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Food Chain Magnate
A game for 2-5 players designed by Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga


"The bottom line: They're a business, no matter what they say. And by selling you unhealthy food, they make millions."
― Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me


Introduction
Food Chain Magnate is a Splotter game. You know, the guys who make those brain achingly good games like Antiquity, Roads & Boats, and the like. It was also the winner of the Heavy Cardboard Golden Elephant Award for the Best Heavy Board Game of 2015. It's on its fifth printing (caveat that Splotter has small print runs).

So what the heck is this game all about? Running your own fast food chain and making as much money as possible in the process.

Components
I have made liberal use of images from the BGG gallery for this game. Credits for photos are noted.

First things first. What do you get inside your decorative white box?

Photo by Jason (repairmanjack)

A ton of wooden pieces to represent food (burgers, pizzas, lemonade, beer, and cola). A LOT of cards for all the various people you can hire. More cards for the various milestones. Tiles to construct your fictitious little burg where you and your team will try to sell your wares. And of course, markers for marketing campaigns, restaurants, and miscellaneous information like turn order.

You also get the rule book, and a set of player aids in the form of a menu that tells you the sequence of play and shows the tech tree for employees inside.

Splotter is well known for the intricacy and depth and weight of their games. I have heard rather mixed reviews about their graphics and component quality. The cards and wooden bits from this game are great. The thickness of the tiles and other markers are decent and perfectly serviceable - I contrast this to the time I played The Great Zimbabwe and found the components flimsy.

The tiles showing the roads and houses frankly look very plain, but like the style or not, they are clear and easy to read on the board. I've seen a few attempts at making alternative tiles, but I don't have a complaint about them. Then again, I liked the first edition Dominant Species art and graphics better than the revised ones, so what do I know?

The graphics are what I like to call modern retro, that is say, they make you think of the classic 1950s style diner, but it really isn't. Love or hate the graphics, they're clear and easy to use, and add to the theme.

Rules and Gameplay
Food Chain Magnate is a game that's actually simple to learn. The rules follow a specific set of procedures in sequence. Players in turn order follow through the sequence. You lather, rinse, and repeat until you break the bank for the first time. You then add the reserve funds to the bank and do it again until you break the bank a second time. Then you add up your cash and the richest player wins.

Ah, but wait. You can completely muck it up in your initial restaurant placement. laugh

So here's the deal. You will make a 3x3, 3x4, 4x4, or 4x5 city layout, randomly no less, from the tiles in the game.

A completed 2 player game I played on boardgamecore.net


Randomly put the player's marker on the turn track for the start of the game. In reverse order you will each place your initial restaurant. You need to weigh proximity to homes, distance to suppliers (of cola, lemonade, and beer), and interfering with other players. You also need to plan ahead for the possibility of having a drive in restaurant (meaning you have access out of all four corners of your tile).

Then in actual placement order you choose starting order. You may wish to go last in the early rounds to see what everyone else is doing or you might be keen with your plan and want to go first. Player order will matter when the food gets served, so this isn't a zero-sum decision.

Each player will finally secretly select a reserve card ($100/200/300), and when the initial bank of $50/player is exhausted, the reserve is added. So in essence, you are contributing to the length of the game by the amount of money you're putting in.

And voila, you're off to the races.

The game follows this strict sequence...

1. restructuring. Pick up all your employees. Initially this will only be the CEO (you). Make up your corporate hierarchy from available staff. Managers can only report to the CEO, so your tree will be three layers max. Everyone who's not working goes to the beach.

2. order of operations. Whoever has the most slots available in their hierarchy decides where they want to be in the turn order. Ties are broken by the previous turn's order.

3. working 9-5. In order, players do this:
- recruit. There's a large number of staff you can hire, and whoever you hire gets sent directly to the beach (lucky them!).
- train. If you have a trainer at work, you can train someone on the beach. You can't train someone at work. There's something fundamentally true about that statement...
- start a marketing campaign. If you have a marketing person at work, they can start a campaign to sell... whatever it is you want to advertise. More on marketing in its own little section!
- get food and drinks. If you have chefs or kitchen trainees at work, make food! If you have errand boys or someone else capable of getting beverages, collect a supply of drinks!
- place new houses and gardens. If you have a new business manager that is. Gardens can be attached to a house that doesn't have one. New houses have gardens by default.
- place new or move existing restaurants. If you have the local or regional manager around. Having one of these staff at work automatically bestows the "drive in" status.

4. dinner time. Malachi Brown made this excellent handout to show how you may potentially make money in this game. In a nutshell, houses that have demand on them will buy from you if you can (a) provide them with everything they want, and (b) can do it for less than anyone else. And if it costs the same from you as someone else, then they'll go to the player with more waitresses (service is still king). And if you're still tied, well, whoever's ahead in turn order (it's a game, they had to break the tie somehow).

