A large brown package arrived on my doorstep. I love it when I get packages, because packages mean games. My acquisition team does most of the legwork these days, so that I can focus my attention on playing the games and writing the reviews (along with all those other business tasks that I must occupy myself with), and because of that I never know what I have coming. It’s like Christmas! I opened the plain brown box and inside I found… a plain looking green and brown box with the words “Startup Fever” emblazoned upon the front.
So, I wasn’t initially overwhelmed by the games’ artwork, but as I began to learn what the game was all about, I began to see the irony behind it. You see, this game is about starting and managing a company, and all the art work is reminiscent of every HR memo you have ever seen. The pieces come stored in office supply tins. The cards have little more than clip art on them. The board looks like it has coffee cup stains and post-it notes attached. This game oozes with the drudgery of cubicle life, for better or for worse. Sadly, I fear that while this was very clever theming, it might hurt the games sales: with so many other distractions in a game store, I don’t think I ever would have picked up such a plain looking box.
On a small secondary component side note, I have to voice a complaint on behalf of our colorblind gamers in the world. This game relies on your ability to see differences in color. And not even wildly different colors, but colors pretty similar to each other, such as green and blue. This would be a game stopper for the colorblind out there, so be warned. In future additions, I hope they will address this problem and give the two different pieces some more distinguishing features.
The first game of it that we settled down to play was on one of our game groups standard weekly game nights. I try to know what I am going into before I sit players down at the table, so I started reading the rules before my players arrived. While there were a few more pages of rules then I was expecting, relatively speaking, they were an easy read. Even with distractions, it only took me about twenty minutes to get through the booklet, and by the end I had a pretty solid idea of what was going on. So when my players sat down, I had to refer back to the booklet only minimally. Part of the minimal referrals had to be attributed to some well written reference cards the game included.
So how does this all work? Each player is running a company that can have anywhere from two to four product lines, depending on the total number of players. On your turn you are going to hire “nerds” and “suits” to work on those product lines. Nerds are smart and make your product better, so that more people will want to use it. Suits are also smart, and help you maximize profit. Getting just the right balance is crucial for your success.
In addition to hiring workers, you have nifty cards you can play. These do a wide range of things: give you more money, gain you more users, leak your opponents information, force your opponents into audits, etc. These bring a bit of spontaneity and excitement into the game. However, we found that some of the cards seemed too over powered by comparison, and didn’t really have a good counter card.
Once the hiring market runs dry, or you feel your opponent simply has more employees than you would like, it’s time to start poaching. You can poach an employee by offering them large sums of money. If you succeed in luring them away, they join your company, leaving their old one behind. Early on in our first game, we didn’t realize just how valuable it is to steal your oppositions employees away, even if there are still employees available to buy. It might cost you a little bit more, but if your opponents company has already gone in the turn order, they will have no recourse for end of year competitions and poaching one from them has an equivalent effect of you buying two.
To start, each of the product lines that your company is trying to develop are kept a secret. It’s not until later in the game when your product “launches” or has been “leaked” that it begins to compete in the marketplace. As soon as two products of the same type are launched, competition will occur at the end of each year, and the result of that competition can be a wild swing in the user migration from your product to your opponents. I will say, I was a bit disappointed by how late in the game competition starts. Competing was a driving force in the game, and it seemed like the first half of the game should have had a similar equivalent to keep things exciting.
So how do you win? The player who has the most users among all of their products, once all products have been launched, is the winner. Very short and sweet winning conditions. However the strategy behind the game was anything but short and sweet. This is a game that requires an investment of time to understand the subtitles in the strategies. The first game I played was pretty atrocious. I think small children could have played the game with the same level of cunning and skill, I just didn’t get it. I found that on successive games I did much better, and so did the players who had played before. This was not a game that favored “beginners luck”, but rather the slow methodical thinking of a pro.
So did we have fun? Some of us did. This is a very meaty resource management game. If you like that sort of thing, and I do, then you will likely enjoy yourself. Just be prepared to put in at least a couple of games before you pass judgement. I think your impression of the game will swing rapidly from one side to the other after you play a couple of games. But if you’re not really into resource management games, you are going to be bored to tears, and I’m sorry. There isn’t really a lot being offered here for gamers who prefer games outside of that genre, and that’s perfectly alright by me, just know what you are buying.
If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for our two drawings that are occurring this Friday on March 30, 2012. We have two copies of Cards Against Humanity to give away, and we have five digital downloads of Mikey Mason’s “Impotent Nerd Rage” album to pass out.
Good luck and Happy Gaming!
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