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Board Game: Arkwright
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Subject: A Brief Prospectus for Potential Investors rss

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Spielworxx' upcoming release, Arkwright, is a game about managing factories in the early days of the Industrial Revolution in England. It's designed by Stefan Risthaus and illustrated by Harald Lieske (in an admirably subdued style that captures the feel of 18th Century industrial grittiness, without getting in the way of game play -- nicely done!).

I found learning the game from the rules a bit difficult, especially because I don't (yet!) have the bits to push around while reading. But also because lots of information about the components and set-up are front-loaded in the rules, without the context that would have eased understanding.

Hence this overview, which will help to solidify my own understanding of the rules and hopefully will help others to learn the game more easily. If nothing else, it might help you decide whether this is a game for you.


Spinning Jenny and Water Frame

"Spinning Jenny" is the shorter and simpler introductory version of the game. Most of this overview discusses the Spinning Jenny rules, which introduce the basic structures of the game. Near the end of this post, there is a section that discusses the additional rules added in the full "Water Frame" version of the game.

By the way, here is a Spinning Jenny, which is a hand operated machine for spinning several strands of yarn simultaneously:

External image


And here is a Water Frame, which used water power to spin multiple strands of thread:

External image


Richard Arkwright, the inventor of the Water Frame, is said to have built and operated the first truly modern factory. Rather than just being a building for workers to gather, it was designed for the installation of industrial machines. Here he is, looking industrious:

External image



Objective

The winner of the game is the player who has the highest total stock portfolio value (shares owned x share value) at the end of the game. So the overall objective of play is to buy shares of your own stock and increase their per-share value. Everything else is a means to that end.

(By the way, you can only buy shares of your own stock, so no leeching or split control of companies in this game. Go play 18xx if you want that.)


Flow of the Game

After some initial seeding of the game, play progresses through a series of turns, each of which represents a decade.

Each decade is divided into four "cycles." In each cycle, a different type of good is considered "active" (food, clothing, cutlery, and lamps, in that order).

A cycle has three phases:

(1) Economy: Implement changes to the economy that are printed on the timetable for that cycle (the timetable has a horizontal row for each decade, which is divided into spaces for each of the four cycles). These are fairly modest adjustments to foreign competition and the available labor pool.

(2) Actions: In player order, each player performs an action (more on this below).

(3) Production: Factories of the "active" type produce goods. Produced goods are then sold to satisfy the current demand. Demand for goods is directly based on the size of the employed workforce. The more workers that are employed, the higher the demand. If supply exceeds demand, the more "appealing" goods are more likely to be sold (more on this below).

Player's share value increase for selling goods, with bonuses for selling more than one good, for producing the most of the active good type, and for having the greatest "appeal" for the active good type. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO INCREASE SHARE VALUE.

surprise

Wages and machine costs are then paid for the active factories.

At the end of the fourth cycle, the decade ends and certain housekeeping/reset steps are performed. This includes checking to see whether any factories will become obsolete. (As the decades progress, the maximum tech level of factories increases. If factories aren't modernized, they will eventually incur extra labor costs due to obsolescence.)


Factories and "Appeal"

Each player can have one factory of each type (for a total of up to four different factories). The factories have a monetary cost that must be paid when they are being built or modernized (which increases with the tech level of the factory). This cost is also the base "quality" of goods produced by the factory.

The quality of a factory can be boosted above its base, by up to 4, through use of the "quality" action (more on actions below).

You can also boost the "distribution" (i.e., marketing) of a factory, through the distribution action.

When a factory is built, you must set a unit price for goods that it produces.

The "appeal" of the goods produced by a factory is calculated as follows:

Quality + Distribution - Price = Appeal

Appeal is very important, because it determines the order in which goods sell. High appeal makes it more likely that you will sell the goods that you've produced. Remember that selling goods is how you increase share value, which is how you win.

In order for a factory to produce goods, it must be staffed with workers. Some workers can be replaced with machines (which cost less to maintain than the wages of the workers that they replace).

Here's a picture of a food factory (on the top row, with a lumpy loaf of bread on left). It's level II tech (upper left corner of the factory token), with a base quality of 10 (upper right corner). Quality has not been boosted (zero thumbs) but distribution is at 2 (megaphone rotated with +2 at top). The price per unit (green octagon) is set at 9. So the current appeal is 3 (10 + 2 - 9). You can also see that there is a worker and a machine (gray octagon) in the first of four potential production spaces within the factory. With that space operating, the factory will produce two units of food (first numeral in the list of four numerals separated by dashes at the bottom of the factory tile.)

