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Subject: Moving on up...a Ground Floor session report rss

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Chris Pierce
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Ground Floor Session Report

Note: If you are having deja vu, it might be because I posted this session report a few days ago, and then deleted it a short time later when I realized TMG had asked us to hold session reports and reviews until after the Kickstarter launch. Or it may be because they changed something.

While most of the group was getting their Bang! on upstairs, Peter, Steve, and I settled in for a play of my PnP prototype copy of Ground Floor, a just-launched-on-Kickstarter title from Tasty Minstrel Games. What follows is a round by round session report.

What is Ground Floor?

For those who haven't read anything about it, Ground Floor is medium-to-heavy Euro in the worker placement family with a theme that has players becoming the CEO (the first and only initial employee) of a startup company. The CEO will hire additional workers as the game progresses, but instead of placing the CEO and workers directly, each of employee grants the player a certain number of time tokens, and it is the time tokens that are used as “workers” to be placed during the game.

Over the game's 9 rounds, players allocate their time tokens to gain money and information with the goal of expanding and improving their business. The player that builds the most prestigious business wins. Money ($) and information are the resources of the game, with Prestige Points gained by using those resources to build new floors, improvements, and remodels determining the winner.

The game is far from your typical worker placement game, with some very interesting mechanics that to my novice eye appear pretty unique. I won't attempt to describe them or go over the rules, as they are available on the Kickstarter page, and a few good reviews have been posted already. If you haven't read anything else about Ground Floor yet, I suggest you start there then come back here.

What I am attempting to do here is convey, thematically, what players will be doing during the game.

A typical round of Ground Floor

One thing you do need to know before moving forward is how the game flows.

The game has 3 stages, each stage has 3 rounds, and each round has 5 phases.

The phases of a round are:

Receive Income, Hire Employees, Schedule Business, Conduct Business, Reorganize.

In this session report, I focus on the Schedule Business and Conduct Business phases, simply because that is where the action is. I mention who hires (and fires) employees each turn, but leave out the other phases to hopefully prevent boredom due to repetitiveness.

Begin Session Report

The Players:

Chris (green)
Peter (blue)
Steve (red)

Stage 1, Round 1
Hiring: Steve

Schedule Business (Note during this phase, players take turns placing the necessary number of time tokens on a single available task. This continues until all players have placed all time tokens, but for simplicity I have grouped together the actions taken by each player rather than listing every action in the order taken):

Peter (Industrial - Assembly Specialty): Peter used his remodeled Assembly room to obtain a supply, and immediately used that supply in his Research & Testing room to gain 3 information. He scheduled time at the Construction Company to build something.

Chris (Web Based – Meeting Specialty): Chris went to the Consulting Firm, paid 1 information for a supply from the Warehouse, used his Advertising room to work on Networking, and visited the Marketing Firm.

Steve (Emergent Technology – Research Specialty): Steve was the only player that hired in the first round, and spent half of his CEO's time in the Training Room training his new employee. He also used his Advertising room to work on Networking, and visited the Marketing Firm.

Conduct Business (Note this phase is when the tokens that players place on the main board are resolved. They are resolved in a particular order, so when describing what happens in this phase, I will go in that same order, describing what happens for all players at that spot. If something is skipped it means no players were active at that spot this round):

Consulting Firm: Chris, looking for an quick information boost, remains at the Consulting Firm and waits for someone to come schedule a meeting with him.

Marketing: Chris gained 2 on the popularity track by completing a Networking project and doing the majority of Networking. Steve gained 1 on the popularity track by working on a Print Marketing campaign and gaining majority. For the Marketing bonus, Chris selected the remodel improvement and obtained a larger storage closet. Steve took a marketing bonus as well (if I don't say what it was it is because I don't remember).

Warehouse: Chris obtained a supply from the Warehouse and added it to his Supply Closet.

Construction Firm: Peter built an Empty Floor with the Human Resources Tenant Improvement, setting himself up with a hiring discount for the rest of the game.

