Müll & Money
original German edition
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Industrial Waste is a beautifully compact game. The designer succeded in creating a few elegant rules that lead to a wide range of variations. I am impressed! I recommend it for players who are not interested in the time commitment needed to learn and play Puerto Rico over any other game this year. In fact, I even recommend it for those who already love Puerto Rico. There is a lot going on for such decievingly simply rules.
Keep in mind the theme of the game (which was created by a Green activist) or else you'll think the object is to produce as much as possible. Not so; the object is to balance several important aspects of a factory including enviornmentally friendly waste management. I won my last game by only producing twice but this was because the other players were new to the game and over-valued production.
While I think this game is among the best available, I also think it has several minor flaws. Normally I let other people write about the flaws (every game has some) but since this is only the second review, no one has covered them yet. The first is that the game does not ever have to end. This can be a problem if the two players who have the power to end the game aren't sure which of them is in the lead or if they are taking such glee in their dominance that they do not want the game to end. There is a simple solution if this problem happens to arise (it does not happen often). Players should feel free to quite as soon as they are tired of playing the game. In some games, this greatly affects the other two players and therefore makes for some unhappy gamers. In this game, having players leave will not sway the game in one direction or another. The other very minor flaw is that there are 2 bribe cards which are practically useless. While the designer knew they were weak cards and therefore only put 2 of them in the mix, I am of the opinion that games should have no loose ends. In this case, I have found no viable strategies that can be created around these cards which makes them superflous in my opinion. I understand that an Green idealist does not want to encourage bribery (along with polution) but I don't think the game loses anything to take these cards out of the mix.
I'd like to write a quick recommendation for this title. It's a game in which one seeks to make money by producing commodities of an unspecified type, while respecting the concerns of the environment. Each round several piles of cards are dealt. Each card allows a certain type of action. Each player, sequentially, then takes one of the piles into their hand for use that turn. It's a novel mechanic that works well. The game appears to offer several diferent strategies for success, and moves swiftly. All-in-all it presents an enjoyable and challenging hours entertainment. Solid value at the price.
Some themes sound like a lot of fun, like warring sheep (War & Sheep) or slaying cave trolls (Cave Troll). Other themes, like planting beans (Bohnanza), dont thrill my soul when I first hear about them. But the game itself may be able to overcome that theme, and make me enjoy it (like Bohnanza). Industrial Waste is one such game. I wasnt sure that I was going to be thrilled with. The idea of controlling a companys waste and pollution didnt sound like bucket-loads of fun. But still, the game got fairly good reviews, so I decided to purchase it and try it out.
So is Industrial Waste a fun, good game? The short answer is that yes, its an excellent game, but that the theme just seems to drag down the fun factor of it.
Now for my explanatory longer answer
First, a short description (leaving out some minor rules) of game play:
The main board is set up in the middle of the table. It is a grid of 35 spaces, with the number of workers in your factory on one side (1-5) and the value of your goods at the top (14-20). Each player places a wooden factory piece in the the 5/14 space, in the top left hand corner. This shows that their goods are worth 14 million Euros, and that they currently employ 500 workers. Each player is then given a player board for their color. Players place small round wooden pegs in their color in 4 different tracks on their scoreboard. These tracks (a series of holes punched in the scoreboard) measure four things: Rationalization (amount of workers needed to produce goods), raw materials (amount of materials needed to produce goods), waste reduction (amount of waste produced when goods are made) and waste disposal (how much waste production occurs). Each player also starts with 15 million euros, as well as five raw materials (black hexagonal cylinders) which they place in the tower picture on their score mat.
The game takes place through several rounds. Each round has five phases.
1). Lay out card combinations. One player deals out from a deck of fifty-three action cards a row of cards one more than the amount of players. Then he lays a second and third row on top of each card making a series of 3-card columns. If he draws the accident card, all players must immediately check their waste disposal markers. If the marker is in the green area of the track, nothing happens. If its in the yellow or red area, they must pay a fine, and move their factory spaces to the left (this is bad!) on the main board.
2). Choose card combinations: The starting player (who has a silver wooden Euro symbol piece to show he is first) chooses one of the columns of cards. Each other player follows in clockwise order.
3). Play the cards: The starting player plays one of his cards (unless he only has one card left, in which case he can pass and save the card for the next turn). Each card does different things.
- Raw material card the player takes a certain amount of raw materials from a central stash (amount indicated on his scoreboard) and auctions them off, going clockwise once around the table. If another player buys them, the player makes money. If the player himself decides to bid highest, he pays the money to the bank. Whoever buys the goods places them in their tower.
