Side Room Games kindly let us preview their game Deep Into & Back Out of the Belly of a Huge Mechanical Beast which is coming to Kickstarter on May 31st! This game has a whimsical title but the game itself is full of carefully calculated moves.
The title explains the main concept of the game, you are trying to escape collapsing rooms (made up of tile placements) and save meeples as you find your way out. You also want to get a robot meeple out of the building too, but he is not a bot in distress, he can also help you rescue meeples.
On your turn you can take two actions which cannot be repeated, you can move either your character or the robot meeple (a sort of third player everyone controls) and you can discover or move a room tile that has gears (more on that later).
Most of the room tiles have tiny variations in them. Some have gears that let you rotate the four tiles that are along the top, bottom, left, and right or some let you move the entire row, etc. This can be difficult since certain tiles will have people tokens on them and these tokens must be rescued by collapsing the room in which they are in. We thought the idea of rotating the rooms was a good mechanicas you could change the map many times throughout the game, but felt that this mechanic would have been easier to maneuver digitally. It can become a bit tough to turn the pieces without moving all the tiles, rotating, and replacing all the tiles.
There are some special tiles that are important to moving the game along. The Entrance is the first tile ever placed and it cannot collapse, and allows you to save meeples by exiting through it. The Emergency Exit allows for an extra escape tile, but must be drawn randomly on your turn. The control room, once discovered, marks the start of collapsing. This marks where the mechanical beast is trying to get rid of rooms and collapsing any rooms that are left empty. If this happens, you must throw a collapsed tile away. The last important tile is the Lockdown room. This room removes the ability to explore from then on and locks unexplored rooms. You can also lock yourself in this room if you can’t get out the single side exit. All of these special tiles are mixed into the draw pile in a particular way making it a story as you play, discovering things in stages marking the beginning, middle, climax and end. The instructions on how to do this are a little tough to follow but easy once you realize what you need to do. The backings of the tiles are all the same which is both a pro and a con. You have to find these 4 pieces in a mixed pile to set up the game which is difficult when they are jumbled in the box. It is a necessity for the backings to be the same however, as otherwise you would know when you are about to discover one of these important rooms.
You win if you get all the engineers out, you win a little less if your robot buddy doesn’t escape. You lose if you or any of the engineers get trapped (you are trapped if there is no possible way to get out of the maze). This sounds like an easy task but it becomes a matter of managing your moves and turns in such a way that you don’t cut off any other players or cut off any exits while leaving everything open enough for other players to be able to do the same thing.
There are different difficulty levels but it was a bit of a challenge just on the normal mode. For example, in the default mode you can walk through glass doors, in the harder versions you can’t go through said doors cutting off a lot of options for movement and escape.
We like the idea of this game and feel that a digital version would create the smoothest way for the mechanics to play out. It would resolve all of the small things we found to be clunky in set up, tile movement, and even thinking through how the tiles around the moving gear would look if you make different movement choices. This game is definitely geared towards mathematically minded folks and the Kickstarter can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sideroomgames/mechanical-beast
Language Barrier Playability: The game is coming out in 10 languages, which is extremely accessible! Even if you have only one language though, explaining the rules is simple and the game relies solely on logic and symbols. This game is very easily played with a language barrier.
Replayability: This game was not our style of game, but you can change difficulty level and try different strategies in replaying it. It has a lot of options and is more geared towards players who enjoy strategy and logic puzzles.
Artwork: We felt that many of the tiles design/function were repeated too many times but really liked the robot meeple and the look of the cover. The title of the game sounds great and sounds foreboding.
Quality: The tiles are thick and the meeples are sturdy quality. The final product may change but the prototype we played was already good quality.
Strategy: Strategy is a little hard to visualize for us in how the pieces consistently are supposed to move and you must keep a mental visual of how multiple tiles sliding or shifting would change the entire maze before doing it. This game is very strategy focused.
Instruction Manual: The manual was detailed but we thought it could be shorter. Some of the explanations for rules were a little confusing and had to be reread.
Organization: This is a reviewer copy which we don’t know if it will change or not, it is a nice shelf size box. Baggies inside help keep things generally organized.