Stage 1, Round 2
Hiring: Chris, Peter

Schedule Business:
Chris: Used his Advertising room to work on Networking, trained his new employee, and scheduled a meeting with himself at the Consulting firm (since it appeared that the other players were not interested in meeting with him).

Steve: Used his Advertising room x2 to work on Networking, used his remodeled Research and Testing room x2 to gain money/information, and used Assembly to place a Supply in his Supply Closet.

Peter: Used his Meeting Room to hold a meeting and gain information, Used his Advertising room to work on Networking, and trained his new employee.

Conduct Business:
Consulting Firm: Chris gained 10 information by meeting with himself, and remained at the Consulting Firm waiting for a meeting next round.

Marketing: Steve gained 2 on the Popularity track to take the lead in popularity. Steve took a Supply as his marketing bonus and Chris took $2.

Stage 1, Round 3

Hiring: Steve

Schedule Business:
Steve: Trained his new employee, used Advertising x2 to place work on Networking, used his supply in Research and Testing to gain $/information, visited the Warehouse to obtain supplies and scheduled a slot at the Construction Company.

Chris: Used Advertising x2 to work on Networking, sent supplies to the Production Factory, used Assembly to obtain another Supply, and was again forced to meet with himself at the Consulting Firm.

Peter: Spent time and supplies in Research and Testing to gain information. Used his remodeled Assembly x2, with 1 supply being sent to the Production Factory and 1 remaining in his Supply Closet. He also visited the Marketing Firm.

Conduct Business:
Consulting: Chris gained 10 information and remained at the Consulting firm for a meeting next turn.

Marketing: Chris and Peter performed equal amounts of Networking, both moving up 1 on the popularity track (I think we made a mistake here, and Peter should have been first, but Chris' marker was placed on top of the stack).

Warehouse: Steve gained a supply.

Retail: We were headed into a Stable Economy, so Chris priced his goods at $16, and Peter at $12 and when the Economic Forecast card was revealed, both sold.

Construction: Steve built an Empty Floor with a Network Admin Improvement, giving him an automatic Information income every round (I was beginning to sense he was not going to use the Consulting firm at all).

Stage 2, Round 1
Hiring: Chris, Peter

Schedule Business:
Chris: Chris forgot to train his new employee and instead spent x2 time visiting the Marketing Firm, x2 picking up supplies at the Warehouse, sent 2 Supplies to the Production Factory, and visited the Construction Firm.

Peter: Peter did train his new employee, set a meeting with Chris at the Consulting Firm, sent a Supply to the Production Factory, used his Meeting room to gain information, and used his Assembly room to obtain a new Supply.

Steve: Steve used an existing supply in Research and Testing, used his Assembly room x2 and used the resulting supplies in Research and Testing and at the Production Factory. He also spent time Marketing.

Conduct Business:

Consulting: Chris gained 10 information and Peter remained and waited for a meeting next turn.

Marketing: Chris gained 2 popularity and selected Remodel for his bonus. He remodeled his training room, making him more efficient when training new employees. Steve gained 1 in popularity and took a marketing bonus.

Warehouse: Chris gained 2 supplies.

Retail: Entering a stable economy, we all priced goods as high as possible. Chris sold 1 good for $10, Peter and Steve each sold 1 good for $12, and Chris had a good priced at $16, which was reduced in price to $12 after going unsold.

Construction: Chris added a floor for his new Marketing Department, which allowed him to create his own Broadcast Marketing for a time cost, but no cost in money or information.

Stage 2, Round 2

Hiring: Steve, Chris

Schedule Business:

Chris: Chris had 2 new employees waiting to be trained, and he accomplished that. He also spent 1 of his supplies in Research and Testing, and 1 was sent to the Production Factory. He used his new Marketing floor to complete a Broadcast Marketing campaign, and finally he scheduled a meeting with Peter at the Consulting Firm.

