Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 2 October 2018

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears:- Gearworks

Game: Gearworks

Publisher: PieceKeeper Games

Designer: Kirk Dennison

Year: 2018

Gearworks is a 2-4 player puzzle game in which players will attempt to be the best mechanical engineers. Spending their time trying to repair the great contraption players will correctly insert gears, and should they happen to remove a few non-vital components to complete their own personal project, well what's the harm in that?

Each round, players are dealt 5 new gear cards (they may have cards from previous rounds too) and 1 new contraption card. The central grid is seeded with a handful of gear cards depending on player number and play is ready to begin. Players take turns adding a gear card to the grid, when they do so they claim ownership of the column and row that they placed the card into. Should it reach the end of the round and they still have that claim then they will get components worth end game points. However, if someone plays into that column or row later then they can steal it back resulting in a tug of war for specific components.

There are strict rules on where you can place a card, rows must be in either ascending or descending order (set when the second gear card is placed in a row), while columns can only contain one of each of the 5 colours. This naturally makes it harder and harder to play cards until you find yourself needing to pass. Should everyone pass in a row then the round ends and components are rewarded to the current owners of each row and column. Each player has a contraption card which requires 2 components to be made, while all components are worth points the ones required for your contraption are worth far more, giving you two pieces to really aim for as you play each round.

The game takes place on a 5x4 grid (4x4 in a 2 player game) Each column and row holds a component, which you claim if you control that column/row at the end of the round.

One of the parts I liked the most was the sparks, these little wooden pieces can be spent to draw extra cards or even to place a gear card on top of another. It's useful to have a handful of these, but the way you earn them isn't always easy. You need to by place a gear where the sum or subtraction of two of their neighbours equals the number on the card you played. This encourages you to play a little sub-optimally for the reward of sparks that can make a huge different if properly used! In addition each player has a unique player power they can use once on each of the 3 rounds. Should you not use it you gain a spark, so it's win-win either way.

When playing with 2 players the arena is shrunk a little and some of the higher numbers are removed from the gear deck to keep the game tight. This works adequately but there was definitely a feeling of being unable to get ahead. Almost every round we found that we were getting the same number of components. This meant the game came largely down to who got the right components rather than quantity. With the lower card variety it also felt easy to get a row blocked off (by putting a 7 next to a 1 for example) with less chance for someone to be able to counter that.

Gearworks is a puzzle game and as such it lives and dies based on the puzzle itself. Fortunately for Gearworks the puzzle, while fairly simple, is good fun. Reminding me most of Sudoku as you you must work out where to optimally place your numbered cards to obey the rules. There can also be an element of bluffing/luck pushing as each player is desperate to get the 2 components stated on their contraption card make it too obvious what you are going for and your opponents may block you on purpose. But leave it too long and you might no-longer be able to place any cards where you need to.

Overall Gearworks is a solid puzzle game, with a focus on tug-of war elements. Some of the elements of the game could be a bit clumsy (flipping gears to be going in the right direction, flipping the markers of who owns each row). but not enough to detract from the overall experience. It's not likely to be the first game I grab for off the shelf, but I certainly wouldn't turn down a game should anyone offer!


Gearworks was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £23.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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