GOODS MAKER

Reviewed by Joe Huber

GOODS MAKER (Studio GG, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 20-40 minutes; 2420¥ [about $23)]

 

While there are a number of very interesting games coming out of Japan (just as is the case elsewhere), there are particular designers to look for.  Hisashi Hayashi has perhaps had the greatest success; he has been releasing multiple games every year with a significant number picked up for larger printings.  Kenichi Tanabe hasn’t quite managed the level of international success but still is a designer I keep an eye out for.  Kuro has designed a truly impressive range of designs and with a level of output most game designers can only marvel at.  And then there is Shun Taguchi, a.k.a. Shun.

Shun arrived on the scene with the incredible The King of Frontier and really secured my interest with Little Town Builders, both of which offer a classic experience familiar to fans of German games in a quick playing time and with delightful artwork by Aya Taguchi.   Terrible Monster wasn’t really my style and Mystery Homes was a fascinating idea that didn’t quite work for me but which I still appreciated.  Shun has had mixed luck with the release of his games to a broader audience; Queen changed The King of Frontier into Skylands and, at least for me, broke the game in the process; iello left Little Town Builders as is (save for dropping “Builders” from the title) and produced a game as delightful as the original. So it was with some real anticipation that I first sat down to Goods Maker, his new release.  In the game, players are building from simple to complex resources in order to purchase various buildings.  But unlike in previous games, building here are run for the player by helpful elves – so that players can, in addition to their normal action, activate as many of their buildings as they wish.

Each player starts Goods Maker with a single card worth 3-6 coins depending upon how early they are in the turn order.  A turn consists of one of two actions: trading (either one card for many or many for one) or building (paying specific resources to receive better resources or a building).  Trades are straightforward: players can either discard a valuable card in order to collect any number of cards they wish, subject to the hand limit of 7 or may discard multiple cards in order to collect one better resource or building.  The first turn then, is one of trading the coin card initially received (and put back in the box after) for a number of basic – and sometimes advanced – resources adding to the value of the card.

All advanced resources and buildings then have a goods cost to them: the lower level of advanced resources require basic goods, the higher level of advanced resources require lower level advanced resources, and buildings cost a mix of advanced resources.  There are a few goods – thread, fish, and milk – which can be acquired by showing a particular advanced resource rather than by giving up the resource. All buildings, in addition to having goods required in order to buy them, have a cost and a number of victory points; nearly all building have a capability for a resource transformation, done in the same manner as usual but using the buildings as an additional action.  A number of buildings, instead of transforming resources into better resources, convert them into victory points instead.  And the game ends as soon as one player collects ten victory points.

Among the most distinctive elements in Studio GG games is the artwork, and Goods Maker is no exception.  It’s not the type of artwork that makes folks on BoardGameGeek go crazy for it but instead is a simple, hand-drawn style, typically with stick figures but here with more flushed-out elves.  It’s not a style that’s for everyone, but for me Aya’s artwork is a highlight. Studio GG has also held closely to the Japanese style of putting as much as possible into their games while keeping to a small box.  Here, being a card game, the game box is a standard card game box size, which works very well but leaves no room for a translation but of course, the game feels larger in play than the minimal components would suggest.

Goods Maker is likely to please those who enjoy card games which feel like they offer more.  Still, while more is offered, I’m not sure just how much more.  My three plays have each been very enjoyable but it’s not clear to me just how much meaningful variation there will be over the long haul.  There are more than enough buildings to guarantee that no two games will likely feel exactly the same but the mechanisms do become a bit rote.  It’s short enough that this may not be an issue; I just haven’t played enough to know for certain one way or the other.

The production is fairly typical for a Japanese card game; the cards are a bit thin but sturdy enough to endure careful play.  The game is easy to pick up; the English translation, available on BoardGameGeek, is well done. 

If Goods Maker is picked up by a foreign publisher and made available at typical card game prices, it will be an easy one to recommend trying.  But at 2420 Yen (roughly $23 at current exchange rates) plus shipping from Japan – unless you are in Japan, it’s fairly expensive for what you’re getting, even though it is a good and enjoyable game.  And to be honest, if the game does make it through ten plays and still make it to the table now and again, I wouldn’t be at all bothered by the price.  But until it does, I suspect the best recommendation as always “try it first” is also even more difficult to manage than usual.  So instead I’ll suggest try it if you can and, if an Amigo or the like decides to reprint it, it’s worth taking a chance on.  ——– Joe Huber


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