A Steampunk Journey Through the Machine in Gearworks

Apr 10, 2024 | Sessions | 0 comments

Arrange the gears inside a great machine to collect parts, craft contraptions, and defeat the Leviathan in Gearworks.

Time for another new discovery! Gearworks has popped up on a few solo game lists over the years, and although I’ve been intrigued, my first play was a long time in the making. The steampunk setting, Sudoku mechanics, and neat contraptions all called to me. At last, I was ready to become a master tinkerer… Minus the explosions. Hopefully. Ha!


I received this copy for free from the designer and publisher with no expectations beyond checking out the game. This is a uniquely damaged copy that I had a little fun with, as you’ll see! Everything presented here is my honest opinion.

Game Overview

Game Name: Gearworks
Publication Year:

Sheryl Chieng & Yoma
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game

Over 3 rounds, gears must be arranged in a grid to collect various parts. Contraptions have requirements, yet the solo opponent is a tricky steampunk dragon who often throws off the flow or steals the right part at the wrong time… Make sure not to grind too many gears to win!

Diving Into the Machinations and Contraptions Found in Gearworks

First Play

April 5, 2024



Latest Play

April 6, 2024



Setup Time

5 Minutes

Lifetime Plays


Play Time

25 Minutes


High Score



Game Area

30" x 22"


Low Score


Gearing Up as Bartleby

The lower solo difficulty levels allow for character abilities to be in play, so I started off as the great Bartleby! A top hat, bow tie, and monocle made a formidable ensemble.

Gameplay is quite straightforward with a clear rulebook. Just note that there was a recent update to the solo mode that seems to have improved it quite a bit. Very nice!

Puzzling through the placement and order of gears sounded exciting, especially with a comparison to Sudoku.

I remember filling in those grids nonstop for many years… Until I got to the medium difficulty level. Ha ha!

A Whole Lot of Awesomeness Playing as Bartleby in Gearworks

Breaking Loose

Watch out for the Leviathan! The solo opponent follows a set of rules and priorities that can take a little time to internalize, but are easy to memorize after a few plays.

I mentioned the box damage here, and it’s pretty clear I got the copy where the real Leviathan broke out. Actual reenactment right here, and no one can disprove it. Ha!

On a very minor note, I’ve warmed up to dinged up boxes over the years… But this sleeve sadly had to go.

The box itself still maintains a large gouge, and it will forever retain the tale of the Leviathan on the loose!

Making the Most of a Clearly Dangerous Leviathan from Gearworks

Aligning the Gears

Creating a 4×4 grid of gears makes up the majority of active gameplay, but this is a little trickier than it might seem. Each column may not have duplicate gears.

A row also must go in ascending or descending order, although gears of the same value are allowed.

Placing a gear card takes control of that row and column, which is how parts are collected. But hold on! It’s not such a simple puzzle with the Leviathan often jumping in.

With sparks, there is also the opportunity to place a gear card on top of an existing one. Lots of moving pieces here!

Lots of Neat Gears to Collect Parts in the Fun Puzzles Found in Gearworks

Unskilled Bartleby

Starting at the easy difficulty level, I figured it wouldn’t be too hard for me to get the hang of the strategies. Wrong!

Poor Bartleby could be blamed for being a very disastrous tinker… But it was all me. I didn’t plan ahead for what the Leviathan would do, and left way too many openings.

The puzzle was a lot deeper than I expected, too, forcing me to use gear cards in interesting ways that weren’t as obvious. Sometimes, I had to ignore the parts I wanted…

Only to swoop in and place a carefully saved gear card right near the end of the round. I slowly got better!

Not Exactly a Master Tinkerer with Mediocre Flying Attempts in Gearworks

Seeing the Full Picture with New Components

One of the major pieces to this puzzle are the gears that align with the rows and columns. These indicate which player has ownership, and will thereby pick up the corresponding part at the end of the round. It’s very neat, but I certainly struggled with a seemingly simple component for a little bit! It all came down to some unique visuals.

In other games, I’ve seen this utilized by stacking pieces or replacing an existing token. Maybe that would have been easier to understand, but the gears really do feel like a clever way to tie in thematically. So despite me turning gears the wrong way or possibly freely giving away parts to the Leviathan after potential mistakes… It was fine in the end!

Many games lean into the familiar territory, thereby cutting down on the new elements we need to learn. I always enjoy this, although it’s also nice to see something that stands out. For me, it took an extra play to really understand what I was looking at so I could focus on my strategy, yet I now know for certain a game with some very unique gears!

