I like a little bit of quirky. Quirky is like gluten free soy sauce in a chicken and mushroom stir fry. Put the right amount of soy sauce in a dish and watch it sing. Watch it bring out all the main intended flavours and make you feel like you can cook anything. You sit there proud at the dinner table as you see satisfied taste buds and tummies. Add too much and it becomes a chore to eat. All the tastes and textures are there, but everything becomes a chore to chomp through. Soy sauce is the very definition of overdoing and trying too hard. Quirky can be fun, but too much quirky is like biting your toenails after six months of leaving them to grow. Mechanica from Resonym tries to walk that tightrope, juggling soy sauce and dealing with overgrown toenails in an analogy that at this point has really just gone too far.
In Mechanica, you’re the owner operator of a Tidybot factory trying to increase your production rate and make the most money. Mechanica is an engine building game. This means as you play you are adding modules to your factory floor which increase the actions you take as you run the production line. At the beginning you’ll be limited in what you will gain every round. By the end of the game modules will combine to create stack effects that will massively increase the number of units you produce to sell on a turn.
Mechanica works like a factory production line with the round commencing by running your factories to produce the various Tidybots that can then be sold on for money. Money is used to buy upgrades and improvements that can be added to your factory floor. Costs on the improvements are decided by an every moving carousel of cost, where the improvements decrease in cost as the rounds progress. Sometimes it makes to hang back for certain improvements to get cheaper so you can snap them up in front of other players, those that are left end up in the recycling and take any bots created by the recycling action. Your factory floor has three horizontal lanes, which you will fill up with improvements as you play or forks to change flow of which lane the bots travel down as they pass through production. It is very possible to create huge cascading combinations as the game progresses, with bots stopping at every point they reach a machine and the action creating a reward that often doesn’t get triggered until the beginning of the following round. An improvement will upgrade a robot to the next level up, or clone it, or clone it and send it in three different direction. Some improvements will downgrade robots, or allow you fabricate a different robot that will travel down the production line when the factories are run again. Tiles can’t be moved and so as you play on, you might find the need to pass by certain improvements you’ve added that are causing the production to back up or waste Tidybots. Mechanica can escalate very quickly into a game where you find yourself tracing the path of production with your finger to work out what results will be created. You’ve also got the option to upgrade trucks to collect more Tidybots, and if you have collected the correct combination, you can trade them in with a blueprint in order to add valuable end game coin to your vault. Look on the vault as a place to squirrel away your coin for the end of the game, taking it out of circulation but also allowing you to save it for end game scoring. It will very quickly dawn on your that Mechanica has the potential to turn into a logic puzzle that must be solved for your to maximise your potential, but I was not complaining.
When the last improvement is purchased, then the game ends and the player with the most money is the winner of the game, until they are wiped out in the soon to be following robot vacuum revolution.
Even with a bigger player number, the down time isn’t too horrendous and you’ll more than likely get this played and packed up in just over an hour. The designers have also taken into account set up and tear down and it’s actually possible to set this game up in minutes due to how everything is played out of the box as you go.
Care and attention. Mechanica is a game that doesn’t seem to have left much to chance. Here’s a chef that has been adding the soy sauce with a spoon and tasting the chicken every couple of minutes to make sure the flavour is there. There’s a lot of clever going on here, from when the factory runs to how you buy the components. Sometimes you’ll need to be making hurried changes in order to fix a cascade that you didn’t mean to cause, other times you’ll end up to your eyes in coin ready for the next round, both of the times you’ll be doffing your cap to the cleverness on display from the designers. I have slight concerns over the ability to catch up if you do end up falling behind, but often it requires patience as opposed to sacrifice, leaving your plans on the shelf for a couple of rounds down the line. The randomness of the upgrade components means that most games are not going to be the same regardless of your familiarity of the game, but with the main components not changing it means that it is possible to try to construct your own favourite combinations. Mechanica is going to work for those who like a puzzle element in their games and I see it working well for those looking for something to play with their pre teens kids. There’s something of a proud moment when you sit across from your youngest as they create a cascade that quite literally gains them a bunch of Tidybots, Coin and Blueprints. Mechanica is a game that has surprised me with what it offers in terms of appearance and fun. Who said vacuum cleaner factories were dull?
Remember the blueprints. Easy to forget but an essential part of scoring big. Also remember you can delete modules without penalty, which becomes important as the game plays
Game Design- Mary Flanagan & Max Seidman
Illustration – Ann-Sophie De Steur
Graphic Design – Cisco Garrido & Mariana Sosa
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
If you would like to support more written pieces on the blog then please consider backing us on Patreon. www.patreon.com/werenotwizards