Fantastic Factories is a game that reviews itself in its own name. It is fantastic. But even fantastic can be expanded upon. Two expansions have been released at the same time for this game after a kickstarter campaign a year or so ago. Subterfuge is the smaller of these and looks to address a complaint that some people had about Fantastic Factories; that it can be a bit of a solo experience.
That is a fair criticism as you don’t really interact with the other players beyond taking cards they may want from the marketplace. After that it’s heads down, placing your own dice on your own machines until you’re all done. You may have a cheeky look at the other player’s areas to see what they are up to and how close they are to winning, but that’s about it.
Listen All Of Y’all It’s A Sabotage
Subterfuge adds in a new sabotage mechanic to add in some player interaction. During the market phase, there are new saboteur contractors that allow you to disable one card in an opponent’s factory for a little while. Now, you can pay a die to undo this on the next turn, but it is very annoying when it happens.
There are also new buildings that you can put into your factory to act as a defence against these saboteurs. These buildings need to be disabled first before you can go after the good cards, acting as a line of defence. But this just doesn’t sit right with me. This game is incredibly tight and it feels very frustrating to have to spend your hard earned resources to stop the other players from messing up your machine. Or you can choose to not defend yourself and you could just get sabotaged.
Now, I need to say that there is not a huge amount of these saboteur cards in the deck. It’s not the kind of thing you need to be constantly worried about. But it happens frequently enough that it is definitely worth considering defending yourself with guard buildings.
The issue is they are not the only negative cards that get added to the contractor deck. In fact, of the 6 new contractor types, 5 of them will have you stealing resources, dice, or cards from one or more of your opponents. And I just don’t find this sort of thing fun. In a game about planning, it is so annoying to have all of your schemes disrupted by your opponent dropping some card on you that you could do very little about.
Now, you can clear the contractor market row and draw replacements if you see something there you don’t like. But there is no guarantee you won’t redraw the same card or worse and there is nothing you can do about it at that point. The other option is for you to buy the card to steal something from your opponent. But I always feel bad about that.
I’m not inherently against take that in a game. I love playing Cutthroat Caverns and that is all about messing up your opponent in any way you can. But where there it feels like a cheeky joust where you’re trying to out devious each other here it just feels like a shot below the belt.
Ready Player One
However, it’s not all awful. The one place where this new mechanic shines and is really enjoyable is the solo variant. By removing the other person from the equation suddenly it is a lot of fun to go about messing up the robot factory. I mean, they can fire back but it doesn’t seem as annoying to me. Maybe I’m just too sensitive. I don’t know.
Now, these new contractor cards are not the only thing in the box. There is also a selection of new factory cards. I would say that these are universally brilliant. There are some nice new abilities including one that makes it really easy to make victory point goods but will give an opponent an extra die next turn. This is the sort of player interaction I would have hoped was introduced with this expansion but alas, this is the only card that does something like this.
The Red Spy Is In The Base
The rest of the cards are still good though. To be honest I think in future I will play with just the new building cards and leave the contractors out unless I am playing with a particularly despicable group of friends. These new sabotage mechanics do not show Fantastic Factories in the best light and make it seem a lot meaner than it really should be.
Of the two new expansions, I’d definitely recommend Manufactions over Subterfuge. But if you have a particularly cutthroat game group, mostly play solo or just really want more factory card possibilities there is definitely something here that is worth your attention.