6 players and a 3-3 split. On one table we played a couple of games of Power Grid-Factory Manager (hereinafter referred to as Factory Manager), the new game by Friedemann Friese.
I will admit that the association of Power Grid with this game is what attracted my attention to it, but reading about it made it sound interesting and I decided to buy. Although the game has very little in common with the earlier game, it plays quicker and provides an interesting game in what should be about half the time.
The game is unusual (or at least it seems so to me) among many modern games in that it is won simply by having the most money, without having any systems to earn Victory points. It is played over 5 rounds, all of which follow the same pattern.
- First there is a turn order auction, which is the only real similarity I see to Power Grid, other than the artistic style. You bid for tiles which have a number from 1 to 12, the player order will then run from lowest to highest, with the higher numbers having a discount on purchases for that turn to compensate for acting later in each phase.
Bids are made using workers and because each player only starts with 7, with the potential to hire a maximum of 2 seasonal workers, the auction does not take long, with positions often being sold for nothing, since workers used in the auction are unavailable for other tasks later in the turn.
- Once turn order has been determined, each player in turn must add tiles to the market according to the number of workers they have available (which must be a minimum of 1), the last player also has the chance to move a number of extra tiles (depending on the number of players into the market). These tiles represent machines that produce goods, together with storage for those goods, robots (which increase a machine's production or decrease its manpower requirement) and control and optimisation systems which reduce energy requirements together with increasing production and/or reducing manpower requirements.
The tiles are laid out on a display and the cheapest of each type must be brought into the market before more expensive tiles of the same type, so it is an interesting situation if you are early in the turn order as you may have to bring down cheap tiles in the hope that those later in the order will being down the more expensive tiles of that type that you may want to buy. Conversely if you are later in the order, you may be able to bring down the tiles you want, but run the risk that someone earlier in the order may buy them before you get the chance.
- Next is the purchase of new tiles and placement in the factory, together with the removal of existing tiles. Again you need workers for this, 1 worker to buy a tile, 1 worker to remove a tile. The cost of a tile is the number printed on it, less any discount that you may have due to you turn order tile. It is that this stage, following all other actions that you can hire seasonal workers, which will be usable until this stage next turn at the cost of 7 each, again less turn order discount.
The reason you may want to remove existing tiles is due to limitations of space, the factory can hold a maximum of 10 machines robots and storage tiles (increasable to 12, by paying 10 per space) and 1 each of control and optimisation systems.
- In practice, this phase of the game has tended to be merged into phase 3 in the games I've played, with players moving straight on to carry out the necessary changes needed to their factories as soon as they have bought tiles, while the next player carries out their phase 3. This speeds the game up, but Strictly speaking all players should complete phase 3 before the first player moves on to phase 4.
In this phase players decide which of their machines/robots are used and adjust their production storage and energy tracks, at the same time setting aside the necessary workers to operate the factory in the canteen. These workers will not be available in the following turn for bidding or use in phases 2 and 3. Finally after all players have made the necessary adjustments, the energy price rise (from 0 to 2) will be revealed.
- In this phase, players collect income which is determined by the lower of production and storage less the cost of energy determined by the amount used multiplied by the cost determined in phase 4. The income is doubled in the final round, so this is something to bear in mind.
I like this game, it is different to Power Grid and I have heard some people say they like it more, while others prefer the former game. I'm not yet willing to say I like it as much as Power Grid, that is one of my favourite games and I do have slight doubts as to the replayability of this one, although it has to be said that here has been plenty of variety in the games I have played so far, with some games where a lot of people go for a lot of machines, compared with other where robots are much in demand and further variation in whether people go for production robots or personnel robots. There has also been variation in demand for optimisation/control tiles. The one thing you can guarantee that will be wanted is storage.
This variation has possibly been driven by the fact that the low end of each type of tile is maybe not very good and if no one is prepared to bring the lesser value tiles into the market, then the higher value ones never get bought, although it is possible to move past the lower end tiles without buying them if players cooperate. It is possible that a more predictable pattern will appear with more play, but that remains to be seen, I think there is a fair bit of life in this.
Our 2 games this Wednesday were markedly different; the first was very close, suing the beginners' rule, which sets energy cost increase to zero in the first round. In the second game, the energy cost went up by 2 in the first round and I made the mistake of thinking that that meant it went from 1 to 3, in fact the 2 is a column shift on the table, so the rise should have only been to 2. This was combined with Donald having done a better job of controlling his energy use on the first round than Steve and even more so than me and as a result, it was something of a runaway. I played a further 4 more games at Midcon, some with, some without the beginners rule and all were close, interestingly they also tended to be higher scoring than these 2 games, although this may have been connected to all being played with 4 or 5 players.
Over on the other table, 3 different games were played.