If you've broken the bank the first time, add the reserve money everyone secretly picked (and keep paying the players).
If you've broken the bank the second time, the game ends after this phase.

5. payday. Now, a lot of your staff are unpaid interns zero cost, as the day to day operational expenses of the restaurant are abstracted away in the design of the game, but trained employees cost $5 each. You can fire as many as you like now. Of course, you'd have to train them back up again, and that takes time and multiple steps. But maybe it's not them, it's you, and it's time for them to go. Or you don't have enough cash to pay them. Either way, now's the time pay them or give them a pink slip.

6. marketing. Remember back in step 3 you told some schmo to go drum up some business and they paid a pilot to fly around with a banner proclaiming "you want burgers"? Well, all those marketing campaigns will now put some demand on all the houses they can affect. More on that later.

7. clean up. Collect up all your employees. Toss out all unsold food and drink (unless... wait, wait, I haven't talked about milestones yet). Remove expired marketing (those 2-1 coupons don't last forever, right?). Get ready for the next turn.

That's it. Sounds deceptively simple doesn't it?

Considerations
The game hinges on a few key elements.

The first is marketing. In order to sell anything, there has to be a demand for it. The marketing doesn't necessarily have to be done by you though. If a house wants burgers, they are not brand loyal. Just because the management at the Xango Blues Bar paid for some burger ads doesn't mean people are going to buy it from them. If you can do burgers for less, they'll come pick them up from you. Isn't that a sweet deal! The fast food biz is not for faint of heart.

An interesting twist is that you can use marketing offensively in this game. If your competition is making a killing on burgers but can't deliver pizza, creating demand for pizza on the houses closest to them can cause serious problems because houses want all or nothing! And if you didn't bring it to them this time around, existing demand lingers through the next turn compounding the problem.

Marketing comes in four flavours. Billboards only affect houses they actually touch, limiting their effectiveness. Mailbox campaigns (flyers) affect all houses on a block (any area on the map containing the mailbox and houses without necessitating crossing of a street). Air campaigns affect a set of rows or columns on the map. And then there's the tactical nuke of marketing - the radio - which affects the tile it is placed on as well as all adjacent tiles (diagonal and orthogonal).

The quirk with marketing is that it is resolved in numerical order. Radio campaign 1 goes before airplane 4 goes before mailbox 9 goes before billboard 14. As houses only have a demand capacity of 3 (or 5 if it has a garden), any excess marketing is ignored.

The second is price. Among the employees you can hire or create through training are pricing managers and discount managers, or conversely the luxury manager. If you can sell your burgers for less, people will flock to your doors.

The luxury manager makes your food cost $10 more per item, so if you can get a monopoly on product or create so much demand that people are desperate, you can really cash in. This is especially good for houses with gardens, as they pay out double!

Like marketing, houses get their demand filled in numerical order. House 1 always makes it to their cheapest restaurant first. Those nuisance customers never leave a tip either.

Milestones
The game includes a number of milestones that give an enduring benefit to all players that achieve it in the same turn. The power of the milestones are usually beneficial, but can have some unforeseen drawbacks. I'm not going to go through all the milestones, but some of the more potentially important ones are...

First billboard placed: if you play the first billboard, any marketing you place lasts forever. And you never have to pay for marketing. This sounds good on paper, but it also means that the marketing you place can and will be exploited by others, and not for your benefit.

First to train someone: if you are the first person to train someone, you get a permanent -$15 to your salary costs. This means you can have three trained staff and no income and still get to keep people. Hey, options work for high tech startups. Why not for your Fro-Gurt chain?

First to throw away food or drink: For some reason, refrigeration systems are an alien concept in this game. If you don't have a freezer, you have to throw away all unsold food and drink at the end of the turn. But if you're the first one to throw food out, you get a free freezer, holds up to 10 items. And no, you can't get one later, no matter how much money you have.

First to have $100: Got $100? Before anyone else? Congratulations! You're a financial genius and are not only CEO but CFO too. You get 50% bonus income every round. Everyone else has to try and train a manager into a CFO.

First to market burger/pizza/drink: This are actually three separate milestones, but they all have the same effect - if you're the first to market one of these three things, whenever you sell that commodity, you get a $5 bonus independent of any other considerations.

Quirks and oddities
Food Chain Magnate, for all that it's about restaurants, has a few oddities that bear mentioning.

Waitresses: a waitress at work generates $3 income for the chain. Even if you serve no food. What? Of course, your restaurant is operating at some level in their locale. Maybe the $3 represents sales of Hooters Fried Geese & Donkey calendars, t-shirts and other merchandise. Or maybe we're just skimming tips.

The "why does the same house drive back and forth to my restaurant for every item?" question: During dinner time, the cost of a good for a household is calculated through a formula that goes like this - the base price of the good, plus the distance in tiles from the restaurant to the house gives a total for that item.

