Review: Mechanica

Mechanica is an engine building game where you must buy factory improvements and fit them together like puzzle pieces to manufacture the best TIDYBOTS. Ship out as many as possible to prepare for (the definitely harmless) OPERATION CLEANUP. Each turn players create basic bots and move them down their assembly lines—through the improvements they’ve snapped into their factories.

The Good

Creepy Robot Foreshadowing (+7)

There’s quite a treat for those who are on point for learning this game. I normally don’t read the entire flavor text of rulebooks for the sake of saving time, but I did not regret reading the entire thing this time. It’s a combination of cute, weird and creepy. While this feeling is not in direct connection with the gameplay, it does set a fun tone.

App and Art Enhances the Factory (+8)

Augmented reality is a thing, and they’ve included it as a way to explain some of the mechanics in the game through their own homebrew app. The animations are a little jittery but I admit it does help illustrate things. In addition to the quick guides they’ve added to the rulebook, it should all make sense. Even at an aesthetic level the color scheme is pleasant, especially because I’m so over the use of primary colors! As I mentioned before, the tone is paired with the quite ominous art; you think that it’s cute at first glance but then you look at robot body language and second guess yourself.

Comfortable yet Rewarding Learning Curve (+7)

I find with looping people into your games that it really needs a good headline — building a robot-making factory was a great sell even at a local gaming convention. While this is not really not a pick-up-and-play game, it does go by very quickly once you have the muscle memory for the turn phases. The beginnings of the game feel very resource starved, but there is a part that folks can add to their factories that provide resources to all other players. I enjoy that the designers felt this was a valid thing to incorporate, as it does keep the gameplay slightly more lighthearted. Once you’re on the joy ride part of the learning curve, hopefully you’ll find the mad scientist aspect to this game comes naturally.

The Bad

Simultaneous Gameplay (-4)

This was not the most fun game to play where everyone was learning at the same time. I almost want to suggest that you play through this with only one other person or even by yourself to get a hang of what feels legal or illegal in the rules. For this reason, I’m not a fan of the simultaneous gameplay as it’s hard to track and keep everyone honest in the order of operations-intensive phases. Almost everyone in the first few rounds needed clarification on what they built, and some even felt awkward when there were other players waiting on them.

Interpreting Conveyor Belt Movement (-1)

In the rulebook it says that even if things do not physically or visually connect that you can assume that your placements are valid as long as directional arrows are taken into consideration. However, explaining this and taking action on this with conveyor belt jumps was confusing and unnatural to most everyone at the table. From a visual and even thematic standpoint, it was in conflict with the flexibility of the rulebook.

Ambiguous Part Values (-2)

Points in the game equate to wealth generated by the factory and the factory itself. With how expensive things are in the game, I couldn’t see how you would ever fill up the factory to the brim. It was hard enough to purchase things I wanted and I found I was always forced to purchase them for the highest price. The tradeoff between money (which is a 1:1 ratio) and improvement parts for the factory (which was a situational ratio) was ambiguous. When executed incorrectly, it was devastating but when executed correctly it still created waste. The time to course correct isn’t there and the game feels so fast, so I wish we had a few more turns to really see the factory churning when built correctly.

The Ugly

Things Don’t Quite Fit (-2)

I wish the robots had cute little buttons or some contraption so they could properly fit into the holes on the gameboard. Right now, they can stay put on the different segments of the factory but they wobble quite a bit. During the unboxing of this game, the vault tops were a little difficult to put on without bending or scraping the edges just a little. Then come the puzzle pieces; I can’t tell if the game itself has an opinion on whether they should optimally fit together but the rules say they don’t care.

Box Insert Minimally Helpful (-2)

The added excitement and gears turning for the improvement market is entertaining, but it does make it really hard to read when sitting in the insert. Thankfully there aren’t too many improvements to memorize.
The concept of having a box you can use while in game is creative but there are not enough dividers for things like the robots and the coins for it to make sense. Almost every game I played, we all just dumped out the coins and the robots for easier identification and access.

Some Quality and Variety is Lacking (-2)

The game needs more factory parts! Some at face value didn’t seem to make sense but when the situation was just right they came in handy; for example, one improvement just launches it over all the others into a truck for shipment! Even if we did get new parts in the future, I cannot stress enough how thin they felt compared with everything else in the game. You’d think that the components that get the most handling and moving around would have the upgrade treatment with the manufacturer…

Difficulty: 2/5 for Advanced
Satisfaction Grade: C+ (78.7%) for Good
Worth Your Money? Yes!

Mechanica is available online or with your FLGS, check the publisher’s website here.