Game Review - Men at Work
Stop me if this conversation sounds familiar:
“Our dinner reservation isn't for another 40 minutes so let's play a game to pass the time until then!”
“Let's play Catan! Oh no, that will take too long.”
“How about Happy Salmon? No, that's a little too easy...”
“Babel? Oh, no it only supports 2 players.”
So, what do you play with your friends to fill the time that supports enough players, is easy to learn but not too simple and only takes about 30 minutes to play? MEN AT WORK! There are so many aspects of this game that I enjoy, it's really hard to pick where to start!
Okay, first let's take a look at the outside of the box. Adorable, right? I love the cartooning of the workers. It's the kind of art style that immediately grabs your attention from the shelf and makes you want to investigate. The adorableness of this game has just begun! Check out those little workers with REMOVABLE hardhats! *squee!*
Okay, I'll calm down a little. I've talked previously about the “finger feel” of game pieces and this one hits the nail on the head (….get it? A construction joke!). Each piece is addictive to touch and beautiful to look at, especially once you have a messy tower of pieces stacked up and you can appreciate the chaotic artistry.
Let's quickly run through how the game is played. The youngest player sets up the construction site my organizing 3 supports, 1 of each colour of girder and one worker. Any organization of the pieces is suitable but the instruction book give samples of beginner, advanced and expert setups. Once the pieces are set up, the deck of cards is shuffled with Boss Rita placed within the top quarter of the deck (more about Boss Rita later). Players then take turns revealing cards from the deck, placing the revealed card next to the deck. The symbol and colour on the top card of the deck indicates what you will stack. The card flipped face up beside the deck indicates how you stack your item. For example, in the picture below, I have the option of stacking either a purple or black girder wherever I like onto the work site, but it must be touching one of the grey supports.
As long as I can successfully stack my girder without knocking any pieces onto the playing surface, the game continues in turn order. When the Boss Rita card is reveal, she begins handing out “Worker of the Month” awards to players who stack their pieces at the highest point in the work site - urging players to press their luck and attempt risky stacks! If you do drop pieces while attempting a stack, you'll lose one of your three safety certificates. Lose all three of your safety certificates and you're out of the game! As the game progresses, turns get increasingly more difficult as the work site becomes higher and more unstable until an accident is inevitable! The end of the game is triggered by one of three conditions: Every player except one has lost all of their safety certificates, one player reaches the required amount of Worker of the Month awards (between 3 and 5 depending on the number of players), or if construction halts (all workers are on site or you run out of building materials). The winner is determined by safety certificates and Worker of the Month awards depending on the condition that ended the game.
I've played my fair share of stacking games from the classic Jenga to the adorable ones like Animal Upon Animal and Cat Tower, but I have to say that Men at Work is one of the best dexterity based games I have played to date. Not only are the visuals extremely appealing but the game play is variable enough that it remains interesting even after multiple rounds. The addition of an incentive like Boss Rita arriving and handing out awards really takes away the “win by playing it safe” tactic, which leads to much more interesting games. To keep things even more flexible, the game also comes with additional variants described in the rule book like the Foreman which allows players to substitute revealed cards for one of three they acquire at the beginning of the game, the Crane which adds an extra obstacle/stacking surface in the middle of the work site, and the Skyscraper in which the whole work site in built inside the actual box of the game! Introducing so much variation gives this game a decent amount replay value – something most stacking games can't boast!
I also love how universally pleasing this game is. At first glance, it looks like the type of family/kid's game you'd find in the toy section of Wal-Mart but I assure you, this game is just as enjoyable for adults as it is children and has a great deal of strategy, requires honed spacial awareness skills and an understanding of physics. I played this game with a few different groups of people in different settings and everyone was doubled over in laughter by the third turn of the game. I think my favourite part was hearing the exclamations spoken under breath while a player is attempting a particularly risky stack. “nooooo the worker is wiggling!” or “.....you absolute madman...” and the hilarious gasps and squeaks that involuntarily escape the players' lips as the pieces teetered precariously. Then of course there is the absolute outburst of exclamations and laughter when the whole work site collapses.
Men at Work is a solid game you could play with just about anyone anywhere and have a blast. It is extremely high quality and absolutely worth the purchase. A lot of work went into this game’s development, and it shows! Find it in the M section at Scenic City Game Emporium!