So, if we posit as follows that everyone is charging $10 for a burger (the default price in the game), and my restaurant is on the same tile as the house wanting 1 burger and yours is 2 tiles away, then the house will come to me to buy the burger. That's because by rule, the cost to the house to get to you is $12 ($10 + 2 distance).

But let's say it's the same scenario except you have a pricing manager, and the house now wants two burgers. The cost from me is $20 (2 burgers at $10 each). The cost from you as the rule is written is $22, that is 2 burgers at $9 each for $18, and the distance is added per item, so instead of being $9x2+2=20, it's 2x($9+2)=22.

This is a rule that rubs me the wrong way - not only is it counterintuitive, it's also harder to calculate. Think of this way - the base price for food in the game is $10 modified by pricing managers, discount managers, and luxury managers. If a house has 4 items on it, and I have a discount manager in play, it should be "Ok, that house would pay $28 for my food, let's see how far away it is", not "Ok, they'll pay $7 per burger from me, let's see how far away it is and then multiply that number by 4." And repeat that for every house on the board.

You're going to need a bigger boat: Food Chain Magnate comes in a nice relatively small bookcase box, but it demands a LOT of table space. There's a reason there's an accordion style card holder that fits in the box lid for sale in the BGG store.

It turns this ...

Photo by Karan R (nukeu666)

... into this ...

Photo by [maˈtiːas] (yzemaze)

The milestone cards are also a pain in the ass to keep sorted when you receive them. Use one of the many alternatives proposed in the files section (or use the wipe boards from the BGG store kit) to track them instead.

Ways and means and paths to victory
Food Chain Magnate has been described as a sandbox game, a game where you can try a variety of strategies without any kind of real guidance and experience is the only real way to determine if you tried something smart or not.

There are too many ways to list, and besides, the way my brain works might be completely different from yours so my notions of perfect strategy might as well be Martian to someone else.

Nonetheless, herewith I offer a few strategy notes and suggestions. Note that some are mutually exclusive:

The trainer: start your recruitment with a trainer to get the $15 discount on salaries milestone right away to be able to build capacity in your organization that's recession (i.e. no income) proof.

The recruiting girl: start off your first couple turns hiring recruiting girls to get the two free management trainees so you can build your organization fast and be able to put a lot of people out early. Works well with the first waitress milestone ($5/turn instead of $3/turn) to get some cash flow.

The Guru: at all costs get the guru into your organization and then you can triple train anyone every turn. Get the high value employees into your structure fast. Very good for when you need to be reactive about an emergent opportunity/challenge on the board.

Marketing bonus: In one memorable (and LONG) 5 player game, there were two players in contention. Said players both had the $5 bonus for marketing (one had drinks and the other burgers, but whatever). They got into a price war. At one point they were both selling food for $0, making no money on anything they sold except for their $5 bonuses. This had the effect of freezing the rest of us out of the market because nobody wanted our stuff, and turning it into a knife fight between the two of them to balance salary while keeping up production capacity in the slow race to the finish.

No CFO: Over on boardgamecore.net, you can select the option to play with no CFO milestone. For 2-3 players I suggest playing without the CFO milestone as it will make it a little more balanced and allow the game to go on a little longer - this is especially handy when you're learning.

No Radio for 2-3 player: The radio is truly the tac nuke of the marketing world. In the 2 player game, a radio in the centre tile will affect the entire board. This isn't the problem. The problem is the first person to play a radio places not one, but two of the good type on each house. On the small board, if you can get into a position to have a whole bunch of, say, lemonade in your freezer and then put down a radio selling lemonade, you've basically declared lemonade warfare on the entire game and it's over. Just agree on the winner and start over. Or try a game with no radios. Or agree to take out the radio milestone.

The milestones are all broken: I purposely chose the word broken here to be deliberately provocative. The milestones are all useful to some extent or another, but the truth is that in every game I've played I have simultaneously cursed the unfair advantage of and coveted the power of my opponents' milestone benefits. And they have felt the same way about mine. Every time everyone else has had a freezer and I didn't, the game was clearly broken. Even if I won.

Conclusions
At the heart of Food Chain Magnate is a race game - a race for the finite dollars of the bank. Once the bank is broken the first time, you see how much money is in the system, at which point you know if you want to push to drain it as fast as possible to maintain your win, or delay as much as possible to try and catch up to the leader.

Once someone is away to the races because they were that much more clever than you were in putting down the right kind of marketing and having the right production team in place, it's usually too late and you'll never have that chance to catch up. Of course, if they're riding the burger line to victory a well timed pizza marketing campaign can put a spoke in their wheels.

My experience of this game is that careful analytical planning is a necessity. If, like me, you tend to play by intuition, it's entirely possible that you'll become frustrated because one mistake can kill your chances for the game. It's worse when you realize that your mistake was where you put your initial restaurant at the very beginning.

