For the Meeple, by the Meeple
Automania is a 2-4 player game about producing cars in both the North American and European markets. Your job is to meet the similar yet different demands of the these markets in an effort to produce the most popular cars and gain the most points by the end of the game. To produce the most popular cars you will need to staff your factory, provide the markets desired features for your cars, and of course, add some of the more appealing details to your cars such as spoilers, exhaust pipes, etc.
The board in Automania is quite attractive and very functional. A scoring track circles the playing area as is custom in many games. Just inside the track on either side (left being North America and right being European) is a column of ships that represent the delivery of the produced cars with each ship carrying cars of a distinct level of popularity. Under these ships are the coinciding markets in which the cars will be sold.
The middle of the board also has multiple things going on that function well together. At the top but still below the scoring track is a 4x4 grid that holds the three types of tiles that drive the game (machine tiles, manager tiles, and styling tiles). Around this grid are nine action spaces that are used to determine which row or column you will take a tile from, as well as, which action you will be taking that turn. Just under the grid are two locations used for gaining money or popularity.
Near the bottom of the board, still in the center, is an area that allows players to decide how they would like to approach the selling phase of the round and decide on turn order for the following round.
Surrounding that are the demand areas for each market. This vital area helps the players learn about their customers and what each market is looking for in cars.
The components for this game are for the most part satisfactory. There are standard meeples used as workers for each players and round and score trackers, there are sturdy tiles used as the features of your car and the employees of your factory, there are card board player mats, and there are quality chits used for money in denominations of 1,2,5, and 10 and for the cars each player will produce. The only component that did not seem up-to-par were the cards used to set goals for your production. While the cards are not terrible they are quite thin and should probably be sleeved for safe measure.
The game consists of four rounds. In each round the first player will begin by deciding if he or she would like to place a worker on one of the three types of actions spaces located around the 4x4 grid or if he or she would like to withdrawal from the round and choose a sales office to work from during the selling phase.
Early in each round players will likely only be choosing to place workers since that is how you improve your factory and the popularity of your produced cars. To use an action space the current play must place the appropriate number of workers on an action space. To determine the appropriate number of workers to place the player must account for the current number of players already in the space and add one. Therefore, an empty space requires one worker, a space containing one worker belonging to an opponent requires two, and so on. If a space is taken that contains an opponent's workers that player receives his workers and may use them again in the same round.
Once an action space is chosen the player must also select a tile that is in the column or row that is connected to that action space. The spaces running along the top of the grid allow you to take a tile from the columns running directly below each action space while the action spaces running down the left side of the grid allow the player to take a tile from the rows running out from each action space. This causes a cross-grid and allows players to be able to access each tile from two different action spaces. There is however, one special action space located in the top left corner that does not provide the player an opportunity to select a tile but does allow a special action.
At any point the player may also simply place any number of workers on the two special spaces below the grid that allow for more money or more popularity that round. However, players will not be able to retrieve these workers until the end of the round because all players may have workers on these spaces at the same time.
Once a tile has been chosen it is placed in the appropriate area of the player mat (their factory) or discarded. The player then takes the action corresponding with the action space they chose and play continues to the next player. The actions spaces available are: produce one of the three kinds of cars according to the space chosen or take a card that helps provide points at the end of the game for producing a particular kind of car.
The round continues until all players have withdrawn and chosen a sales office for the selling phase and a spot in the turn order for the next round.
During the selling phase the cars that had been produced by the players and loaded on the ships in either market are sold (if desired by the owner). This is done by taking the most popular car produced and placing it in one of the seven locations in the market area below the ship. This continues until all cars are sold or left in the ships. Each space offers points, money, or both for the player that chooses it. Once all cars have been sold in the North American market the cars in the European market are sold.
When all cars have been sold players reset the grid with new tiles and change the market demands according to the wishes of the player with the least points on the scoring track. As mentioned before, this will last for four rounds. The players then calculate who has the most money, the second most, etc and award each player a corresponding number of points based on their position and then account for any objective cards that provide points during the end of game scoring. The player with the highest number of points wins the game.
The artwork is this game is cartoonish but it is not entirely off-putting and once you start playing the game you realize Automania is a medium weight game that at first glance looks lighter. There are several moving parts in this game that make it seems as though it could be fiddly and yet I never got that feeling as we were playing. This may be because the board so clearly walks you through the procedure of each round and makes obvious what everything is and where everything should go. Regarding functionality, this is one of my favorite boards in my collection.
As for the gameplay, the several moving parts are what help take this game out of the light-weight category and into the medium weight category. You must keep an eye on all the parts and employees other players are putting into their factory because if you do not you may not sell in the appropriate market to maximize your car's potential. By knowing your opponent's factories you may also impact the demands in each market to force the other players to adjust their production choices in following rounds. There are several things to consider if you want to dig into the decision-making process and yet if you just want to focus on your own factory there are still several choices to make in regards to how to use your workers and how to maximize the popularity of your cars.
There is a solid game in Automania. There are numerous meaningful choices, a small bit of player interaction when considering taking desired tiles or competing for a space when loading cars onto a ship, and to top it off a relatively unique theme that is something most people can relate to. While the theme and the mechanics don't go together flawlessly, you do feel the theme as you are playing. Whether it be running your factory efficiently or deciding on which market you fit in best you do feel like you are making choices that can be related to real life car manufacturing.
I would strongly suggest this game to gaming families with appropriately aged children but I would also recommend this game to anyone looking for a solid game without the complexity of a heavy euro.
*This review is based on the first edition of Automania (the yellow box, not white). I have not played the second edition and cannot speak to the changes that may have been made.
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- Last edited Thu Sep 8, 2016 3:35 am (Total Number of Edits: 14)
- Posted Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:56 pm