- Order card the player produces and sells goods. To do so, he must have the amount of workers in his factory and enough goods in his tower to do so. If he does, he removes the number of goods, putting them back in a central stash, and takes the amount of money that his factory is currently on the main board. (i.e. if the factory is on the 16 space, the player makes sixteen million.) The player must also move his waste disposal marker according to the number on his waste reduction track.
- Growth card the player moves his factory to the right one space on the main board.
- Innovation the player moves one of his markers in one of the three innovation tracks. If he moves the waste reduction marker, he produces less waste when he produces goods. If he moves the raw material marker, he needs fewer raw materials to produce goods. If he moves the rationalization marker, he needs fewer employees to produce goods. Each movement costs five million euros.
- Hiring/firing the player can move his factory marker up or down on the main board.
- Waste disposal the player can move his waste marker 3 spaces down.
- Waster removal the player can move his waste marker 1 space down, but move everyone elses marker 1 space up.
- Bribery this card is saved and can help a player out when an accident occurs.
- Advisor This card can double most of the other cards or be used to pay back a loan.
4). Pay basic costs. Each player must pay for their workers. (1 million for each hundred workers).
5). Change starting player: Player passes the silver piece to the player on their left.
At any time in the game, a player may take a loan out of the bank for as much as they need. However, they get a 10 point card for every 10 million they borrow.
Whenever one or more players factories reaches the far right side of the main board (column 20), the game ends with an accident! After the accident, points are totaled up. Players get the points for the column their factory is in (column 20 = 20 points), half of their money (23 million euros = 11 points), points for where their markers are on the innovation tracks (ranging from 1 to 15 points), and subtracting points for any loan cards held. Whoever has the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1). Components: Great components in this game! The money is very easily told apart by different denominations and is printed on good quality, laminated paper. My only gripe about the money is that there isnt really enough of it. The banker constantly has to make change so that there are enough bills to go around. The little cards are of incredibly good quality. They are printed on nice laminated cardstock, and can take a good bit of wear. They are easy to tell apart. Unfortunately, to keep the game language-free, there are no words written on the cards. So, when first playing the game, you might have to constantly refer to the rulebook to find out what each card is and does. Of course, I love little wooden pieces, and the colored cylinders, and the little black good bits are of excellent quality. The box comes with a plastic inside that holds all the bits quite well its really great. I still put all the little pieces in plastic bags, but its only necessary when moving the box around unless you tip it over, everything will stay in place.
2). Rules: Here is where Industrial Waste stands head and shoulders above other games. The rulebook has eight pages, and is absolutely beautiful and well written. One page has a list of the contents, which is essential for any game but goes even farther and shows a picture of everything! Another page shows a complete layout in full color very useful for the first time playing. The rules are well written, with color illustrations for almost every point, and written examples for scoring and playing cards. Industrial Waste has probably the best rulebook Ive ever come across in a game.
3). Strategy: The game has an immense amount of decisions to make. Should you fire more workers to save costs? Or should you try to produce as many good as possible, trying to rake in the money? Should you cut waste to avoid accidents, or just let the company produce piles of waste, hoping that you dont get hurt. Should you be aggressive, and pick cards you know your opponent wants, or pick the ones that best help you?
4). Picking cards: This is one of the most interesting parts of the game. Its always fun to go first and pick amongst the sets of three cards and its horrible to go last, seeing every set you want picked by someone else. Some cards are wanted by everyone like the advisor (everyone always wants to double their other cards) or growth. Other cards arent as hotly contested like the bribery card or hiring/firing card.
5). Rich getting richer: This isnt a big deal in this game, but once you get better in innovations, you can really stomp all over your opponents. At the same time, if you go into debt early, it can really hurt you and its hard to recover.
6). Time: The game is short, and only takes about an hour. If one player wants to finish the game quickly, they can continually take growth cards until there factory is in the 20 column and the game is over. Of course, by doing that, they probably wont win, but its still an option.
7). Accidents: For me, one of the most fun parts of the game is when the cards are dealt. Everyone (especially those whose companies are in the red waste zone) waits with bated breath hoping that the card is pulled or praying that its not. When it does come up, yells and howls usually fill the air. Its fairly funny (unless youre the one who gets slammed.)
8). Fun Factor: However, accidents are the most fun thing in the game. I cant put my finger on it, but even though the game play is innovative and excellent, the theme doesnt really grab me or my group. No one said that they disliked the game, in fact everyone enjoyed it, but no one loved the game or really ever asks to play it. I cant argue that the theme doesnt fit the game it really does feel like you are handling waste from large company Im just not sure that thats the feeling people want to have.