A handful of sample scores from the many games I've played
2 player: $746-$136. $716-$5. $467-$435
3 player: $1264-$70-$27. $668-$279-$182. $1126-$105-$89
4 player: $512-$460-$214-$120. $1318-$861-$235-$59

I put up the scores as a small sample, and this is from games I've played with a variety of opponents, to show that once the race is on it's essentially over. From the small sample above, there are only two or three that could be called close at the end. I strongly suggest players invoke a house mercy rule to end the game when it's obvious it's over (and trust me, it will be).

I enjoy this game, but I can't honestly endorse it as a game for everyone. The sandbox nature of the game is definitely not something all will enjoy, and because the game doesn't give you any guidance you can only learn it through (usually harsh) experience. That will be definitely a turn off for some, especially if you're on the receiving end of a $716-$5 drubbing.

Food Chain Magnate is a good game, yes, but I don't think it'll ever become a great game. It's definitely one of the more accessible Splotter titles, but I recommend anyone considering it try it before you buy it.


Thank you for reading this latest installment of Roger's Reviews. I've been an avid board gamer all my life and a wargamer for over thirty years. I have a strong preference for well designed games that allow players to focus on trying to make good decisions.

Among my favourites I include Twilight Struggle, the Combat Commander Series, the Musket & Pike Battle Series, Julius Caesar, Maria, EastFront, Here I Stand, Napoleon's Triumph, Unhappy King Charles!

You can subscribe to my reviews at this geeklist: [Roger's Reviews] The Complete Collection and I also encourage you to purchase this very stylish microbadge: mb
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leroy43 wrote:
My experience of this game is that careful analytical planning is a necessity.


So true, and a reason it's so good on-line where you have the time to think about your moves. I played it once in person after having played a bunch on-line and was flustered by the "real time" speed; to sit down and carefully analyze everything would grind the game to a halt, which I wasn't comfortable doing as I consider it poor gaming etiquette.
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leroy43 wrote:

But let's say it's the same scenario except you have a pricing manager, and the house now wants two burgers. The cost from me is $20 (2 burgers at $10 each). The cost from you as the rule is written is $22, that is 2 burgers at $9 each for $18, and the distance is added per item, so instead of being $9x2+2=20, it's 2x($9+2)=22.

This is a rule that rubs me the wrong way - not only is it counterintuitive, it's also harder to calculate. Think of this way - the base price for food in the game is $10 modified by pricing managers, discount managers, and luxury managers. If a house has 4 items on it, and I have a discount manager in play, it should be "Ok, that house would pay $28 for my food, let's see how far away it is", not "Ok, they'll pay $7 per burger from me, let's see how far away it is and then multiply that number by 4." And repeat that for every house on the board.

This is certainly an accurate way to represent it. We (my groups) always play by simply comparing the price of one item from each restaurant rather than the total cost for the order. One burger from you in this instance is $10. One burger from me is constructively $10 - $1 + $2 = $11, for the purposes of evaluating where the house will purchase from.

I'm not sure if you covered this as I scanned rather than perused your post, when players gain revenue, they don't gain revenue for the constructive dollars used to calculate relative pricing based on distance. I'm sure you know this, but I'll clarify for readers.

For example, imagine if I'm selling a burger for $10 zero (0) spaces away while you are selling a burger for $10 with a Discount Manager (–$3) two (2) spaces away. The house will buy from you because $10 – $3 + $2 = $9 (you) vs. $10 (me). However, when the house purchases, it doesn't actually add the money for distance and would only pay $7/burger. The dollars for distance are used only to determine where the house will fulfill its demand but ignored during the actual sale.

Quote:
Food Chain Magnate is a good game, yes, but I don't think it'll ever become a great game. It's definitely one of the more accessible Splotter titles, but I recommend anyone considering it try it before you buy it.

Great review, of course, as usual. Tastes vary, but I found FCM to be the best game of 2015. But, yes, it is in the vein of economic race games (i.e. 18XX games). It's not for everybody.
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verandi wrote:
leroy43 wrote:
My experience of this game is that careful analytical planning is a necessity.


So true, and a reason it's so good on-line where you have the time to think about your moves. I played it once in person after having played a bunch on-line and was flustered by the "real time" speed; to sit down and carefully analyze everything would grind the game to a halt, which I wasn't comfortable doing as I consider it poor gaming etiquette.


Doesn't this line of reasoning make all heavier games bad?

Heavy games require thought - thought takes time - taking time is bad - heavy games are bad.

I've only played once but we kept it moving and had a really good time.

Also, it wasn't clear for us who was going to win until it happened. Granted that may have been a result of our not being experienced enough to see the writing on the wall, but I left excited about the game in a way I very rarely am after a first play.
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grammatoncleric wrote:
For example, imagine if I'm selling a burger for $10 zero (0) spaces away while you are selling a burger for $10 with a Discount Manager (–$3) two (2) spaces away. The house will buy from you because $10 – $3 + $2 = $9 (you) vs. $10 (me). However, when the house purchases, it doesn't actually add the money for distance and would only pay $7/burger. The dollars for distance are used only to determine where the house will fulfill its demand but ignored during the actual sale.

