Instant Game Night Reviews: Gizmos
“Is Gizmos a good game to bring to game night?”
Year Published 2018
Designer Phil Walker-Harding
Artists Hannah Cardoso, Júlia Ferrari, Giovanna BC Guimarães, Mathieu Harlaut, Saeed Jalabi
Publisher CMON Limited
Age Range 14+
Playing Time 40-50 Minutes
Gizmos is an engine building board game where players take on the role of eccentric inventors trying to create as many inventions (or gizmos) as possible. In order to do this players will be drafting various colored marbles (or "energy") from a central pool. In the 2nd edition of the game this central pool is represented by a plastic dispenser tower. These marbles are then used as currency to purchase various gizmos from the display, which will give the player added benefits throughout the rest of the game. At the end of the game the player with the most victory points wins.
Below you will find a brief summary of the game play along with our thoughts on whether or not Gizmos is a good game to bring to your next game night get-together.
Please note: We do not intend this review to be a thorough explanation of the rules of a game or how to play. Rather, our reviews are aimed to provide you a basic overview of the game play along with our thoughts on how suitable a particular game is to bring to a game night with family or friends. If this is your first time reading an Instant Game Night review, please click here to read about our review format and rating system.
At the beginning of the game the marble dispenser is filled with marbles; level 1, 2, and 3 Gizmo cards are placed face up on the table; and players are given a dashboard along with an energy storage ring and a starting gizmo. The player dashboard shows all of the various icons which will appear on the gizmo cards.
The icons represent which column a gizmo card will be placed in the dashboard once purchased. As more and more gizmo cards are purchased they are layered below the dashboard and each gizmo card can provide an added benefit when taking that action. For instance normally a player may only pick one marble from the dispenser. However certain gizmo cards allow a player to take an additional marble provided they pick a certain color marble. So one card might say if you pick a red marble you may pick an additional marble for free.
It is possible to reap many rewards over the span of a single turn. It is also possible that a player may even be able to take multiple actions in a single turn. This is what we mean when we say a "chain reaction" - one gizmo card triggers a second action, which triggers another gizmo card, which could trigger yet another action.
These icons we discussed previously also represent a particular action that a player may take. To explain all these icons in the simplest possible way, we will look at each one from left to right as displayed on the player dashboards.
The first icon on the left side of the dashboard is not an action in and of itself but rather it represents limits to your actions. So, from left to right, your limits at the beginning of the game are:
Up to 5 marbles in your energy storage ring
Up to 1 gizmo card filed in your archive
Up to 3 gizmo cards may be drawn when taking the research action (explained later)
All three of these limits can be increased during the game by purchasing and playing a Gizmo card with the "+" icon. This means that, when purchased, this card is played in the upgrade area and provides the specified upgrade (for instance, a card might provide a +1 upgrade to your energy storage limit).
The next section on the dashboard is called the converters section represented by a right facing arrow (">"). Gizmo cards with this symbol allow players to convert various types and quantities of energy into other types or quantities. For instance, a card may allow a player to convert a yellow energy marble into a red energy marble. Other cards might allow a player to convert one black energy marble into two black energy marbles, essentially providing a bonus marble. These conversions can be used during your turn only while taking a Build action.
So this conversion essentially allows you to buy Gizmo cards using different colors and/or quantities than required. This can be a really useful way to mitigate the luck factor in which marbles are showing in the dispenser.
The final four sections of the dashboard represent the four actions available to players on their turn.
File: This is essentially a layaway option in which players can select one of the face up gizmo cards from the table and place it into their archive. This gizmo can then be built on a later turn. As you build gizmos with the file icon, they will allow you extra actions each time you file, such as the ability to pick a marble or to perform research.
Pick: This allows you to select one marble from the five visible in the dispenser. You will find it a slow process to collect marbles initially but as you build more gizmos with the pick icon, you will be afforded extra benefits such as "if you pick a yellow marble, pick a second one randomly from the top of the dispenser".
Build: This is really the core action in Gizmos and this is what allows you to add a Gizmo card into one of the columns on your dashboard. To build a Gizmo you must pay the required marbles as listed in the bottom left corner of the card. Then, the card is placed in the respective column as indicated by the symbol in the top left corner of the card. From your next turn onwards, this card will potentially supply you with added bonuses each time you subsequently take that action. As more and more Gizmo cards are played, you will find yourself with many satisfying chain reaction possibilities to unlock.
Research: The final action is research. Research allows you to draw a number of cards from the top of any gizmo draw deck and choose one to either file or build. The number of cards you can draw is specified by your research limit. This action allows you to "roll the dice" if none of the face up gizmo cards are appealing to your strategy.
