#881 – Factory Funner [BGT Edition]

Base price: $39. $49 if you get the wood box upgrade, and I’d recommend the wood box upgrade.
1 – 6 players.
Play time: 20 – 40 minutes. Likely longer with the No Speed Required Variant.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy directly!
Logged plays: 2 (of this version) 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Factory Funner was provided by BoardGameTables.

Always exciting to see a remake of a game that was previously extremely difficult to find getting a wider audience. Mostly exciting. But I digress. Board Game Tables sent a few different games; I’ve covered Ghosts of Christmas, currently, but I’m still working on Bear Raid. So, that’s a progress update. In the meantime, we’ve got Factory Funner! One of my original favorite games, coming back around for a remake. Let’s see how it holds up.

In Factory Funner, you’ve got a whole lot of machines and a whole lot of pipes and not a whole lot of sense. You’ve never let that stop you, though; ever since you invented those unlimited power reactors, you’ve just wanted to get the weirdest machines you could find, hook them up to some supply reservoirs, and see what happens. I mean, after all, what do you get for the person who invented an unlimited energy source? More weird science, I suppose. You propose a friendly competition among the factories to see who can do the best with what they have, and it’s off to the races. Will your factory end up being the funnest?

Contents

Setup

This one’s not too bad; I’m pretty sure I can do it from memory. Let’s see. First, each player should get a player board. They’re double-sided, so one side has a standard board that’s the same for everyone (the A side) and the other side has Bs from 1 – 6, in order of increasing difficulty:

Then, set out the scoreboard:

Each player should take a scoring piece in their color / with their symbol and place it on the 10 to start.

After doing that, you should start setting up the machines. Thankfully, the insert organizer I received with the game keeps everything together pretty well:

You should see my original copy. Not great. Just functional. But there are machines that should be shuffled and dealt to players so that each player ends up with an eight-tile stack. They shouldn’t look at the machines in the stack they’re dealt.

Set the pipes aside:

You can also place the First and Last tokens nearby; they’ll come in for Round 2 if you’re playing real-time:

And then deal each player a starting set of Supply and Output Reservoirs:

The Black Output Reservoirs and the clear tokens can be placed nearby, as well:

That should be good! You’re all ready to start.

Gameplay

I’m going to selfishly save myself some time and argue that I’ve already written this part, before. Sure, my writing style has evolved a bit in the last 750 reviews or so, but think of it as a fun look back in time. Instead, I’ll focus on the big gameplay update that’s happened: the No Speed Required Variant.

No Speed Required Variant

No Speed Required Variant! It plays basically the same as the base game, but in lieu of real-time rounds with First and Last players taking tiles, you just … have a random market. Start the game by revealing three tiles, and you take one tile on your turn. No penalty if you can’t place it, and then refill the market after you take a tile. The game still plays eight rounds, and as soon as you’ve taken a tile, the next player can start their turn.

Player Count Differences

Generally speaking, I think more players is actually better here. There’s more competition for tiles, sure, but just … be faster? Gotta go fast? I think someone said that. That seems like a phrase. But in all seriousness, more players means that the pool of available tiles each round is expanded, meaning that you have a better shot at getting good tiles for you. Plus, more players doesn’t necessarily mean more competition along whatever pathway you’re building your factory on. They might all be going after yellow inputs when you’re focused on green. That would be great! That all said, I still enjoy the game at two; it’s still diabolically difficult, at times, and I love the thrill of grabbing a tile only to realize you weren’t paying enough attention and it’s actually mirrored. I love that feeling; it sucks. I think that given the real-time element, more players won’t necessarily make the game take longer, but I wouldn’t recommend playing this for the first time with five other new players. There’s a certain kindness to an experienced player walking new players through their first few placements in their first game so that they can get a sense of the way pipes go together and how to plan for future placements. I think that’s just good etiquette. But if you’re doing that for five additional players, your game is going to run a bit long. Overall, though, while I think the tile market is more appealing at higher player counts, I’d happily play Factory Funner at any player count.