Board Game: Arkwright



The Actions

Each player gets an identical set of action tiles, each depicting a different action. To take an action, you place the appropriate tile on one of the spaces of the "administration chart." Each player has their own vertical column on the chart, with five spaces showing administration costs of 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 pounds. The space where you place your action tiles determines how much money you will need to spend to perform that action. The amount paid ("administrative costs") may determine how strong the action is. Here's a picture of the admin chart, showing two actions performed by green: (1) install machines at a cost of 6, and (2) distribution (i.e., marketing) at a cost of 4.

Board Game: Arkwright


If you look closely at the action tiles, you will see that the machine action allows the construction of 1, 2, or 3 machines with a single action, depending on whether the admin cost paid was at least, 3, 6, or 13. In this case, the cost paid was 6, so green was able to build two machines with that one action. (The possibility of paying 13 admin cost only exists in the advanced Water Frame version of the game.)

The action tiles that you begin the game with are as follows:

Factory. Build, modernize, or close any number of factories.

Workers. Hire or fire workers to open or close production spaces within your established factories.

Machinery. Replace workers with machines (only in production spaces that permit machine replacements; this is printed on the factory board).

Quality. Increase the quality of your factories. These increases are permanent, so long as the factory doesn't close.

Distribution. Increase the distribution (marketing) level of your factories. These increases degrade at the end of each decade and are completely lost if the factory closes.

Stock exchange. Buy or sell shares of your own stock. Sell goods from your warehouse at a discounted price (this does NOT increase your stock value).

In addition to those main effects, each action tile gives you a secondary action of one or the other of these types:

Take a gray action tile. These are stronger versions of the base action types that you can use going forward.

Change goods pricing in factories affected by the main action.

One last point: if you want to repeat an action that you already took in an earlier cycle in the same turn, you can do so. But you can't change the administrative cost that you chose when first performing that action AND you must pay a penalty of 2 pounds (which does not count toward your admin cost for determining the strength of your action). For example, if in the first cycle, I placed Machinery at admin cost 6, in the second cycle I could take another Machinery-6 action, but I would pay 8 to do so.


Conclusion (sort of)

That's pretty much it for the basic game. There are a few other miscellaneous rules for things like forced stock sales (to pay for actions), bank loans (you're in trouble), and the warehousing of goods that you can't sell when they're produced. But the main body of the game is described above.

If you're interested in what the Water Frame game adds to that base, read on.


Water Frame

The Water Frame game is played for five rounds, rather than three, and it includes additional features. They are described briefly below.

Warehouse

In Spinning Jenny, a few excess production goods can be stored for later sale. There is no cost to do so. In Water Frame, each player has a warehouse mat that is used to store surplus production. The warehouse must be staffed with workers in order to be able to store goods. The number and type of goods that can be stored depends on how workers are allocated to the warehouse. Warehouse workers get paid at the end of the decade.

Contracts

In Water Frame, the Stock Market action can be used to obtain contracts from the East India Company. A contract is for the sale of a specified type of good. When acquired, the player commits to selling 2, 4, 6, or 8 of that type of good to the Company (by placing the contract tile into a space with that number). The number of goods to be sold under a contract can also be increased during a Stock Market action.

Ship Action Tiles

The Water Frame game has additional special action tiles that represent ships. These tiles come in sizes (2, 4, 6, 8, or 10), which determine how many goods they can carry. At most, a player can have two ships. But later acquired ships can replace earlier ones. Some ships require the hiring of workers (who must be paid wages at the end of each decade).

The Ship action is used to fulfill contracts. To ship, one must take the ship action with a large enough ship to transport the number of goods required to fulfill a contract. Those goods must be available in the warehouse. Contracts must be fully satisfied by a single shipping action. You can't satisfy contracts incrementally.

Shipped goods pay the full base price of the factory that produced them, per unit. That's a lot of money. But it doesn't increase share value. To the contrary, it reduces your share value by one bump (it makes investors nervous).

Note that shipping can also be done during the production phase (as discussed below).

Production Action Tiles

The Water Frame game also has special action tiles for Production. These can be used to produce goods in any factory (not just the type that is active in the current cycle). The player must pay the wage and machine costs for the factory spaces that produce (in addition to the administrative cost for placement of the action tile). Goods that are produced must be put into the warehouse.

Shipping During the Production Phase

In the production phase of the cycle (after completion of the action phase), when goods of the active type are produced, a player may use ships to fulfill a contract for the active type of good. More than one ship can be used to carry the goods, but a player who ships loses one bump on the share value track for each ship used in this way.

Any contract for the "active" type of goods that is not fulfilled in the active cycle automatically increases in size by one increment (e.g., from 2 goods to 4).