Evidence that my example was poorly constructed.

A variant on your example.

I have a pricing manager and am at distance 0.
You have a discount manager and are at distance 2.

The sale is for 3 burgers and 2 lemonades.

My price? By rule $9 + $0 = $9. My earnings per item? $9.
Your price? By rule $7 + $2 = $9. But your earnings per item is only $7.

On the price point, by rule we're tied and we should first go to the waitress, and then player turn order tie breaker. Let's say I have 1 waitress and you have 0. I "win".

But this is where the game breaks that suspension of disbelief. The game is paying me $45 for those 5 items. The game would pay you only $35. But the game pretends the cost from you is $45 when it's only $37.

In my household, I'm going to hop in the car and spend the $2 to go pick up my $35 dinner order rather than walk across the street and pay $45.

Quote:
Great review, of course, as usual. Tastes vary, but I found FCM to be the best game of 2015. But, yes, it is in the vein of economic race games (i.e. 18XX games). It's not for everybody.

I like 18xx games, I just know better than to play them.

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grammatoncleric wrote:
Great review, of course, as usual. Tastes vary, but I found FCM to be the best game of 2015. But, yes, it is in the vein of economic race games (i.e. 18XX games). It's not for everybody.


I can't see how FCM has anything to do with 18XX. To me it's closer to games like Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization or Neuland but even that is stretching it. There aren't many games quite like FCM.

Either way, this is the most accurate, non-gushing gulp , review of FCM I have read/heard. OP has nailed it.
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leroy43 wrote:
But this is where the game breaks that suspension of disbelief. The game is paying me $45 for those 5 items. The game would pay you only $35. But the game pretends the cost from you is $45 when it's only $37.

In my household, I'm going to hop in the car and spend the $2 to go pick up my $35 dinner order rather than walk across the street and pay $45.


Right, the fact that distance constructively calculates as a per-item incremental increase on each good sold is a thematic disconnect. Maybe it represents the fact that the whole family has to get in the car and the parents have to deal with the whining of the children to drive two tiles away, plus all the time it takes to put them in their carseats, etc.
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mudhoney wrote:
I can't see how FCM has anything to do with 18XX.


* Transport logistical network (but in reverse)
* Breaking the bank
* Vibrancy of the map is intentionally diminished to focus players on gameplay rather than artistic design
* Engine building (metaphorically) by improving one's organizational structure and human resources, as compared to engine building (semiotically) by purchasing train engines that do better and better transport. Yes, they are thematically different, but they are also topologically similar in the abstract.

Yes, FCM is sui generis as you pointed out, but like most Splotter games, 18xx seems to be the original species in its evolutionary cycle.
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grammatoncleric wrote:
mudhoney wrote:
I can't see how FCM has anything to do with 18XX.


* Transport logistical network (but in reverse)
* Breaking the bank
* Vibrancy of the map is intentionally diminished to focus players on gameplay rather than artistic design
* Engine building (metaphorically) by improving one's organizational structure and human resources, as compared to engine building (semiotically) buy purchasing train engines that do better and better transport. Yes, they are thematically different, but they are also topologically similar in the abstract.

Yes, FCM is sui generis as you pointed out, but like most Splotter games, 18xx seems to be the original species in its evolutionary cycle.


I don't really see how Splotter games are like 18xx games either, aside from them being dense and taking a bit of time to play.
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lamaros wrote:
I don't really see how Splotter games are like 18xx games either, aside from them being dense and taking a bit of time to play.


Well, Ur: 1830 BC has some elements of 18xx and was definitely influenced by it.

But the main element (for me) which is missing from most Splotter games is the investor mechanism. In 18xx you as a player are not a corporation, you merely invest in them. It was makes 18xx distinctly different from many other heavy games.
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leroy43 wrote:
If, like me, you tend to play by intuition, it's entirely possible that you'll become frustrated because one mistake can kill your chances for the game. It's worse when you realize that your mistake was where you put your initial restaurant at the very beginning.

This is precisely my experience (and game-play style), too. It's a good game, but utterly and absolutely unforgiving right from the first thing you do. And achingly long for what it delivers in the end. Certainly not as bad as Agricola (which for many people is also a good game), but not my cup of tea at all.
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DaveyJJ wrote:
leroy43 wrote:
If, like me, you tend to play by intuition, it's entirely possible that you'll become frustrated because one mistake can kill your chances for the game. It's worse when you realize that your mistake was where you put your initial restaurant at the very beginning.

This is precisely my experience (and game-play style), too. It's a good game, but utterly and absolutely unforgiving right from the first thing you do. And achingly long for what it delivers in the end. Certainly not as bad as Agricola (which for many people is also a good game), but not my cup of tea at all.


