Fantastic Factories is really taking off on Kickstarter, and the creators have been kind enough to provide a fully-functional version of the game on Tabletopia to try out. The game involves constructing a city of buildings manned by robots to manufacture goods, honor the science gods, or create more resources.
Stand Out Features
Simplified, but Interesting Drafting: While the game isn't a deckbuilder it does have the "store" mechanic of a deckbuilder where you take a card from a line of blueprints. This is made a bit more interesting because if none of the cards appeal to you, you can instead discard a card to activate a special worker on a separate draft line. This can be a difficult decision to make because there's a lot of factors going into which card you're going to pick or activate.
Simultaneous Gameplay: After you've picked a card, all players now enter a simultaneous phase where you roll dice and take actions on your board. Yes, it's quite possible to cheat, but I like the idea of all players doing this section on their own. It dramatically speeds up gameplay, but it does have a cost (we'll have more on that cost below.)
Dice as Workers: We've seen this in many great games before (Alien Frontiers, Kingsburg), but this is probably the lightest implementation of this mechanic I've seen. It works really well here. You have a simple set of 3 starting options to place your dice, but you can build buildings that give you more dice slots later. This is a neat idea, and works well.
What We Liked
Fantastic Factories is about as light as Machi Koro (1.55 / 5 Complexity rating on BGG), but it has a strategic depth that definitely exceeds Machi Koro. It's tough to make a game that is both light, and has a good layer of depth, but I think Fantastic Factories succeeds at this. The decisions you make are meaningful, and because you can always spend a die to draw a card, you always have something useful to do on your turns.
The other interesting thing about the game are the variety of buildings. The buildings' powers are nothing revolutionary, they are basically simple versions of the ones you would see in Alien Frontiers, but I really liked having the ability to focus on powers you want, building a simple engine to score victory points.
What Could Be Improved
The major problem with the game is there is a complete lack of player interaction. The only time you interact with another player is when you activate one of the special worker cards that requires you to pick an opponent to give resources.
This lack of Player Interaction makes me think this would have been a fine solo game, but the solo rules are a bit too simple. You are basically racing against a turn timer to get to a moderately variable amount of VP before your time runs out. On the other hand, this lack of player interaction, is what allows for the simultaneous gameplay, that we liked.
Finally, the worker cards are too repetitive. There isn't enough variety among them, and you frequently see duplicates of the same worker in the buy row. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear more workers are part of the Kickstarter stretch goals (only component upgrades are offered.)
Notes on the Tabletopia Version
The Tabletopia version is quite a good adaptation, some care has been taken in placing the components within reach of all players and nearly nicely-labeled bags. We did see a small bug where some cards were incorrectly identified as smaller than other cards, so this makes them sit unevenly in your hand.
Time To Learn: Watching a 10 minute how to play video.
Price: Free on Tabletopia. There is also a Print-And-Play version still available on the Kickstarter.
The Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1602062107/fantastic-factories-a-dice-placement-engine-buildi
Kickstarter Verdict: Fantastic Factories has a lot going for it, but I already have too many games that fill this exact spot in my collection (light strategy/dice placement.) It's very good if Alien Frontiers is too heavy for you, but we love Alien Frontiers, so we decided to pass on this Kickstarter.
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