What's Eric Playing? #160 - Factory Funner
Base price: No idea. Almost impossible to find, these days.
1 – 5 players.
Play time: 30 – 40 minutes.
Haven’t seen it in stock.
Has it always been your dream to build a working factory? …no? Well, get better dreams, because Factory Funner is here to do just that. In a game that is provably 50% more fun than its predecessor, Factory Fun, Factory Funner ups the ante by moving from square tiles to hexes, giving you at least 2 new ways to make long-lasting mistakes in short-term factory construction. Will you be able to build the funnest factory? Or is all that just a pipe dream?
Setup! So, there are a bunch of Factory Boards, each with an A side (left) and a numbered B side (right):
These are a measure of the rough difficulty of the board, going from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest). Give each player one in the color of their choice, unless you’re playing with an experienced player, in which case they should take whatever number they feel most comfortable with.
Next, give each player a starting set of four reactors (technically called supply reservoirs, but this is how I explain the game) and three output reservoirs:
And put the money marker in each player’s color on the 1 mark on the money board. You’ll also put in the +1 and -1 tokens, unless you’re playing a two-player game (no -1) or a solo game (don’t use either).
Next, shuffle the machines and give each player eight, face-down:
See how nicely hexes tessellate? Now, dump out the definitely-not-tessellating pipes somewhere:
If you’re feeling like doing this right, it’s usually best to have trays or bowls for these sorts of things.
And once you’ve done all that, you should be about ready to start!
Gameplay is pretty interesting, since it has a real-time component (sort of like Millennium Blades), but it’s more of a puzzle game than anything else. So, on a given turn, everyone will flip the top machine of their stack into the center at the same time:
And then each person can grab a machine with the following caveats:
- After the first round, if you have more than two players and you take the first machine, you get a -1 penalty. Better be worth it!
- After the first round, if you aren’t playing the solo game and you take the last machine, you get a +1 bonus. There’s a green tile to take.
- If you’ve reached an impasse, nobody gets the +1 and machines are dealt at random.This makes the game take a bit less time.
- If you are the last player to take a machine, you may skip taking that machine for no penalty (but also no bonus!).
Once every player has taken a machine (or every player but the last player), you can try to put the machine onto your board.
And that’s the hard part.
So, take a look at a machine:
This machine has some pips (input) and some number (output). This is how a machine works — it requires that much “energy” as input and produces the number of that color energy as output. In order to make this work, it’ll need power. Thankfully, your reactors produce unlimited power of that color, you just need to get the power there. That’s where the pipes come in! You can use them to pipe input (or output) wherever, provided a few rules:
- You cannot have two pipes occupy the same edge of a hex. They can cross over each other, but they can’t be stacked on top of each other.
- A pipe can only cross over another pipe. It can’t cross a machine, reactor, or pillar.
Finally, the system must be closed. You can’t have excess energy leaking out of pipes that don’t connect to anything! To do this, you’ll either have to place reservoirs to hold output energy or pipe output to be the input for other machines. As you might imagine, a machine cannot power itself or power itself via a chain of machines. That’s magic, not science. If you power a machine with another machine (not a reactor), put a clear plastic token on its input pips; it’ll be worth end-game points (specifically, three points per pip on the input). If you change that configuration, though, you may have to remove the pip. If the machine has a black output, that’s referred to as end product, which gets its own special reservoir; you’ll follow normal placement rules for setting it into your factory.
The cool thing about pipes is that you can use them to combine or separate outputs, with the following caveats:
- No combining outputs with a reactor. It causes overflow back into the machine or something, sure. Also it’s infinity, so infinity + 1 doesn’t really matter that much.
- Output can be combined and split, but everything must go somewhere. This can make your life much easier if, say, you combine green outputs to pump them into a reservoir or then to combine a 1 and a 3 to power two two-input machines.
- You cannot combine or mix colors. Yellow and blue may make green, but yellow energy and blue energy do not make green energy.
Now once you’ve laid pipes and such, count how many pipes and reservoirs (don’t include your machine) you laid this turn. For each pipe and reservoir (counting reactors as reservoirs), you lose 1 money. Note that this can cause you to go negative on the turn, but you cannot go below 1 money. If that were to happen, you would just not be able to place the machine. Removing things costs no money, but placing things costs 1 per placement. So if we look at this example:
They added 5 pipes and a single reservoir when they placed the Boom Tube, so they spend 6 money, but the machine generates 7 money, so they add the difference (1) to their score on the money board. If you find that you can’t make the machine work, you may discard it for a -2 penalty. You score -2 points on the turn, rather than being able to score anything normally. This penalty can only be avoided if you are the only player who hasn’t taken a machine and there’s one left. In that case, you do not have to place the machine, but you forego the +1 bonus, too.
Keep playing until all players have used the 8 machines in their machine stack, and then tally scores! Add in 3 points per pip for each input that you’ve chained another machine’s output to (so a three-pip spot would generate an extra 9 points) and then the player with the most points wins!