As the game progresses players will take turns choosing one core action to complete (file, pick, build, or research) and then resolving any relevant benefits from the Gizmo cards already played in the appropriate column of your dashboard. Any or all of your Gizmo card effects may be triggered on a single turn, however, each card may only be triggered one time per turn.
Play continues until a player has either:
Built four level 3 Gizmos; or
Built a total of 16 Gizmos, including their starting Gizmo.
Once all players have had an equal number of turns, all Players add up the point total of their built Gizmos along with any other collected victory points. The player with the highest score is the winner.
Gizmos is an entertaining game that we find a great way to introduce relative newcomers to engine building. The marbles are absolutely gorgeous and the plastic dispenser helps to give this game a nice and colorful table presence. The mechanics of the game are also relatively clear and simple to explain. The player dashboard does a good job of showing which actions a player may take. We also found the iconography to be well done and easy to understand.
While we would stop short of recommending this game to a brand new player, we do think Gizmos is a great next level game that you can introduce to your guests who have a few other board games under their belt. Engine building by its very nature is a bit more of a complex mechanic so there is a fair amount to keep track of in Gizmos, particularly towards the end of the game, where turns can take considerably longer as players work to fulfil all of their bonus actions.
In summary we find Gizmos to be a great gateway into engine building for newer players, and for experienced gamers, it is an enjoyably light engine building game with a high level of satisfaction when executing chain reactions. Because of this dual appeal, Gizmos is a game that we would certainly recommend to a regular game group or to a game night host with experienced guests who don't mind a low interaction and low theme puzzle of an engine builder.
This is a game that we personally really enjoy but would be cautious about recommending as a game night game for the reasons we will discuss further down below.
Our rating system:
G rabs your attention
E asy to play & teach
N ewbie friendly
G ood rulebook
H olds attention
! our experience
Gizmos Rating Breakdown
Grabs Your Attention
The second edition of Gizmos certainly commands table presence and attention with the energy dispenser. The Gizmo cards themselves are also fairly colorful. But the real star of the show in our minds are the energy marbles, which are very tactile and appealing. Overall, Gizmos does a good job of grabbing attention.
Gizmos is quick to set up / tear down and for most of the game player turns move fairly quickly as well. However, we have to deduct half a point for how long turns can drag on towards the game end. This is caused partly by how many Gizmos each player has to check for effects but also any player who is at all prone to AP will see it rear its head late in the game. It certainly isn't the most AP inducing game we've ever played but its also not the least.
There is something about Gizmos that makes it a really memorable game. The combination of the dispenser and the aesthetic of the marbles has a lot to do with it, but we also think the satisfaction of the chain reactions also creates lasting memories.
Easy to Teach and Play
Gizmos is fairly easy to teach and play. The mechanics are straightforward on their own but there is enough going on in the game that you will almost certainly have to go back over some of the concepts and actions for new players as they get a few turns under their belts. Most people will pick up on the game fairly well but we have had a few less experienced gamers get a bit befuddled during the course of the game. This is something you should keep in mind when deciding if this is a good game for your game group.
For the reasons mentioned above, we cannot give Gizmos a full point here. We certainly think there will be newbies out there who pick up on Gizmos with no problem, however, engine building as a mechanism generally isn't one we recommend for newbies to begin with. Add to that the complexities of keeping track of your built Gizmos and chain reactions and this quickly becomes a game better suited for at least moderately experienced players.
With the exception of filing or building a gizmo that you wanted for yourself, you will have next to no interaction with the other players in Gizmos. This isn't inherently a bad thing, but for game night games we generally like to select games where players are interacting or communicating. Gizmos is a game that will find players silently planning their next move throughout the entire game with radio silence from the other players.
Good Rule Book
The rule book for Gizmos is short and to the point but also sufficiently thorough. The four pages of rules have plenty of imagines and captions to help new players and there is also a nice one page summary sheet that can be consulted during game play.
Although there isn't much player interaction in Gizmos, there is also not a lot of down time either. This is because players naturally spend the time between turns examining their dashboard and planning the best next move. For this reason, we have yet to have any problems with players losing focus or lacking in attention.
The first paragraph of the rule book describes the theme of Gizmos and that is where the theme promptly stops. The art on the Gizmo cards is a nice touch but ultimately the theme in this game is forgotten quicker than the time it takes to read the few sentences of flavor text.
Finally it's time to tell you about our personal experiences with Gizmos. We have played Gizmos at 3 and 4 players and this is definitely a game where the length is increased with each additional player. That being said, we enjoyed all of our plays of Gizmos and found it to be a pleasant and satisfying multi-player solitaire experience. IF you are looking for an engaging and interactive experience, look elsewhere. But for what it is, Gizmos is a winner for our household!