J C Lawrence
This afternoon I had the good fortune to play "I'm the Boss!" with a
group of 6 at Larry Whalen's Game Keeper in Providence Rhode Island.
Larry is of course half of Face 2 Face Games, the company which is
republishing Sid Sackson's "Kohle, Kies, & Knete" as, "I'm the Boss!"
The punchline for the impatient: Joe Bob says check it out now!
Rather than go over the rules and play analysis commentary that others
have done so well, especially as this is not a new game design, I'll
comment instead on Face 2 Face's production, and the character of the
Face 2 Face have done a beautiful job with this game with all new
commissioned artwork, a re-redesigned board, and a well polished
presentation. An across the room impression of the game in progress
is one of gem-like primary colours -- "subtle" and "pastel" are not
exactly right words.
The investor cards feature stylised portraits of Sid Sackson (the
designer) and his family -- a very nice touch in a field that's so
often impersonal as regards game designers and their long suffering
families. In the same line the box has Sid's signature boldly across
one corner of the front; another pleasing touch and one I'd like to
see more of in designer games.
Without exception the artwork is crisp, bold, and attractive. The
colour separation in the printing, and the registration for the cards
and board I examined were spot on (admittedly only one set). The
cards are printed on good cloth weave laminated card stock and are of
easily held size -- not the wee little twinkie cards so common in
other games. The board is gleefully colorful, large and clearly
marked out. The deal cards are thick, made of dense cardboard, and
clearly marked. The two sides of the deal cards are of strongly
different colours and tones, so even the most colour blind will have
no difficulty in mistaking the sides at a glance.
In fact, with the very minor exception noted below, this visual
clarity and distinctiveness of all the game pieces is characteristic
of the game. Different cards and pieces (such as the money
denominations) not only have strongly different colours and artwork,
but are also of significantly different tone so that even the most
colour blind will have no problem telling them apart.
The box itself is deep and square with a plastic insert to bold the
various bits. I didn't get a chance to see how well or securely the
various cards fit in the plastic forms, but there seemed to be plenty
of room if you wanted to use baggies to hold them as I usually do.
The general presentation of the game box, artwork, board, and bits is
more family and mass-market friendly than most designer games.
Physically this is a game that would not look out of place on a
ToysRUs or Walmart shelf -- all the way down to the stylised and
comedic cartoon shot of the Sackson family (who are also the investor
characters in the game) on the box cover. You can see a picture of it
The colours are so bold and so clear that some might want to wear
sunglasses! Those that have seen my desktop screenshots may realise
what a grudging statement this is from me. That said, I like the
colours and the strong recognition clarity they lend to the game.
I do have one very minor quibble on the card artwork. The difference
in the sigils on the corners of the family cards (cousins, aunts,
niece, nephew) as compared to the matching vacation cards for the same
investor were less clean than I'd like. More accurately, they were
quite clear, but where-as all the other cards were hugely visually
different with different strong primary colours and bold letters, the
family cards and vacation card corner sigils for a given investor
differed only by a gray airplane. Normally, in a typical somewhat
pastel coloured game with plain artwork that level of differentiation
would be just fine and even glaring, but here the huge and blinding
differences everywhere else made the airplane differences (for me)
easy to accidentally overlook.
The particular game we played was missing a copy of the rules (Larry
did the honours of explaining them instead) so I can't comment on the
clarity or production quality of the rules. As this was a
pre-production copy of the game and both Larry and Dave (the other
partner in Face 2 Face Games) made mention of their aggressive
handling of the problem, I don't expect that missing rules or any
other bits will be a concern when "I'm the Boss!" hits a store near
you in a few weeks.
This is a game that will play very differently with every group.
Larry Whalen tells amusing stories of watching games at GenCon, each
playing the game hugely differently. One game was vicious and tight,
every point and negotiation hard fought with cards flying, and with
regular extortion forming a part of most deals ("Either you give me
$$$ or I'll kill your deal!" ) and enough yelling that it echoed across
the auditorium. Another table played with a quiet conversational
tone, almost as a team sport, with negotiations happening almost on
the level of fairness brokering and good will maintenance. A third
table played almost silently and as viciously as the yelling power
brokers, with every deal surgically pared down to its minimal points
differential value across the table. Our particular game, as it was
staffed with 5 learners, several rather new to board gaming, was
almost genteel and supporting in its brokering style. For me this
range of possible play styles and characters for the same game played
under the same rules is a sign of strength in the core design. It
also signal to me that the game can be enjoyed in different ways by
the same group in different moods and at different times.
However I wouldn't recommend this game if your game group features
easily bruised egos, or those prone to taking things a bit too
personally. I'm the Boss as a design actively encourages a
rambunctious approach that will get under some people's skin.
I loved it. After one play it leapt, boldy, into my top four
favourite games. It is instantly addictive in that way the very best
games are. I have little doubt that it will stay there across
repeated plays with various groups across the country.
I nearly forgot. In fact, I did forget most of the scores along with
their names (all but Larry and Tami were new to me). Sorry guys. My