Saturday, January 16, 2010

Two-Player (Power Grid) Factory Manager

Power Grid: Factory Manager is the latest game from Friedman Friess, a green-haired, goofy, and goofy-looking guy who creates really good board games. Most of his games have two "F"s in their German name, and most of his box covers have a substantial amount of green in them, like his hair.

FM is in the same "world" as Power Grid, his most successful game, although its mechanics have little to do with PG. The artwork and detailing are the same, and there is a plant market with lower valued plants available before higher valued ones. But that's where the similarity ends. No route connections, no buying fuel, no running out the fuel supply, and no auto-balancing mechanism for "last place".

Instead, you have a factory with 14 spaces for machines, 9 workers, and money. Each machine adds or reduces to the energy your factory requires to run, adds or reduces the workers your factory requires to run, or adds to the amount you produce or the amount you can store. Two spaces are allocated to certain types of machines, leaving 12 for your general machines, robots, and storage equipment. And 2 of those 10 spaces cost money to build (like Bohnanza, once you build them, they stick around and you don't have to pay for them again).

Your income at the end of each round is the lesser of your production and storage values x 10, minus your energy cost x the price of energy, which rises sporadically over the game's five turns. It starts at an insignificant 1, but could reach 8 by turn five, in theory.

You have available to you each turn the number of workers that are not busy operating your machines. You bid with these workers for turn order: lower turn order means first crack at plants, but less monetary reduction of the plants' costs. Then, in turn order, you drop as many plants from the supply stacks into the market as you have workers (less the ones you used to bid), and each other player does the same, with the last player able to optionally add a few more plants if he or she wants (not in a two-player game).

Then, in turn order, you buy whatever plants you can afford from the market, but no more than one plant per space you have available in your factory, and no more than the number of workers you didn't use for bidding. If you have no space left in your factory, you can clear away a location at the cost of another worker. First player does all of his buying before second player, and so on, and so - barring lack of money - buys all the good plants. Last player generally gets crap to choose from, and pays much less for it.

After all this, you get all of your workers back, reassign as many as you need to run your plants, leaving you with however many are left. You can also buy up to two additional workers at 7 bucks each, which can be used as regular workers for all things. They go away in the next round at this same point, though you can then buy them again.

Any items in the market go back on top of the supply stacks. This means that crap buildings that even the last player didn't want get put back onto the stack and are the first ones out of the gate again on the next round. Power Grid had a mechanism of getting rid of these wastes of space, but Factory Manager leaves these in, apparently deliberately. I'm not sure why. I think PG's idea was better. I found this annoying in FM, but perhaps it's not such a problem in a four or five player game. I will have to see.

You then collect income. The game is limited to five rounds, which is somewhat surprising for this type of game, but seems to be about right. The winner is the one with the most money.

In our game, I had the most money at the end of turn four, and couldn't do anything useful in turn five, so I did nothing and saved my money. Nadine did tons of stuff in turn five, shooting ahead in every area, but costing her a lot of money. As a result, even though income is doubled in turn five, I was still far ahead at the end.

It's a lot of juggling numbers. Add this and that and that, subtract this and that and that, factor in the money and workers required. Unlike PG, it didn't provide much tension as a two-player game, but that may be because we didn't know to block each other for turn order enough. Going first in the turn order is a huge advantage, but only if you have enough workers to do something with it. I suspect that multi-player is where the game shines.


Thursday Bram said...

We had a four-player game of Factory Manager last week. Fun, but we definitely came to the conclusion that turn order mattered after the game ended.

We've got a house rule against calculators or pen and paper for Power Grid, simply because of the length of time games wind up requiring. We tried to keep that rule in place for Factory Manager, but after one game, just about everyone wanted a calculator.

Yehuda said...

If it needs a calculator, it doesn't bode well (for my AP players).