Bad news: You’re in the Edwardian era. Every one is having an existential crisis, the industrial revolution has it so every thing is covered in coal, and the whole of society is in silent upheaval. The good news? You’re an unpaid intern for a swindler– I’m sorry, inventor– Who has created a perpetual motion device! Well, in theory. It’s kind of held together by ducktape and hot glue? It’s about to go on the show room floor, and it’s up to you to make it last just long enough to impress some folks. Good thing you’re such a wiz at poker! This is Perpetual Motion Machine.
Ah, it feels good to be doing a review again! Gotta get the juices flowing. So, this Card Game by Ted Alspach (don’t worry, you won’t forget his name– It’s all over the box!) is a poker game meets a deck building game. More of a “hand building” game, really. The use of the Poker- Texas Hold ‘Em to be exact- as a building element already gets this game some praise from us: You already understand half of the mechanics before you even really begin. It prevents this game from being too scary to new players, and offers almost as many strategies as the classic. So, kudos right off the bat.
Each player has two piles of black cubes, a player mat, and a deck of 52 standard cards between them. Both of you get three cards. and four cards are put between the two of you, so you can glare at each other over who will get that Queen of… Coins. The suits seem to try to stick to this early-1900s theme, to varying degrees of success.
The point of the game is to play an insane version of pseudo-poker in order to get those cubes you have onto your game-mat. Whoever gets all their cubes off the table wins. Iit’s all easier said than done: Each “winning” hand you play actually corresponds to a section on the board: Flush, Full House, Straight, Two Pairs, and Three of a Kind.
You want to play specific hands in order to improve your “stats.” This is where the deck builder comes in: If you choose to focus on hand limit, Three of a Kinds, you’ll have a slower game, but you’ll play more devastating hands. If you choose to select more cards, either Full Houses or Flushes, then you can actively deny other players cards they need or direct what card will be displayed next on the board. You can also choose to focus on just getting cubes off en masse with Two Pairs, which don’t win you any bonuses by do take two cubes off the table at once.
We managed to play a two-player match and a four-player game for this review within minutes of each other. Usually a game that works fantastic for two players (Puzzle Strike, for an example) tends to suffer when introducing a four-player game, but we actually found that this game flows perfectly regardless of number of players. The choices are hard and passions run wild. It’s almost exactly like Poker, but with more of a weird control-thing…
Our largest gripe was going to be the apparent disconnect between thematics (Worlds Fair/Early 1900s Inventor) and mechanics (Deck Building Poker) until Buckle pointed out that the choices created such a machine. It’s hard to explain, but when you’re halfway through a game and you’re debating if you should take three cards from the deck or the two in front of you or if perhaps you should scrap your plan entirely because there’s only a few more cubes left… It feels a bit like a hamster wheel. Only with cards. And choices. So nothing like a hamster wheel at all.
Skip-A-Turn gives Perpetual Motion Machine high marks across the board. It’s an entry-level game with plenty of depth and strategy, and it stands on the shoulders of giants in a way that just shows that Ted Alspach did his homework.
Buy Perpetual Motion Machine
Skip-a-Turn Variation: Glass Clock: Play with the discard pile up and all hands visible to each player. Watch the sparks fly.