Strategy

  • There are good reasons not to necessarily just put every machine adjacent to its input or output source, even if they mostly fit pretty well. Giving yourself some long-term flexibility is a good idea. Even if your outputs are perfectly aligned, it might be worth not making a completely-impenetrable wall of machines along any part of your board. That said, if you can make it adjacent to a wall, that’s another thing entirely, but machines are essentially board junk in that they can’t be moved once they’re placed, so, not necessarily worth investing in a big wall of machines if you’re going to need to get around them later. Similar reasoning applies to placement of reservoirs; sometimes it’s better to place a reservoir one away from the input or output so that you can run another pipe through the now-open space.
  • If you always take the first machine, you’ll lose $7 over the course of the game. Make sure that’s worth it, to you. Sometimes it is! Sometimes it’s absolutely a good idea to always grab the perfect machine for your setup. Probably. But sometimes it’s also worth it to take a beat and let someone else grab the machine they think they need, especially if it’s not the one you want. If you want to play a dangerous game, you can make a move towards the machine you think that another player needs to see if you can feint them into grabbing the first one? It’s rude, but alarmingly effective. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from playing board games, it’s that other players really respect that kind of behavior. Probably.
  • Honestly, keeping an eye on other players’ boards can tell you pretty quickly what they need or can handle, and you can use that to plan accordingly. If you see another player is going after green outputs, you probably either want to stay away from green outputs or be quicker than that player. Either way, taking a cursory look over publicly-available information is pretty much always a good idea.
  • Do not touch a tile until you’re ready to take it. For one, you might be taking a penalty for it. You don’t always want that -1, as I mentioned. The other, more insidious thing is that this game loves giving you machines that are perfect mirrors of what you actually want / need. It would be funny if it weren’t so mean. But imagine working so hard to take the first machine and the penalty, only to realize that you accidentally grabbed a machine that doesn’t work with your setup? Not great.
  • One way to obfuscate your position, score-wise, is to focus on taking machines that use other machines’ output as input. That way, you can get the clear chips, which aren’t as obvious. This is what we’d generally refer to as “questionably shady, but acceptable”, which is essentially taking the clear chips as banked secret points, since they don’t score until the end of the game. This way, you can end up farther in the back, score-wise, and be seen as less of a threat by your opponents. That said, if they’re not taking stock of your clear chips each round, isn’t it more their fault? Whatever you need to rationalize.
  • Don’t burn through all your output reservoirs too quickly; you’ll need them! Some new players will just slap down their three output reservoirs immediately, leaving them unable to place a machine for their fourth round. Don’t … do that. If you have multiple machines outputting the same color, combine their outputs! If you have machines outputting the same color as other machines’ inputs, pipe them around! Get those clear chips! This is essentially a puzzle of your own making, so … solve it. But keep an eye on your outputs so that you don’t back yourself into an early-game corner.
  • I generally try to keep at least one supply reservoir either free or flexible for as long as I can, to make sure I’m staying flexible. Supply is just as critical to maintain as output, here. If you drop all your supply reservoirs onto the board early, you’re potentially looking at backing yourself into a corner, again, so try to keep one in your pocket. Instead, look to your existing machines to power your other machines. Just remember; no looping!
  • At some point you’re going to have to swing for the fences a bit and take a pricey machine so you can make a break for it, score-wise. That also gives you a lot of possible inputs for other machine outputs. If you only play conservatively, you may not have a lot of losses, but you won’t have a lot of gains, either. You need the big, complicated machines in order to win sometimes, and you’re going to have to figure out how to power them and get them to work. It’s exciting, but also tough.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Wow, the new box is so much easier to pack with the new wooden insert thing. I don’t normally just spend three separate parts of my review praising a wooden insert thing, but after you’ve struggled like I’ve struggled to get the Factory Funner box shut, it’s really nice to have something that lets you close the box pretty fluidly and easily. It’s like an entirely new game out here. Plus, having separate areas for the player components makes it really easy to quickly set up and play the game. I love it.
  • Oh, they named the factories, too, and gave each a unique symbol, which I appreciate. It’s cute. A nice addition to the game. I don’t really remember any of the original factories being named, but these feel a bit more memorable. Plus, having the shapes on the score markers is just good accessibility practice.
  • While I’ll probably never use it personally, I like that there’s a new “not real-time” variant for players who hated the real-time aspects of the game. To my great personal distaste, I tried it as part of reviewing, and it’s actually pretty good, too. I like having the increased number of options (especially at low player counts) and not having as much tension around who can grab what the fastest. It’s great if it’s the puzzle that you’re here for, rather than the chaos. I’m mostly here for the chaos, so, naturally, the real-time version appeals to me a bit more.
  • I also like that the game is very specific about claiming a machine as soon as it’s touched, now. The rules are very particular about this. You touch it in any way, it’s yours. It clears a lot of things up and allows for a fun new strategy where players hover hand over a machine and hope that intimidates other players. Is slapping their hand onto the machine legal? Unclear.
  • I did love the original art, but the new art is also very striking. It’s just different. I like reimaginings of game art by other artists; I think it can be fun. This reminds me of the old game, but it eschews the delightful kitschiness for something more frantic, which at least fits the gameplay. It’s hard to say if I prefer one over the other.
  • I think removing the space on the boards for the reservoirs was a smart move; it makes the boards a lot smaller and easier to fit in a less-wide box. They gotta conserve space somewhere, and frankly, the starting spaces for reservoirs aren’t doing much for them, anyways. They keep getting moved and being put back, and a hasty pile to the side of your game board is where they’re going to end up, reserved location or not. Keep the player boards compact and make the game smaller, to boot. It’s a good idea, and I think a smart decision from the folks adapting it for Board Game Tables.
  • Largely, the rest of the game is pretty much unchanged from the last time I played it, and that’s about right. I feel like most of this review is just me reflecting on how my feelings about Factory Funner have changed (if at all) since my last play. I’m intrigued by the notion of revisiting games I’ve already played and seeing how my perspective has adapted, but that’s a conversation for another year. Maybe 2023. In the meantime, though, it’s been four years since my last play of this (ish), and I think I’m still noticing that there aren’t a lot of games that do the same thing that Factory Funner does, for me. The closest I can think of is Nine Tiles Panic, for real-time route-building and tile-laying, but the economy of inputs and outputs is still an area that Factory Funner wholly owns (and owns well). I think I missed this game? I think I legitimately missed playing it, and I felt a whole-body sigh when I got to play it again, which made me start thinking about which other games I’ve missed because of this whole “reviewing is a churn of games I haven’t played” thing. Worth thinking more in-depth about on another day, probably.
  • I actually really kind of enjoy playing this somewhat cooperatively with new players; I’ll frequently offer to help find paths for them to place their machines. The first game or two of this can be tough, so helping out is kind of polite. There’s a Kind Variant where the most experienced player lets the other players play a bit slowly and potentially change their minds about machines so that they can learn how to play the game. I like that variant. It’s not a real one, but I generally will help with pipe placement and we’ll play the first few rounds a bit slowly so that players can get used to the particular needs and though processes of Factory Funner.

