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Subject: Ground Floor - a Kickstarter Review rss

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Jeff Kayati
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Ground Floor is the latest entry from Tasty Minstrel Games. TMG was kind enough to allow interested gamers to follow Ground Floor and get an advanced copy of the rules and a full Print and Play version of the game before it's launch on Kickstarter. I jumped at that chance and assembled my PnP copy to give Ground Floor a few plays before I make my decision on whether or not to Kickstart this project.

Full disclosure: The PnP version was provided free of charge, but no other compensation was made by TMG for this review. In addition, the opinions herein are based on one shortened play to learn the rules, one full five player game, one two "player" solo game, and one three "player" solo game.


Game Overview and Flow

I'm not going to regurgitate the rules here, but I'll provide an overview of the rules and game flow. Ground Floor is played over three stages with each stage normally containing three rounds. I say normally, because it's possible for the game to end before all nine rounds of the game are completed. Each stage introduces a new set of Improvements (think buildings) made available for construction. Finally, each round has five phases, and players will have several turns to take actions each round.

At the beginning of each round, you'll receive income based on the number of employees you have and bonus income from improvements you've built. You'll then have a chance to hire new employees that will need training before they can be used. The meat of the game comes next. This is when you'll Schedule Business.

Each employee provides units of Time to execute actions with. You, as the first employee have four Time Markers to use. Each additional employee, once trained, will provide three more Time Markers to use during the round. Interns and Temps provide one extra Time Marker.

In player order, which is determined by the Popularity Track, you'll execute actions one at a time. There is a Main Board where each player can place markers to execute actions in the next phase, Conduct Business. Each player also has a Player Board where only they can place their Time Markers. Actions on these Player Boards are executed immediately and are limited in their use only by the number of Time Markers you have to place.

Actions on your Player Board cost a variable amount of Time. As an example, you can Network, to get your companies name more Popular, for just one unit of time, but Assembly, creating a Supply available for Production and sale, requires three units of time. So, each employee isn't just a pawn to take one action as in many Worker Placement games, but a worker whose Time can be split amongst more than one activity. In addition, each of the six action spaces on your Player Board, called Ground Floor Rooms have the potential to be Remodeled providing you with greater efficiency or more choices in your actions. In fact, you'll start with one Ground Floor Room already Remodeled based upon your starting Specialty, thus giving you a starting competitive advantage.

After all players have placed all of their Time Markers, you'll move on to the Conduct Business phase and execute actions in each area in the order on the board. Once that is done, you'll reset for the next round adjusting this and that during the Reorganize Phase.


Thoughts on the Game

Learning and Teaching

One of the things that I look for in a game is the quality of the rulebook. I teach quite a few games to many different people. I demo games in retail stores and at conventions, and I'm a member of CABS where every week I'm teaching games to new players. I have really learned to appreciate a rulebook that is organized and clear. Ground Floor does this very well.

In learning any game by myself, I read the rulebook cover to cover, then set up a solo game to play a game using the rulebook as a guide. Ground Floor has many moving parts. Several action spaces with different rules for each one. So, there is a lot to cover, but the rulebook is organized in a logical way for ease of use. The rules are, for the most part, clearly stated. Any confusion I had was almost entirely due to the differences in terminology between the prototype board and the "final" rules. Any small errors or ambiguity that is currently in the rule book, and there are a few, should be cleaned up by publication time.

Learning is one thing, teaching is another. Some games, even ones easy to learn, are a challenge to teach. Ground Floor receives high marks for "teachability". This is partly due to the quality of the rulebook, but also due to the game flow. The stages, rounds, phases, and turns all make sense. Veteran gamers will not have any problem understanding how to play the game. How to play it well will be the challenge.

In learning the game, teaching the game, and then reviewing the rules again, I got one rule slightly incorrect. This was entirely an "operator error" as the rule in question is clearly stated where it should be clearly stated. I just missed it.

I find that to be high praise for a rulebook.

