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Review of Gearworks

pic3831625Game: Gearworks

Published: PieceKeeper Games

Designer: Kirk Dennison

Players: 1-4

Playtime: 35-45 Minutes

Play Type: Area Control/ Set Collection

Synopsis:

Once a well renowned tinkerer, you seem to have lost your gusto. Your machines rarely work, and when they do they break easily. The owner of the workshop you work in has given you an ultimatum, produce something incredible or get out. Will you be able to create an incredible invention or will your fellow inventors sabotage your efforts? 

Game Play:

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Set up for this game is fairly simple. Players will need to create piles of resources based on a set up chart. Then they will need to start the playing field by place four cards in the appropriate places on the top and bottom of the play space. Then each player will get a tinkerer with a special ability, a contraption card, 5 gear cards, a reference card, and a spark.

Set up is complete after this. Players will then take turns completing actions for three rounds. After three rounds, the final scores are tallied and the winner will be determined. Players will score points for completing or almost completing contraptions,  points for unused parts and points for unused sparks.

During a round, players will take turns either placing a gear card or passing. If a player chooses to play a gear card they must look at the cards in their hand and then find a space on the board where they can play legally.  There are two rules for playing cards:

Columns: In the Columns A-E there may only be one card of each color.

Rows: In each Row 1-4 the cards must follow in ascending or descending order according to the arrows. Cards can be of equal value next to each other.

Playing gear cards is how players will gain the parts needed to complete contraptions. Once they have placed a card they will take over that row and column, and if they still have control of that row and column at the end of the round they would get the resource associated with it. This takes careful planning though, as there is only one of each resource distributed during the round and control of the areas changes frequently.

If players choose to pass they do not play a card, and must play a spark next turn if they wish to rejoin the round. If all players pass, the round is over.

Whether a player passes or plays a card, they have a few other options that they may choose to implement. First is the player may choose to use a spark. Sparks can be spent to draw a new gear card (giving the player a higher hand limit), replace a gear card following placement rules, draw another contraption card, or re-enter the round.

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Players can gain sparks in two ways. First, they can discard two gear cards from their hand to gain one spark. This can be done multiple times in a turn at any point in your turn. The second  way is tinkering. Tinkering is done while playing a gear card. When players place gear cards they should check the four spaces surrounding the card they intend to place. If any of those cards would add together, or be subtracted to equal the value of the card being placed then the player will gain one spark.

Players may also use their tinkerer ability once per round. Each player has their own unique ability which may include ignoring the color rule once, drawing additional cards, sliding cards or modifying a number by one or two.

Players will continue play in the round until no more players can place cards or until the grid is completed.  Then players will build their contraptions if possible, get a new hand of five gear cards, a new contraption card, determine the leader of the next round, and award sparks to those who gained less parts. Finally, players will reset the board and play their next two rounds.

Once all rounds have been played, players will calculate their final scores. Contraptions are worth 9 points if both parts are there, 4 points if one part is there. Extra parts are worth two points. Sparks are worth one point. Players tally their score and the highest wins.

Components:

The components in Gearworks are very well done. The version you see pictured here is the deluxe edition, but I had the opportunity to look at the base version as well so I will compare them both.

In the deluxe edition, players have access to wooden gears and a plastic insert. The plastic insert to keep everything organized really is what stands out to me in the deluxe edition. However, the wood gears have a nice tactile feel to them. The deluxe edition also includes 3 bonus contraption cards, adding a little more replay ability.

That being said, in the base game the gears are made of the same punch board as the materials. It is a high quality punch board that I was able to punch with no tearing or problems. They feel as though they will last a long time, even with the heavy handling of turning the gears.

The game also has an optional play mat. While I am not normally someone who seeks out play mats, I did purchase the one for Gearworks. Due to the face that the cards are being played in a specific grid, having the play mat helps keep the board tidy and avoid confusion.

As far as the art goes, I really enjoy the steampunk theme. The characters are vivid and have a clear personality to them. The contraptions look just like blueprints which is both thematic and looks great on the table.

Overview:
Positives:
  • Thinky
  • Quick Set Up
  • Indirect Player Interaction
  • Difficult to Master, Easy to Play
  • Unique Mechanics
  • Ability to Manipulate Game Play
  • High Quality Components

Negatives:

  • Low Player Count
  • High Learning Curve

Gearworks is a game that I picked up initially after just one play because I enjoyed it so much. It provided many of the things that I personally enjoy in game play.  It is a very thinky game because managing to get a hold of the correct resources and keep them because a huge struggle. There is a lot more strategy there than just playing cards and getting resources. Players really need to keep in mind what their opponents are doing and what resources they are after.

The game ends up feeling a lot more like a puzzle than just straight area control. Players have to balance their cards to make sure that they can play where they need to. Due to the puzzle aspect of this game though, there is a high learning curve. The game while easy to teach, is difficult to be good at. This can leave new players feeling left behind as they try and figure out a working strategy. We have had turns where a player gets only one part, where everyone else gets 3-5.

Mechanically I feel this game stands out among the competition. The idea that placing cards in certain ways is how players can get resources felt unique. I haven’t seen many other games implementing a puzzle like aspect in a set collection/ resource management game. It was also nice to see that a way to manipulate game play was put into place. The idea of tinkering to get sparks also stood out as a interesting mechanic.

I would suggest this game to anyone who is interested in a more abstract game. Players who enjoy games like Sagrada and Azul will also likely enjoy Gearworks. Additionally players who enjoy the Steampunk theme will likely enjoy Gearworks as the artwork throughout is very well done.  Players who are looking for a challenge should definitely keep a close eye on this one, because while it is a simple game overall it provides a depth of challenge I don’t always see in lighter games.

2 thoughts on “Review of Gearworks

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