Build, trade and grow your Little Factory until you become the most influential entrepreneur in the valley. But will you use your first resources to produce new ones or to fund construction projects? Choose your path to victory wisely, otherwise the competition just might ruin your business empire.
Before Reaching The Valley
Designed by creative husband and wife duo Shun Taguchi & Aya Taguchi; co-founders of Japanese publisher Studio GG (established 2013), Little Factories features colourful art work from freelance illustrator Sabrina Miramon (the artist for Blue Orange's Plant and Photosynthesis), Hotori Satose (the artist for Firm with Brownies, another of Taguchi's games), and Aya Taguchi herself. Published unsurprisingly by Studio GG, in collaboration with Iello, Little Factory was first released under the title: Goods Maker.
Expanding The Valley
Little Factories is an engaging resource management game with an easy to understand tech tree mechanic, set in the same universe as Little Town... where you act as lead architect, dispatching workers around the valley in the hopes of growing your settlement... and it's expansion Little Town: Artisans. However, in Little Factories, you're a budding merchant looking to turn a small amount of coins into the most influential business empire in the valley, with the help of the abundant resources available. But whilst you're imagining a future where across the wheat field you can see the blades of a newly constructed windmill turning in the wind, keep in mind you have to first decide whether you're going to use that grain to bake bread or feed your cattle.
Unlike Little Town that uses a board and several game pieces, Little Factories is a card based game for two to four players, featuring an easy to learn resource management and tech tree system. Play time can range between twenty five and forty five minutes... age and skill dependant... and we found an average game to take us roughly thirty minutes playing as a couple. The recommend age range is ten years and above, although we've played Little Factories with our seven year old and although it pushed play time to the fifty minute mark, she did understand the mechanics and enjoyed playing. There is also a solo player variation of the game, with instructions included in the box on a separate printout, however this is a mode I have yet to try so I'll be sticking to explaining the two to four player variant later on.
Inside the box you'll find an easy to follow rule book (as well as a separate double sided info sheet for the single player mode), four starting money tiles, twelve influence point tokens, and eighty four cards that make up the bulk of the game, which are divided into four separate categories that are colour coded, which is both helpful and eye catching. The cards include sixteen yellow, level one resource cards (further broken down into five wood, three wheat, three clay, three stone and two cotton), nineteen blue level two resource cards, nine magenta level three resource cards, and thirty green building cards (sub-divided into five starting building cards and twenty five special building cards).
The box itself is small and compact, which paired with the fact that set up doesn't take a large amount of space, and small pieces are kept to a minimum (the twelve rather adorable influence point tokens), makes Little Factories a worthy candidate to consider if you're looking for an easy to pack game to take on holiday.
Open For Business
In Little Factory, the goal is to become the best merchant in the valley. So the aim for players is to turn their meagre starting gold (that ranges from three for the starting player, to six for that one taking their turn last in a four player game) into starting resources, then processing those resources into subsequent resources; such as wood into charcoal and wheat into flour, then combining the charcoal and flour to make bread. Players work towards acquiring enough assets to be able to construct buildings that range in complexity, such as wooden planks for a fisherman's hut and bricks to make a bakery, to the castle that requires wooden planks, stone walls and iron/steal bars.
During their turn, a player can do one of two actions. They can either 'produce', where the player can gain a single resource or building from the available cards in play by playing the resource cost (unless acquiring a level one resource card, which is unique in that you can gain one per 'produce' action, if it's the only card being produced that turn). Or alternatively, the player game choose the 'trade' action; and whilst that may sound like the active player will be trading with their competition, they will instead be choosing to purchase a resource for it's coin cost, by discarding cards they have in their hand... which can only be up to seven resource cards at any time (i.e. not doesn't include buildings constructed). In addition to these two standard actions, if a play owns any buildings, they can choose to activate it's special ability once per turn; for instances, the watermill that lets the player turn a level one wheat in their hand into a level two bag of flour, and the aforementioned fisherman's hut that lets players turn a level two fish into an influence point. Buildings can also be activate by the player on the turn they are acquired, which can certainly come in handy during the latter stages of the game.
Essentially, Little Factory is all about chaining together resource cards, building cards and their special actions to generate the most victory points; known in-game as influence points. The first player who collects ten (or more, it can happen) points is unsurprisingly the winner.
Close Of Business
At the end of the day, Little Factory is a decent little (pun only slightly intended) game. It's not overly complicated but still complex enough to be engaging. The relatively short playtime also makes it an ideal game for a week night; we've been known to play it whilst waiting for dinner to cook, for instance. So if you're on the hunt for an enjoyable short game that's easy to set up, I recommend giving Little Factory a try.