Steve: Steve used his Advertising room to work on Networking, and also visited the Marketing Firm. He spent x2 time in Research and Testing, with time spent in Assembly to provide 1 supply for that purpose. He also trained his new employee, and visited the Construction Company.

Peter: Peter used his meeting room to gain information, used his newly remodeled Advertising room to complete a Print Marketing campaign, and used a supply from his closet and Assembled a new supply in order to use Research and Testing x2 to gain information. Finally, he visited the Marketing Firm.

Conduct Business:

Consulting: Chris met with Peter, Peter gained 10 information and Chris remained, looking to schedule a meeting next turn.

Marketing: All three players participated in Marketing at the Marketing Firm. Chris was able to stay ahead on the popularity track and Peter moved in to second. For his bonus, Chris chose to remodel his Assembly room and Peter also chose a bonus.

Retail: Entering a stable economy, Chris had the only goods available, and sold both of them for a total of $28.

Construction: Steve added a floor for his new IT department, giving him an additional information income for the rest of the game.

Stage 2, Round 3

Hiring: Peter

Schedule Business:
Chris: Used the Marketing floor of his building to complete a Broadcast Marketing campaign, used Assembly to generate a supply that was sent to the Production Factory, used his improved Meeting room x2 to generate information, visited the Consulting firm, visited the Warehouse x2, and finally visited the Construction Company to do a build.

Peter: Trained his new employee, used his remodeled Advertising room to create Print marketing, sent a supply to the Production Factory, Assembled a new supply, scheduled a meeting with Chris at the Consulting Firm, visited Marketing Firm, and visited the Construction Company.

Steve: Spent almost all of his time in Assembly x3, using the supplies in Research and Testing x2, Production Factory x1. He also visited the Warehouse to obtain a new supply.

Conduct Business:
Consulting: Chris gained 10 information, and Peter and Chris remained to look for meetings next round.

Marketing: Peter gained majority on Print Marketing, and had a Broadcast Marketing campaign as well, moving him up 2 on the popularity track. Chris moved up 1 with a Broadcast Marketing campaign, and Steve moved up 1 with a majority in Networking. Peter chose to remodel his Research and Testing room as his bonus, and Chris selected a bonus.

Warehouse: Chris gained 2 supplies and Steve gained 1.

Retail: Heading into a stable economy, Peter, Steve, and Chris each sold 1 good and no good remained unsold.

Construction: Peter built a Public Relations improvement on the 2nd half of his Empty Floor, ensuring that his popularity could only go up from here on out. Chris added a new floor for his Construction Admin, making visits the Construction Company free, but time consuming.

Stage 3, Round 1

Hiring: Peter, Chris

Schedule Business:
Peter: Peter used his Assembly room x3, sending 2 supplies to the Production Factory and using 1 for Research and Testing. He trained his new employee, and spent time in his Advertising room creating Print marketing materials.

Chris: Chris trained his new employee, held a long meeting in his meeting room to gain much needed information, which allowed him to send the 2 supplies in his Supply closet to the Production Factory. Running low on information, Chris scheduled 2 costly meetings at the Consulting firm, 1 with Peter and 1 with himself. The remainder of his time was spent on his Marketing floor creating Broadcast marketing, and on his Construction Admin floor getting ready to build again.

Steve: Steve used his Research and Testing room x2 for $/information, the first time using a supply he had in his Supply Closet. He also had to use his Assembly room to obtain 2 supplies, 1 for Research and Testing, and 1 sent to Production Factory. He used his Advertising room x2 and spent time at the Marketing Firm in order to raise his popularity by Networking. Finally, he scheduled time at the Construction Company.

Conducting Business:
Consulting: Peter and Chris both gained 10 information. Chris stayed at the Consulting Firm, hoping to schedule 2 meetings next turn.

