Gizmos Review - A Unique Take On Engine Building

Gizmos Review - A Unique Take On Engine Building

Quick Glance: Gizmos by CMON Limited

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  • Game Type: Science Building

  • Number of Players: 2-4

  • Mechanics: Engine Building, Card Drafting, Tableau Building

  • Difficulty: Light-medium

  • Release: 2018

  • MSRP: $34.99

Introduction/Overview: It’s time for the Science Fair! Players in Gizmos are competing to build the most powerful engine. Draft resources, put them through your machine and watch victory emerge from the other end. Gizmos is the most recent game by Phil-Walker Harding, one of the hottest game designers going right now. His other recent games include Barenpark, Sushi Go Party!, Imhotep, and Archaeology: The New Expedition. Does Gizmos continue that impressive run of games, or does it blow a circuit and sputter to a stop? Let’s get under the hood.

Everything in its place

Gameplay: Each player gets a strip of cardboard that clearly lays out their work area. Three piles of Gizmo cards are shuffled, and a few are dealt out to make a central display. Then the Giant Gumball Dispenser of Merriment ™ is leaded full of marbles, and you’re pretty much ready to go. On a turn, a player chooses one of the four available actions shown on the player board and then activates every gizmo card under that action. Those four actions are File, Pick, Build, and Research. Let’s go into a bit more detail on each.

File: you take a card from the central display and put it into your Archive (hand).

Pick: Pick one of the six marbles that are visible in the dispenser. 

Build: Build 1 gizmo either directly from the board or your Archive.

Research: Draw a number of cards from the top of one of the 3 stacks and either build it or add it to your archive.

Those are seriously all of the choices you have to make in the game. Where the game lives is in the interactions of the gizmo cards themselves. Each card either makes one of the four actions more useful, or enhances your ability to use the marbles you draw more efficiently. Each card ability also stacks as the game goes on, so if you add 3 cards to your File action space, you might be able to get 3-4 extra marbles every time you use that action. Or you can add cards to your build space that give you marbles and bonus points for building gizmos of a certain color. There are several different paths to success in Gizmos.

A closeup of some of the components

This goes until one player either builds their 16th gizmo, or one player builds three level 3 gizmos into their machine. Then points are totaled and a winner is found!

Rulebook: A great rulebook. It’s large with a great number of illustrations that make it easy to understand. I would have possibly liked more than 1 copy of the icon gallery, as there is a lot of iconography in the game. However, the icons are clear enough that most players will never look at that sheet after the first game.

Theme: The theme is fun, and the marble hopper helps give the game a great toy factor, but it’s all just a cover for collecting cards with different colored stripes and icons for points. It does feel like you are building a machine of sorts, so it’s a successful mixing of mechanics to hint at the theme.

Set-Up/Takedown: Initial set-up is kind of a bear because you have to build the marble hopper, and it’s got a couple of odd parts to put together. That’s a one-time deal as the box has a wonderful insert that holds the hopper and all pieces securely.

Components: Marble hopper. ‘nuff said. 

The marble hopper...aka the coolest game component in history

Solo-Play: Nope

Final Thoughts: I love this game. It might be my favorite pure engine-building game, and that’s a genre I adore. The marble hopper may be a toy, but it’s a functional one that slyly helps guild your strategy. Don’t see what you want? You either can keep picking to try and get it, or you can modify your machine to force it to make the colors you need. If I have any complaints at all, it’s that I feel as though the game ends just as it’s really getting going. This is an issue with almost every engine building game though, so there’s nothing unusual here. It doesn’t detract much from my overall enjoyment of the game. Although I may mess around with some variants in my next few plays.

Gizmos is easy to learn, fast to play, and gives players a fun little mental puzzle to work on at the same time. Phil Walker-Harding has done it again. Gizmos is a truly wonderful game.

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