I agree with this. I really enjoy it and am happy to ride out an early mistake, but my group got snake bit by this in a few instances and are not willing to try it again. I don't really blame them... 2-3 hrs waiting for someone else to win can be pretty painful.

Edit: This thread got me thinking and posted a topic discussing an idea to help with the unforgiving nature of FCM coupled with the long game length. Check it out here:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1641135/fcm-quick-start-set...
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A good review. This is a game that is not friendly to the people who play games once or twice and move on. To really enjoy it requires taking a lot of drubbings (I know as I have had my ass kicked many times) before you can become competitive it's like chess, a good player will beat a poor one and no random event, dice role or rule mechanic is going to mitigate this. People play games for different reasons all of them legitimate but I love the way FCM is like a wargame in that you need to take time to learn and master its initially hidden strategies. Like those classic albums I can see myself playing this game year in year out. Again thanks for such a comprehensive review.
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doctoryes0 wrote:

Doesn't this line of reasoning make all heavier games bad?

Heavy games require thought - thought takes time - taking time is bad - heavy games are bad.

I've only played once but we kept it moving and had a really good time.

Also, it wasn't clear for us who was going to win until it happened. Granted that may have been a result of our not being experienced enough to see the writing on the wall, but I left excited about the game in a way I very rarely am after a first play.


Respectfully, I disagree with the line of reasoning that you extrapolated from my post. Not all heavy games require the level of attention to detail that FCM does to play well. I play lots of heavy games, and in FCM more so than most there is a huge amount of relevant information to process and small miscalculations can have game altering consequences. I believe that's the point Roger was making that I agreed with.

Also, I didn't say FCM or heavy games in general are bad. I love FCM, and enjoyed playing in person 20+ times before I tried it on-line. You said you've played it once- I'm sure you'll have a glorious time exploring this most excellent game. But for me once I played on-line another 40+ times, I understood the importance of attention to detail in this game and appreciate the time to think over my moves. I'm simply at another level now than where I was before playing on-line; back then it wasn't an issue because we were all blissfully unaware.

Returning to my first point, I take issue with the notion that heavy games necessarily require heavy computation. In fact, the decisions I enjoy most in games are ones where no amount of calculation will give you a definitive answer; they are ambiguous and require thinking about other players' incentives, etc. Reiner Knizia was the master at making games like this. 18xx has a computational aspect but the most interesting questions are far more ambiguous. Same goes for many other games, including Splotter classics like Indonesia and The Great Zimbabwe.
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verandi wrote:
In fact, the decisions I enjoy most in games are ones where no amount of calculation will give you a definitive answer; they are ambiguous and require thinking about other players' incentives, etc. Reiner Knizia was the master at making games like this. 18xx has a computational aspect but the most interesting questions are far more ambiguous. Same goes for many other games, including Splotter classics like Indonesia and The Great Zimbabwe.


Quick question: does FCM have the same ambiguous decision space as Indonesia and the Great Zimbabwe? I love how both of those can turn on a dime by the decisions of others.
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John Rogers wrote:
verandi wrote:
In fact, the decisions I enjoy most in games are ones where no amount of calculation will give you a definitive answer; they are ambiguous and require thinking about other players' incentives, etc. Reiner Knizia was the master at making games like this. 18xx has a computational aspect but the most interesting questions are far more ambiguous. Same goes for many other games, including Splotter classics like Indonesia and The Great Zimbabwe.


Quick question: does FCM have the same ambiguous decision space as Indonesia and the Great Zimbabwe? I love how both of those can turn on a dime by the decisions of others.


Your question is a little...(what's the word)...ambiguous.

What is an "ambiguous decision space"?
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I can understand the frustration with trying to determine an effective starting location in FCM. However, the game often "shifts" from this early focus. You might get a great location near several houses, with your initial restaurant placement, but once new houses have been put down (and as new houses pay more for their food, due to their gardens), the original houses may quickly fall into disfavor.

The other possibility is taking away maximum proximity through pricing discounts.

And of course the real buzzsaw to initial planning is marketing. Doesn't matter if you're the closest to the most houses, if they want pizza and you're making hamburgers.

All of this taken into consideration, the first, key element is more likely to be proximity to a path intersecting multiple beverage types. You cannot place new beverage sources, as you can place new houses. Combine this with a steady eye on corporate flexibility, and you will likely fare better than those myopically focused on ideal, initial placement for sales.

The biggest mistake I think you can make in FCM is excessive reliance on a single product or locale. The map can change, demand can change, and your restaurant locations can change. These elements mean your company must change.

To misquote Gordon Gekko, "Change is good."

You can hammer out a win here or there, by virtue of superior location. But success over multiple playings is more likely going to rely on who can be the quickest to adapt to the changing variables the game offers, and who can do the most to initiate changes that favor them.