Marketing: Steve dominated Networking, gaining 2 popularity. Peter had the majority of Print marketing, but only gained 1. While his Public Relations department would put him back on top of the popularity track at the beginning of next turn, he temporarily slipped into 3rd place. Chris took the lead long enough to get his choice of Marketing bonus. Chris continued to make good use of his Marketing department, gaining 2 popularity from Broadcast marketing. With his bonus, Chris remodeled his Research and Testing room. Steve also selected a bonus.

Retail: Heading into a Boom economy, there were 5 products waiting to be priced and placed in Retail locations. Chris had the lead in popularity and was positioned to place his products last, so Steve and Peter placed their products priced as high as possible forcing Chris to take the lower $10 price points. There were 4 consumers, which is a relatively weak Boom, and Peter was left with 1 $16 product unsold, which he repriced at $12.

Construction: Steve built a new floor focused on Office remodels, allowing him to spend time, instead of money and information, to remodel his ground floor rooms. Chris built the Improvement Bonus floor (+1 Prestige per remodel), already worth 5 bonus points with 5 of his 6 ground floor rooms currently remodeled.

Stage 3, Round 2

Hiring: Steve

Schedule Business:
Peter: Peter focused this round on using his Assembly room to generate supplies, which he sent to Research and Testing, gaining mostly information. He also spent much time in his Advertising room generating Print Marketing, not satisfied to rest on his Public Relations department's laurels. He was sitting on a pretty good pile of money, but had only built 1 floor thus far, so he scheduled 2 meeting with the Construction Company to do a double build. Lastly, he went to the Warehouse to pick up a Supply.

Chris: Chris used his Marketing floor to maximum capacity, generating 3 Broadcast Marketing campaigns. He was also running low on information, using his Research and Testing room x3 and using up all the supplies in his closet and using his Assembly room x2 to feed this and send 1 supply to the Production Factory. He scheduled 1 meeting at the Consulting firm, but had 2 slots waiting for meetings, so 1 meeting would be canceled. Lastly, he visited the Warehouse to pick up 1 supply.

Steve: Steve performed 2 Office remodels using his Office remodel floor, upgrading his Assembly room and Storage Closet. He used his upgraded Assembly room x2, and sent both supplies to Research and Testing. He trained his new employee and went to the Warehouse to pick up a supply.

Conduct Business:
Consulting: Chris gained 10 information, and had 1 meeting canceled. Chris remained at the Consulting Firm, waiting for 1 meeting next turn.

Marketing: Steve had the majority in Networking, but only enough to gain 1 popularity. Peter gained 3 total with 2 campaigns and majority in Print, and Chris gained 4 total with 3 campaigns and majority in Broadcast. For the moment, Chris was ahead in popularity, although Peter's Public Relations would put him back in front at the beginning of the last turn. For his bonus, Chris remodeled his remaining ground floor room. Peter also selected a bonus.

Warehouse: All players gained a supply.

Retail: Heading into a Depression, Chris was the only player to place a new Product, with Peter having 1 product priced at $12. Chris priced his product at $12, but there were 0 consumers, so no one sold anything. Peter repriced his product to $8, and Chris repriced his to $6.

Construction: Peter accomplished a double build, building both the Retention Bonus (+1 Prestige/ employee) and the Marketing Bonus (+2 Prestige/ Popularity level) floors.

Stage 3, Round 3

Hiring: None

Downsize: Chris did not have enough money to clear the Income phase, so had to let 1 employee go.

Schedule Business:
The final round was another Depression, and all players were low on cash. With a maximum of 1 consumer on the horizon, we were all trying to figure out how to get a final build in on the last round.

Peter: Peter piled everything he had into generating money and information in Research and Testing, utilizing that and Assembly almost exclusively. He did manage to schedule 2 slots with the Construction Company.

Chris: Used his Marketing floor to generate 1 Broadcast Marketing campaign. Used Assembly/Research Testing to gain $/information, and used his Construction Admin to schedule 1 slot with the Construction Company.

