Recommend
12 
 Thumb up
 Hide
3 Posts

Industria» Forums » Reviews

Subject: User Review rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Michael Webb
United States
Western Mitten
flag msg tools
designer
badge
GET A SILK BAG FROM THE GRAVEYARD DUCK TO LIVE LONGER.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Originally appeared in slightly altered form in Boulder Game Notes #18


Designer Michael Schact is a relatively well-known name in the board gaming hobby. Though many of his games have remained German only releases, the occasional English editions of such titles as Coloretto, Magna Grecia, Fist of Dragonstones, and Web of Power have helped to keep him on the radar screens of many North American board gaming afficionados.

Schact's games are typically characterized by a minimalist theme, quick playtime, an element of chance, and simple rules which nevertheless allow plenty of strategy to be employed. Being a fan of his elegant Web of Power, and an auction game lover, I was immediately drawn in to his newest design, Industria, which debuted at last year's Essen game fair.

Industria attempts to emulate the 600 year development of industry with the 3-4 players representing prospective investors who, over the course of 5 'Epochs', bid for the right to build both the newest factories and technology of the day.

Industria is an attractive, yet small in stature game. The box itself is extremely compact, and could have been made even moreso as the number of components is slight: only a board, ownership markers for players to mark their factories with, a small quantity of wooden money, and the tiles which are put up for auction. The artwork on both the box, and the board itself (which the tiles share) is wonderful, and evokes the theme well.

But what of the game itself?

Industria is, at it's heart, a pure auction game with some original mechanics to keep it interesting. The game is made up of 5 rounds, referred to as 'Epochs'. Each Epoch has 12 tiles put up for auction within it, a mix of factories (both production and non-production), technologies, materials (used to build both factories and technologies), and bonus tiles.

At the beginning of each turn the starting player flips over 3-4 tiles (equal to the number of players) at random from the current Epoch's pile, and chooses one to put up for auction. Each player, in succession, has one chance, and one chance only to bid on the tile. When the bidding comes back to the auctioneer they are faced with a choice; they can either accept the highest bid, take the bidder's money, give them the tile, and choose another tile to auction or they can keep the tile for free themselves but in doing so be forced to pass the remaining tiles to the player on their left, who then has the chance to auction them off and rake in the money. If no one bid on the tile put up the auctioneer is forced to take the tile and pass on auctioning duties, which also lends an interesting and strategic dynamic to the game.

The tiles themselves each play into a distinct strategy. Factories come in two flavours, production and non-production and require a monetary cost, and often a material cost as well.

Production buildings score few (or no) victory points when they're erected, but they produce materials (Glass, Bricks, Electricity, &c.) which are needed to build both future factories and technologies. These materials are usable for free by the owner, but opponents are forced to pay 1 dollar to the owner each time they have to make use of one, so they are the best route to steady income, which is badly needed, particularly in the early going.

Non-production buildings make no materials, but score significant victory points immediately, and are often 'linked' by roads or railways. Links are a Schact staple, and in Industria they can provide significant bonuses in the end game.

Both types of factories can be built in their own Epoch, or in a future one, but constructing them out of their time period comes with a penalty, as any victory points that would have been gained are forfeited (though you'll still get the points for their links at the end of the game).

Technology tiles are also available, they require only materials to build, and can provide large boosts of victory points, usually moreso than the non-production factories, and also have links to each other. So why bother with the non-production factories at all? Because technologies represent a significant gamble. Most of them require materials that are only made available in their own Epoch, and they can only be built in that Epoch as well, so investing in technology generally means not only getting the technology tile itself, but additionally needing to acquire the production factory or material card necessary to build it. This is a fact which defensive players will key in on and take advantage of by driving up the auction price on needed goods, and by holding back on building needed production factories until the Epoch switches, 'stranding' technologies in their owner's hand.

Material tiles and Bonus tiles round out the available items up for auction. Material tiles are exactly what they sound like, a one use material that can be used to help build technology (their most common use) or factories. They can also be traded in for 1 dollar at any time. Bonus tiles come in five different types, and depict a symbol which also is also shown on several of the factories, at the end of the game players tally up the number of matching factories with those symbols which they have built, and score points for each. These can add up to an extremely large number of points at the end game, particularly if players have two or three of the bonus tiles built as many of the later factories depict 2 bonus symbols!

Fine and good, but how does all of this fit together?

Quite well actually!

The need to build both production factories to gain income, and non-production buildings and/or technologies to gain victory points is spot on, and well-balanced. Additionally, the unique mechanic of the auction can create interesting situations where a player badly wants a given tile, but also needs money and is forced to either take the tile right away, or to start with another tile instead and take the chance of being stuck with it by the other players.

