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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Thursday 15 November 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Gizmos

Game: Gizmos

Publisher: CMON

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding

Year: 2018

It was only two weeks ago that we featured a board game from Phil Walker-Harding. He is definitely a designer of the moment and Gizmos definitely has some buzz around it. On face value, Gizmos is reminiscent of Potion Explosion with a similar marble dispenser. When you open the box, there is first a craft project to overcome, which has you building the dispenser which then sits snugly into the well-designed insert.

The game itself doesn't share any similarity with Potion Explosion. Gizmos is a pure engine building game with the theme of building an engine...it's not really pretending to be anything else. The oversized marble dispenser, that reminds me of an arcade claw machine, is really the only nod to a fun theme, and to a certain extent it's a pretty unnecessary way to create a market of 6 randomised available resources and then a pool of random resources.

Engine building is certainly a favourite mechanic of mine, in games like Terraforming Mars or Alien Artifacts, so let's take a look at how Gizmos takes it back to basics.

Gizmos is a game for 2-4 players where you are building a tableau of cards by spending marbles. Cards are available in Level 1, 2 or 3 from the central supply and have varying costs and victory point values. On your turn, you will take one action which typically either improves your engine or activates a part of your engine. The actions are as follows; Research to search one of the three decks for a card to add to your tableau or to file; File to pick a face up card from the display to reserve for the future; Build to add a face up card or a card you have filed to your tableau; or Select to claim an available marble from the dispenser.

The fun in Gizmos is triggering different combos within your engine. In your first game or two it's quite difficult to identify a good engine, but as we have become more familiar with the system we've developed a few winning strategies. For example; you can really boost the bonuses you get when you file a card and then just file and build cards throughout the game. Or, you can build chain reactions instead, for example; when you build a red card you can select a blue marble and when you select a blue marble you can pick a random marble from the top of the dispenser.

Gizmos is a great game when things are going well. Turns are super satisfying when you're triggering abilities left, right and centre! Unfortunately that's not the way that the game plays every time. In your early games it's hard to identify a strategy and I think that would be off-putting if I introduced this to non-gaming friends or family. In a two-player game, you often find yourself settling for the available cards because the pool doesn't cycle as much as it would in a higher player count game. Opportunities to create something amazing might be more present with more players. I would also say that in every game we have played, the winner has had more fun because they've won by virtue of having the most satisfying game.

With two players, Gizmos is a 20-30 minute game and it's the kind of game that I've been willing to play two or three times in one sitting, in search of a game that really makes me feel proud and successful of what I have achieved. There aren't many games capable of giving me that sense of achievement in such a short space of time and that is certainly in the game's favour. There's certainly some luck in what becomes available in the market and in the marble dispenser, but typically you can attempt to make something good out of your available options within 2-3 turns. I think the level of luck might go down with additional players too.

Given that 80% of our gaming is with two players, we probably won't keep Gizmos, but I'd definitely play the game with a group of 3 or 4 friends who are familiar with it, so that we all have a level playing field of experience. If you can get over the initial play with new players, then it's a great game to introduce to people who like puzzles and real life engines and mechanisms who will enjoy watching all of their moving gears come together. For the Yellow Meeple, Gizmos is a 6/10.

Gizmos was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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