The Lost Reviews – Big Pharma

19 10 2016

big-pharma (twice circled - 2015)

You know when you played Theme Hospital (assuming you did, because, you know; why wouldn’t you?), did you ever think to yourself: “I could be doing so much more here, why don’t I leave the life of being a Hospital CEO and go into Pharmaceutical Production?” Well chances are that you thought no such thing as for one; Theme Hospital was a game, not real life or an RPG, and for two; you were really quite content with the game you were playing at the time. If it were the case though that one day while playing Theme Hospital and you actually thought the above statement, well now you can – not in Theme Hospital, but in a game that focuses on the production of Medicine based products.

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Big Pharma (produced by Twice Circled) is a game where you the player are managing director of a pharmaceutical company. You start your company off with a small brightly coloured interior warehouse and a few inventions and ingredients at your disposal to which you can use to create cures for illnesses. All you need to do is put these assets into production and sell sell sell.

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Game play is very simple; in your empty warehouse you need to use one of the holes in the wall to import an ingredient, and then use machines at your disposal to meet certain requirements before either finishing off the ingredient mixture or upgrading it to be a cure for something else. Once that is done, you need to turn the current ingredient into a manufactured cure by putting it through a pill maker, and then transport it to another hole in the wall to name it and sell it. Later options at your disposal include creaming the drugs instead of selling them as pills, and even packing them. The game though is not as easy as it sounds as machines, conveyor belts and equipment take up space (turning it into a mini puzzle game in the process) and you have a limited area, plus in some cases are required to create a catalyst in order for some cures to be upgraded. The game though is not all about Medication Manufacturing, as it’s also a part business and research sim. You will be required to hire explorers and researchers to discover new ingredients and new machinery, while at the same time use their down time to provide you with upgrade points. At the same time however, you need to be concerning yourself with making money too, as production costs can be quite astronomical, and your company is in competition with others.

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Big Pharma is a nicely animated little game. The game graphics are nicely detailed, but not too detailed so can work on most machines without a fuss. The Animation though is superb. It can be quite mesmerizing watching the ingredients progress along the conveyor belts, changing form and colour as machines work on them, and watching the machines work is a nice little added extra, and comes with a form of animation very similar I find to that of Theme Hospital. Watching the water boil in the Dissolver, or seeing ingredients pulped in the Agglomerator, working their way down the production line and being made into either pills or as a cream. It’s really fun to watch and nice little bits like that really help this game to provide a detailed experience.

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The game; all be it relatively fun and still pretty unique, does have its short comings. For one, I like the idea of creating a production line, but the production line does seem to be rather slow, I did not know that Conveyor belts started and stopped every second, I thought they just kept going? It can take a while for the process to complete and when you need money fast, but the conveyors only move at one speed (which is sort of move and stop, move and stop), or the other cases where you are trying to reach a deadline in the game’s objectives mode, it can be very annoying. You can of course speed things up with the mystical speed change options in the bottom left of the screen, but you may as well just keep it up at full speed in that case just to speed up the game and make the conveyors more realistic. The objectives are not bad and it is pretty fun going through each one, just to give you something to do in the game, but with your mind on reaching a certain objective, you may as well ignore everything else in the game, and concentrate on what you need to do rather than what else you could be doing. Then once you have done enough and or have reached your goal, you do have the option of getting a better score than the basic score which is a nice added add-on, but by this point you may as well just speed up the game in places or end the level just to be done with it and do something else.

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Most of the cures you make can be upgraded relatively quickly on, but they require the use of machines you have not unlocked yet, in which case I found myself spending time and money in researching the things I needed each time before sending anything in production, just to be able to give the game the best I could. The other thing though is the Catalysts. The game comes with a very comprehensive tutorial mode which is very descriptive and also very fun, but each time I tried to do a catalyst in the real game, I would not achieve it. Making catalysts is supposed to be hard, but when you are doing everything right, the catalyst still does not make itself, and it can be very annoying, especially as sometimes you need that upgraded cure to move on.

