Modern industry means big factories, mega-warehouses, massive R&D departments and sprawling mining operations. But like all grand things its beginnings were more humble. It meant local craft workers and artisans making quality goods and working with each other. Early industry was about working hard and carefully managing limited resources. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Fun enough to make you exclaim, “Oh My Goods!”
How it Plays
Your goal in Oh My Goods! is to create the most valuable production chains possible. You will do this by constructing buildings that produce goods which can be sold to fund the construction of further production buildings and so on and so on. That’s the idea anyway. Knowing what needs to be done is different than actually doing it, so let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Before running through the turn structure of Oh My Goods! it’s important to understand that every card in the main deck can be used in three distinct ways. When a card is played to the table it becomes a production building. The goods produced by these buildings are represented by other cards placed face-down on top of the building card. And finally, cards can be used for the specific good printed on it when discarded.
Every round begins with all players drawing two cards into their hand and then cards are revealed one by one to the center of the table until one of the cards revealed has a sun symbol on it. All players will then simultaneously assign their worker to the production building they would like to use that round. If you want to build a production building this round you can place it face down on the table at this time.
Once all players are done assigning their workers, more cards will be drawn one at a time from the main deck and added to the cards that were revealed earlier. Once another sun symbol is revealed, no more cards are drawn this round. These revealed cards make up the common market. Each card in the market shows a particular good which is available for all players to use this round.
Play then continues in turn order. You will check the building where you assigned your worker previously and see if you are able to produce. Each building requires a certain number and type of goods to run. A bakery, for example, may require 2 stone and 3 clay in order to produce bread. If the common market contains all of those goods then you have met the requirements and the building will produce. If the market does not contain all of the required goods, you can discard cards from your hand to make up the difference.
An important element to understand is the concept of chaining. Every production building, in addition to its cost to produce, has an additional chaining cost. If a building produces, you can then pay the chaining cost to produce additional goods. A shoemaker may require 4 grain and 2 clay in order to produce and has a chaining cost of leather. If you are able to meet the grain and clay requirement to produce normally, you can pay any number of leather to produce the same number of additional shoes.
Then if you had placed a card face down earlier, you can build a building by discarding goods on your production building that is equal to or greater than the cost depicted on the building you are trying to build. Any coins you are short can be made up by discarding cards from your hand.
At the beginning of the game, assistant cards are placed in the play area. After production and building, you will be able to hire one of them by paying the cost and meeting certain requirements. Assistants function as workers and allow you to produce in multiple buildings in a single round.
Play continues until a player has eight buildings. You will add up the points depicted on the assistants you acquired and the buildings you constructed over the course of the game. Additionally, you will gain another victory point for every 5 coins you have in goods still left on your buildings. The player with the most points is the winner.
Oh My Goods! is a big tease. It lures you in with the idea of creating your own little industrial engine. From the opening hand you start envisioning how you are going to combo together various buildings and production chains that fuel your well-oiled machine of industry. You start making plans to build a sawmill that will provide wood for the mill so that you can get grain to run the bakery so that you can sell enough bread to construct the tool maker for major points and valuable tools. At least you try. You quickly realize that there are holes in your chain and the only way to fill them is through the measly 2-card draw that happens every turn. And then you realize that in order to produce enough goods to cover the 17 coin cost of the final piece of your industrial puzzle it will require a multitude of rounds. By that time, your opponent already have eight buildings and have ended the game, leaving your manufacturing empire as more of a tinkerer’s township.
The problem with Oh My Goods! is expectations. It comes from excellent genes. Publisher Lookout Games has put out some of the finest board games in the modern era. From Agricola to Grand Austria Hotel to Snowdonia, there is no denying that they’ve had a hand in creating some of the best and enduring games of the past 15 years. If any company can identify a good resource conversion game, I would think the company that brought us Le Havre would be it.
Then there’s designer Alexander Pfister. He’s made quite the name for himself recently as the designer of the last two Kennerspiel des Jahres winners in Broom Service and Isle of Skye. And when he’s not designing games that warrant the most prestigious award in board gamingdom, he’s creating excellent titles in Mombasa and Port Royal.
