Each month, the Indie Spotlight highlights a new game that exemplifies the creativity, cleverness, and beauty of today’s independent games market.
This month’s Indie Spotlight is:
What can we say – we’re on a building kick lately. It wasn’t our intention to choose back-to-back Spotlight games that focus on constructing an efficient engine or that focus on factories, but here we are. Luckily there’s been such a slew of appropriate games to choose from this year it hasn’t been hard finding excellent examples of them. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that that each of them tackle the concept of engine building in distinctly different ways. And when it comes to choosing a game, be it for a showcase or a retail shelf, understanding those distinctions is key to finding one that will resonate best for you.
This slightly more curated approach will continue to be an ever-growing part of game selection as the number of titles released continues to grow, as the hobby provides more diverse options, and even as your personal tastes may change. While it was easy to once say that a deckbuilder was a deckbuilder, there is now enough variation of mechanic and theme that you need to inquire about more than simply its core premise. The same can be said about tableau-building games. Broadly speaking, in these games the main purpose is to play cards to the table in front of you. However, how you add those precious cards to the table varies wildly from game to game. Do you draft them? Do you buy them? Do you march your army of across the table and forcibly annex them? All of these could fuel the same core tableau idea, illustrating that not all games of the same family are guaranteed to behave the same way. For a style of game treated dismissively by some as too non-interactive, how the disparate parts of a tableau game interact with one another are, somewhat ironically, essential to carving out a unique identity in a crowded field.
Establishing an identity is certainly part of the intent for Fantastic Factories, the latest tableau builder to grace the stage. In this inaugural title by Metafactory Games (and just recently announced to be partnering with Deep Water Games), players find themselves in the middle of a manufacturing frenzy, spurred on by the desire to become the most efficient industrialist around. Rather than having its aesthetic relegated to some 19th century boomtown, however, Fantastic Factories lives up to its namesake with a lightweight-yet-strategic building game that exudes brightness, vibrancy, and a visual playfulness not often found on similarly themed titles. That alone is worthy of some attention.
The gameplay certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Over a number of rounds, each player is racing to manufacture a dozen goods or construct 10 buildings. With a bevy of card synergy to experiment with, the game has quite a number of different ways to accomplish this, though the general flow of is quite straightforward. During the first half of a round players will either draft or purchase cards from the marketplace that are either used to generate resources or construct new buildings. Then, using dice as workers, players roll their dice and allocate them to run the various buildings and factories in their tableau, often chaining one result into the next in a rewarding fashion. Buildings provide a host of abilities, including dice manipulation, recruiting new workers, reducing costs, and more, giving players plenty to consider even in its short play time. To minimize downtime, everyone performs their dice rolls and worker allocations simultaneously, keeping the game brisk while letting everyone focus on optimizing their Rube Goldberg-like facilities.
While Fantastic Factories has many aspects seen before, the combinations of its component parts assemble to an experience that is ideal for those who enjoy the satisfying sensation of building up a finely tuned tableau without wanting to spend two hours doing so or whose flavor is that of a bland historic setting. Designing a game that distills such an experience down into a quick 45 minute exercise without simplifying strategy too much is certainly easier said than done, and it seems worthy to recognize that accomplishment.
But don’t take our word for it. Go grab your hardhat and let the race begin!
Do you have a game that we should spotlight? Let us know at: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Previous Indie Game Spotlights:
September 2019: Chocolate Factory | Review | Q&A | Developer’s Site
August 2019: Re-Chord | Review | Developer’s Site
June 2019: The Valley of Alchemists | Review | Developer’s Site
April 2019: Mountaineers | Review | Developer’s Site
January 2019: Good Dog, Bad Zombie | Review | Q&A | Developer’s Site