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Big Pharma is one of these Production line games that have begun to make a real appearance in the industry along with other games like Factorio. Making a production line is a good fun idea and when combined with making product to sell turns the game not just into a factory based game but also a resources and economic game, where you need to concentrate on not just making a good product but also turning a profit. I like that idea, and when combined with the games look, idea and animation, it makes a good fit that is at least to begin with a fun game to play. But as the game progresses and its short comings come to light, it becomes a game that I was once excited to play but now don’t really see a future for. Maybe I like my games with a little more realism in its depictions of production, but for its slow speed, but also relatively pointless extras during its objective based gameplay, I feel that this game was once fun, but then just ended.

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GENEPOOL





Colonia

23 07 2014

Colonia

Colonia is an Set Collection, Resource Management and Worker Placement board game released by Queen Games designed by Dirk Henn who also designed Shogun and Alhambra. Set in the ancient Holy Roman Empire city of the same name renowned for its ancient cathedrals and versatile trade, the game plays out over several rounds, but within those rounds are rounds themselves where players take on the role of one of several influential families and instruct them to do several things per mini round. Basically the game plays out with each turn within the round representing a different day of the week.

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On day one, players set up the game board for the week, placing edicts and setting out contracts, items for trade and ships that will set out. On day two, players secretly choose how much influence they will have during the turn by dedicating as many family members as they wish, the player with the most dedicated family members becomes the first player for that round, this is also how the voting mechanic works as a simple yes or no from everyone is multiplied by how many family members each person put forward on day two. On day three, players send any remaining family members they have (but preferably not all of them) to collect resources from the market. On day four, these resources are given to craftsmen to create new resources with family members taking the appropriate resources to the right contractor. On day five these new resources are then taken to ships in the harbour and their cargo holds are loaded with the asked resources. On day six the ships leave the harbour and the players are given the money for their products. Each ship though represented a different location in the empire and so the player is given money based on the type of money that the ship carries. Finally on day seven, players get the chance to buy relics using the money they earned from the week. Relics are how players win the game, as the family with the most points from Relics wins the game. After all this has been done the game continues for an allotted period of rounds before the game ends. As players go round the board again though, they retrieve the family members they put down on the previous round space by space.

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At its heart, Colonia is not a bad game, a definite improvement I feel over Alhambra which while having an ok mechanic is completely random where you want to build something but need the required money, save up and by the time have the correct money the building is gone.

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This time around though, there is more opportunity to get the correct money you want in Colonia as the money is readily available, you just need to plan ahead and get the satisfactory results to get the money you want to buy the relics you want; however that is also one of the game’s short comings. The relic’s score so low a number of points that you personally think that more high scoring ones will be out in a bit but as most score no more than between 1 and 3, you hold out for as long as possible instead of buying as many as possible. While the game does include shrines, one of each colour that doubles the score of up to 1 relic placed in it, it’s still not enough and it is really only thanks to the end game stained glass window bonuses that a winner can be crowned at all.

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Colonia’s basic structure of buying resources to turn into other products to then sell is brilliant, and an absolutely brilliant idea at that. It beats the usual resource gathering mechanic where you buy resources to use only once for certain things. The mechanic in Colonia is more like that of the world today and I am surprised to see that said mechanic is not used more often, even in big economic games like those designed by Uwe Rosenberg.

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While I do like the game to a point, there is just a sense that there could be more to this game. Why is it that I hardly have anyone in my family remaining to do the basic of commands, why is it that I lose family members trying to buy contracts and resources, why can’t all the ships leave the harbour every round instead of just a few, why is it that the edicts don’t seem to make much for understanding without reading the rules and why do we decide on them during their round than right at the beginning so we don’t forget about them, why can’t the relics be a lot more valuable. It’s almost like the game is trying to sabotage itself by limiting options when in the end you need as much as you can, which is very hard to do when to begin with you are limited to the point of almost impossible. I don’t have problems with games that limit what you can do, it puts a real strain on your gameplay if it’s part of the mechanic and forces you to think clearly about what you both want and need to do to accomplish them. That’s fine, but not when such gameplay prevents you from doing the most basic actions that are required in order for the game to work.

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The look of the game is very basic and holds some charm but given the detail of games out there which play and look along the same lines, there could be more to appeal to the player, though on saying that, the player shields which are used to hide the resources collected and produced are a nice touch and the bag that is used to place resources randomly on the market tiles is a good device also and prevents the players from holding a monopoly on certain resources. While Colonia is still a very enjoyable game, I don’t think it carries enough value for much in the way of replay value and at most is a game that you will want to play after a few months or so after playing it for the first time.

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GENEPOOL








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