Theme&andn’What is it?
Prep the Coal
Welcome to the world of 19th century industrial capitalism. You are a power broker of the last century and are looking to turn your wealth into a fortune through the shrewd acquisition of production facilities while using your opponent’s holdings to your own advantage. You’ve got a limited time to strike it rich and prove that you are the best business person the world has ever seen.
Furnace is a bidding/drafting game where you acquire factories and resources then manipulate them into an engine that will make you a fortune. You do this by taking advantage of a unique auction mechanic and then utilizing your engine to produce resources that you can sell for cold hard cash.
Can you create the best corporate engine? Can you show the world who’s the best? The heat is on and your opponents are right on your heels. Good luck.
Stoke the Fires
Furnace is played over four rounds. Each round starts with players taking part in an auction using mechanics I’ve never seen before. Each player has four bids numbered from 1 to 4. You’ll go in turns placing a bid on one of the available factory cards; there’ll be a number of these based on player count. You can place any of your bids on a property with a few exceptions. You can’t place two bids on the same card, and you can’t match a bid already on a card. You can outbid an opponent for a card but you can also underbid them.
After everyone has placed their bids, you’ll go down the row in order and resolve the auctions. Everyone who was outbid will receive compensation from the factory. This is printed on the top of the card and will give players resources, allow them to convert resources, or to exchange resources for victory points. Each player who receives compensation will get it a number of times equal to the bid they placed. The player who wins the bid by placing the highest marker will get the factory to add to their tableau. You continue down the row with each property until you’ve resolved them all.
After this each player will go through their tableau which will include all of the buildings they’ve won and their starting building and perform their actions in whatever order they choose. This will allow them to produce new resources, upgrade factories, and turn in resources for victory points. You must do each card one at a time and once complete you move onto the next card without ever going back.
After everyone has finished you advance the round, deal out a new auction row, and start again. This continues over four rounds. In the end the player with the most points wins.
The game also includes unique powers for each player as an optional rule. However ti is recommended you not use them in the first game.
Heat the Ore
When first looking at this game I wasn’t sure what to think. It has a very striking but dry appearance. After reading the rulebook, I was intrigued by the auction mechanic. It was new to me. It might exist somewhere else in the world but I had never seen it and was excited to try it out.
Smelt the Steel
The quality of this game is exceptional. Everything in it was very well done. The wooden pieces were a nice size and the shapes were easy to distinguish and manipulate. The cards are good stock and had a wonders feel to the. The few pieces of cardboard in the game were nice and thick and easy to move around and use. The bidding discs were four different sizes representing the different bids. This made stacking them and recognizing at a glance who was winning an auction and what bids had been placed on it simple. All told, the components are top notch.
Pour the Bars
I said earlier that the art is striking. It is, and they don’t let the fact that almost every card shows a factory as a reason to hold them back. They did not rest on this. The art is simple and clean but has enough pops of color to give the game an understated beauty. While I don’t know that I would call it beautiful, I would understand having framed copies of the art on your walls.
Strike the Anvil
This is a very thinky game. You will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to bid and the order to perform your own actions. Other than the auction the game does have a bit of a solitaire play experience. You will spend the second half of each turn running your own engine. This game is as much about figuring out that puzzle as it is about bidding against the other players.
Work the Hammer
The box says 12+ and I think for a complexity level that’s pretty dead on. I think most 12 year olds will be able to understand the rules and perform the auctions. They may need some help with the production phase, but it shouldn’t be too daunting. From a content standpoint there’s nothing objectionable in the game and families can easily enjoy the game without worry.
End the Day
Overall, I enjoyed this game. I found the auction to be the most engaging portion of the game. I also felt that it was surprising in how much depth it had. It’s easy to fall into the trap of placing your bids from largest to smallest but then you realize that you might want to bid with a lower chip to go after the compensation. It’s tempting to place the 3 on a card because you want triple the compensation reward from it and another player has already bid their 4 or you think they might.
I especially like that you can’t have your 4 outbid which means you’ll always get something. Every round you get at least one new card for your tableau. This means your engine is always growing and does more every round.
The production phase of each round is performed in a bubble. You won’t be able to effect the other players and they can’t touch you. Also, as the game goes on this phase gets longer and longer creating long silences at the table as people figure out how to use their factories to produce points. If you’re playing a game for a social experience where you chat with the other players, this will most likely not be it.
The bonus powers offered by the advanced cards were nice and simple. They don’t add much if any complexity to the game. However, I do agree with the rule book that they should be left to a second game. I tried to use them in my first game and because I wasn’t familiar with the factory cards ended up over preparing for my ability in the first round and had very disastrous second and third rounds. Now that I’ve played the game more those ability cards are nice additions. Your mileage may vary but I’d suggest holding off on using them.
There is a rules variant for two players that I have not tried and can’t speak to. It looks simple enough, but I can’t say for certain.
All in all, I like this game and will probably be adding it to my collection. It’s currently on my short list for best of the year, but considering that it’s March I know that doesn’t hold too much weight. Still, it’s a damn fine game.
As always, I recommend you try before you buy, however, I understand in this day and age that it’s difficult to do that. If you do purchase it sight unseen and enjoy auction games or engine building games then I think you’ll enjoy this one too.
Until next time, stay safe and be well.