Striking the correct balance between making money and scoring points is at the heart of this game, and lends tension. Players start with only 4 dollars, and gain only a single dollar at the start of each auction so money tends to be very, very tight in the early going, thusly making production buildings crucial, and auctions much more interesting. More than once I've flipped over a crucial tile only to be forced to auction it out of desperate need for income.

Changing item values also keep the auctions interesting, if I own both the Glass Works (a production building which makes Glass) and the Quarry (a production building that makes Stone) a building like the Bank (which requires both Glass and Stone to build, potentially 2 dollars in materials) can represent either a cheap investment (since those materials are free for me) or a quick way to make some cash, as the other players would have to give me the two dollars for the materials needed to build it!

This isn't to say that the game is without faults. Firstly, in the 4 player game the last player is forced to go a full Epoch without starting an auction and this means they are put at a significant disadvantage in a game where money is so tight.

Secondly, it's only available in German, and people unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the language will probably want to spend some time with the scissors and paste to modify both the board and the tiles over for play. This isn't completely necessary to play, but it certainly makes the game more enjoyable from a thematic standpoint.

Finally, I question the longevity of the title. I've enjoyed my outings to date, but I feel that the limited paths to victory (non-production buildings + bonus tiles or one more dedicated to Technologies) will make the game good for a time, but make it feel formulaic with heavier play.

All that said, I think some of the 'faults' that people have pointed out in the game aren't faults at all. Many for example claim that money is artificially tight, and that it makes the game more difficult than it should be. I counter by saying that the money is only obscenely tight if you spend heavily early without investing in production. Some games you might have to wait until the second Epoch to get a production building, but the opportunity is always there if you're patient.

Many of the same critics also say that the auction system leads to players each 'choosing' a tile in order rather than auctioning them because the value of a particular tile that they flipped over is so high to them. Well, this can certainly be the case in the extreme late game where money is devalued, but in the early game simply taking the tile you'd ideally like rather than running a good auction is the surest way to the poor house I can think of. Perhaps the lack of money these people are experiencing is due in part to poor auctioning strategy?

A final complaint levelled regularly is the 'lucky tile draw' issue. This I have to agree with, again, especially in the 4 player game. Flipping over a run of valued production buildings certainly is a recipe for significant income while too many bonus tiles or material tiles can lead to a lacklustre auction and a cash flow problem for the auctioneer. This hurts particularly bad in the 4 player game because it's that much longer until you get the next chance to auction.

All of these issues are lessened by only playing the game with 3 though, and unlike the manual suggests, going the full 5 Epochs instead of only 4. With 3 players, everyone gets a chance to run an auction in the first Epoch, and each is able to get more production buildings leading to a strong income by the mid game. Going the full 5 Epochs also means that each player will get to run more auctions over the course of the game, so luck of the draw will tend to even out more as well.

Overall, I feel the game works fine with 4, but really shines with 3, quite an unexpected thing for an auction game! Industria reminds me of Web of Power in many ways, it's fast paced (3 experienced players can easily run through it in under an hour) with a luck element, yet the skilled players still have enough room to rise to the top of the heap. If you're a fan of auction games, and want to try something that's medium weight and features some unique twists, I definitely recommend Industria, it's gotten regular time on my tabletop, and I anticipate that being the case for some time to come.

--

I might also add that since my original review of Industria I've gotten a chance to play it some more, and my opinion on it is holding steady. While I'm not ready to say that the longevity issue was a phantom one yet, I'm starting to think that it might be.

Industria seemed, at first, to be a lighter weight game, mediumish at best, but repeated plays have shown me that it's mechanics actually can push it into the heavy weight end of the spectrum.

The timing issues in the game, and decisions are simply deeper than they appear to be on the surface. The decision of when to build a factory, keeping track of who wants what and how much they should have to pay for it, and the always fun option of sticking the person who got the 'lucky draw' with the first tile they put up in the name of damage control all make this game shine for me.

I still think it's best with 3 because of the reduction of tile draw luck, but I'm beginning to feel that because of the mechanics of the auction, a group which doesn't want to be screwed by repeated lucky draws simply doesn't have to be.

A really nice, under appreciated game by Schact. A shame this was never translated into English, as the game is taking a lot of flak based on it's German only status, much of which I think is undeserved. Using my pasted up set I've yet to get a lukewarm response to this game...
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bernd Dietrich
Germany
Troisdorf
Unspecified
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi,
OK, Queens webpage isn't that actual ...
but there are in fact some translations as a pdf file (fully colored illustrated) for some games available.
Please check this link
http://www.queen-games.de/pages/30000frm.htm

Have fun
Bernd
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bernd Dietrich
Germany
Troisdorf
Unspecified
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi,
OK, Queens webpage isn't that actual ...
but there are in fact some translations as a pdf file (fully colored illustrated) for some games available.
Please check this link
http://www.queen-games.de/pages/30000frm.htm

Have fun
Bernd
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.