We all have dreams when we are younger. Everyone wanted to be a fireman, a nurse, or an astronaut. Or if you were me (which, I am pretty sure I was) you would want to be a writer. I guess my dream actually somewhat came true. Factory Funner however lets us all live out the dream we held closest to our hearts, the true dream we all reached for: being a factory designer.
Factory Funner is an updated version of the previous game Factory Fun. If you are familiar with the previous edition of the game, then you will be able to see straight away from the pics how much love was put into the updated visuals and component quality. But what about the game itself? Does the factory churn out a perfect gaming experience, or does the factory need to be burned to the ground?
Disclaimer: my version of the game includes the wooden component holders from the Kickstarter add-on. The base game does not include these.
“Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” ― John Calvin
First and foremost – if you have played the original Factory Fun (or if you own it) you are not missing a whole lot from not having this version of the game. However, this version of the game is an improvement. It is also leagues and bounds ahead of its predecessor in terms of pure higher production value. That much is evident without me needing to explain it, you have seen the pics already I am sure. If you have not played the original, I would recommend checking out the pics on Factory Fun’s BGG page so you can see the visual improvements.
Factory Funner is at its core, a tile placement game fused with a resource conversion game, wrapped around an enigmatic puzzle that requires plenty of head-scratching to pull through on top of. Scoring points is hard in this game as placing a machine in your factory nets you points (money) but connecting the machine to the rest of your factory will cost you money. Connecting the machine up is not optional, as all inputs and outputs need to be connected to something. This makes for crunchy decision-making as you decide where to place your machines, pipework, and collection VATs on your restrictive player board. It can lead to some truly satisfying gameplay, but if you don’t plan out accordingly it can also lead to you being frustrated with yourself. Lucky enough as much as this is a brain burner, you can often get several games played within an hour.
So, what makes this game worthy of a purchase? That (for once in one of my reviews) is actually an easy question to answer. There are no other games quite like it. Or at least none that I have come across. Sure, there are tile placement games, sure there are games that make you raise your eyebrow and put your thinking cap on. But there are no others that quite scratch the same itch that this game does.
“Tell your friends, I have a factory of faith” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The game is super simple in concept. Just throw a factory down, connect some pipes, and make sure that all machine outputs are linked to a VAT. You start the game with 4 reservoirs, 1 of each colour in the game. These colours are essentially the inputs for the machines, and each machine needs a different combination of 1 or more colours in order to function. These reservoirs output in every direction and can feed any number of machines, so deciding when and where to place them is as crucial a step as deciding where to place the machines. And the VATs. And how to connect them all together with the pipework. Your game board will quite possibly end up giving you a headache after just a few turns. But it is fun, honest!
At the start of each turn, there are a number of machine tiles available for grabs as there are players +1. And ‘up for grabs’ is an apt term here. Factory Funner being played by its base rules is a simultaneous play style game. When everyone is ready, you can snatch any machine piece you want, but only 1! There are boons/punishments for being the first and last player to select a tile. Then everyone starts deciding where to place their machine and starts taking the pipe tiles needed to connect it up as needed.
Making sure you connect your outputs to one of your 3 VATs is essential. Each of your VATs can only hold one colour output. And this is where the spaghetti junctions and chaos cabling will come into the game. Have you ever opened up your bottom drawer before and found a random bundle of cables twisted and contorted around each other? Well, this game is like the reverse of trying to untangle that mess.
The savvy amongst you will have noticed something. There are 4 colours that the factories will be using and producing. And yet you only have 3 VATs in which your outputs use as their final destinations. This is the crux of what makes this game so juicy. For example: you will need to arrange your factory in ways that have machines outputting pink fluid into the input of other machines that take pink as an input. As well as scoring bonus end-of-game points for doing this, it is also essential to convert your fluids into colours you can collect. This is because the second machine in this example may take pink as an input, but outputs blue. And if blue has a VAT already, then this makes the factory easier to manage.
“The world is not a wish-granting factory.” ― John Green
Factory Funner is a game that falls under that phrase that board gamers hate to see: “easy to learn, hard to master”. But it isn’t perfect. It does suffer some minor irritations.
The biggest one that I have (and others I have played it with) is in the machine tile selection process. I understand that in a game that requires a bit of thinking, analysis paralysis could take hold of people in standard turn-based proceedings. But having the game set up in a way that sees you snatching the tile you want before your opponents can take it causes some issues. The main issue with this is if you have the factory set up so that blue is being used in one area and pink in another; you will instinctually snatch a machine that uses blue and pink. But 9 times out of 10 the inputs will be in the reverse position on the tile that you needed them to be for your factory. This is of course an observation problem, but it happens constantly. The second is that some people are simply not as quick to react as others. Both of these issues result in players simply getting frustrated. Thankfully there is a turn-based alternative way to play the game, but I think it should have been the primary way to play out the box.
Another issue I have with Factory Funner is the rulebook. Whilst nowhere near the worst I have seen, it wasn’t the easiest to get through. It is far too small. I think the rulebook relies on a knowledge of the previous version of the game in some ways (which I didn’t have) and reading through the examples is necessary. This is because there are some things that just aren’t explained in the rules themselves. I don’t feel like I should be required to look through examples to learn the core rules, they should be there to re-iterate them. There is also one rule that isn’t very clear that is pivotal to the core of the game: “to move, rotate or upgrade a piece, remove it for free, then pay to place a new piece”. If you remove a straight pipe and change it for an X pipe, it is clear that removing the piece is free, then you pay 1 for the new piece. But then if I place the straight pipe so that it joins the newly placed X piece, is it free because I already paid for it previously? Or do I have to pay to place it because it is in a new place? I do not know.
“Last week the candle factory burned down. Everyone just stood around and sang, ‘Happy Birthday’.” ― Steven Wright
All in all, I do really enjoy playing Factory Funner. The issues I have with simultaneous play are alleviated plenty by the fact that the game is played out over a set number of rounds and plays quickly. Ironically I admit that it probably plays quickly because of the simultaneous play. I love all the small details that go into this game. Each player not only has a unique colour, but also that colour is associated with a factory that has a name and a company logo. Each of the machines are unique, both in a functional aspect, but also in a visual aspect. Every factory has some fun and interesting designs to them. For example: the ‘Meltdown’ machine is a giant compressor creating a melted cheese toastie. Or the ‘Bagmeister’ is an automated giftbag unfolder. These little things just make you smile when you notice them.
It’s a game that is both visually satisfying to look at and mentally satisfying to do well in. It does take a couple of games of Factory Funner before you can start to plan ahead better for tile placements, but it is never something you can perfect. This is because you simply never know what tiles are going to be available in the coming rounds.
Factory Funner is honestly one of the more unique games in my collection. It is a game that I recommend everyone to give a try. Whilst there are likely other games out there that are similar, like I said earlier, I certainly haven’t come across any. If you are in the market for an interesting game that will make you think, that just happens to look incredible on the table at the same time; you cannot go wrong with Factory Funner.