Industry in Motion: A Review of Actionworks

Actionworks

The number of card games on the market seems to be exploding. They're cheap and easy to produce, after all — perfect for crowdfunding and print-on-demand platforms. But we've seen so many bland card games recently that it's easy to lose hope in anything truly fun and unique hitting this space.

Fortunately, Actionworks by Lumenaris has swooped in like Luke Skywalker to renew our hope in small card games — with one caveat.

Gameplay

Actionworks is an industrial-themed card game in which the goal is to gather and ship as many of a particular type of card as possible. At the beginning of each round, players are dealt a Demand card that indicates the type of Part card that will be their target (Make, Borrow, Take, Plan, Scrap, Copy). The game begins with only 3 of these cards available, with a new card type added each round.

On your turn, you can choose to do any of the following with any number of cards in your hand: play it to the table, ship it (place it face down in your shipping pile), or leave it in your hand. When you play a card, you carry out the action on the card: Make allows you to flip over the top 2 cards from the Parts deck and place them on the table; Take allows you to add a card from the table to your hand; Borrow causes another player to show his cards publicly and allows you to take one of them. Other cards allow you to peek at the top of the deck, copy another action, or create a separate scrap pile.

At the end of each turn, all of the players take one of the remaining face up cards from the table, in clockwise order, until no cards remain. Then 2 new cards are flipped face up and the next player takes his turn. When the parts deck runs out, the round ends and all cards remaining in each player's hand are added to their shipping pile. Each card of the target type is scored at face value; all other cards are worth -1 point.

Play continues for several rounds until a certain number of points is reached.

Actionworks components

Review

At its core, Actionworks is only a deck of 56 cards with 6 suits (along with 6 larger target cards) — yet the gameplay experience blew us away. First, there are trade-offs for every decision you make. If you play a card to the table, an opponent may benefit from it; if you play it to your shipping pile, you will no longer be able to use that card's action; if you leave it in your hand, it may get "borrowed" by another player; if you flip over additional cards, you accelerate the end of the round; if you ship an opponent's target card, you will deny him points but you will also incur a penalty; and so on.

Second, there is always a lot of motion and hardly any downtime. The pace of the game is incredibly fast — strategy is prevalent, but there is no need to over-analyze. Plus, after every single turn, the cards on the table are cleared by the players, keeping everyone engaged continually. This also mixes up the available cards, keeping your options open and never making you feel stuck with a bad hand of cards.

Last but not least, the level of difficulty and the stakes increase as the game progresses. This keeps players in the game, even if they have fallen behind in previous rounds.

Alas, there is always a downside. In this case, we weren't all too impressed with the component quality. The game comes in a generic 2-piece box with a printed cover sticker surrounding it (you have to cut through the game logo on either side to open it). The card stock is decent enough, but the cards do not seem evenly cut, as if a manual corner punch were used. The artwork/design is really quite good for this type of game, but overall the game has a bit of a homemade/print-on-demand feel to it.

The rules also could use improvement, as they are printed on 6 double-sided cards. They are a bit hard to follow and refer back to if a question arises. A printed rulesheet with diagrams and examples would definitely be an improvement.

Final Word

Actionworks is a really fun and original card game, but it is lacking in production quality. We would love to see a new edition produced by a large-run game manufacturer. For now, if you're comfortable playing print-on-demand type games, definitely give this a try.

Pros: Many trade-offs and interesting decisions, fast pace, progressive difficulty

Cons: Relatively poor component quality, format of rules could be improved

Full disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.