Sometimes, when dredging about the internet looking for more cardboard to waste money on, you’ll find a cracking game that’s slipped under the radar, never to be heard of or seen again. Actually, there’s probably a million of them but you’ve never heard of them so you don’t know they’re out there. Or that you’ve missed them. Because you’ve never heard of them.
Such a game came to my attention via a chap on a forum who, knowing my predisposition for card games, told me to check out Infernal Contraption. Made by Privateer Press, it’s been out of print for god knows how long (I sourced my copy from a nice chap on Board Game Geek) so it’s a curious one and no mistake, but that’s what makes it so interesting.
The premise is this; you and the other players take on the roles of Bodgers, goblin dudes whose only goal is to make machines whose only goal is to consume the resources of the other Bodgers. When a Bodger loses their resources they are out of the game and the last man standing wins. Dead simple.
Each player starts with a pile of cards and a Power Core. The aim is to lay down pieces of the machinery to trigger effects that have positive consequences for you or negative consequences for your opponents. Each piece has 2 to 4 colour coded connectors on it and must be attached to the machine in the main line (horizontal from the power core) or as plugs (vertically from the main line). Some cards stay in the machine permanently, some are one use only.
Starting with a hand of 7 cards, the first piece is attached for free then you have to discard a card to the scrap pile in the middle of the table to pay the cost of laying the piece. After you’ve laid all the pieces you want it’s time to trigger the machine and see what happens, resolving from left to right and top to bottom.
The thing about Infernal Contraption is that it’s a card game that’s not supposed to be taken seriously. A bit like Fluxx and Quarriors, there’s probably some strategy there but the elements that make up the game can take on such random, tangential consequences that it’s mostly out of your hands, especially if you don’t read the cards properly. It also doesn’t help that the cards are so laden down with text that you either skip over some of it or the turns get a bit drawn out, especially with the Consumables (one use cards). Let’s have some examples.
Paradox Converter – “If you have at least one card in your hand, trade half of your hand with half of your opponent’s hand, rounding up.”
Subsonic Transmogrifier – “From the top of the Scrap Pile, set aside a number of cards equal to the number of card sin your hand. Then Scrap your hand and remove this card from the game. Put the set aside cards into your hand.”
This card is pretty rad actually, because you can guarantee your opponent will have played a card that’s made you chuck cards away that you wanted, or you’ve had to discard some to get other parts out. Given that there’re so many cards in the game it takes a while to know what’s good and what isn’t and plan a strategy accordingly, but it doesn’t really matter in the long run because it’s just a crackers game and any strategy can go to tits at any time.
That doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws. The rules are incredibly inadequate with clarifications of some cards missing entirely, like Arcane Mill – “ Draw a card from your parts pile. This card may be played into your machine immediately”. Now, presumably it doesn’t mean for free and that you’d have to pay the cost as normal, but there’s the chance that that’s not the case. And that it doesn’t explain clearly that the Contraptions can be laid but only activate when they are attached to a power source. It can be very confusing.
One other thing that works against it slightly is the space needed. The first picture is my friend’s board at the end of one epic game. The second is his hand after he’d finished shafting me royally and drawing cards like a maniac.
The game is a ridiculous amount of fun, especially with 3 or 4 players and it can be over quite quickly if you don’t take it too seriously. To be honest, taking it too seriously is missing the point of it all as by its very concept it’s ridiculous. If you see a copy up for grabs for about £20 you could do a lot worse than pick it up. There’s definitely poorer games out there that’ll cost you a lot more.