Components

Well, my version was a bit ugly, but remember this was a PnP version where I stole parts from other games to flesh out the components (thank you to Vinci, Arkham Horror, and Troyes for donating your parts!). I mention the components here because of the pictures of the updated boards and the Improvement tiles look fantastic. Ground Floor does have lots of "chits and bits", and game play is a bit fiddly. I have confidence that TMG will provide bits of sufficient quality, especially thickness of the chits, that this fiddly nature won't be burdensome.

Theme

This is a "euro" style game, so you're not going to get immersed into the theme completely. That's probably a good thing, since it's a game about work. I'm not sure I'd care to feel like I'm working eighty hours a week to get my start up off the ground floor. That said, the theme fits the mechanics and game play. This isn't a euro where the theme is so thinly pasted on you could change it to anything else and not notice.

Game Length

The rules list a 90-120 minute game time. I don't think that's a very accurate time frame, especially when taking into account the wide scale of players the game accommodates. I'd say game time should be 30 minutes per player, slightly more your first play. Veteran players who don't suffer from AP could get that down to 20 minutes per player.

Scalability

The game scales for two to six players. Many games claim a wide scale like that. Not all of them deliver. With very limited experience, I think the game will play that wide a variety, but will give as wide a game experience. At this point, I'd recommend three to five players. The two player game just doesn't seem dynamic enough, and the six player game might drag on too long. That opinion is, however, mostly conjecture.

Game Play

In the end, the game play is the thing. Ground Floor offers a unique take on worker placement/resource management. Timing is key in this game. If you've gotten the lead in Popularity so that you're first in turn order, but exhausted your resources in doing so you'll have to use your first turns taking actions on your Player Board to get more resources. This gives other players, lower in turn order, the chance to act first on the Main Board. Getting the first spots on the Main Board can be a huge advantage.


Getting that first spot is important because you're more likely get what you need, or you'll get it at a lower price. As an example, first spot in the Warehouse lets you get Supply cubes at a lower cost. First spot in the Factory lets you select the price first in the Retail Outlets making sure you'll get the best price based on the current market. First spot on the Advertising Agency lets you go last, which allows you to respond to other players moves.


Not getting to place first on the Main Board doesn't doom you however. Unlike traditional Worker Placement games, you're not likely to get locked out of an area. Instead, you'll get your action, but it's likely, though not guaranteed to be, less efficient than players placing before you.


Each area on the Main Board offers different interplay between the players. The Advertising Agency boosts your Popularity. A lead over other players here can be huge. Having more Time Markers in one of the three boxes at the Ad Agency gives you a bonus increase in Popularity, so you've got an Area Control mechanic in play. You can place markers in this area by using both your Player Board and the Main Board. Since the Main Board receives in reverse order of placement, placing first allows you to react last and respond to other players moves.


The Consulting Firm can be a great way to turn excess cash into Info. Placing first here costs more, but makes it much easier to be certain you'll get the ten Info as a result. If a player has a marker first in the right hand column, then any Time Marker placed first in the left hand column will result in ten Info for that player in the right hand column. You would think that no one would place their marker there to benefit another player, but allowing someone to always be first at the Consulting Firm gives them a big advantage. Should you place first and give the other player his ten Info cheaply? Jockeying for position here, especially in five or six player games, makes for interesting game play.


At the Factory, placing first allows you to select the price you want at the Retail Outlets. Placing at the highest price though may not be the best choice. Depending on the economy, not all products may sell. Placing at a lower price might be a better choice, but even that is not guaranteed if you're Popularity is low. There can be some interesting Risk/Reward plays here.


Game play is all about making small decisions that move you towards a bigger goal. There are many times in the game that those small choices are very tough. So many of these choices are not just what you want to do, but in what order and at what time. Wait too long and the other players can make you pay.

