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Scrapyard Empire Preview

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Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.

Scrapyard EmpireSteampunk has really taken off in recent memory. While the genre has been around for a while, I think it has really come to the forefront in recent years. And since I actually enjoy the genre, I’m OK with that. Scrapyard Empire, now in funding on Kickstarter, launches players in a steampunk themed junkyard and tasks them with finding out who the best inventor is.  The game promises some easy to learn rules and some entertaining game play. Do they succeed? Let’s find out!

Scrapyard Empire is a steampunk strategy game for 1-4 players that plays in about 30 minutes.

Game Overview:

In Scrapyard Empire, you are all spunky inventors trying to cobble together your inventions from the heaps of leftovers. Each turn, you will be trying to piece together small machines out of the various parts you find in the scrapheap. You can get these part cards by random draws, digging through the discard pile or by stealing them from other players. These parts you find will be used to build small machines. Once these small machines are built, you can either use them for their special abilities or combine them to form inventions. Be the first player to build two inventions and you win!

How to Play:

Scrapyard Empire Character Cards
Each player gets a character card with their own special ability.

The game play in Scrapyard Empire is simple to learn, but also gives players a lot of options on their turn. To start the game, each player is dealt out a random character card that will provide them with a special ability to use during the game. Next, each player is dealt out 8 part cards, which are placed face up in front of them. Then, each player is dealt 5 small machine cards and 1 invention card. These are kept secret in their hand. When you are ready to begin, starting with the player to the left of the dealer, each player will take a turn in a clockwise manner.

A turn is broken up into 4 parts:
Draw Phase: Draw a part from the part deck. If you have 5 small machines in your hand, you may draw 2 cards instead from either the part or small machine decks.
Action Phase: There are a number of different actions you can take. A player gets 2 actions on their turn:

  • Draw 1 card from any of the decks
  • Dig from the scrap (discard) pile of a deck. You must roll a 4-6 to successfully take a card.
  • Steal a part or small machine from another player. You must roll a 5 or 6 to successfully steal.
  • Trade with another play. Both players must agree to the trade
  • Use a small machine ability. If you’ve already built a small machine, you can use its ability once per turn.

Build Phase: If a player has all the parts for a small machine (or all required small machines for an invention), they can discard those to build the small machine/invention.
Discard Phase: If a player has more than 8 part or 5 small machine cards at the end of their turn, they must discard down to 8 parts and 5 small machines.

After that their turn is over and the next player takes their turn. Player turns will continue in this manner until one player has built 2 inventions and wins.

Scrapyard Empire Game Experience
The small machine cards are some of the most important in the game. They not only will build your inventions, but they also are the only cards with a special ability.

Game Experience:

Scrapyard Empire is an interesting game. The actual rules are fairly easy to pick up even though it sounded complex when I was reading the rulebook. Parts build small machines and, in turn, small machines build inventions. That makes sense to me. I tend to enjoy games that both make sense and flow well. Nothing is worse than when you have a game where things don’t seem to align with how they should in reality.

Anyway, one of my favorite parts of Scrapyard Empire is how the small machines work. I’m glad they each have their own unique special ability. This turns a game that could have been a boring exercise in finding the right cards into something that can hold your interest while you go digging through the scrapyard. The small machines all have abilities that allow you to break the rules in certain ways. This has the added effect of convincing you to build a small machine that, while it won’t help you get your invention built, it’s still helpful in its own right.

Scrapyard Empire Inventions
Inventions are your ultimate goal in the game. Build two of these and you win.

Scrapyard Empire also has a bit of a snowball effect to the game. At the beginning of the game, getting those small machines built can be frustrating. There are a diverse amount of part cards available, so you could be waiting for a while for that hull card to show up. However the interesting thing about the game is that once a part does show up, it’s fairly easy to get your hands on it. If you can’t wait, you can just steal the card from an opponent (or try to at least). If you can wait, then digging through the discard pile is your best option. Once you build a small machine, all those parts go into the discard pile. After a while, every card you could need will be in that ever-growing discard pile.

And it’s a good that that it is, because Scrapyard Empire can be prone to wild swings of luck, especially early on in the game. Since players are blindly drawing through three different draw piles, getting the right cards early can make all the difference. It one of our plays, a player drew an invention card that they already had 2 of the small machines built for. This gave them a nice advantage towards the win condition. For those that hate games with a strong luck component, beware.

Scrapyard Empire Part Cards
Part cards are the ones you will be seeing most of. There are quite a few different ones and it can sometimes be maddening finding the right one.

Speaking luck, one of the intriguing things about the game is its mixture of dice and cards. That shiny part you need might be staring at you from the discard pile, but if you don’t roll properly, it will just taunt you. So players in Scrapyard Empire will have to contend with both the luck of the draw and the roll of the dice.

Scrapyard Empire ended up being an easy to learn card game that is very accessible to all sorts of players. You can easily bring this game out with your non-gamer friends. As I mentioned earlier, the simplicity of parts->small machines->inventions just makes sense. The only thing you have to be aware of is stealing can be particularly nasty in this game and some people might be turned off by that kind of conflict. Losing a part card isn’t that big of a deal, but if you get your small machine stolen, that’s a lot of hard work down the drain. Fortunately, stealing is regulated to a 2 in 6 chance of happening, so usually it’s better to just go digging through the discard piles.

Final Thoughts:

Scrapyard Empire ended up being a fun and accessible card game with a unique theme. We enjoyed getting it to the table and it made for a great game when we weren’t looking to spend 2 hours with a complex eurogame. I like that the rules were so easy to learn and that the game just made sense. I could see playing this with family and non-gamer friends. The special abilities on the character cards will help add a little bit of replay value to the game as well. Its nice touches like that that make Scarpyard Empire an intriguing game.

If you are interested in the game, it’s now in funding on Kickstarter and is scheduled for delivery in March of 2015. A pledge of $25 will get you a copy of the game and any appropriate stretch goals. You have until Wednesday, July 16th to become a backer so head over today if you are interested.

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As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review

1 COMMENT

  1. Nice review, thanks for trying out the game! A few quick comments on things that may not have been in the initial set of rules we sent. 1) Luck when attempting a successful die roll can always be mitigated by discarding Parts cards if you have them. So if you roll a 3 & need a 5, then discard 2 Parts cards to add +2 to your die roll and make it successful. 2) Small Machines cannot be stolen once they are built. Once you discard 3 parts to build a small machine, you put it on the table, and it’s safe – no one can steal it. However while they’re in your hand, an opponent may attempt a steal by rolling dice / discarding parts. If successful, they pick 2 small machines from your hand, choose 1 and give the other back to you. Parts cards are face up on the table and may be stolen with a roll / discarding other parts cards. 3) since that prototype was sent out, we’ve added an additional 18 cards to the Small Machines deck, which helps balance it out a bit more, particularly for 4-player games.

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