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 3 March 2020

Roomba, or Doomba?:- Mechanica

Game: Mechanica

Publisher: Resonym

Designer: Mary Flanagan, Emma Hobday, Max Seidman

Year: 2019

Mechanica is a 1-4 player engine building game in which you are the sole human operator of a factory that creates a range of murderous killbots fantastic cleaning robots. You'll earn money by shipping off constructed robots which you can then spend on buying new upgrades for your factory letting you make more or better robots. Gift-wrapping services or completing special orders will earn you money into your vault, this money isn't accessible to you during the game, but counts at the end. May the richest surviving human win!

At the start of the game you have only a single measly fabricator to your name, capable of producing a single roomba-style robot every turn. At the beginning of every round everyone will activate their factories moving each robot they own along the marked conveyor belts until it reaches the next hole. After moving their robots everyone will activate their equipment, this often involves destroying the robots in the input holes and replacing them with more/better robots on the output holes ready to move next round. While this starts simple, as you build more machines you can set up intricate factories to turn even meager input into fantastic robotic cleanliness!

As your factory grows you can make more and better robots!
After each player has run their factory players will take turns performing a series of 4 actions. Firstly they can sell any robots which have ended in their trucks, these can either be sold to the general population for cash in hand, or used to complete one of the 2 special orders for extra money that goes directly into your vault of end game coins. Next you will have the opportunity to buy new factory equipment. There are standard items  that are always available: trucks for holding more robots ready to sell, or forks which let you change which conveyor belt robots move on. In addition there is a round market which stores more specialised equipment. If you don't want to buy equipment you can also recycle it into instant robots! After buying new equipment you will make robots by filling each slot in your fabricators before finally rotating the store 1 step and refilling it. This continues until each player has hard a turn, after which a new round begins with everyone running their factories. Mechanica ends once the market has completely run out of goods at which point each player will add up the total of the money in their vault with their cash on hand and the value of any installed equipment in their factory.

The standout feature of Mechanica is it's puzzle-piece design. All the equipment that you add to the factory comes in the form of puzzle pieces. This allows your factory pieces to interlock with each other in a sensible way, every tab is an output and every pocket is an input line. So if you are purring two jigsaw pieces together in the way you naturally would then you have connected an output to an input. This is a brilliant way to take a familiar object and turn it's typical use into functioning gameplay. It also serves to prevent easy mistakes such as trying to get two outputs to tun into each other. This may be the only time I applaud puzzle pieces in a board game, so enjoy it while you can! The design strengths continue with the box which not only nicely holds all the pieces you need, but can be used as the store while playing the game. while this is a little clunky for the money and the robots, it does a great job for keeping the game organised.

The box functions both as storage and as the in-game store.

But a beautiful and clever game doesn't necessarily make for a good game. Fortunately it does in this case! creating a functioning factory is a wonderful mix of short and long term goals, adding more machines to your assembly line adds more holes for robots to stop in, which lowers your throughput temporarily. If you keep adding new gear this can dramatically slow down your income, but once it's all running you should see a huge increase in profits. As great as this can feel, it can also go horribly wrong. It's rather typical to realise two rounds later that your life would be much easier if you'd just placed a machine in a different slot. This can lead to an endgame state where you can't actually improve your factory any more, simply because there is no way to increase your output. This means that first time players will be at a natural disadvantage against experienced players who know the pitfalls to avoid. I'm not a huge fan of how limited space is in the game, it led to restriction in your engine, making many of the tiles in game useless to you, which isn't actually that fun, I also found the special orders to be a touch too important considering that luck often favoured one player more than another with them. Despite fantastic components and solid base game Mechanica hasn't quite done enough to earn a spot on the shelf.


Mechnaica was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £44.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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