We competed against each other to build the the best contraptions to be crowned champion in Great Science Fair in Gizmos, the next game in our A to Z game-shelf play-through.
Basic Info: Gizmos
Time: 40-50 Minutes
Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Artist: Hannah Cardoso, Júlia Ferrari, Giovanna BC Guimarães, Mathieu Harlaut, Saeed Jalabi
Gizmos is an engine-building game where players use energy marbles pulled from a dispenser to construct machines and create chains of actions.
The centerpiece of Gizmos is the marble “hopper” – a marble dispenser with a chute holding six marbles that are available to be picked and a vat of marbles which can be pulled at random with certain actions. Each player is given a random player board, a starting machine, and an energy ring. Each of the machine decks are shuffled and four level 1, three level 2, and two level 3 cards are dealt out to out in a “Display Area.”
The player who received the player board with a tan background (instead of gray) is the start player. On their turn, players can take one of several actions – file, pick, build, or research. On the file action, players take one of the gizmos from the Display Area and place it in their “file” (we just stack them above the “file” slot of our player board). The pick action gives the player a chance to grab one of the six available marbles visible in the marble chute. Using the build action, players turn in energy marbles to build a gizmo either from their file or from the Display Area. Finally, the research action has the player take gizmo cards from the top of one of the decks (the number they can take is equal to their research number, which starts at three), choose one to either build or file, and then put the others on the bottom of the deck.
Now, if that was it, there wouldn’t be much to the game. However, each gizmo the player builds is added underneath one of those action “tabs” on their player board. The new machines add additional actions that are taken. For example, the starter gizmo adds to the file action – when a player files, they get to do a blind draw of a marble from the hopper. Other types of actions include gaining points when building a certain color machine, getting blind draws when picking a particular color from the marble chute, and getting marble picks when building a machine from the file.
In addition to adding actions to the standard ones, the new gizmo can do a couple of other things. There upgrades that increase the number of energy marbles the player can store, increase the number of machines they can hold in their file, and/or increase the player’s research number. Also, some gizmos convert energy marbles to other colors, allowing players to spend one color marble in place of another – for example, turning a black marble into a blue so they can build a blue machine.
The game continues until either one player has built their 16th gizmo or has built their fourth level 3 gizmo. Players finish the round and tally their points – from the gizmos themselves (upper right corner), gizmos with bonuses, and point tokens. The player with the most points wins.
We first played this game at PAX Unplugged and had to pick up a copy before we went home. We really enjoyed puzzling out the best strategy to good engine going. Do you go for small-cost gizmos to build up that engine faster? Or save up for the higher-cost gizmos for more points and even better powers? Sometimes this depends on what color marbles are available in the chute or what you pull on a blind draw, so your strategy can change throughout the game.
The game doesn’t overstay it’s welcome – sometimes I feel like I’ve just gotten my engine going when someone ends the game, but often I get to use that engine a few times before the end is triggered. It seems like a good balance.
At first the marble hopper seems like it could just be a gimmick, but honestly it works. I like the tactile nature of picking the marbles – both from the chute and blindly from the hopper. I suppose you could do the same thing with a deck of cards – a row of available energy and a deck to pull something random, but I the game wouldn’t feel as interactive.
How is it as a 2-player game? Gizmos works well as a 2-player game. There isn’t a lot of player interaction – it really only affects the available marbles in the chute and the cards in the market. Sometimes that can hurt the 2-player game, since you need the colors to cycle a bit more, but this can be mitigated using the research action, so I never really felt like I was completely stuck.
How about the art and component quality? These are great. The marble hopper is a little fiddly, but not too bad. The cards are good quality and the iconography is clear – we do need to look up one or two of the symbols usually, but there’s a handy quick guide, so it’s not a big deal. And the art…I love the art! I’d love one or two of these as prints to hang in my game room.
Will this stay in my collection? Yes. That’s an easy yes.