Review: Furnace #Boardgames #Tabletop

This past weekend I received my copy of Furnace and was excited to get this to table so Rhonda could get a chance to play it. Sunday we were able to carve out some time and give this “hot title” from BGGCon last fall it’s first home play.


Published by Arcane Wonders, Furnace is an engine-building Eurogame in which players take on the roles of 19th-century capitalists building their industrial corporations and aspiring to make as much money as they can by purchasing companies, extracting resources, and processing them in the best combinations possible.

The game is played over 4 rounds, during which players will bid on Company cards to add to your line-up of companies that will help them collect resources, process those resources and ultimately convert them into cold hard cash. The player with the most money at the end of 4 rounds is the winner. A game of Furnace will run 30-45 minutes.

During setup, players will be given a Capitalist card, which is essentially your character for the game. Each capitalist card has a special ability that can be used during gameplay. Also each player is given a starting company card, a colored set of bid tokens (value 1 through 4) and the matching colored player token. The company card deck is shuffled with the non-upgraded side face down. The games three resources are setup in piles in reach of all players (ore, iron and oil) along with the money tokens and gear (upgrade) tokens.

Set the round factory tile with time token with the company card deck and set it to “1”. As you move through the 4 rounds of the game, this token will move down the tile. After determining the first player, company cards are drawn from the deck, non-upgraded side up (6 for a 2-player game, 8 for a 3 or 4 player game). Once finished, you are ready to begin play.

Furnace setup for a 2-player game (with optional playmat)


Furnace is played over 4 rounds. Each round has two phases, the Auction phase and the Production phase.

During the Auction phase, starting with the first player, players will place one of their 4 bid tokens on one of the company cards, and this continues clockwise around the table until all bid tokens have been placed by all players. But there are few rules that go with placing bid tokens.

  • Players cannot place a token on a company card that already has a token of the same color on it.
  • Players may not place a bid token on a company card with a bid token of the same value (of any color) on it.

Once all tokens are placed, bids are resolved going left to right in order of bid value. Company cards with no bid tokens are discarded with no effect. Company cards have two functions during the auction phase of a round.

First, the icons at the top of the card represent the compensation that players receive for bidding on a card, but not winning it. When resolving a card, all players who placed a bid token but did not have the highest bid token will receive compensation based on what is shown at the top of the card. And the value of a players bid will multiply that compensation (so if I used a my 2 bid token on a card, but didn’t win it, that means I would get whatever the compensation is x2). Some compensation will be resources, others will allow players to convert resources into others.

Second, the player with the highest bid token will gain that company card and add it to their lineup of company cards already in place.

Company card on it’s non-upgraded side.

After the auction phase is over, players enter the Production phase, which happens simultaneously for all players. Players will decide which cards to resolve during this phase in whatever order they choose. However once a card is resolved (players turn the card from an upright position 45 degrees to denote it’s been used), you cannot go back and reuse it, even if you upgrade it by paying the cost and flipping it to it’s upgraded side.

Once a player decides to resolve a card, it must completely perform all of it’s functions before moving on to the next card.

In order to resolve a card, players must go top to bottom. Lets look at this starting company card as an example (note, starting cards can never be upgraded):

When a player would resolve this card, they would start at the top icon of the bottom of the card, by taking a single gear token in to their possession. Next, they are able to spend 3 coal, 1 time (noted by the x1 over the arrow icon), to gain 4 dollars. Finally, the player can spend 1 gear token and 1 coal any number of times (noted by the infinity symbol over the arrow icon) to upgrade a company card by flipping it over to it’s upgraded side.

When resolving cards during the production phase, all actions are “mays” not “musts”. So players can decided if they want to resolve those actions as they go through resolving the card.

Once all players have finished with all their cards in this phase, unless it is the 4th round, the first player token is moved clockwise to the next player and a new set of company cards is delt to start the next round. Move the round marker to signify the start of a new round, and start with the auction phase to begin the new round.

If it was the 4th round, all players count up their money, and the player with the most cash wins.

Impressions and Final Thoughts

My first game of Furnace was at BGGCon last fall. It was part of the “hot games” for the show and I was lucky enough that someone in our group had their own copy, which meant we didn’t have to try and get into the hot games room and get lucky with finding an open table to give it a go. After playing it for the first time, I knew I wanted to add it to the library. We don’t have a lot of auction/bidding style games, and the fact that the game plays relatively quick was a plus as well. Plus I always enjoy engine builders.

The theme is pretty much window dressing here, as the game could have any number of themes slathered on it, and gameplay wise the experience wouldn’t really change for the players. For me personally, the theme of Furnace is neutral, neither a detraction or addition to the game. At the end of the day I’m fine with the idea that I’m a 19th century capitalist trying to make my go of it in the pre-industrial age.

Where the game really shines is in it’s gameplay and how tight of an experience playing it is. The auction/bidding mechanic is only half of it. The other half is building your engine. And while engine builders are nothing new, for me it just works here. Plus the play time variance between 2 players or 3 or 4 isn’t that big of a curve (a 2 player game involves a 3rd, automated player).

Furnace is a quintessential “easy to learn, difficult to master” title.

The only thing that might turn off players to this is while there is some level of interaction during the auction phase, outside of that, players don’t really interact with each other. So if you’re the type of gamer who doesn’t care for those types of games, Furnace might not be for you?

But if that isn’t a big hang-up for you, I would definitely recommend Furnace. At the very least as something you might look to add to your rotation, and going a step further adding it to your collection. Price point wise, I feel it’s a good value. You can find it for around $40 with the playmat for around $10.

As always, leave a comment with your thoughts. Until next time, LLAP!

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