The Popcorn Tricycle!

Yes. Yes, I did this! Although not all of the contraption cards are utilized in the solo mode, I took a quick look to see if there might be the perfect combination.

Craft a bicycle, perpetual motion machine, and dog… Voila! The perfect ingredients for a popcorn tricycle and some of the most adorable Calico Critters dogs.

I had far too much fun here, although Bartleby was perturbed by my slacking off in skill development!

The card sketches really are pretty amazing with little details that come to life with… Popcorn tricycles. Ha ha!

The Logical Invention of a Bicycle, Perpetual Motion Machine, and Dog in Gearworks

From Sea to Sky

My attempts were pretty laughable at first. It wasn’t until my third try at the easy difficulty level that things finally clicked… Metaphorically and literally! Bartleby was proud.

I nearly secured both parts during each round for my contraptions, along with extras for more victory points.

In a narrative sense, I pictured Bartleby crafting a submarine, then adding a balloon to it, and finally putting a jetpack together so it could get some altitude. Perfect!

This victory was still very close, though, and I was quite impressed by how challenging the Leviathan made it.

Bartleby's Success and a Jetpack-Powered Flying Submarine in Gearworks

Trying New Strategies

As I moved up to the medium difficulty level, I played as Jade, another one of the tinkerers. She had an interesting ability that could break the gear card placement rules.

This only happened once per round, though, so I had to be extra careful about planning it out. It worked, though!

Being able to see the puzzle and plan out how to use my gear cards became easier, which made gameplay a lot more interesting. I left limited openings for the Leviathan!

I even tried to lock in some spaces by playing gear cards of the same value next to each other… Really neat decisions.

Getting Clever with the Placement of Gears in the Grid of Gearworks

Jade’s Steampunk Train

All of the contraptions are completely separate from each other, but do you think I play games to ignore the ridiculous stories I can come up with? Ha ha!

Her major success resulted in a train powered by a whole bunch of bicycles. Rather than a steam whistle, this featured a phonograph whistle, which is the best kind.

How do you board the train? Via grapple gauntlet! Don’t worry about the logistics… It’s steampunk. IT WORKS!

Definitely had myself a few laughs amidst this puzzle, and I can only imagine what other inventions I’ll create!

A Most Exciting Experience Using Jade's Unique Ability in Gearworks

Session Overview

Play Number: 1-4
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Play Details: Easy and Medium Difficulty Levels
Outcome: 24-55, 20-48, 38-36, 47-36 (2 Wins, 2 Losses)

Outwitting this solo opponent took some practice, but it all came together in the end! I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the puzzle after I got into the gameplay flow. There are still more difficulty levels to tackle, and I have the most dangerous Leviathan around… Must prepare! The little stories from the contraptions are also pretty great, and I’m glad I finally had a chance to try this game out!

A Formidable Solo Opponent with the Leviathan from Gearworks


1 Play


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • Placing the gear cards is an interesting puzzle that isn’t as obvious as it might look at first with lots of choices.
  • Although there are duplicates in terms of part requirements, each contraption is unique with excellent artwork.
  • The solo opponent is very challenging but often mostly fair with a set routine and priorities to understand.
  • Gameplay is quite smooth after a little bit, and the way the parts are distributed makes it easy to track the rounds.
  • Ordering the gear cards is a major strategy that changes during each round and with different hands of cards.
  • For the amount of time needed to play, the end result is very satisfying with a number of exciting moments.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • Getting used to turning the gears to indicate row and column ownership takes a little time with the unique visuals.
  • There isn’t a lot of variety in the way the overall gameplay progresses, and a fair amount of luck is involved.
  • Although minor, keeping everything neatly arranged without the official playmat can be a little frustrating.
  • Even the best laid plans can be ruined by the wrong card getting drawn at the wrong time, which can be annoying.

More Gearworks

Explore related posts about Gearworks!

Victory Conditions

Score the Most Points

  • Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%

Goals and Milestones


Win at least 1 game at the easy difficulty level.


Win at least 1 game at the medium difficulty level.

Continue the Conversation

Have you played Gearworks solo? Are there any contraption cards you always enjoy seeing, or a silly invention you came up with? This was a lot of fun, from figuring out the puzzle to working out the nuances to battle the Leviathan. I likely need some more practice, yet it looks like the higher difficulty levels will certainly be a lot of fun to tinker through!


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