And how can you overlook artist Klemens Franz? For my money, he is amongst the top three or four working board game artists out there. His distinctive dark outlines add character to the people depicted in the game and the amount of detail hidden in his work rewards those who take the time to look closely. It’s an all-star board game team and I had high hopes going in. My mistake.
I’ll admit that I may have had too high of expectations for this little card game based on the names behind it and that sense of disappointed may have colored my initial plays. But beyond the game’s stellar pedigree, the game itself builds itself up as one thing but turns out to another, less interesting, thing.
From the opening hand you are exposed to an assortment of buildings and possibilities. You’ll see the seeds of what might turn out to be a mighty industrial complex and you might see some high value buildings that will require a fair amount of goods in order to build. The problem is Oh My Goods! isn’t really a production game, it’s a game about trying your luck. In order to get any semblance of a production chain going, you’re almost entirely dependent on drawing the right cards and having the right goods show up in the market. There are some special buildings that help mitigate the luck somewhat, but they are dependent on being drawn and by the time you’ve built a few of them, the game is halfway over.
And that brings me to Oh My Goods! weakest point. The most common road to victory is the most boring. More often than not I’ve found that building low value buildings as quickly as possible to end the game as soon as possible turns out to be the most successful path of play. Unfortunately, there’s very little thought or true decisions when pursuing this strategy. It’s a route that runs on rails and your decision tree looks a bit like this: “What’s the easiest building I can build this turn? OK, I’ll build it.” The most fun had in the game is in taking advantage of the chaining and building large value buildings. Unfortunately, it’s also at odds with the overall point of the game, winning. Ideally, pursuing victory aligns itself with the most satisfying and fun actions in the game. That’s not the case here. There just isn’t enough time or opportunity to get your engine going in any meaningful way.
A board game is more than a collection of cardboard, wood and plastic. Each box is a collection of systems and ideas compiled by the designer in order to facilitate an experience. In order to convey those systems and ideas a rule book is provided both as a tutorial to explain and as reference to make sure those ideas are properly being executed by the players. After multiple plays of Oh My Goods! I was convinced I was playing it wrong. No one was able to get any meaningful production chains going and high value buildings were rare. I was so convinced that I had been playing incorrectly that I searched internet forums for some clarifications. I’m no stranger to looking up rules clarifications online, but it’s usually for more involved and intricate games and not such an unassuming title like Oh My Goods! To my surprise, I found other people with similar experiences. The rumblings captured the attention of the designer who actually acknowledged that the game as designed was not meant to facilitate the play that most people expected. He went so far as to completely revamp the rules and posted them for players to try.
I’m of two minds on the matter. On the one hand, it’s admirable that the designer has heard the cries of the players and made an attempt to meet their needs. It always amazes me how accessible the designers of some of my favorite games are. It’s nice, it really is. But on the other hand, why did the game even release in the state that it was? As far as I can tell, the rules aren’t posted in an official capacity. You have to dig through forums and find a specific post to access them. I’m not sure if they will be adopted officially for future editions. It’s a little sad, really. When I open a game, I expect whatever’s inside to be the best it could have possibly been.
Oh My Goods! is not the best game it could have been and the designer himself tacitly admitted it when he rewrote the rule book and fundamentally changed the way the game works. Ultimately, I decided not to try the new rules. They might be great and they might make Oh My Goods! into something great. But that’s not the game that currently comes in the box. By all means, feel free to seek out those revised rules, but this review addresses only the ones that come in the box.
I had high hopes coming into Oh My Goods! but I left lamenting all the wasted talent and potential. It’s hard for me to recommend the game to anyone when I see the designer himself acknowledging problems with it. Perhaps the publisher will adopt the rules officially and include them in future printings and maybe they will fulfill the untapped potential latent within the box. But I can’t recommend maybes and possibilities. Instead I’ll judge what’s in front of me and the verdict is lackluster at best.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Mayfair Games for providing us with a review copy of Oh My Goods!