Replayability

Will Ground Floor be a "five and dime" game? Can it sustain interest for 50 plays? For me, that's a very hard question. There are two things that will aid in replay value. First, each player starts the game with a Specialty and the Remodeled room associated with it. This gives each player a competitive advantage over the other players in one area. That means that you might play a Web Based company differently than a Non-Profit company. However, the advantage you get to start the game doesn't force you down a chosen path. I doubt that playing a different Specialty will give the game a radically different feel.

The second, and more important, factor is the Economic Forecast Deck. After your first game, you'll be using a random setup using half of each type of card to create a ten card deck. Each of the economies (Boom, Stable, Recession, Depression) offers a different range of Consumers to buy products and Unemployed to create new hires. As the cards in each sub-set are different, you're not sure how big a Boom or deep a Depression will be. Also, notice that there are ten cards, but only nine rounds in the game. The random shuffling means you can't be sure you'll see the same amount of each card every game.

This should help create a slightly different game experience each time out, but I'm unsure if it's enough to get you all the way to 50 plays.


Should I get in on the Ground Floor?

Yes Factors

Unique game play. One question I asked the four players that I taught the game to was "Does this game remind you of another game?". No one thought that it did. You're not going to feel like you're playing a re-themed version of another game, or even a game with just a slightly different take on another game. Kudos to designer David Short for creating a game with a unique feel. For me, that's a strong reason to support Ground Floor.

Euro style game. If you've got the itch to play a euro style game, Ground Floor is going to give it a good scratch. There is very limited randomness to the game. The Economic Forecast Deck is what will deny you of the perfect information, but you'll know the range of numbers on each type card giving you an idea of how far you might be pushing your luck.

Player interaction. This isn't multi-player solitaire. There are multiple ways for the players to influence each other on the Main Board, and each area is different in the way players interact. You will feel like you're in competition with everyone else.

Components. This may appear to be an odd one to list as a yes, since I'm using a PnP version of the game, and the final components are unknown as of this writing. But, the graphics of the Main Board, the Player Boards, and the Improvement tiles look outstanding. If you trust TMG, and I do, to make the rest of the chits and bits of high quality, then the components and graphics will add to the game experience.

Multiple Paths. We all like a game where there are many ways to win. Winning in Ground Floor means that you'll be building Floor Improvements, especially the Stage 3 Achievement Floors that offer bonus Prestige Points. How you get the resources to do this can be very different.


No Factors

Game Length. A game that provides so many choices and open paths to explore invites AP. Players who suffer from that are going to kill this game. Those that don't care for longer games are going to have a tough time with this one. For players cleansed of the AP disease, this will not be an issue.

Replay value. Is the game going to feel the same after just a few plays? It might. There are mechanics involved to aid in replay value, but I'm not certain there is enough game there to get you beyond five or ten plays. If five or ten plays provides you sufficient value, this is a non-issue.

Fiddly Bits. If you don't care for games where you've got lots of bits to pick up and move around on numerous boards, this might not be the game for you. You'll be grabbing and moving, money, info, supply cubes, and time markers. Pick it up, stack it, move it, slide it, clear it and then do it again. Personally, I like that tactile part of games, but some don't.

Just like High School. Is this game going to be just like High School, the most popular kid wins? Perhaps. The strength of being first on the Popularity chart is huge. You get first pick during the Marketing Bonus, getting exactly what you'll need to flesh out your resources or Player Board. More importantly, you'll get the first turn to play Time Markers on the Main Board. This can be huge heading into Stage 2 and even more so in Stage 3, when the new Improvements come out. I'm not certain the being first means you'll win, but I'm fairly certain being last the entire game is a good way to lose.


Final Thought

Ground Floor is a solid game with a unique game experience. On the BGG scale, I'd rate it a 7 - a good game I'd usually be willing to play.
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Michael Mindes
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jkayati wrote:
Just like High School. Is this game going to be just like High School, the most popular kid wins? Perhaps. The strength of being first on the Popularity chart is huge. You get first pick during the Marketing Bonus, getting exactly what you'll need to flesh out your resources or Player Board. More importantly, you'll get the first turn to play Time Markers on the Main Board. This can be huge heading into Stage 2 and even more so in Stage 3, when the new Improvements come out. I'm not certain the being first means you'll win, but I'm fairly certain being last the entire game is a good way to lose.