Steve: Steve spent the maximum time possible remodeling all of his remaining ground floor rooms, and Assembly/Research and Testing to gather enough $/information to schedule 1 last build with the Construction Company. He used his meeting room x1 and used his Advertising room to work on Networking.

Conduct Business:

Consulting: Chris had his meeting canceled and got nothing.

Marketing: Steve gained 2 with majorities in Networking and Print, but it was not enough to move past the other players. Chris gained 2 with Broadcast, and moved past Peter. Chris took $2 as his marketing bonus, and Peter remodeled his Storage Closet.

Retail: Heading into the 2nd straight depression, there was only 1 consumer, and Chris sold his product for $6 and Peter liquidated his for $3.

Construction: Steve had been gearing up for the Improvement Bonus floor, not realizing that there was only 1 and that it was already built, so he changed gears and built a nice Corner Office (+3 Prestige) instead. Chris built the floor that give a bonus for bonus floors (don't recall the name, but +2 Prestige / bonus floor). Peter managed another double build, building the T.I. Bonus (+1 Prestige per Tenant Improvement) and the Network Admin T.I. (information income each round).

Final Scoring:
Peter 46, Chris 43, Steve 36

Steve: 32 (floors, remodels, T.I.) + 3 (bonus, Corner Office) + 1 ($/information left)
Chris: 32 (floors, remodels, T.I.) + 10 (bonus, Improvement Bonus, Bonus floor bonus) + 1 ($/information left)
Peter: 30 (floors, remodels, T.I.) + 15 (bonus, T.I. bonus, Marketing bonus, Retention bonus) + 1 ($/information left)

Final Thoughts

All players really enjoyed the game. Turns go quickly when players know what they want to do, but there are plenty of moments of “brain burn” as you try to judge what impact actions taken now will have on future turns. This is a game where it is necessary to think and plan at least 1 and possibly more turns ahead and execute your current actions accordingly in order to be positioned to make effective use of your actions on future turns.

For example, the last 2 turns in this game were Depressions, and none of the players were ready to not have any effective way to generate cash on the last turn. We were all cash-strapped and all of us had to change our plans and compromise our strategy to some (large) extent on that final turn. But I was left with the impression that had I had more experience, I could have adjusted my earlier actions and had a much better last round.

There was the feeling that the main board is a little wide open with 3 players, especially in the early game, but for me the game was still tense and engaging throughout. I really look forward to trying it with more players. I think, as good as the game is with 3, it would be even better with more.

It is not a short game, but it is not a light game either, and the length seems to be appropriate for the weight. Our game went 2 hours including a detailed rules explanation. That puts the first play at about 90-100 minutes with all 3 new players. I actually think that the playing time might not decrease all that much with experienced players. Ground Floor strikes me as a game that will reveal additional layers upon repeated plays, giving experienced players more to think about, which will possibly offset the gains in speed due to familiarity with rules and mechanics. Tasty Minstrel is claiming a playing time of 90-120 minutes, and bottom line is your group will probably get the playing time that it has come to expect when you read 90-120 min on the box.
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Brian Clymer
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I've not been one to enjoy civilization building games or the like (anything that relates similarly to Ground Floor's genre), but after reading this session, it seems like something that I might actually enjoy. I hope to read more reviews/sessions as this game is released to see if it's something I'd like to add to my ever-growing collection!
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Jeff Kayati
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Nice session report that gives a great feel for the flow of the game.

I would point out though that there's a big mistake in Stage 1, Round 3 where Steve builds an Empty Floor Improvement with the Network Admin.

In Stage 1, Round 1, Peter built an Empty Floor Improvement. In a 3 player game, you remove 1 of each Tenant and Floor Improvement from the game. That means there shouldn't have been one available for Steve to build.

Note that he could have built the Network Admin by itself, placing it over a room on his Ground Floor.
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Chris Pierce
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Thanks, I missed that rule. Glad you liked the report!

jkayati wrote:
Nice session report that gives a great feel for the flow of the game.

