So, this is a little bit in response to the recent post by @Skurvy5, lauding the joys of engine building. And, to be clear, I am not knocking that post..... I think it was a good post, and I believe that it fits well into this weeks challange. But, my question this morning is, Is engine building a mechanic/mechanism?
BGG famously does not have engine building as a mechanism. This outraged many people, including myself, upon discovering that fact. I considered it almost a criminal omision. However, as time has gone on, I have gradually come around to not having it as a mechanism. This is why I didn't include it in my list of favorite mechanisms here.Otherwise it would have been my favorite mechanism.
I have not read the "official" encyclopedia that defines all the mechanisms. And, I have not really studied why Geoff Englestien has declined to list it as a mechanism. The following thoughts are purely my own.
I think that the problem with having engine building as a mechanic is that it generally going to be another mechanism. For instance. I would argue that currently the vast majority, or maybe all, tableau builders are engine builders. In fact, if you go the bgg page for tableau building this is what it says:
"In Tableau Building games, each player has a visible personal array or tableau of components (cards, tiles, player boards, etc.) which they purposefully build or manipulate throughout the game by spending actions and/or resources (including opportunity costs) and which determines the quality, quantity, and/or variety of actions to which they have access throughout the game.
The array is not merely a place to store resources, to plan out actions, to store a puzzle which must be manipulated, or something that impacts VP's. It impacts the quality, quantity, and/or variety of actions which are accessible to a player. This means that some games may include an array or a tableau but not really be a tableau building game."
This really does sound like it is describing a engine builder, especially where it mentions, "the quantity, quality, and/or variety of actions."
If we consider the games that are popularly considered engine builders, including the ones mentioned in the recent post by @Skurvy5,we discover that they engine building parts of them are tableau builders/manipulaters. This even includes games like #Scythe. In scythe your tableau is your player board, and you are manipulating it to change the "quantity, quality, and/or variety of actions."
I don't think that most deck builders are engine builders, but, if they are than that compounds the problem. If all deck builders are encapsulated in some form or other of tablaeu building/manipulating, you could perhaps argue that engine building is a subset of that. But, if deck building, or other mechanisms, also have engine building, then it quickly feels like the mechanism is too big. For a the breakdown of mechanisms to be helpful it must be discreet enough to be helpful, it has to be broken down to a the smallest common denominator. If this is a mechanism that spans other mechanisms, it goes from a game mechanism to a game type. By game type I am refering to how we refer to the boxes we put games in, I am refering to terms like "confrontational" or "multi-player solitaire" or "euro" or "ameritrash."
So, in my way of thinking, either engine building is tableau building, in which case, that terminology is actually a little more helpful than engine building. Or, the term engine building is to big to be used as a mechanism. And should be used as a box like any of the multitudes of other terms we use.
Also, to be clear, I do think that engine building exists. I even think it is a helpful term. I just don't think it should be defined as a mechanism.
So, what do you think. Do you think is mechanism? Or, do you think that it isn't?
I sat down to create this post and fell in love with the word play for that title! Anyway, I'd like to discuss engine building and why it is such a satisfying part of board gaming. There is such joy in starting with hardly anything and by the end of the game your engine is running on all cylinders.
There are so many great approaches to this mechanic - some obvious, while others are a little more subtle.
Some of the more obvious ones are games like#Wingspan where there is little to do beyond the engine.
A game like#Gaia Project is a little different- yes you build an engine but you are also attempting to do different things with that engine. But you still have control over the what and how of your engine.
Id even argue that#Terraforming Mars is an engine builder, but you have less control over what your engine develops into that game. In this game your Engine develops and hopefully you continue to acquire cards that will help your engine both continue to function but also expand and accomplish more each generation.
Getting even more subtle I think that a game like#Scythe has a bit of this engine building as well. Yes, you need to take certain actions to make your engine work, but you can eventually cobble something together that works a bit like an engine.
As for why this is such a great mechanic- there is so much joy in clawing your way from nothing to something big. That wonderful feeling of progression and the sense of accomplishment that you built something.
Engine building can also be very thematic as well. Building your engine in#Gaia Project feels like you are expanding throughout the galaxy and doesn't feel artificial or "gamey". The same could be said of#Terraforming Mars or#Scythe.
So. A bunch of hopefully coherent rambling about engine building. Let me leave you with a feel discussion questions to jumpstart a conversation.
What are some of your favorite engine building games?
What makes them an engine builder and why do you like them?
Why doesn't BGG consider engine building a category?
Growing up I lived along an old railroad bed, and we would pick up heavy spikes left behind long ago. As I felt their weight in my hand, I would think about how those spikes would have been driven into thick wooden ties by hand. Building a railroad was grueling work.
The Pacific Rail Road Act of 1862 chartered two companies and tasked them with building a transcontinental railroad. It took 7 years, over every sort of terrain, until finally in 1869 they met in Utah. With the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, for the first time, the US was connected from coast to coast.
In Pacific Rails Inc., you are the President of your own Railway Company, with a contract to build a railroad from one side of the board to the other. To do this, you hire specialist workers, build an economic engine, and manage your resources to complete the connections first.
You can get a copy of Pacific Rails Inc. with Stretch Goals and a Vesuvius Media Loyalty Credit for their next Kickstarter for only $35, or the Deluxe Edition with upgraded tokens as well as the Stretch Goals and Vesuvius Media Loyalty Credit for $60. If you are a retailer, or you are interested in a group pledge, there are pledge levels for those options as well. Check out the campaign before it ends on January 27, 2020.
Pacific Rails Inc. is an engine building, resource management, worker placement, network/route building game for 2 to 4 players. The goal of the game is to connect the east coast with the west coast with a continuous track.
To succeed, your workers need to gather resources, lobby Congress for funding, and hire specialists to help manufacture tracks. You must place bridges, tunnels, and rails to travel through the harsh terrain. You also need to build train stations and telegraph posts to connect remote cities.
The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins. Victory Points are gained by laying tracks to connect cities, building houses and/or telegraph stations. Also, extra end game points are awarded based on the number of houses and telegraph stations each player has on the board, and on special goals completed.
The game comes with detailed artwork by Damien Mammoliti, known for his work on Brass, Nocturion, and more.
Pacific Rails Inc. comes with a many different custom components. As stretch goals are unlocked, they are becoming even more detailed. For example, here are the upgraded trains and workers:
And if you select the Deluxe level, it includes upgraded tokens and miniatures to replace the Telegraph and Town Tokens, with other options on the verge of being unlocked.
Pacific Rails Inc. is language independent. The game's components have no text. Players can download the rulebook for the core game and its expansions in several supported languages (eg. English, Portuguese, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Italian, and more), after the end of the campaign.
More on Kickstarter
The Kickstarter campaign has videos, a link to the current rulebook, information about group orders, and more, so be sure to check it out before it ends on January 27, 2020.