Development Tiles

Any time that a player is able to select a special action tile, the player can instead choose from the available "development tiles." These confer special powers on the player that holds them, generally granting nifty advantages. Some are one-shot, which are returned to the general pool after use. Others stick around and have continuous effects. A player can have four development tiles at most. If a fifth is taken, one must be discarded back to the general pool. These tiles look like they will introduce a healthy dose of player specialization, which will help avoid the game becoming scripted.

Events at the End of the Decade

In Water Frame, each decade ends with an "event" phase. During this phase, workers in warehouses and on ships must be paid. Then an event tile is flipped over and its effect applied.

The event tiles will differ slightly each game (there are more events than are used) and will come out in a different order. This should help with replayability. That said, it does introduce a luck element into the game that is otherwise absent.

End Game Penalties

There are some hefty penalties that are applied at the end of the Water Frame game:

• If you have an obsolete factory (with any extra workers assigned to it), you lose four bumps on the share value track AND two shares. Ouch!

• For every unfulfilled contract, reduce your share value by a number of bumps equal to the size of the contract. Ouch!

• If a player has any outstanding loans that player LOSES!

Feedback

This was written based on a careful rules read, but without ever playing the game or seeing it in the flesh. If I've made any mistakes, please let me know. Cheers!


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I've heavily edited my original post, to make it applicable to the entire game, not just the introductory game.
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Johnpatrick Marr
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Re: Spinning Jenny: A Brief Prospectus for Potential Investors
This is great, thanks! I jumped straight into the waterframe rules, and I did wish there was more a global view of what players're trying to do. I puzzled enough out to know I'm really excited for this game, though. I just got and played my first Spielworxx game in La Granja and I'm really impressed so far. Whatever they produce in the future has earned at least a glance from me! I'll be with you preordering at funagain.
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Edward Uhler
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Fantastic writeup, Hobbes. Thanks for taking the time!

I tweeted this out to our followers. Quite a few are excited about the game, so this will be really great for getting them all frothing at the mouth, excited! laugh (It damn sure did that for me!)
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Nathan Ehlers
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Thanks for the overview! I'm now even more excited for this game!
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David Larkin
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Thanks, seems to have a bit of the flavour of Automobile to me. Will probably have a look at Essen not sure if it will be too mathsy
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Neil Christiansen
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You should create a file to upload if you have not already.
 
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Edward Uhler
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Played today...fantastic.
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Spinning Jenny or Waterframe?

Player count?

When will this be on your podcast?

Eager to hear more...
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Edward Uhler
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Hobbes wrote:
Spinning Jenny or Waterframe?

Player count?

When will this be on your podcast?

Eager to hear more...
Played Spinning Jenny yesterday. Waterframe tomorrow

4 players

If our review copy shows up this week, within the next two shows.
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Jan Uhre
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That's a very nice overview. Thank you.

However, there is one small but important mistake:

In "The Actions" section the following is stated:
"Distribution. Increase the distribution (marketing) level of your factories. These increases degrade at the end of each decade and are completely lost if the factory closes."

But the degradation takes place more often than that. In fact it happens after each production cycle, of which there are four in a decade.
 
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Andi Hub
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Uhre wrote:
That's a very nice overview. Thank you.

However, there is one small but important mistake:

In "The Actions" section the following is stated:
"Distribution. Increase the distribution (marketing) level of your factories. These increases degrade at the end of each decade and are completely lost if the factory closes."

But the degradation takes place more often than that. In fact it happens after each production cycle, of which there are four in a decade.
But only the distribution level of the producing factory is reduced. So it is still once per decade.
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Jan Uhre
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ringo84 wrote:
But only the distribution level of the producing factory is reduced. So it is still once per decade.
Really? That seems to make distribution a rather strong action.

Because the rule book doesn't seem to be explicit about that. The text I can find to describe this just states: "In contrast to quality, however, the effect of distribution activities is reduced by one level after each production phase.". It doesn't explicitly state that it only concerns the currently producing factory.

But maybe it will be more obvious when I actually do play the game :-)

Thanks for pointing this out.

EDIT: Ahh you're right. I just found a more precise statement elsewhere in the documentation stating:
"The distribution markers for the active factories (if there are any) must be reduced by one. Markers of level 1 are completely removed from the factory mat. As a consequence the players must adjust the appeal indicator on their market share table."

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Josh
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A little tweak to your end game summary. You lose 4 value and 2 shares if you have a worker on your factory as a result of taking the worker action in the final decade to move workers onto a factory that has already produced and then NOT also producing from that factory via the production action.

Obsolete costs you nothing.
 
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