I would point out though that there's a big mistake in Stage 1, Round 3 where Steve builds an Empty Floor Improvement with the Network Admin.

In Stage 1, Round 1, Peter built an Empty Floor Improvement. In a 3 player game, you remove 1 of each Tenant and Floor Improvement from the game. That means there shouldn't have been one available for Steve to build.

Note that he could have built the Network Admin by itself, placing it over a room on his Ground Floor.
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Would knowing what kind of Economic Forecast cards were still in the deck, and their approximate "values", have changed your gameplay?
You said you were low on cash in the last rounds. Taking into account that there are always the same amount of Stable, Recession, Depression and Boom cards in the Deck, and that their approximate number of customers can be calculated - how much do you think this would have had an impact on your game decisions, especially in the last rounds?
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Chris Pierce
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Dumon wrote:
Would knowing what kind of Economic Forecast cards were still in the deck, and their approximate "values", have changed your gameplay?
You said you were low on cash in the last rounds. Taking into account that there are always the same amount of Stable, Recession, Depression and Boom cards in the Deck, and that their approximate number of customers can be calculated - how much do you think this would have had an impact on your game decisions, especially in the last rounds?


Yes, I think keeping track of what Economic Forecast cards have been seen already would help more and more as the game progresses.

But even not "counting" cards, you can always forecast 2 rounds into the future since the top Future Economic Forecast card is moved face down to the Current space during Reorganize (exposing the card backs for the next 2 rounds). But I didn't pay much attention to that, and I don't think I was prepared for just how rapidly my balances of money and information could change in this game.

After a good turn, it could feel like I had enough money and information to last for the rest of the game, but I'd find ways to spend it all and perhaps not be able to earn much in the next round, which would end up hampering my efforts for the next 2 rounds until I got "back on my feet" economically speaking.

I didn't really try to use the visible Forecast cards to adjust my play with future rounds in mind, and it definitely caused my problems on the last round.

In my case, my original plan for the last round was to build the Production Bonus floor (+3 Prestige for each Supply) and fill up my Supply Closet (for +6 Prestige with the Production Bonus). I had one Supply in my closet already, and with Construction Admin and Remodeled Assembly I only needed 6 time markers and $10/10 information to make that happen.

However I only had $1 going into the last round, so I got stuck using Assembly/Research and Testing to try to generate enough money to build, which is an inefficient use of time, and I wasn't able to get enough $ that way anyway.

It ended up that the best chance I had was going for highest popularity and needing to have at least 1 consumer so I could sell my product and get the money needed to build.

Luckily I was able to get the lead in popularity, and 1 consumer came up on the Economic Forecast card, so I was able to sell. So I was able to build, but since I ended up using supplies and time in Research and Testing, and Advertising, I had no time left to generate supplies. I ended with no extra supplies, so the Production Bonus was no longer a good option for me, and I took the Executive Bonus instead (+2 Prestige for each Bonus improvement).

So bottom line, I used my time inefficiently, but got very lucky, and was able to add 9 Prestige on the last round when I might have gotten 0 Prestige if I had not been able to build. But if I had gone into the last round in a better position, I could have earned 11 Prestige with Production Bonus and not had to rely on luck to get it.

Had I realized sooner that I going to have trouble earning money, I would have further downsized on the last round to gain additional income. I actually had enough information, and I could have liquidated my product, so earning $6 income by downsizing would have put me at the $10 I needed to build and still left me with enough time. I only needed 6 time to get what else I wanted, so downsizing would have been the right move for me to make.

Edit: Look at Peter's play for another, positive, example of how planning ahead can be a big deal. I don't know if he did this on purpose, but notice that he went into Stage 3, round 2 having only built one floor. But he had a pile of money built up and was able to accomplish double builds in both of the final 2 (Depression) rounds and ended up winning the game.
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