Chocolate Factory (does your mouth start watering every time you read that name, just like mine does?) is something of a traditional pick up and deliver game, though the theme masks this amazingly well. Players use coal pieces, to activate the machinery in their factory, to process the various chocolate elements. This hopefully produces marketable chocolate products at the end of the line. Use the products to complete orders, earning money. Earn the most, and win the game.
Chocolate Factory is a much more literal game than many - chocolate ingredients are dropped onto a conveyor belt, and move through the factory, to be processed by one piece of machinery at a time. This gives the game a strong sense of theme… but does the game hold up beyond this?
The game is played over six rounds. Each round, which represents a day, players operate three shifts in their factory. At the beginning of each shift, cocoa is loaded onto the beginning of the conveyor belt. At each stage of the conveyor belt, the cocoa can be processed from a raw ingredient into some form of chocolate - “raw” chocolate, then into chunks or fingers then into more refined chocolates - soft or hard centres, and then into a boxed product.
Of course not all of these stages may be reached by the time the product reaches the end of the conveyor belt. Each shift rolls the conveyor belt forward one step, and there are four steps along the conveyor belt. As there are only three shifts in a day, it is likely that any products entering the factory will not reach the end of the conveyor belt by the end of the day that it enters the factory. However, some of the factory parts allow this to be accelerated, meaning that some final chocolate products may be produced even on the first day.
Key to the processing of the cocoa and chocolate products in Chocolate Factory is the factory parts. Each spot on the conveyor belt can be accessed by two factor parts. Each player starts with three factory parts, two of which process the chocolate ingredients/products in some way, the last of which is a chute. The chute allows products to be dropped from the conveyor belt before they reach the end - in this way, chocolate products can be taken from the factory and used to complete orders during the first day.
On each of six days that the game plays, every player drafts a new factory part to add to their factory. These can be added into an empty space, or can be built over an existing factory part, and always offer an improved chocolate process over the initial factory parts. Consequently, careful selection of factory parts can enable players to optimise their chocolate factory engine.
Also, at the start of each of the six days, players also draft employees. Employees provide a benefit which applies either once per day, or for the duration of that day. The employees also work for specific Department Stores (providing additional synergy in the round), enabling players to complete orders from that particular Department Store. If they are unable to provide products for that retailer, they will instead be able to complete standing orders from a local corner shop.
The Department store orders function as an area control mechanism, awarding money at the end of the game, whereas the corner shop orders award instant monetary awards, with greater rewards for more substantial orders. These also give a moderate reward for the majority at the end of the game.
At its heart, Chocolate Factory is a fairly straightforward game. There is some decision making to be made around which factor parts and which employees to take, but this will be potentially limited by other players, as the choice utilises a draft mechanism. The more challenging and interesting decision comes from where to place the factory parts for best effect.
The physical aspect of the game - rolling the chocolates along the conveyor belt - really drives the theme home, and makes it feel a little more special. However, it could just about be any theme with a rolling process. The artwork adds to the game, as it is evocative of earlier simpler times, but does not saturate the game to the point that the artwork dominates.
I can recommend Chocolate Factory if you want a game that has a little bit of a decision space, but is by no means a heavy game. I guess I would say it’s rather sweet...