Mehs

  • Not totally sure why the supply reservoirs are so weirdly-shaped; it feels like making them hexagons would have been a reasonable move, to match the other machines. It’s an odd choice especially because it’s a departure from the original! Since they’re 12-sided, they don’t really … fit in any particularly useful way.
  • It can be a bit tough to find the pipe you’re looking for without organizing the pipes, and the insert doesn’t really make that … viable. Not much to be done about that without having something overwrought like “a special insert that separates out all the pipes” or doing some actual pre-game organization, but them’s the breaks. Just dig around until you find what you’re looking for.
  • I think it took me too long to notice that the “input” dots have a very clear arrow pointing towards the center of the machine, and that the “output” number has an arrow pointing away from the machine. This is more of a self-directed Meh than a Meh directed at the game. I suppose they could be more prominent, but really, it’s on me for not noticing, and they’re already significant improvements over the original tiles, which lacked an arrow at all.

Cons

  • Ugh. Cornè van Moorsel (one of the designers) is trying to peddle some mask / vaccine-skepticism nonsense and it’s frankly insufferable. Truly, not trying to embroil y’all in my Twitter drama, but van Moorsel has been posting Kickstarter updates and Tweets that have a Certain Set of Opinions, and honestly, after spending a couple years dealing with the pandemic personally and professionally, I have no time for this nonsense. It’s deeply unfortunate, given that Cwali has long been one of my favorite publishers, but I won’t be buying from them again. That said, I think BoardGameTables made a good point, which is that a lot more people worked on this game than just one designer being a dork online, and it’s worth mentioning that, here. It’s unfortunate, but this is largely just a way for me frame my thoughts around the subject. I don’t really have much more to say on the topic than “now, when I play Factory Funner, I’m just a little bit bummed about it”, which is sad.
  • Yeah, some players are going to just make this game a nightmare with pipe placement and such. To be fair, this game is a nexus of different analysis paralysis activation conditions. It’s a spatial puzzle with some real-time elements that benefit from having a long-term plan in place, and it has a sub-game (the pipes) that have many different possible layout options with their own pros and cons, and there’s not always a right answer with the information players have available to them. This is all to say, it’s a recipe for an absolute bonecrunching disaster, for some players. Just a thing to watch out for. The real-time element at least helps compensate for that stress by making it unadvisable for players to fixate during the machine selection phase, lest they get the least desirable one, but otherwise it’s a field day. The No Speed Required Variant doesn’t do much to address this, however, so, like I said, generally not the variant I’ll play with.

Overall: 8.75 / 10

Overall, it’s nice to know that my feelings haven’t changed for Factory Funner, even the designer is doing his level best to convince me not to buy more of his games. That aside (I’ve said my piece), Factory Funner remains a top-notch puzzle game for folks who like needless complexity and making mistakes now but paying for them later. That may not … sound fun to everyone, but I think it’s a hoot. Factory Funner is delightful and frenetic, and truly, the complicated and often-inscrutable art does the game a service by conveying that yeah, the game doesn’t understand itself either. It’s not made to be understood; it’s made to be experienced. And I love that, from the tactile sensation of the tiles to making the pipes fit to the puzzle of clearing your entire board and coming back to it just a little angrier. I realize I’m not describing a lot of fun emotions, but I think there’s room in a gaming space for a delighted frustration. Factory Funner pushes me against the ropes in my best games and leaves me searching for a way to just make everything work perfectly before giving up and making it work “good enough”. That’s a great feeling, that compromise, and it comes attached to some of my favorite game mechanics: real-time games, tile-laying games, and route-building games. Factory Funner does a great job of presenting and maintaining that delicate balance between stress and frustration while still overlaying a fun and challenging puzzle on top. If it sounds like that’s your kind of game or you just want to watch someone else suffer their puzzle comeuppance, I’d recommend playing it! Borrow a friend’s copy, check it out from a library, whatever.


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