Often I end up ignoring the popularity track and certainly win more than my fair share of games...
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David Short
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Great Review. Thank you Jeff.

jkayati wrote:
One of the things that I look for in a game is the quality of the rulebook. I teach quite a few games to many different people. I demo games in retail stores and at conventions, and I'm a member of CABS where every week I'm teaching games to new players. I have really learned to appreciate a rulebook that is organized and clear. Ground Floor does this very well.
jkayati wrote:
Learning is one thing, teaching is another. Some games, even ones easy to learn, are a challenge to teach. Ground Floor receives high marks for "teachability". This is partly due to the quality of the rulebook, but also due to the game flow. The stages, rounds, phases, and turns all make sense. Veteran gamers will not have any problem understanding how to play the game. How to play it well will be the challenge.
jkayati wrote:
The theme fits the mechanics and game play. This isn't a euro where the theme is so thinly pasted on you could change it to anything else and not notice.
jkayati wrote:
Unique game play. One question I asked the four players that I taught the game to was "Does this game remind you of another game?". No one thought that it did. You're not going to feel like you're playing a re-themed version of another game, or even a game with just a slightly different take on another game. Kudos to designer David Short for creating a game with a unique feel. For me, that's a strong reason to support Ground Floor.
jkayati wrote:
Player interaction. This isn't multi-player solitaire. There are multiple ways for the players to influence each other on the Main Board, and each area is different in the way players interact. You will feel like you're in competition with everyone else.


Thank you so much for touching on these points. Those elements were some of my goals when setting out to design this game. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to hear that I was somewhat successful.



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Seth Jaffee
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GREAT write up! Thanks for posting this!

I thought I'd comment on one thing, to lend my experience (since I've played Ground Floor a number of times... about 20 since I started counting):

jkayati wrote:
Just like High School. Is this game going to be just like High School, the most popular kid wins? Perhaps. The strength of being first on the Popularity chart is huge. You get first pick during the Marketing Bonus, getting exactly what you'll need to flesh out your resources or Player Board. More importantly, you'll get the first turn to play Time Markers on the Main Board. This can be huge heading into Stage 2 and even more so in Stage 3, when the new Improvements come out. I'm not certain the being first means you'll win, but I'm fairly certain being last the entire game is a good way to lose.

While I'm not sure it's the best idea ever, I HAVE seen players be competitive and in fact win while ignoring the popularity fight and accepting that they will be the least popular all game.

This is probably facilitated by the amount of time and effort the other players put into the fight for Popularity. Like any cold war dynamic, the more players A and B spend fighting fighting for turn order, the less painful it is to go last - you are still last in turn order, but you haven't spent the resources your opponents have!

On the other hand, if your opponents spend minimal resources to stay ahead of you in turn order, then you are probably going to be in bad shape if you ignore marketing!
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Jeff Kayati
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DrMayhem wrote:
Often I end up ignoring the popularity track and certainly win more than my fair share of games...


That's great to hear. I can see that in a 2-3 player game, this really isn't an issue. For each player you add beyond that, I think the effect of going last becomes greater and greater.

Looking at it, the biggest drawback to going last is during the first round of Stage 3 when the Achievment Floor Improvements come out. With just seven of these big prestige scorers, going last in a four player game may mean you get just one of them.

For me, this isn't a big area of concern. In fact, I think it would be interesting to explore the game and see if ignoring Popularity totally can be a winning strategy. It sounds like your game experience finds that to be true.
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Leonard Moses II
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The timing of these reviews together seems to have propelled this game to the upper end of the hot list. Or is it some kind of release date thing? How did this game get on the Hot list?

