After missing out on the first Fantastic Factories Kickstarter, I was lucky enough to randomly obtain a copy thanks to the board game gods. I knew it had colourful and attractive art and promised some accessible engine building. But would it be Willy Wonka or more Wonky Willa?
Fantastic First Impressions
Fantastic Factories delights from the moment you open the box, and delve inside. The perfectly formed insert holds a plethora of dice. outrageously thick, dual layered player boards, cards and all the tokens you need. There is two resources in the game - energy and metal, and the object is to score the most points by making goods and building buildings
Cards are split into two types - buildings and contractors. At the start of each round each player will take either one building card or one contractor card from the central display. A building card is free to take into your card but you must pay for the contractor by discarding a card of the type indicated above the contractor and possibly some energy. After that everyone rolls and places their dice.
Dice can be placed either in your central factory or on any cards you have built. This phase happens simultaneously but can be played in turn order with younger players or prolific cheaters.
On your factory/player board, dice earn you resources and cards at different rates with bonuses for matching dice numbers. Building cards let you perform all sorts of exchanges for points or more effective ways of gaining resources. Often these will demand multiple dice with other requirements such as 'in ascending order' or 'matching'.
Other useful buildings can be tapped to modify your dice rolls. In generally you are not allowed to build the same building card twice unless it explicitly states so on the card. Usually these are point scoring cards that only come into play in the end game scoring.
Because the main phase of the game can be played simultaneously gameplay speeds on by at a good rate, as even with four players the turn based card drafting is only one card each. Players who are more efficient planners may end up waiting for others to finish but this is never usually that long.
Fantastic Factories gameplay loop is a compelling race of making the best of the cards available to you. Though there is some luck involved in this, there are enough options to get your engine going. You just might need to go about it in different ways. To be honest this is part of the charm. Building a load of point scoring monuments is a viable strategy if good creating buildings are sparse or hard to run.
Generally metal is the harder of the two resources to earn, yet sometimes you'll create an engine that pumps it out by the tonne. Of course if you haven't thought about how to convert that metal into goods you are going to be in trouble. Each building costs resources and a card of the same type to build, so you will be burning through a lot of cards increasing your chance of finding the right cards.
The end game can quickly appear though so you don't want to spend too long waiting for a specific card! I've had games where I have a lot of cards that are used in a specific order each turn and games when I only take a few cards and build a small, tighter engine. I've also had games where I've absolutely lost of sense and built a non synergetic mess of nothing helpful.
Fantastic Factories is a game I nearly always want to play. Though it is not as heavy as something like Underwater Cities, or as cute as Everdell, it is faster than both to set up and play. The art and graphic design are consistent and clear, and although it is a little intimidating for newcomers in terms of how much iconography there is, they should quickly settle in. Though it might not draw a crowd from a distance, those who walk past a table will be drawn in by the quality components.
Rolling badly in Fantastic Factories always gets you something, and you can build to mitigate dice rolls too. Every round you will get at least one new card and some resources so while you may be annoyed you didn't roll a triple matching number to activate your super duper card, you can take solace in the fact you can still use those three dice for other things.
Final Thoughts on Fantastic Factories
Fantastic Factories is a game high on fun and low on frustration. It has good short to medium replay ability, due to the multiple synergies possible between cards. Long term it will probably need an injection of new cards, and happily two expansions have already been announced! The game works well with all player counts although at two it can be a little disheartening if your opponent gets ahead. Fortunately there are strategies to catch up, but these may not all be apparent in your early plays.
While there will be a short learning curve for less experienced players I really think this is a brilliant game to show off the hobby. Fast play, with interesting choices and great components make for a great package. And that's without mentioning the solo mode! If you like dice placement or engine building, if you have played Gizmos and want more, then you know what to do!