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Reviews - Factory Fun
 
by Andy Vetromile


Factory Fun boxFactory Fun
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
$49.99

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.

Factory Fun tilesAs 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.

Lifetime Warranty
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 satisfying.

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).

Conclusions
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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