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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Mechanica

Game: Mechanica

Publisher: Resonym

Designer: Mary Flanagan, Emma Hobday, Max Seidman

Year: 2019


Mechanica is a board game themed around roombas. Slightly evil roombas, but, doesn't everyone love roombas? Robot vacuum cleaners featured in Quirky Circuits - one of my favourite of 2019 and now I get to play a SECOND game with roombas in it?!

In Mechanica, you're not just limited to your standard roomba - you're building a roomba factory! Your sole purpose is to upgrade your factory and build upgraded roombas to sell for money or towards contracts. Mechanica takes mechanisms and theme and really blurs the lines - you're constructing a production line that you'll run every turn and you're literally building it in front of yourself out of puzzle pieces. I dare you to disobey the rule that recommends that you push the big button (first player toke each turn) to signify that it's time to run your production line! I dare you harder not to make a buzzer noise while you do it!

Each player starts the game with an empty factory that produces one basic, white robot. At the start of a round, everyone runs their factory. In round one, the white robot will travel along the conveyor to the awaiting small truck, but as you add to the factory it will start to upgrade, duplicate, convert and divert robots. Robots in your trucks can they we sold for money, or exchanged for money that goes straight in your vault and therefore can't be spent. The exchange rate is better if you fulfil contracts, but you want some money to spend too. With your spending money, you can buy factory upgrades in three types. The upgrades on the spinning conveyor are the main element of the game and these range in cost from 7-to-2, depreciating each turn if they are not purchased. Additionally you can buy forks to turn robots around corners and bigger trucks for when your factory produces more than three robots each turn. The game continues until all of the upgrades have passed round the conveyor and then each player totals money in their vault, leftover spending money and the value of any upgrades in their factory. The player with the most money wins.

 

Mechanica is a game that uses its insert to the max! Setup time is minimal because you leave most of the components in the game box, which becomes the central board. For me, the look of this game when you open the box is, honestly, one of the most exciting things I've ever seen in a game box. The combination of jigsaw puzzle pieces, cute robot miniatures, bright colours and a spinning conveyor that's made to hold jigsaw pieces, made me super excited to play the game. It's hardly rocket science in terms of it's production, but it is so well done! You might want to take the coins and robots out of the insert for easier access, but everything else works like a dream. Even the flavour text is endearing in this game. All of the contract cards, as well as the rulebook contain flavour text with small hints that the robots are all about cleaning, they also seem to have an undercurrent of hatred for the human species.


I really enjoy how literally Mechanica portrays its theme. It works well for me because I don't care about theme in games, but in the end, the theme of this game is simply mechanisms, so it couldn't go far wrong! Each turn is a new puzzle to figure out. It's not only spatial, but there's a big timing element too. Since many of the components cause the robots to pause on the conveyor belts, you need to be really careful to make sure there's not collisions and that you have enough space for your robots. It's not a puzzle for the feint-hearted and we've both made a handful of mistakes each game, but I like the fact that it's challenging - it means that it's not boring after you first couple of games. Even the turntable is a puzzle all of its own and it becomes a key aspect of player interaction, especially with two players. If a tile falls into oblivion, there's a big bonus for the active player, so its important to keep a watchful eye on the status and really assess the value of purchasing the different available tiles - it's a cool economic aspect that's been woven into the game.

You'd be forgiven for looking at Mechanica and assuming it's a family weight game. Sure, it's colourful and fun, but the reality is that it can be really quite challenging and harsh. You need to make decisions early in the game about tile placement that you can't go back on without making a pretty big sacrifice. It's almost inevitable that you'll see a tile come onto the turntable and think 'if only I'd built my whole machine one space further to the left/right'. Familiarity certainly helps with identifying some of the natural combinations of parts, and using forks to cleverly send robots to different areas of your factory is possible, but it definitely takes some skill to figure it all out. They're not called jigsaw 'puzzles' without a reason! It's also really important to keep your eye on the end of the game. When all the tiles are gone, that's it and everything still in your factory is wasted. You shouldn't really be adding more tiles in your last couple of turns - it's all about getting the highest value robots out of the factory just in time. The end can feel a little abrupt if you haven't seen it coming.


Mechanica is a great little engine building game. It's quite literal and basic in its concepts, but the spatial element really gets you thinking and it's a lot of fun to come up with different combinations to make a well-oiled machine. Planning a turn can get a little slow as you figure out your machine later in the game and you can be punished for early mistakes and end up with a clunky or wasteful machine near the end if you're not careful. The colourful and super endearing production might trick a few people into believing it's a lighter game choice, but it's one of the more brain-burning games I've played for a while. If you're an engine building fan, looking for a tactile and endearing game to set your cogs in motion, then Mechanica is a great pick. For the Yellow Meeple, it's a 7.5/10.



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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