you can play to the last man standing.  It seems like we usually play a few games in a sitting.

     But with so many characters and funny drawings, I still laugh at all of them.  It is the game that keeps on giving.  We are assembling the first 1200, the originals, ourselves, and then will alter the game board and the cover slightly so that these will be the classics.  The game is made of hardy stuff and should hold up good.   Buy one and hold onto it, one of the originals.  Just $30 bucks.  Man that’s cheap (Ooops.  He says $29.99)

     For a time the artist himself will personalize your game, making you an employee or a cop or a lawyer.  He lists the information on this site somewhere.  You can buy the game right here and we’ll ship it to you, straight from “the factory”.

     So there you go, the how and why to play a game of Cargo.  It’s fun.  And these people, in this small business saga, where life imitates art, you kind of know them and have seen them, or they’re you and you have no idea, but straight from the artist’s pen, they will always lighten the mood and bring a smile to your face.  That’s what makes this game unlike anything the world has ever seen.