Overview: Titans of Industry is another heavy-duty worker placement game set in the 1920s, with players competing to build factories, produce resources, and then sell them at businesses for profit and sweet, sweet victory points. The game is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter; I received a prototype to try out.
Players: 3 to 5
Ages: 12 and up
Playing Time: 90 minutes
Retail: $55 on Kickstarter (or $80 for wooden bits or $10 for print-and-play version); eventually $60 retail
Rating: Titanic! Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Really, though, it’s quite a good game.
Who Will Like It? Gamers who enjoy worker placement games, like Belfort or Lords of Waterdeep. While the gameplay is pretty straightforward, keeping track of all your people and resources and buildings can be daunting, so this game is not for players who shy away from lots of planning. It’s Titans of Industry, not “Dwarves of Industry.” (Come to think of it, maybe that name applies to Belfort.)
The board is made to look like some sort of big headquarters, with the various spaces for workers made to look like conference rooms, tables, and so on. Players will be producing various types of resources, and then selling them — but they also build buildings (factories and businesses) which are worth points. It’s a somewhat abstracted version of 1920s industry, but the gameplay is solid.
This game has a LOT of components. I can see why they’re charging extra for the wooden resource bits, because even the cardboard version has a lot of stuff in it:
- 35 Factory Cards
- 35 Business Cards
- 21 Corporate Strategy Cards
- 168 Goods chits (24 each Wood, Brick, Stone, Tar, Concrete, Steel, Glass)
- 14 Research and Development chits
- 2 Custom Warehouse bins for chits
- 30 Workers (6 each in 5 colors)
- 10 Discs (2 each in 5 colors)
- 1 Temporary Worker (gray)
- 1 Turn Indicator
- 1 Game board
- 44 Money coins (20 $1k coins, 12 $3k coins, 12 $5k coins)
- 8 Loan cards
- 5 Player reference cards
- 6 Plastic zip bags
The version I have is a prototype, so I don’t know how much things will change between this and the final version. However, the artwork on the board is well done, with an Art Deco sort of feel to it. The cards are laid out pretty well, with easy-to-read markings for the cards that work in a 3-, 4-, or 5-player game. My only complaint is that the icon for wood looks a lot like a pile of bricks (particularly from across the table), and I often made that mistake while trying to make decisions. It might be nice if they included a thicker color-coded border on the cards (as there were on the resource chits).
One other omission which I hope they’ll fix in the final production version: the Corporate Strategy cards cost a little more each time you buy one: that cost should be printed right on the board, because we had to keep the instructions turned to that page to remind us.
Each player starts with $6k and 4 workers. Each player also gets three Corporate Strategy card, keeps one to pick, and places the rest at the bottom of the deck. Corporate Strategy cards are kept secret from other players. Player order is set randomly, and indicated by the turn order tokens on the board. One of each basic resource and $1k is placed on the Goods area of the board. All the other resources are put into the supply area of the board.
The goal of the game is to amass the most victory points by the end of the 7th round.
Each round has seven phases (some of which are very short):
- Purchase buildings
- Place workers
- Receive resources
- Use Businesses and Services
- Resolve Advances
- Pay Upkeep (during years 1923, 1925, and 1927)
- Cleanup and Maintenance
Turn over one Factory and one Business card per player: these are the buildings that are available for purchase in the round. Buildings come in three different levels, and cost $1k per level. The deck is arranged with Level 1 on top, Level 2 in the middle, and Level 3 at the bottom. Going in player order, players may choose to purchase buildings or pass. Once all the buildings are purchased or everyone has passed consecutively, the purchasing phase is over and any remaining buildings are discarded.
Each player has 5 slots for buildings. You can build on top of existing buildings as long as the newer building is of a higher level, so buildings can be up to three stories tall. Whatever is on top is active, and replaces the Factory or Building it covers. R&D chits automatically transfer to the new card.
This is the real meat of the game: deciding where to put your workers. Most locations (besides Businesses and the Train Workers space) can only be taken by one worker at a time. A worker on a Factory will produce each of the resources shown on the card. (Some give you a choice of a type of good, e.g. “any basic good.”) A worker on a Business can sell the depicted goods for cash or, in some cases, victory points.
There are a lot of spaces on the board as well: Corporate Strategy lets you purchase additional cards (up to three purchased cards, one per round, at increasing costs each time). The Goods area will let you take some basic goods or money, whatever has accumulated in each space. Buy Goods lets you purchase any two resources for $3k. Status bumps you up to first player for the next round. Union Bribe lets you place a worker on a Factory that is already occupied by an opponent (but it costs you the extra worker who goes on the Bribe spot). Temp Worker gives you an extra worker for the next round. Two R&D spaces let you add an R&D chit to either a Factory or a Business you own. Finally, Train Workers lets you get new workers (up to 2 additional), but it ties up your trainer for 2 rounds and then costs $2k as well.
One more thing: each time an opponent places a worker on one of your buildings, you immediately get a victory point.
