Monday, September 28, 2009

Factory Fun Review

Factory Fun

Factory Fun has been out quite awhile.  Unfortunately, it's also been dang hard to get ahold of.  It's actually one game I wish got a much wider release.

0. Description

In Factory Fun each player gets to build their own factory out of a tangled mess of pipes.  Each factory is created from:

A. Machines - Take certain colored inputs and provide certain colored outputs.
B. Supply Reservoirs - Unlimited supply of a single color (Each player starts with one of each color)
C. Output Reservoirs - Goop can't spill on the floor.  Machine output has to go somewhere and these are the last resort when you can't pump it back into another machine.
D. Piping - An unlimited supply of it is available to flow the goop anywhere.

Each turn in Factory Fun uses a novel game flow:

A. Each player simultaneously turns up a new machine in the middle of the table.
B. Each player quickly snags the single machine they want among those offered.
C. Players try hard to efficiently incorporate the chosen machine into their factory.

It is a VP game.  VP come from 2 places:

A. Each machine gives some VP when placed.  Offset by *everything* else costing VP to place or move.
B. There is a big bonus at the end for feeding the output of one machine into the input of another.  This is often where the winners are made.

1. Analysis Paralysis / Downtime

It is hard to be efficient, but luckily everyone gets to play and puzzle at the same time.  Really, there doesn't feel like there is any downtime at all.  Even if you have an AP+ opponent, you can help them figure out what to do if you finish early.

2. Frequency of Meaningful Decisions

Nearly constant.  It's seldom obvious what machine would be best for you and you have to make a split second decision.  (To make matters worse you face a penalty if you don't place a machine you grab, so choose wisely.)  And then it can even be tougher to decide how to work it into your factory.  There are usually multiple options available and it's seldom obvious which one is the best.  Especially because you want to leave your options open for future machines and your supply reservoirs are limited.

3. Multiplayer Solitaire / Player Interaction / (Competitive / Casual)

This just works a ton better as a casual game.  The main "official" interaction is all in the machine grab.  The main "un-official" interaction is all in helping everyone make the best of a bad situation with the machine they snagged.

4. Skill / Luck / (Competitive / Casual)

There is actually a lot of skill to be learned here.  Your scores will get higher the more you play.  Beginners don't grasp just how many points there are in chaining their machines.  They also tend to make a dense factory near the beginning of the game that can be very difficult to add on to or adjust later on.  Even though, it's a fun learning experience.  I think it falls right down the happy medium of skill vs luck.

5. Runaway Leader / Effective Elimination / Catch-Up Mechanics / Score Obfuscation

There aren't *that* many bomb moves.  I've seen the perfect piece maybe net 25ish points, which is a bunch, but is pretty rare.  In reality, you earn points little by little from turn to turn.  Also, you don't calculate up those big bonus points for chains until the end, so it's seldom that you know exactly who the winner is until then.

6. Fiddliness / Elegance (Rules & Bits)

And here comes the bad.  The rules are almost as tangled as your factory will be.  There are rules about splitting output but not mixing input of machines and reservoirs.  There's the glitch about only having three basic output reservoirs that catches almost every newbie.  Even just understanding how the available pipe can contort can be difficult.  It's a reasonably easy game to teach, but it's one where newbies will make mistakes.  Heck, in the last game I accidentally trickled a little brown gloop into a perpetual loop that is totally illegal.  There's a nice player aid in the files section that helps you stay on top of the gotchas:

7. Theme / Enjoyment

Well, it is kinda-factory related.  The theme isn't super present though.  For one there's no rhyme or reason to your factory.  The game is very enjoyable to me however.  I enjoy the sense of making the best of a bad situation.  And really, it's fun to be the proud owner of a pile of crap at the end of the game.

8. Tactical / Strategic / (Short Term / Long Term Planning)

Yea, it's *mostly* tactical.  But any 30-40 minute game is.  The more I play it the more I appreciate planning for the future.  I realize that it's hard to explain to a newbie, but just not crowding your supply reservoirs and starting chains early to preserve your output reservoirs is important.

9. Story Line / Multiple Paths to Victory

Erm, well.  There's not really multiple paths.  It's "be efficient and chain a lot".  There is some story line though.  The first few turns is all about building a solid and accessible base.  The later turns are seeing how you can expand in a logical manner.  The final turns usually involve some players passing on all available machines just because they can't turn even a small profit with them.

10. Approachability / Player Ranges

The base game plays 2-4 players very nicely.  The simultaneous play does a lot for it.  And yet since each player has their own board the game still feels very similar.  The approachability can be a little rough since there are a lot of rules to how your factory may be assembled.  However, I have come to appreciate how necessary all those rules are and what a rich game they make.  Of course, it's rough to even find a copy these days, so that kills it for many people right there.

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