In large part, this is why I consider FCM to be one of the best games of the last ten years. You don't need heavy analysis to win, but you do need to be able to identify how you can upset the apple cart and benefit from which way those apples will spill.
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theDEADareMANY wrote:
A good review. This is a game that is not friendly to the people who play games once or twice and move on.

That's a valid point, and one prospective owners should be aware of. I'm not that kind of player (33 years and 2,500 games of Up Front should be evidence enough that I'm more than willing to play brilliant games to death and beyond) but your point stands that those players especially will be hurt by this one. This one fails for me not because it isn't a well-designed game that would take 20-30 plays to get good at, but rather it isn't much fun to play, for my tastes. The fun-to-length ratio is wildly out of kilter, much like it is in The Gallerist, for example (though the later also has the issue of confusing myriad mechanics for depth). Again, FCM is a very good game, but play it first before purchasing would be my advice.
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mudhoney wrote:
John Rogers wrote:
verandi wrote:
In fact, the decisions I enjoy most in games are ones where no amount of calculation will give you a definitive answer; they are ambiguous and require thinking about other players' incentives, etc. Reiner Knizia was the master at making games like this. 18xx has a computational aspect but the most interesting questions are far more ambiguous. Same goes for many other games, including Splotter classics like Indonesia and The Great Zimbabwe.


Quick question: does FCM have the same ambiguous decision space as Indonesia and the Great Zimbabwe? I love how both of those can turn on a dime by the decisions of others.


Your question is a little...(what's the word)...ambiguous.

What is an "ambiguous decision space"?


Essentially not clearly knowing the best possible longterm path at any given point. In Indonesia for example its easy to determine the current value and possibly one future round forward of a merger; however, longterm value is near impossible because of all the variables involved. In Zimbabwe one person can shift the game space by placing a craftsman, activating a special ability, or by taking a God; longterm planning and stability is hard to predict.

I want to know if it is easy to predict the future game state and values of things in FCM from the beginning or if decisions induce longterm butterfly effects that reverberate throughout the game and changing the landscape.
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John Rogers wrote:
mudhoney wrote:
John Rogers wrote:
verandi wrote:
In fact, the decisions I enjoy most in games are ones where no amount of calculation will give you a definitive answer; they are ambiguous and require thinking about other players' incentives, etc. Reiner Knizia was the master at making games like this. 18xx has a computational aspect but the most interesting questions are far more ambiguous. Same goes for many other games, including Splotter classics like Indonesia and The Great Zimbabwe.


Quick question: does FCM have the same ambiguous decision space as Indonesia and the Great Zimbabwe? I love how both of those can turn on a dime by the decisions of others.


Your question is a little...(what's the word)...ambiguous.

What is an "ambiguous decision space"?


Essentially not clearly knowing the best possible longterm path at any given point. In Indonesia for example its easy to determine the current value and possibly one future round forward of a merger; however, longterm value is near impossible because of all the variables involved. In Zimbabwe one person can shift the game space by placing a craftsman, activating a special ability, or by taking a God; longterm planning and stability is hard to predict.

I want to know if it is easy to predict the future game state and values of things in FCM from the beginning or if decisions induce longterm butterfly effects that reverberate throughout the game and changing the landscape.


Yes is the answer.
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John Rogers wrote:
I want to know if it is easy to predict the future game state and values of things in FCM from the beginning or if decisions induce longterm butterfly effects that reverberate throughout the game and changing the landscape.

To me, the answer is : FCM does that to a much larger and critical extent than any other Splotter game.
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Which is what makes Splotter games so 18xx.
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tublefou wrote:
John Rogers wrote:
I want to know if it is easy to predict the future game state and values of things in FCM from the beginning or if decisions induce longterm butterfly effects that reverberate throughout the game and changing the landscape.

To me, the answer is : FCM does that to a much larger and critical extent than any other Splotter game.


I think some decisions will have long term forecast potential (how many drinks are available on the board, where houses start out, potential to add new ones w/ gardens, etc). Otherwise you'll see roughly a 2-ish turn revolution where someone plays marketing or hires someone and you are sort of tipped off as to where it's headed in future rounds. Compared to Indonesia which wants you to try (and sort of fail) at the long term prediction, I find seeing where FCM is going to be clearer in short term analysis and more so once the game exits the engine building/drafting phase (when most milestones are acquired) and switches to core-board play. After about 10 or 12 games of FCM and over 20 of Indonesia, I find the long term analysis potential is less murky in FCM than Indonesia but neither are a walk in the park by any means.

