From Mirage Game Studios, HandyGames and THQ Nordic comes a super cute management sim. You’ll start out with a tiny tabletop workshop staffed with gnomes, but you’ll end up managing a busy workshop churning out a variety of products.
Little Big Workshop is both adorable and highly addictive. I couldn’t stop playing it. You’re given a little workshop, which the brief but effective tutorial will teach you how to manage. You need to recruit gnomes to work for you and build workstations where various products can be constructed. The initially available products are simple things like garden gnomes and rubber ducks, with more advanced and complex products made available as you progress.
Turning a profit
For each new product, you’ll need to consult the market to determine its demand and profitability. Then you’ll go into blueprint mode, where you choose the materials for this product, and link each step of the process to a particular workstation in your workshop. The materials you buy determine the quality of the finished item in categories like style, durability and comfort. Finally, you can choose how many of the item to produce, and then your workers will get to work.
Little Big Workshop is a lot of fun, once I got a handle on some of the not so obvious features.
The game also includes several companies who will order specific products from you on a regular basis. These orders have a time limit, making them much more challenging than producing for the general market, but they usually have higher payouts as well. Plus you’ll start building a relationship with that company, which will lead to bigger and more profitable orders from them.
Your workers need rest, so constructing break rooms for them is essential. You can also make your workshop environment more appealing by decorating a bit. With experience, your workers will also level up, allowing them to become specialists.
Products can be made from various materials, including wood, metal and plastics, all of which require specialised workstations and machinery to process. A profitable product can easily put you into the red if you need to purchase new machinery in order to produce it. More advanced machinery often has lower processing time than cheaper workstations, so the tradeoff is often worth it, if you have the cash to spare.
And speaking of going into the red, your workshop will file for bankruptcy at -5,000, and there are no loans for instant bailouts. Since your workers need to be paid, whether they’re working or not, and there are no sources of passive income, you always need to be producing and selling new products in order to stay afloat. Many times I found myself needing to sell off machinery or decorations in order to survive long enough to complete a contract.
Just in case the deadlines and the constant threat of bankruptcy weren’t enough, Little Big Workshop includes a number of random events that occur as you play. These range from mould infestations, to brain slugs infesting your workers, to enemy spies lurking in your workshop, potentially sabotaging your equipment. While they do keep things interesting by giving you something different to do, they may well strike at inconvenient times, making your job just a little bit harder. This is particularly true when you have a large workshop and you’re trying to identify one enemy agent among your 40 workers.
Expand and specialise
As you progress in the game, you’ll earn research points that can be used to upgrade certain aspects of your workshop, and later, specialise your workshop into a premium manufacturer, or a mass producer. Some research items unlock new machinery or the ability to expand your workshop’s floor space, while others give you insight into market fluctuations, or allow you to hire more workers.
Little Big Workshop is a lot of fun. Once I got a handle on some of the not so obvious features, like transferring jobs from one workstation to another, and making sure I allowed enough space between workstations for my workers to move at full speed, I quickly moved up the ranks and was producing piles of furniture, toys and barbeque grills.
A few things frustrated me, including the lack of a pause button that allows you to study or expand your workshop without the stress of time passing, and the very low bankruptcy threshold. When an order is going to bring in 100,000 and it’s only a few hours from completion, having to sell off machines while you wait for the product to be ready, only to rebuy those machines once you receive payment quickly became a point of frustration for me.
Creating blueprint after blueprint also becomes a bit tedious after the first couple dozen products, especially for complex products that lag as you try to select materials for each of the many steps. I would love to see an automated option for this in the future. I also struggled to figure out where my production lines were slowing down, as often workstations will show that they have a problem, but I was never able to figure out where or why. Fortunately, many of these issues sorted themselves out eventually, but often after I had missed the deadline for a big order.
The game has already had a couple of patches since it launched this week, which is a good sign, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this super cute management sim. It’s well worth a look if you enjoy this sort of game.