Everyone collects resources from the Goods area and any Factories they occupy. Factories that have R&D chits will produce one extra good.
Use Businesses and Services
You can sell goods at a Business if you have a worker on it: you can sell a complete set of whatever is shown on the card, and you get money or victory points. You are allowed to sell one set of goods for each worker on the card (even if it’s not yours). So if you and an opponent both have one person on the same Business, you can both sell two sets of whatever goods that Business purchases. R&D chits increase the reward by $1k or 1VP.
This is also when you can purchase Corporate Strategy cards ($2k for the first, $4k and 1 good for the second, and $6k and 2 goods for the third), or use the Buy Goods space.
The “Advances” part of the board has the Status, Temp Worker, and R&D spaces. The player with Temp Worker claims the extra grey pawn and puts it in their area for use in the next round. Players on the R&D spaces each take a chit that goes on a Factory or Business (corresponding to the space they’re on). The Status actually takes place during Cleanup.
Three times during the game, you’ll have to pay upkeep on your buildings. Total up the upkeep cost shown on all the top cards of your buildings, and pay that amount to the bank. If you don’t have enough, you can always take out a loan for $3k— but it takes $5k to pay it back, or you lose 5VP at the end of the game.
Cleanup and Maintenance
Everyone retrieves their workers, except for those in the Train Workers space. After one round in the Train Worker space, an additional worker is placed in the spot. After the second round, both workers are retrieved and the player pays $2k to the bank.
The Turn Order tokens are rotated: first player goes to the back, and everyone else shifts up. Then, if any player took the Status space, they move to first place and move everyone back.
One more of each basic good and $1k is added to the Goods area.
Move the Turn Indicator one more space.
The game ends after the 7th round. Once everyone has paid their upkeep, total up the victory points on the buildings each player owns (including those that have been built over). Each R&D chit is worth a point, and any points earned by fulfilling Corporate Strategy cards are added.
Loans can be paid back a this time — unpaid loans cost 5 points each.
Extra goods are worth a point for every 3 goods.
Money is worth a point for every $5k.
In case of a tie, the player with most money wins.
Gozer Games is also the company behind Zombie Ninja Pirates and the sequel Vampire Werewolf Fairies. I thought they were cute card games but not particularly deep or strategic. Titans of Industry is something completely different, and can be quite a brain-burner. I really like it, though, and I wish I’d gotten to try it out a little earlier in their fundraising process. They’ve only got a few days left (it ends on Sunday, May 20) to raise 45% of their goal, and I’m hoping they reach it. (I know, I’m totally playing off your Kickstarter FOMO here.)
I’ll admit: the worker-placement genre isn’t for everyone. It’s a combination of predicting what your opponents will do, taking spaces you know other people need, and managing your own resources and money to achieve your goals. For some players, this can be completely overwhelming, but I guess I’m a good micromanager.
One interesting thing about Titans of Industry is the way the buildings change over the different levels: earlier buildings will have more basic goods and only a few intermediate goods. Level 3 buildings will have more advanced goods and fewer basic and intermediates. So as the game progresses, it becomes harder to produce and sell basic goods — but you’ll need some in order to get the really big payouts.
I also really liked the way that you can sell more things depending on the number of workers at a Business, independent of players. What it means is that if you know somebody is likely to use a particular Business, you can try to accumulate more of those goods, join them on the Business, and sell multiple copies. (Even better if they don’t know you’re going to do it, and only have one set of goods to sell.)
So far in the games I’ve played, though, the Corporate Strategy cards seem to be the path to victory. If you max out on your CS cards early in the game, they can direct your actions a bit throughout the rest of the game. In the last game I played, I earned more than half of my total score through CS cards. I think it’ll take some more plays (with experienced players) to see if there’s any way to prevent somebody from getting so many CS cards — one player suggested having two spots to purchase them, since they can be so valuable. With only 7 rounds, not everyone is going to be able to purchase their maximum three extra cards — but maybe that’s the point, and you just can’t let somebody buy so many without getting in to purchase some yourself.
The phase order can be a little confusing, particularly the way things are phrased for the “Advances” section. There are only four spaces on the Advances section of the board, but one of them actually doesn’t apply until the cleanup phase — and even the other three could wait until then without any significant changes. The gameplay is fine, but it might make a nice tweak in the rules that makes things a little more clear.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed Titans of Industry, and I’m looking forward to playing it more. I think there are a few minor improvements that they may be able to make before the final print, but I hope they do hit their goal so the game gets published. $55 sounds like a reasonable price for a game of this type.
They do have a $10 Print-and-Play version: some people have complained about having a cost for print-and-play, particularly for a game that is going to require a significant amount of printing and cutting, but if you’ve got a lot of time and don’t want to shell out for the full game, I think it could still be a pretty good deal.
For more info, visit their Kickstarter page, but hurry! Funding ends on Sunday, May 20.
Wired: Terrific worker-placement game that rewards attention to detail.
Tired: Can be slow with indecisive players.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a prototype copy of this game for review purposes.