I don’t know why but I had this one sit on the shelf for a while. I guess I was just having a hard time getting enthusiastic about it, and with so many other shiny things on the shelf, my self-discipline wavers from time to time. So, while looking over the games I have to review, I realized this one had been on the list for far too long and I, trying to be more responsible, pulled it out from my library and sat it in my dining room. Surely if it is right there – staring me in the face – I would play it. And that is almost exactly what happened, a game night with friends ended with a “What do you want to play?”, ” I dunno what do you want to play?” and it dawned on me, “Five Fingered Severance!”
I had never really given the games name much thought, but when I started reading the rules, I finally understood. In FFS you play as clerks in a convenience store. You are going to be fired at the end of the day, that’s inevitable, so you want to steal, slack, and insult customers as much as possible before you go. However, you still have to keep an eye out for the boss, otherwise you could find yourself fired early. Once I understood the theme, the game was far more intriguing and when I described it to my friends, it wasn’t long before I had a table full of people who were eager to play.
Each player’s turn consists of two actions. These actions can include things such as “steal”, “stash your stolen goods”, “slack off”, “insult a customer”, “tattle”, or move to another aisle. Yes, you can actually even do a little bit of work here and there in order to brown nose your way to not getting fired so quickly. In addition to your two actions, you also have a handful of “plot cards” that you can play at any time during your turn, for free. These do things such as “move the boss” or “rummage” for the best merchandise to steal. However, despite all of this, the “worker” cards are the driving force behind the game.
“Worker” cards serve two major functions. They put a time limit on the game, and they help to keep the game moving along. At the beginning of each players turn, they are compelled to flip over the top card of the worker deck and respond accordingly. Usually these are cards that are going to get placed on the board as either a customer to insult, a job to be done, or an available slacking activity. However, occasionally they can be other things such as a sudden move of the boss. The game ends when only one person remains employed or when all of the worker cards are gone.
Over all, we all had a really good time with the game. The theme was a lot of fun, and some of the cards were just edgy enough to get a good solid laugh out of us (such as peeing in the coffee as a way to slack). My group of players ranges in age from early 20’s to late 30’s so most of us either do work in a job like this, or can remember working in a job like this in the not so distant past, so the theme of the game let us revel in all the things we would have loved to do, but didn’t, on our last day.
However, despite our fun with the theme, we did have two major complaints with the game: the rules (I know, I know, I nitpick rules), and the final slack tasks. Both of these needed a little more thought and careful execution.
The rules were pretty short compared to how much was going on in the game. They were also funny in places, which is a nice change of pace. However, they took far too much for granted. For example, the customer cards have a couple of symbols on them that match locations in the store. We assumed that this was the potential starting locations and the person who drew the card could choose the placement, but we never actually found in the rules whether this was correct or not. This was just one of several little things that we had to figure out for ourselves.
Final slack tasks were a great concept, but according to my group of gamers, they were poorly executed. Final slack tasks are those acts that are so heinous that they will instantly get you fired, but, what a way to go! Things such as “telling the boss where to go”, or “blowing up the cash register”, or “stealing the office computer” all fall under the header of “final slack task”. If you successfully complete one of these tasks, it’s worth 6 points and you get fired, if you fail to complete it you don’t get the points but are still fired. So in order for it to be worth it, you either need to be way out in the lead on points, or believe the game is going to end shortly after it gets back around to you. Otherwise, how many points might your fellow players rack up in the turns after your termination, likely more than six, right? It was for this reason that no one attempted a final task. It just wasn’t worth it, strategically speaking, and makes me wonder how much this element of the game was play tested.
However, despite the problems with the rules and the final slack tasks, all of my players seemed to have a good time. One even suggested that we immediately reset the game and play a second time. It wasn’t until we pointed out how late it was that people had a moment of “really!? It certainly doesn’t feel like we were playing for that long”, and of course that is always a sign of a good game. While I was initially shy of this game, I’m really glad I put it in my dining room to remind me to play. The game itself was great and I would recommend it to others who always wished they had told the boss where they could go on their final day.