The machine whirred loudly, a perfect musical backdrop to the ears of the factory employees. As the harmonious percussion of gears and steam-powered whistles reach what should be the crescendo of engineering-melody the Gnomish mechanical symphony sputters with a discordant CLANG! The Gnomes spring into action to repair the very machine that keeps them all employed and tinkering. But who will manage to build the most interesting and complex fixes for the machine? What fun would it be if it wasn’t every Gnome for himself?
Cogs in a Machine is the fast paced game of invention, repair and and displaying your Gnomish chops as you race to be the best Gnome you can be. There are six different Gnome roles you can play, all with different abilities and very appropriately themed skills.
The artwork is fantastically thematic and adds to the gameplay. CiaM is a competitive dice and resource management game played in turns and phases. To start the game, players have 6 dice; characters start with the same five dice and one die unique to them. The board has an empty “machine”, three possible components to build and nine upgrade dice available for purchase.
Rolling your six dice is the first phase, each type of die has various possible outcomes. Build cog(s), build teeth, reroll (wrench), wild (star), auto-upgrade and blank-sides. Phase two is the rerolling phase where you can reroll any wrenches (with another die) or stars (wilds) that you choose, and/or use a rerolling ability. Next up, players get to supervise you! They can use an ability to affect your dice roll by spending a previous roll or resources you’ve gathered. After that, you get your parts, which consist of two resource types: cogs and teeth.
Teeth are personal resources and are stored on your character card. It takes more teeth to build components than cogs, and you can have a maximum of 10 of them at the end of your turn. Cogs are what makes this game unique; a cog that is built goes into the “machine” and is now accessible by any player on their turn.
Cogs and teeth can be spent them to build components in the following phase. Components give special abilities (like upgrading dice, trading in teeth for cogs, etc.) and are used toward your final goal. In the end phase, you trash excess resources and set up for the next turn.
The game ends when one Gnome builds five components, and lets everyone else have a chance to build one last time. Component points are counted up by their cost in cogs (like mechanical victory points) and the Gnome with the fanciest array of parts reigns supreme.
All in all, gameplay goes pretty quickly, and with symbol usage and rules cards, it’s relatively easy to follow for even a younger gamer. Some reading is needed, but there aren’t enough cards to cause it to be cumbersome to explain to a smaller gamer, far younger than the suggested age of twelve. The game plays two to six, however one of my chief complaints is that there are in effect only five rules cards.
Let me explain. The game plays up to six Gnomes, and there are six rules cards; unfortunately one of those cards is meant to be used as the machine. Normally, I wouldn’t be bothered by that, and would just use a table for a six player game, of course. But the tokens for cogs and teeth are very thin card-stock and difficult to pick up if they aren’t on some sort of backing.
Component-wise, the cards are well made and descriptive with fantastic well-thought out artwork (though, adding a female Gnome or two would be nice). The game comes with 20 dice with sticker sides including white starter dice, white upgrade dice, black general dice and a single colored die associated to the Gnome of that color. As well there are the aforementioned component tokens, which could use some thickness.
Overall, this game is well thought out, the characters seem balanced in two to three player games, and I would assume the same for larger games. The theme is cute and it’s a quick game to learn, the shared/personal resource split is a fun strategy that helps younger kids grasp the basics of strategy. Plus, it has Gnomes.
Cogs in the Machine is currently on Kickstarter ending 9/22/15. You can get a copy of this game at the $45 backer level.