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
This is an interesting game, because I generally feel like it gets easier as you add more players. With more players, you see more machines each round, so you’re more likely to be able to snatch something you want. In a solo game, on the other hand, you’re just stuck making the best of the machines you get. Sure, you run some risk of getting the machines you want stolen (which would make you essentially get the worst of five random machines, which can be pretty bad), but you also can reject a machine you don’t want if you’re the last to pick, so it’s fine.
I can’t say I really love the solo game for that reason — I’d much rather flip two machines each round and then pick one. With only one, you feel extremely locked-in. That said, it’s a pretty tough puzzle in the solo mode, so it might be right up your alley.
- Don’t focus too much on end product. Generally, the machines that generate end product are useful and get you a lot of money, but they’re also a bit more unwieldy, since they can’t be used for chaining and you can’t combine end product into one reservoir, so they end up junking up your board. They also tend to require more inputs, so that can cause pipes to snake all over your board.
- Find ways to optimize. The best way is usually chaining your machines so that you can remove unnecessary pipes and get extra bonus points down the line. You might also want to mentally categorize what inputs you still have easily accessible and what kinds of outputs would be useful, so you can better grab machines quickly, next time.
- Leave yourself openings, but don’t be afraid to close something off. You can safely burn probably one reactor and still be fine (depending on the machines and how late in the game you are), but in general try not to build your pipes such that you can’t access your reactors or you’re going to be taking a lot of 0s on your next few turns. You should also try to make sure your reactors are placed such that you’re leaving spots open for potential future pipes. Yes, you can move the reactors, but you can’t move the machines, so plan ahead.
- Don’t forget about chaining. It might not seem like much since it’s “future points”, but using it as a metric for how you’re doing on placement is useful, since even a -1 turn now is worth it if you’re gaining 15 points from chains down the line. I’ve seen games where players have gained 27 – 36 points off of chains in the endgame, which is usually more than they gained from placing machines outright. Plus, chaining is fairly flexible, as you can reconfigure your pipes later on to connect new machines (or, even better, add machines to further chain).
- Sometimes it’s worth grabbing the first machine, even with the -1 penalty. Especially if it’s something you need, just … take it. -1 is totally fine if it helps you get a chain or avoid getting tangled up in crappy machines and pipes down the line.
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- I love the puzzle element. Something about moving pipes and connecting machines of different colors feels very Willy Wonka-esque, but with a bit more of an industrial flair.
- The pieces are delightfully whimsical. They’re brightly colored and have fun names (Das Hulk, Trifurnace, all sorts of stuff). It’s super fun.
- Everything feels nicely cut. The pieces all work and tessellate nicely. The component quality is solid.
- The boards are double-sided, with more difficult boards on the back side for more advanced players. This allows players to not just wreck new players, which I would highly recommend. It’s also why the significant advantage of experience is only a meh, rather than a con, in my book. Very addressable.
- Plays quickly, and not terribly difficult to learn. It’s tough to play (just puzzley), but learning it is pretty simple.
- Experienced players have a massive advantage over new players on the basic boards. Just an ongoing problem with the game, but for a puzzle game that’s hardly unexpected (and they do a great job addressing it with the more difficult boards), so it gets a meh rather than a con. It’s the same issue as games like Patchwork, in my opinion. You don’t really know how the pipe laying and such works until you’ve played your first game.
- The game is difficult to repack. It takes a long, long time to put away. It’s no Millennium Blades, but still takes a while.
- Not going to be a great travel game. There are a BUNCH of small pieces, so good luck taking this since it’s also a bear to repack.
- The “players grab a machine in real-time” mechanic is ripe for abuse. What do you do if a player hovers over a machine but doesn’t grab it? What if they start arguing that they touched it, not grabbed it? What happens if multiple players refuse to grab machines? These are all issues that you kind of have to legislate around with your play groups (or hopefully your play groups aren’t difficult and you just don’t have to deal with this as much).
- I was underwhelmed by the solo game. I haven’t really enjoyed it any time that I’ve played it, as it’s just very difficult and has no way to change it up since you just get dealt a machine at a time until you’re at 8. It’d be more fun, in my opinion, if you got some semblance of choice on a short timer or if you got to see what the next few machines were in the queue.
- Maybe don’t play this with players that are vulnerable to analysis paralysis? They’ll take literally a decade to decide where to place their pipes and then you’ll be ten years older and the best years of your life will be behind you. Don’t do that to yourself or other players.
OVERALL: 8.75 / 10
Man, Factory Funner is awesome. I love the quick puzzley gameplay, I love the whimsical nature of the pieces, and honestly I love the concept. I picked it up after playing it even though I got ruined the first time, and I’m always interested in playing another game once I’ve played it to try and get a better sense of how I could have done better. It’s a super interesting concept, sure, but the delivery is more than I could have hoped for. I made a terrible mistake missing out on the Kickstarter (and thankfully managed to pick it up on eBay), but hopefully enough buzz will be generated for them to consider a second print run? If they do, I’d highly recommend it. It’s really, just, great.