What motivated the timing? TMG is smart to do what they have done, but even smarter if there was a release date for reviews or if they encouraged review writing on a certain date.

I'm just curious is all. I enjoyed this excellently written review as well and hope that the other one is more true for me if I end up buying the game.
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Bruce Murphy
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darkestoceans wrote:
The timing of these reviews together seems to have propelled this game to the upper end of the hot list. Or is it some kind of release date thing? How did this game get on the Hot list?

What motivated the timing? TMG is smart to do what they have done, but even smarter if there was a release date for reviews or if they encouraged review writing on a certain date.


TMG made PnP copies available to anyone who asked, and then asked them not to publish any reviews/reports until the day the kickstarter campaign actually opened, which was yesterday. I see little wrong with this.

It'll probably stick around on the hot list for a while because of all the forum spam of people trying to organise kickstarter 3-packs. This is rather more annoying.

B>
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Michael Mindes
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thepackrat wrote:
darkestoceans wrote:
The timing of these reviews together seems to have propelled this game to the upper end of the hot list. Or is it some kind of release date thing? How did this game get on the Hot list?

What motivated the timing? TMG is smart to do what they have done, but even smarter if there was a release date for reviews or if they encouraged review writing on a certain date.


TMG made PnP copies available to anyone who asked, and then asked them not to publish any reviews/reports until the day the kickstarter campaign actually opened, which was yesterday. I see little wrong with this.

It'll probably stick around on the hot list for a while because of all the forum spam of people trying to organise kickstarter 3-packs. This is rather more annoying.

B>


As Bruce said, except I don't agree with the "forum spam" part. One important function of a forum is to allow people to come together and organize (information or planning).
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Seth Jaffee
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DrMayhem wrote:
thepackrat wrote:
darkestoceans wrote:
The timing of these reviews together seems to have propelled this game to the upper end of the hot list. Or is it some kind of release date thing? How did this game get on the Hot list?

What motivated the timing? TMG is smart to do what they have done, but even smarter if there was a release date for reviews or if they encouraged review writing on a certain date.


TMG made PnP copies available to anyone who asked, and then asked them not to publish any reviews/reports until the day the kickstarter campaign actually opened, which was yesterday. I see little wrong with this.

It'll probably stick around on the hot list for a while because of all the forum spam of people trying to organise kickstarter 3-packs. This is rather more annoying.

B>


As Bruce said, except I don't agree with the "forum spam" part. One important function of a forum is to allow people to come together and organize (information or planning).


Indeed!

For those who want to follow Ground Floor but don't want to have that "forum spam" in their subscription list, there's a feature which allows you to block a thread from your subscriptions.

When a thread pops up that you don't care to see again, click the dropdown thingy by the word 'subscription' and then click "block" - you will still be subscribed to the game, but you won't get notifications of that thread anymore!
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K. Hadley
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Kudos for having a comprehensive rulebook available early on in the Kickstarter timeline. So few games I am interested in backing make enough information available to make an educated decision.
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Bruce Murphy
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And if it were just one thread, it wouldn't be forum spam.

B>
 
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Seth Jaffee
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thepackrat wrote:
And if it were just one thread, it wouldn't be forum spam.

B>

You can block each thread as they come up.

If it were only 1 thread, it wouldn't be very useful for those organizing group pledges!
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Chris Berger
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If it's any consolation, those who are organizing group pledges likely get subscription alerts for all the other group pledge threads that aren't useful to them.

Count me as one who kind of wishes they were all in one thread, but honestly, it's not that big of a deal.
 
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Bruce Murphy
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sedjtroll wrote:
thepackrat wrote:
And if it were just one thread, it wouldn't be forum spam.

B>

You can block each thread as they come up.

If it were only 1 thread, it wouldn't be very useful for those organizing group pledges!


If it were in one geeklist it would be amazingly useful for people organising group pledges.

As it is, even though I can individually kill off each thread as it appears in my subscriptions, it it still irritating.

B>
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