Ill bring the game out occasionally, because the game play is fun and enjoyable. However, I dont think Ill be asked very often. This may change as time goes by, but people would rather play a game with a more fun theme (even if that theme is settling Catan). If you are looking for a game with little luck and a good bit of strategy, I highly recommend this game. If handling waste accidents doesnt sound like much fun to you, then I recommend you go the other way.
I understand that this game went through the wringer with the Hans im Glck design team (the name of Karl-Heinz Schmiel loomed large), not unlike the Hollywood screenwriter whose Napoleonic epic is pared down to Police Academy 30. As a sop to designer Dr. Strohm, his original board is included, although you will probably not make use of it.
Mll + Money is a straightforward business game, offering little in the way of innovation but with a tight turn sequence and self-evident objectives. And a frisson of luck provides the game with sufficient uncertainty.
M+M is propelled by a set of cards illustrating the necessary requirements and potential penalties when completing "a Contract". Each turn, a player will select and then play through one of the card sets still available. The action is recorded on both a Personal Planner and Communal Gameboard. The Planner records Technology status (Raw Materials, Workers, Trash) and the wider repercussions of your Trash Heap. The Gameboard chronicles Workers employed and Factory value (the amount earned when a Contract is completed)
There are nine types of card:
Technology Improvement. Allows advancement on one of Tracks. Apart from reducing the number of workers or raw materials needed for contracts, or the associated trash, increased points are earned for the final tally up.
Recruit/Fire Employees. It is imperative to balance the number of Workers currently employed and those needed for Contracts. The Marxist dictum says you have to pay for them, however. Shoot 'em, say I, although no such card exists. Mark any adjustment on the Gameboard.
Factory Income. Moving Right on the Gameboard will furnish additional funds, and the game ends when one player pops into the '20' row (you start on 14). But this does not guarantee victory, and it may be prudent to hold fire or even lessen factory profits.
Contract Fulfilment. Raw Materials are expended (depending on your position on the relevant Technology Track, and Trash (Mull) accumulates (same principle). And a word of caution. Sufficient workers must be in the Factory to enable the order to be discharged, again indicated on the applicable Track.
Raw Materials. These are auctioned when the appropriate card is laid, the number determined by the position on the Technology Track. The sale commences to the left of the Starting player, who then has the final bid. If he is successful, the money goes to the bank, but if not, he receives the total amount from the successful participant.
Recycle Trash. Move the marker on your Trash Heap three spaces to the left, and away from the Danger Zone.
Trash Tourism (whatever that means!). As per the Recycle option, but your opponents must move their marker one space towards the Red Zone, whilst you get relief one space the other way.
Advisor. He doubles the effect of one card, and may also cancel a loan. A word here about money. You may borrow from the bank at any time, and it is paid back without interest at the game's conclusion.
Trash Incident. Gulp. The ultimate horror. When this card is dealt during the Action phase, all players check their Trash Heaps. Those in the Green section escape penalty, but heavy polluters lingering in yellow or red pay, respectively 5 or 10 million Mio. Their factories also reduce in value, moving 1(yellow) or 2 (red) to the left on the Gameboard.
Bribe. Salvation! This little gem cancels the effect of the Trash Incident, and costs but a miserable 1 million.
Cards are played during the third phase of the game, following Distribution (sets of three, with an additional hand available beyond the number of players) and Selection. The two final elements are:
Pay for Business Activity. In effect, wages time. This is calculated by the position of the Factory marker on the gameboard using the Worker section for reference.
Change Starting Player. The Euro Sign moves left.
If the card operation appears fraught, it isn't. You may ponder awhile when making your choice of cards, but your personal requirements are usually obvious. All players must accelerate their Factory to more profitable avenues on the Gameboard, but need to balance this with accumulation of points on the Technology Tracks.
Points are assessed as follows:
Total value of Factory and Technological Advances (Workers, Raw Materials and Trash Dispersal) plus half cash assets, less any Credit Notes in hand. So, first home may not be certain of taking the pot.
Production is as you would expect from Hans im Glck. A reference chart for the cards would have helped, but these soon become familiar. The advertised playing time (1 hour) is absolutely on the money, even if the end game has seen a little to-ing and fro-ing, and it plays well with 2 or 3 if a full complement is unavailable. Mll + Money may not be Game of the Year, but was quite possibly Game of the Show.