FURNACE

Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

FURNACE (Arcane Wonders, 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, 30-60 minutes; $39.99)

 

Players take on the roles of 19th-century capitalists building their industrial corporations and aspiring to make as much money as they can in the new game by designer Ivan Lashin (a new name in our industry): Furnace

The basic element of the game is the company cards that represent the different production centers players buy during the game. Company cards are characterized by the resources they can produce or convert. Each company card has an upgraded version on the back which corresponds to a higher production ability. The game is played over 4 rounds and each round has 2 phases: Auction and Production. In the auction phase, players are awarded the various cards they will then use in the production phase. In the production phase of the basic mode of the game (recommended for the first few games), players can use the company cards in the order they prefer. In the advanced version (in my opinion, absolutely to be adopted once the game is known), each company card once obtained must be placed in the production line and can no longer be moved. This element introduces a strategic and planning aspect not so evident in the basic mode.  Let’s see the auction phase in detail.

Each round, 6 to 8 company cards (depending on the number of players) will be drawn and arranged in line  Each player has four auction tokens numbered from 1 to 4. Once all the tokens have been placed, the player who placed the highest value token will win the card. There are only two simple rules: a player cannot play two tokens on the same card and there cannot be two tokens with the same value on top of a card. You understand that the marker 4 is a guarantee of obtaining the desired card but sometimes it is more important not to get a card but to go into compensation. The compensation mechanism is one of the most interesting and innovative elements of this game.

In the upper part of every company card is an indication of what type of resources or what type of conversion the player who placed a marker on the card in the auction phase can do without being able to win it. And he will be able to perform the action a number of times equal to the value of his token. For example, if a card has 2 coal resources as compensation and I lost the auction by placing my marker of value 3 on it, I will get 6 coal resources. Because it can be more important to get the compensation than the card, the auction takes on a really interesting strategic level. Since company cards are assigned from left to right, this is another important element; sometimes it is necessary to have or obtain the resources to take advantage of a card’s compensation.

The production phase, as mentioned before, is very different in the basic or advanced mode. In basic mode, the player will decide the order in which to activate his company cards. Some company cards allow you to perform more than one action; it is not mandatory to perform all of them and they can be performed in the chosen order but you must finish one card before moving on to the next. 

Each player starts the game with a company card which, among the possible actions, has that of “upgrade”. By spending an upgrade token, that card is flipped to the other side, effectively improving production considerably. It is clear that being able to choose the order in which the cards are resolved can sometimes be useful to improve a company before using it. This aspect of planning the production phase is even more important if we decide to use the advanced rules. In this case, each new company card as soon as it is obtained must be added in a specific position on our production line that can no longer be altered.

Resources are the means to obtaining money and money is victory points. Some companies have the ability to convert resources into cash and are essential for success. In fact, during the game, a production engine based on your company cards to produce money will be generated. The right resources are needed at the moment company cards are used to convert into cash. As often happens in a game of this type, the first rounds are often interlocutors in the sense that each player is busy building his own production line that will bear the best results in the second part of the game. (For those interested, there is also the possibility of using “capitalist cards” which differentiate the different players by giving each one a special ability.)

Furnace is a game that belongs, in part, to the multi-player solitaire category because most of the actions are carried out independently. Interaction with others is limited to the auction phase even if, I must admit, the more you play the more you realize that the auction phase with its compensation mechanism is the fundamental element of the game and therefore the possibility of influencing the choices of the opponents is in any case high.

Furnace mixes two different elements in an excellent way: an original and immediate auction mechanism with a simple but sophisticated production system with 3 different types of resources in addition to the money and the upgrade action. Furnace is a game belonging to the category of light resource management of which titles such as Century Spice Road (Fall 2017 Gamers Alliance Report) or It‘s a Wonderful World (Summer 2020 GAR) are successful examples. It is a type of game that I am very fond of even if many gamers may prefer titles with a wider development.

Furnace for me is a great game, fun and challenging game with some very well thought out elements, making this title one of the most interesting light resource management in recent years. I love this game. – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue


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