Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Machinas: A second look

A while back, I posted briefly about the PDF copy of Machinas that I received. Today, the postman brought a packet from THW containing a hard copy of the rules and three decks from the Indigogo level I pledged at. As a result, I thought I'd better post my first impressions pretty sharpish, as I am quite excited about this game.

The Rulebook

The rules are in standard THW format, meaning comb-bound A4 (sorry, I mean Legal or Letter, or whatever) size with card cover and back. Included is a glossy game record chart and 6 card car markers. First up, Ed at THW is genuine in his desire for feedback and a couple of points I mentioned led to clarifications in the rules. So kudos for that. Aside from that, not much has changed in them since my last post, so you can refer to that for more detail because in honesty I just want to talk about the cards right now!

Deck 1

This is the 'core' deck for the game. 66 glossy cards of good print quality covering cars, weapons, skills, and others to record game information. Here's a breakdown:

12 double sides stats cards
4 cars (all sedans)
18 cards to track the number of bonus dice drivers have left
4 defensive measures cards
8 signature cards representing special driver skills
9 car feature cards showing special upgrades
11 weapons cards including shooting and bashing weapons

I'm quite pleased with how the deck looks, feels and what it contains. It has a good mix of cards reflecting the options outlined in the rulebook. Although I would consider the cards a 'must have', it is possible to play the game without them, so you don't need to feel limited by what is contained if you want more of a specific card than is included. Perhaps dedicating 18 cards to just tracking a number could be called a little excessive, but I feel that they will be welcome when I'm actually playing the game. Also the cars are all the same, but ultimately they are just markers, so you if you wanted the 'green car' to be a pick-up instead of a sedan, that's fine. The rules for different cars are all in the book. 

Deck 2

This deck is the first of two available at the higher pledge levels. At present I don't know if the contents will be made available outside of the Indigogo campaign, but I have expressed to Ed the opinion that I really think they should be! A big part of what I like about this game is the decks. Being able to open up the new ones and find a whole load of stuff not in the rule book is just ace. Missiles, flamethrowers, heavy armour? Yes please! One minor point before I look at the contents is that the core deck has a slightly different sheen and colour saturation to the others. But given that the cards are for reference and not being shuffled and drawn from a lot, I don't consider this to be a big deal. 

So, 54 cards in this deck. The breakdown is as follows:

12 double sides stats cards
4 cars (two sedans, one SUV, one pick-up truck)
14 cards to track the number of bonus dice drivers have left
4 defensive measures cards
6 signature cards representing special driver skills
8 car feature cards showing special upgrades
6 weapons cards including shooting and bashing weapons

This deck greatly expands upon the options in the core deck and it also highlights one of the strengths of the game: if the rules can be fitted on a card, it can be printed as an expansion. No need to flick through extra books to find the details you want, it is all there in front of you while you are playing. I'm not sure the deck needed two more sedans, but that said, it is fair to say that they are a good 'all round vehicle' as presented in the rules, so it makes sense that there are a couple more for larger games. 

Deck 3

Looking at the cars, I think I might have got these decks the wrong way round. The cars in the other deck were numbered 9-12 and these are 5-8, so apologies for any confusion resulting from me putting the decks back in the wrong boxes... The preamble is the same to the deck above, so I'll crack straight on with the contents. 

54 cards again, the breakdown being:

12 double sides stats cards
4 cars (one each of pick-up, SUV, sports car, big rig)
12 cards to track the number of bonus dice drivers have left
6 defensive measures cards
6 signature cards representing special driver skills
8 car feature cards showing special upgrades
6 weapons cards including shooting and bashing weapons

I like this deck a lot. Two 'number tracking', cards are dropped in favour of two more defensive measures and more variety in the cars. The good things I mention for the deck above still stand but with a couple of small tweaks which make me prefer the card distribution. 

The Verdict

I have to say I am very happy with my three decks. I'll be the first to say that I am a picky person in my comments, and I think this is because I make no secret of loving THW products and fear appearing like a company sock puppet! 

Of course, I have not commented on how the game plays, but I will need to get a few more games under my belt before I feel happy to do so. However, from my first game before I got the cards I'd say the rules are robust and easy to follow. 

Personally I think this is a brave move from a small company. It would have been easy to just publish the rules as though they were another book like their others, but the decision to create the decks and have all you need to know on the cards is excellent. I doubt it comes cheap, so I can understand the decision to go down the crowd funding route. I'm pleased I backed it to the level I did for the product I received. 

I should also mention that there is nothing stopping players from substituting in model cars instead of using the cards, something miniatures games players may be inclined to do. 

I'm very much hoping that more decks will be made available. I'd like the option maybe to buy smaller packs of cards, perhaps without the 'tracking' cards as I feel there are plenty in the current three decks. Perhaps they could be offered as a separate option? But as it stands there is a lot of variation and options in what is available, enough to keep players entertained for a long time.

So in conclusion... Ah, forget it, I'm off to play some games... All I want to say is great job THW!


  1. These look like a nice product Chris. Pretty useful, if they stop the need to rifle through the rulebook. Would like to see a few games using them.

    1. They do just that! I ran through the rules once, for designing cars and the first couple of turns. Then everything you need is on the cards and reference sheets and the rules are just in case of any questions. Works very well!

  2. Hi Bob,
    I was just doing an AAR using Machinas as a crossover with Urban Renewal. Also the first deck will be included in the printed version, you have to cut them out yourself, and with the PDF when it becomes available to purchase.

    1. Hi Ed

      Yeah, I should have mentioned there are game reports and a how to play video on your blog! People should check them out!