Indonesia has more opacity due to it's butterfly effect as you encounter lots of little incremental changes with very few resets, an organic evolution in lots of different elements. I find FCM's unknowns come more so from forecasting shocks to the board than that sort of evolution. For example, Indonesia's evolution of the board comes from where people expand, what cities come into play, and where ships go for routes. The routes are abstracted in FCM by comparison, and your houses/diners are largely fixed unless someone specifically hires a role that will affect that for next round. It's much easier to shock the system in FCM (hire 4 or 5 NBDs one turn, then drop all of them and a radio the next turn to shift the focus of the board, and goods, to that new area) than it is in Indonesia. ymmv, just my 2 cents.
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grammatoncleric wrote:
leroy43 wrote:

But let's say it's the same scenario except you have a pricing manager, and the house now wants two burgers. The cost from me is $20 (2 burgers at $10 each). The cost from you as the rule is written is $22, that is 2 burgers at $9 each for $18, and the distance is added per item, so instead of being $9x2+2=20, it's 2x($9+2)=22.

This is a rule that rubs me the wrong way - not only is it counterintuitive, it's also harder to calculate. Think of this way - the base price for food in the game is $10 modified by pricing managers, discount managers, and luxury managers. If a house has 4 items on it, and I have a discount manager in play, it should be "Ok, that house would pay $28 for my food, let's see how far away it is", not "Ok, they'll pay $7 per burger from me, let's see how far away it is and then multiply that number by 4." And repeat that for every house on the board.

This is certainly an accurate way to represent it. We (my groups) always play by simply comparing the price of one item from each restaurant rather than the total cost for the order. One burger from you in this instance is $10. One burger from me is constructively $10 - $1 + $2 = $11, for the purposes of evaluating where the house will purchase from.

I'm not sure if you covered this as I scanned rather than perused your post, when players gain revenue, they don't gain revenue for the constructive dollars used to calculate relative pricing based on distance. I'm sure you know this, but I'll clarify for readers.

For example, imagine if I'm selling a burger for $10 zero (0) spaces away while you are selling a burger for $10 with a Discount Manager (–$3) two (2) spaces away. The house will buy from you because $10 – $3 + $2 = $9 (you) vs. $10 (me). However, when the house purchases, it doesn't actually add the money for distance and would only pay $7/burger. The dollars for distance are used only to determine where the house will fulfill its demand but ignored during the actual sale.

Quote:
Food Chain Magnate is a good game, yes, but I don't think it'll ever become a great game. It's definitely one of the more accessible Splotter titles, but I recommend anyone considering it try it before you buy it.

Great review, of course, as usual. Tastes vary, but I found FCM to be the best game of 2015. But, yes, it is in the vein of economic race games (i.e. 18XX games). It's not for everybody.


you are suppose to assume only 1 good for checking demand. It seems as though the OP played wrong (as his method would dramatically increase the use of the pricing managers)
 
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sircaradoc wrote:
grammatoncleric wrote:
leroy43 wrote:

But let's say it's the same scenario except you have a pricing manager, and the house now wants two burgers. The cost from me is $20 (2 burgers at $10 each). The cost from you as the rule is written is $22, that is 2 burgers at $9 each for $18, and the distance is added per item, so instead of being $9x2+2=20, it's 2x($9+2)=22.

This is a rule that rubs me the wrong way - not only is it counterintuitive, it's also harder to calculate. Think of this way - the base price for food in the game is $10 modified by pricing managers, discount managers, and luxury managers. If a house has 4 items on it, and I have a discount manager in play, it should be "Ok, that house would pay $28 for my food, let's see how far away it is", not "Ok, they'll pay $7 per burger from me, let's see how far away it is and then multiply that number by 4." And repeat that for every house on the board.

This is certainly an accurate way to represent it. We (my groups) always play by simply comparing the price of one item from each restaurant rather than the total cost for the order. One burger from you in this instance is $10. One burger from me is constructively $10 - $1 + $2 = $11, for the purposes of evaluating where the house will purchase from.

I'm not sure if you covered this as I scanned rather than perused your post, when players gain revenue, they don't gain revenue for the constructive dollars used to calculate relative pricing based on distance. I'm sure you know this, but I'll clarify for readers.

For example, imagine if I'm selling a burger for $10 zero (0) spaces away while you are selling a burger for $10 with a Discount Manager (–$3) two (2) spaces away. The house will buy from you because $10 – $3 + $2 = $9 (you) vs. $10 (me). However, when the house purchases, it doesn't actually add the money for distance and would only pay $7/burger. The dollars for distance are used only to determine where the house will fulfill its demand but ignored during the actual sale.

Quote:
Food Chain Magnate is a good game, yes, but I don't think it'll ever become a great game. It's definitely one of the more accessible Splotter titles, but I recommend anyone considering it try it before you buy it.

Great review, of course, as usual. Tastes vary, but I found FCM to be the best game of 2015. But, yes, it is in the vein of economic race games (i.e. 18XX games). It's not for everybody.


you are suppose to assume only 1 good for checking demand. It seems as though the OP played wrong (as his method would dramatically increase the use of the pricing managers)


OP played game correctly thank you very much. OP no like rule as written. Hence discussion.
 
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