Opening Potion Explosion was joy followed by disappointment. The reassuringly heavy box containing a mass of glass marbles was a sight to behold, until I held them. At that point the marbles were found to be a mix of chipped and misshapen monstrosities. Upon finding that Gizmos employed marbles and a marble dispenser and also came from the same company I tried to contain my expectations...
This time the box was strangely light, but upon opening I found some gloriously round but plastic marbles. This change in material didn't bother me in the slightest as not only are the marbles actually ball shaped, they look great too. The Gizmos dispenser is a somewhat simpler affair than Potion Explosion's, having only one column of marbles to choose from and no explosions in sight. Although its high 'basket' needs to be removed each time to fit back in the box.
The gameplay is simple to learn but about half way through your first play you suddenly realise that you need to build your Gizmos carefully to trigger off as many combinations as possible. Gizmos take the shape of square cards that can be upgrades, converters, or what I call reactors. Upgrades do just that; giving you more storage for marbles and to reserve Gizmos in your archive, converters allow you to change marble colours or quantity.
Reactors are the main meat of the game, as they activate when you take actions that match their type. So, if you have built a Gizmo with a File icon in the top left corner and then take a file action, that Gizmo will activate potentially triggering off any other relevant Gizmos.
On your turn you take one of four potential actions:
- File - This allows you to take a Gizmo from the face-up display and put it into your archive.
- Pick - Allows you to take a free choice from the dispenser ramp.
- Build - Let's you pay the required marbles to build a Gizmo from your archive or the display.
- Research - Allows you to take cards from one of the Gizmo piles up to your research level and build or file one of them.
You start with a research level of three, a storage level of five and a archive limit of one. These can be upgraded through Gizmos and to win you are going to want to upgrade once or twice. Reactor cards let you do all sorts of things like take more marbles, gain victory points, build more Gizmos and so on. When some one has built four level three Gizmos or a total of 16 the round plays out and scores are totted up from built Gizmos and earned victory points.
This simple gameplay leads to a interconnected tableau of potential as you try to build your Gizmos to trigger off one another. Each can only activate once per turn, but despite this you can cascade a chain of reactions that can sometimes catch you off guard. The freedom you have to build your Gizmos and therefore your path to victory is great but not overwhelming. I've seen people earn victory points almost every turn, to people who harvest as many marbles as they can before buying the more powerful level three Gizmos.
Player interaction is fairly limited but you can take Gizmos and marbles that other players want, and you do need to watch the other players and what their engines are doing, or you can find yourself lagging behind in points. Although it has to be said that this is nicely balanced as if you chase point making Gizmos you are not earning the stuff you need for building the better scoring Gizmos.
I've been really impressed with Gizmos, its lightweight approach leads to a deeper experience that reveals itself on your first play. Components are mostly great, although the player boards are a little flimsy in the fold area. Play is immediate and turns quick even when triggering numerous reactions. All the actions are useful although on your first few games you may question the worth of the research action, but give it a try as it is a powerful tool.
So, we have a well produced, easy to learn, well priced game that scales well with all player counts - what are you waiting for?