by Andy Vetromile
Published by Z-Man Games
Designed by Corné Van Moorsel
Illustration and graphic design by Franck Moutoucoumaro, Karim Chakroun, and Marco Jeurissen
Contents: 55 Machine tiles, 90 Connector tiles, 5 Optional Diagonal
Intersection tiles, 28 Supply Container tiles, 38 Bonus tokens, 30
Output reservoir tiles, Money Track, 5 Scoring tokens, 5 Pillar tokens,
5 Factory boards, rules
Given the recent economic downturn, it seems like the world could use an
infusion of new blood in the industrial sector. Z-Man Games is offering
that in the form of Factory Fun, a game for one to five that
tasks each person with filling his shop with several apparatuses, hoping
to outproduce the others. As more equipment is added, what develops is a
mishmash of machinery linked together that has to be improved, expanded,
or shifted to gain the most bang for the buck.
The object of the game is to make the most money from filling your
factory with machinery.
Workers of the World Unite
Each factory owner starts the game with two dollars, four colored Supply
Containers, three Output Reservoirs, and a board showing their factory
floor. They also have a facedown stack of ten machines, one for every
round of the game. Turns start with something of a dexterity contest:
everyone takes a Machine tile from their deck and puts it onto the table
with one hand. They simultaneously flip these over and, with their other
hand, try to snatch the device of their choice. Once you have a Machine
you must fit it into the spaces on your board and make sure all inputs
and outputs are taken care of. The new equipment has colored and
numbered arrows coming in and going out; there must be a Supply
Container of the matching color attached to the arrows going in and an
Output Reservoir to "catch" the arrow coming out.
A Machine has a revenue number in the middle, the amount of money a
factory owner makes for placing it. For every other piece he had to
place this turn he spends a point. For example, if someone had a Machine
with revenue of seven the first turn and had to put down three Supply
Containers and an Output Reservoir to get it operational, he nets three
dollars. Added to the two bucks everyone starts with, he's now at five
dollars. Then the cycle repeats, but with each round it gets
progressively harder to place the equipment. New Machines need space as
well, plus they need something to supply them. If the next device you
select also uses Blue (yes, this is one of those games that capitalizes
all sorts of words, including Player), it must be able to draw from that
Blue Supply Container. If the two Machines are placed relatively close
together this may be no problem, otherwise more connectors are needed.
Factory Fun provides a huge assortment of pipes –
straights, curves, criss-crosses, and more. There are plenty of them,
but each one placed is another dollar cut out of your profits.
It's a Series of Tubes
If the output of a Machine is the right color, it can be used to feed
into another device; one that pumps out Green can be used instead of a
Green Supply Container to power the other Machine. Connections like this
are good news for two reasons, the first being that you only need an
Output Reservoir for the last Machine in a line. You only have three
Reservoirs, so eventually you have to make one of these hybrids or you
won't be able to incorporate the Machine for that round – and
failure to do so costs you five dollars. The other benefit is extra
money: joining two devices earns you a bonus token. Inputs and outputs
are rated from one to three, so if you connect two Red one-pointers to
each other it's worth five bucks, a rating of two is 10, and three
scores you 15, assuming that connection lasts to the end of the game.
You only add that money to your final score, so it's not something you
can spend but it just might give you the game.
As play progresses and the workspace gets more crowded and involved,
Players must resort to ever-more-elaborate arrangements of Machines and
equipment. Soon pipes will snake out in all directions and criss-cross
over and under each other in an attempt to maintain the supply lines.
There are a couple of sops to your increasing workload. A few Machines
offer a bonus Supply Container. If you can integrate that mechanism into
your plant (assuming someone else didn't wisely and violently snatch it
out from under you to begin with), you get that container as well and
may use it to ease your Goldbergian crisis as you see fit. Several
Machines have a black output instead of a color; this is a dual-edged
sword. You can buy as many black End-Product Reservoirs from the supply
as you like, so that saves you using one of your precious three Output
Reservoirs, but at the same time you cannot use that output to power
another contraption. The factory with the highest value at the end of
round 10 is the winner.
Factory Fun is one of those games that's just a pleasure to open.
Stacks of sheets with counters to punch out is the sort of thing that
makes a gamer giddy with anticipation, and this has plenty to spare.
Unfortunately this leads to one of the few complaints about the generous
contents of a game with wonderful components – storage. Unlike
during game play, however, the issue isn't too little space, it's too
much. Once those boards have been punched and removed, there's about an
inch of space between the box top and the molded plastic tray. This
means it has to be kept "This Side Up" or else the pieces get jumbled
about on the way to the game.
The color scheme of the game is also less than ideal. Maybe the hues
were chosen for contrast for the benefit of colorblind people, but they
blend too easily even for those without that problem. Two shades of
green, a brown close to the red, and this in turn is close to the
purple. Wooden cylinders are included as well, a Scoring token to track
one's score on the Money Track and a Pillar token. This second item sits
on the color-coded pillar space printed on your Factory board. It's not
clear why they included a three-dimensional representation of the
preprinted colored circle. Perhaps Z-Man intended it to make
identification easier. Finally, the last bit of bad news is the storage
itself: it's not immediately obvious how things fit back into the
(rather nice) tray. They do, but it takes some work, and it's already
troublesome having to manage all those counters.
Those are not inconsiderable issues in or out of play, but to be fair
the stuff you get is nothing to sneeze at. The boards are not only heavy
mounted foldouts, they're two-sided. The Classic sides are all open
spaces with a pillar in the middle, but the Expert side puts more
obstacles in your way and the layout is different for each player. The
counters are wood, the tiles are thick, and you get the feeling any one
piece could absorb an entire can of Coke and ask for more. Putting the
set away can be a task, yes, but you've got an intricate plastic tray
for doing so. Even the box is industrial-grade. The tiles are colorful
(and you won't get these colors mixed up – the Supply Containers
use different graphic designs under that paint to make things easy on
the aforementioned colorblind workers).
The Business End of Fun
Game play tends to divide players into pro and con camps; it works for
some and alienates others, though if given a fair shot Factory
Fun wins over some of the disgruntled employees. There's a learning
curve to be overcome when training the newcomers, and even if they find
their first day on the job frustrating they may come around when they
realize everyone has to, at some point, let the absurdity of the whole
exercise wash over them. It's fun, taxing, thought provoking,
infuriating, and, when you get something to work just right, deeply
Should anyone grow weary of the game, they can take comfort in knowing
it lasts only about 45 minutes; you could play it several times in a
single evening. Some balk at the mechanic whereby you have to grab the
piece you want for each round, but those contests have a tendency to
abate after just a few rounds once the boards look like a latticework of
metal threads. More likely you'll be only one of several players who,
following the reveal, stare in stupefaction at the choices, trying to
work out what you need and avoid the bits guaranteed to drag you under.
If someone proves to be a less-than-worthy competitor, or if one is
playing with the younger set, the Classic and Expert sides of the boards
are easy handicaps to level out the playing field. It takes a few games
just to appreciate how much thought went into a simple concept, dotting
the "I"s and crossing the "T"s (though it must be admitted there are
some translation pitfalls in the rules).
Factory Fun is another of those great concepts that takes a
quirky little mechanic and spins it into a winning wonder. Exciting
complications and twisty headaches go into the conveyor belt at one end
and wear out the Player in the middle, but what lands in the hopper at
the other is certified amusement.
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