ARKWRIGHT: The INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION Card Game £23.89 at ZATU Games
Published by: Game Brewer Designed by: Stefan Rjisthaus Illustrated by: Mehdi Merrouche
There is a lot of good within Arkwright Card Game game, but there are also a number of things that could perhaps have been better. One of these things is that, especially for the first game, and even the next few following sessions, it has a long and fairly complex setup. After 2-3 plays the setup becomes more complex as that is when you should begin using the 'expert' setup.
The one constant is the Factory Markers, they are tiny, round cardboard counters, and thus easily lost during clean up if you are not extremely careful. Okay, they may be easily replaceable by just about anything - Tiddlywink counters, spare pieces from other games etc but they are just too small. One other thing you need to be careful about are the player board in-built markers; they are a tight fit and there is a strong possibility of damaging them.
I don't often start a review negatively, but in this case I wanted to get the rough over with before beginning on the smooth. There is a lot of smooth.
The game is played over three Turns (aka 'decades') with four Rounds in each, but first let me mention the remainder of the components. Mostly card, with a cleverly designed running street scene, which builds as the workers and offices are added to the factories. ARKWRIGHT comes in a box that is about half the size of a 'regular' square box and it is packed to the gills with . The card used is good heavy stock with the player boards being double thick to allow the square wooden marker pieces to fit and be moved as necessary; also to hold the restriction and engineer tokens (these being the ones that need care when removing - a long/sharp fingernail does the job).
The Market Board is like a mini stock market for the four commodities, Lamps/Oil, Bread/Food, Clothes and Cutlery. A rather odd selection of resources/commodities even if this is set in the era of the Industrial revolution, but they are diverse enough to assist with creating the atmosphere, along with the Brown, Beige and Royal Blue component colour scheme, of the mid 18th-mid 19th Century.
The Market Board also contains the monetary system - a nought to ninety-nine, 10 squared, numeral track, along which a player-colour ID round wooden marker is moved as necessary.
Being good at Maths is not crucial, but a fundamental knowledge helps. Here is a brief example of making a sale. Chris (that's me) makes 3 Bread (I used to be a bread salesman so this makes sense so far ). His current Appeal is at 2 and Demand is at 1. This means he can sell 1 to the Home Market for the current price (6) and 2 to sell overseas, via ships, at a cost of 8 per, giving a sales value of 22. Wages & production costs are 18 (you don't need a full explanation of how these values are determined, just to understand that they are part of the mechanism - but basically the value per goods is the sum of the coins on your factory and attached cards) therefore 22-18 gives a profit of 4.
Grant takes his turn and also makes 3 Bread. His Appeal is at 4 and Demand at 1 and thus all sell, to the Home market, for a total of 18 but with costs of 20 his sale brings him a loss of minus 2. Finally Fran joins the run of Food baking and also has 3 breads in her oven. With an Appeal of 3 and demand of 1 she sells 2 (for 6 each) to the Home market and 1 (for 8) on a ship for a total of 20. Her costs (wages etc) come to 20 but as she has a development card her wage bill is reduced by 2 per worker (up to 4) which equates to 12 thus she makes 8 profit.
Some cards attached to factories show workers (people) others contain Machinery which allows Automate Production - one Machine equates to 2 workers.
The Stock Exchange allows players to buy shares (in the four commodities) at the current share value (as shown on the board) but by upgrading your development you can obtain shares at a discount price.
Most of the cards are double-sided and split into two halves on both sides. The playing of the Development cards and the use of Warehouses are the essential elements to player's strategies Developments can affect many aspects of your factories, such as adding quality (represented by green thumbs-up symbols), distribution (bull horns), machinery (a machine) and shipping (a sailing ship) plus the Stock Exchange and Develoment cards
Each player begins with a card showing two ships on one side and one on the other. When you sell goods by sea you use one of your ships, flip the card over to show only one ship; later on you can reactivate the card to use your ships again. Using ships will reduce the value of your shares so that's another balance you have to contend with.
The mechanics give a good representation of the Industrial Revolution era, showing that the search for, and research of, technology never was inexpensive. Only the clever and tough businessmen survived and were successful. Shipping wasn't the only problem to compete with, there were always expenses, wages, maintenance, running costs etc, and then, of course, there is the fluctuation and flexibility of the Stock Market.
Only savvy players will get the most and best out of ARKWRIGHT. I realise it isn't always possible, but if you can, play your first game with someone who has played before as it will make it easier for you to understand its inner-workings and mechanics. ARKWRIGHT the Card Game isn't an open the box and play type of game; it is a long, considerate, dramatic, journey.
ARKWRIGHT is a strategy game that requires core players who enjoy the mental athletics of a long, heavily atmospheric, challenge. It is a clever, thoughtful, demanding contest, that can be played solo or with up to four players - we found it longer but more enjoyable with 3 & 4 players (around 2 hours compared to 90-100 minutes for 1-2 players).