Servando Carballar

Gen X Games 2008

No. of Players:
2 - 6



In Mecanisburgo, the players assume the management of Mega-Corporations which are all present in largest Metropolis of the Western world, and there they battle each other for power and influential projects to become the ultimate controller of the planetary economy. To reach this target, each player receives a boardroom-gameboard of his own where three starting characters (the directors) of his corporation are placed, but there is always room in and around the boardroom for a total of up to 8 characters, so that the players may hire new characters during the course of the game. In addition, each player also receives some fixed benefit cards and draws a few cards from the central "Opportunities"-pile, and of these cards he may keep some cards up to a certain value as starting resources of his corporation. The Opportunities pile actually contains new characters and items which might be useful for the players, but it also contains some events and threats which will be ignored at the setup-phase.

However, once the game has started, all nine locations on the gameboard will be filled with cards drawn from the Opportunities pile, and now events and threats may come into the game just like new characters or items. Each location on the gameboard receives one card, and then the players will start their deployment phase. The players have pawns for each of their agents, and the pawns cannot be recognized without looking at there bottom where a number is printed which corresponds to the slot a character card occupied in a player's boardroom. Thus, in the deployment phase the players in turn place their characters one by one into one or more locations, and nobody knows how the other players will have sent to the same locations. Once the deployment is over, all locations with characters of only one player will be dominated by that player for this round, whereas all locations with more than one player's agents present will need to face a conflict resolution.

The character cards usually display different values for negotiation and combat skills, and the first player to have sent an agent to a location will decide whether aconflict will be decided by combat or by negotiation. The players add up the corresponding value of their leading character with the support values of possibly present additional characters, and they may also use certain properties to increase their value even further. In addition, a character may be removed from the game if an opposing character actually uses his assassination skill on him, once again reducing a player's score. To get the final scores the players actually are allowed to chose an additional action card (with different values), but on the other hand all unused action cards will give the player bonus income at the end of the round. Thus, a decision must be made whether to use a card or to save it to create a higher income.

After all conflicts have been dealt with at each location only the characters of one player will be present, and that player now will have the opportunity to use that place's special function this turn and to gain access to the Opportunity card which has been placed there. New characters can be hired and property can be acquired in order to boost up a corporation's resources, and then the final steps of the round will be dealt with. So, the players will receive their income, pay all their characters the required wages (or discard them) and make repairs. However, most important is the investment into Major Projects the cards of which are displayed on the table, since these projects actually will bring high amounts of victory points which are needed to win the game. However, these projects cannot simply be purchased, since many of them have pre-requirements in terms of money, , professions, skills and property which must be owned in order to get the major project.

Talking about character's profession and skills we have actually come to the first dimension where playing depth is increased. There exists a considerable number of different professions and skills which can be found as symbols on the different character cards, and each of these skills actually confers certain benefits for the player. For example, Executives can increase income, Security officers make an assassination more difficult, Technicans gain additional support from Robots present in a confrontation, or a lawyer may sue and remove a criminal character of another player from the game. Some of these professions actually just require a certain situation to arise, whereas others require a character to be present at a special location. So, the Lawyer only can use his special skill at the Palacio die Justicia, whereas an Autowarrior can participate in an Autocombat night in the Anficiico arena. Skills are varied likewise, and so the characters may have special options in terms of seduction, hacking, socializing, assassination or sabotage.

At this stage it becomes clear that Mecanisburgo is a game of considerable playing depth, since a look at the overview sheets available to each player reveals that quite a lot of specialization is possible by the possession of the different characters. The next dimension then is added by the nine different locations, since once again all of these locations offer special powers which can be used to the benefit of the player who controls them. So, players in the Casino complex can seduce other players' characters at a wider range, the Spaceport offers control of space traffic for the ongoing round, or the Financial complex offers business income and an additional, secret opportunities card. The treatment of the locations also goes hand in hand with the different corporations available to the players, since the players may get benefits in certain locations depending on which corporation they represent. And as a further interwoven connection the Major projects which a corporation may acquire (if it has the right professions, skills and financial resources) will not only bring good victory point and bonus points for certain possessions at the end of the game, but many of these cards actually may have some associated bonus which will be applicable during the course of the game.

The game only has a playing duration of four turns, but within these four turns quite a bit of action and interaction will happen between the players. After four rounds, victory will be gained by the player with most victory points out of his corporation's assets, but at the beginning of turns three and four victory event cards will be revealed which offer special alternate victory conditions. And even more, a special combination of Opportunity cards may ensure an alternate victory as well.

However, victory of a player is not altogether certain, since some great threats exist in the Opportunities deck which may actually wipe out the whole city (and the player's with it). And so a Giant Beast or a Robot Rebellion might destroy too many locations so that the game is lost by all players, whereas the fearful Triunvirus may spread and kill loads of characters. The appearance of a threat always will detract the players from their current issues, but apart from preventing an early ending of the game it usually pays off for a corporation in terms of victory points to be responsible for the saving of the city. On the other hand, a player who sees himself loosing the game actually may seize the opportunity to further the chaos by occupying spaces at the location of the threat and holding them against other players, so that possibly the other players' victory can be prevented by a cataclysm.

Mecanisburgo by no means is a light game (even in the literal sense since the small gamebox actually has a weight of about 2 kilos!), and I was rather happy to have the game explained to me by the author at the SPIEL convention. Still, in comparison to older games by SPI or AVALON HILL which offer a comparable degree of complexity Mecanisburgo actually shows that modern ways to design cards and components actually can help, since the fitting symbolism is used on board and cards can be used quite well in conjunction with the player's overview cards. The structure of the rules tries to be helpful here as well, since they offer appendix sections which are meant to keep the players from searching for certain passages in the main body of the text.

Nonetheless, the degree of complexity which can be found in Mecanisburgo was intended and the players who will invest the necessary time will find a quite intriguing game of politics and power, and the assembly of a player's corporation by outfitting it with characters and resources (and keeping it up by paying for it) is a rather challenging and interesting task. Many ways can be explored by which victory could be possible, and since the game comes with over 150 individual cards with quite stunning artwork (in comparison: Dominion has 31 different cards, including money) a very high replay value should be found with Mecanisburgo.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany