19th century capitalists manipulate the market and manage their industrial empires.
Furnace is an engine-building Eurogame in which players take on the roles of 19th-century capitalists building their industrial corporations and aspiring to make as much money as they can by purchasing companies, extracting resources, and processing them in the best combinations possible.
Each player starts the game with a random start-up card, the resources as shown on that card, 4 discs with the values 1 to 4 and a Capitalist Card. Furnace is played over 4 rounds and each round has two phases: Auction Phase and Production Phase.
During the Auction Phase, 6 Company Cards are revealed from the deck. Players take turns bidding on those Company Cards by placing one of their 4 discs onto a Company Card. Players can't place a disc on a card where they've previously placed a disc or on a card that already has a disc with that value. Once everybody has placed all of their discs they are resolved from left to right. The player with the highest valued disc gains the Company Card and places it in front of them. However all players losing out on the bid get compensated based on the value of the disc. For example: if a Company Card has a compensation of 1 Iron Bar, and I've lost the bid with a value 2 disc, I would gain 2 Iron Bars.
During the Production Phase all players may produce using the Company Cards in front of them. You can do this in any order you like. The Company cards will produces resources, upgrade Company Cards by flipping them to their upgraded (and improved) side and convert resources into other resources/money.
If playing with the Variant rules, when you receive a Company Card during the Auction Phase you must place it anywhere in your chain of Company Cards. After being placed the Company Card can no longer be moved and production must be executed in that order.
After 4 rounds the game ends and the player with the most money is declared the winner!
Furnace is an easy to teach and simple game with some difficult decisions. The mix of bidding and engine building works surprisingly well. Generally I'm not a huge fan of bidding mechanisms in games but I like how it is executed in Furnace. If you lose a bid you always get something in return, and sometimes you want to lose because you need the compensation resources. This makes for an interesting mind game with your opponents as you try to figure out what they would like the most.
For two players a dummy player is added to the Auction phase to add some more bidding competition. While I definitely see that it is necessary at 2 players I do think it's a bit to random as you can't really read the dummy player as you can with actual players.
The engine building is pretty good but also very basic. The production abilities of the Company Cards are generally receive x goods, convert x into y and so on. It makes me wonder if they could've introduced some more interesting abilities that maybe influence the bidding phase as well. For example maybe they could've added a resources that you can exchange during the bidding phase that increases/decreases your bet by 1.
The Consultants are an addition that really change the way you play the game, I also think they are poorly balanced. Also with only 5 Consultants included I don't think it adds much variability. Variability also does not come from the Company Cards since there are only 36 of those. In a two player game you will see 24 of the Company Cards each game.
👍 Easy to teach with simple rules and fast to play
👍 Interesting Bidding Mechanic with difficult decisions that I really like
👍 Planning is a must to run your companies efficiently
👍 Artwork is beautiful and the Iconography couldn't be more clear
➖ Two player variant works good, but can feel a bit random
➖ Company Cards abilities are basic and could've been more interesting
➖ Lacks Variability to keep it interesting after numerous plays
➖ Consultants are not properly balanced
Furnace mixes basic Engine Building with an interesting bidding Mechanic that I really like. While I think it lacks variability and the consultants are poorly balanced, Furnace is still a solid experience with beautiful artwork.
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)
Looking for alternatives or similar games? Have a look at Fantastic Factories