Many folks bemoaned the theme of Ad Acta, the novel game released by Andrea Meyer last year under her Bewitched Games label. Working as bureaucrats shuffling files in a government office sure doesn’t sound exciting, but the game was actually quite fun with a very clever mechanism.
Well, those same folks may have a problem with the theme of White Collar Blues, one of the titles in the Immersion Games line. Players are office workers performing various mundane tasks, all in attempts to earn favor (brownie points) with the boss. Like Ad Acta, White Collar Blues has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, as the game is filled with humorous cards and situations. Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, humor in a game wears off quickly, so there had better be a good game surrounding it. Ad Acta certainly was a good game. White Collar Blues is not.
The modular board is formed by placing 16 tiles in a 4 x 4 pattern. Each tile is further divided into four sections, creating a typical office wherein the players toil on sales calls and perform various office tasks and assignments.
The game is card driven, with player gathering and playing cards during the course of the game. Cards generally instruct the player to perform certain actions, which earn points if accomplished or deduct points if they are not performed within a certain time frame. Other cards will inflict penalties at the end of the game unless they are passed off to an opponent while gossiping. Thus, the cards dictate what you need to do during the game. That is usually a warning sign.
Each turn consumes 15 minutes, which is marked on a nifty “Will Return” clock that one often sees in business windows. Clever. On his turn, a player has the option of making sales calls, provided he is at his desk, or moving.
· Making Sales Calls: The player may draw up to two telephone cards, which usually contain witty stories and award “brownie points” or force the player to perform various tasks in order to earn points or prevents losing them. Although the stories are often humorous, the end result is nothing more than luck. Hope to get lucky and earn points.
· Movement: Based on the card requirements, players usually must scurry about the office in efforts to complete the assigned tasks. Several sides of the die contain a “?” symbol, which requires the player to pick a “Question Mark” card. These cards will either trigger an immediate action, or again force the player to perform certain tasks. Some cards also will ultimately cost the player points if he still holds them by the end of the game. The idea is to try to get rid of these cards before the workday is completed.
Most of the tasks require the player to visit a certain area of the office within a certain timeframe. For instance, take a look at the “Purple Widgets” card:
“You just heard that the boss hates purple. Too bad you just asked the Design Department to make a prototype of a new widget in purple. Land there and personally change the paperwork for 1 BP or lose 2 at your review.”
Others force you to go to a certain place without any reward. However, you need to fulfill these requirements quickly since you will be unable to earn any points from any other card until you do so. Run quickly!
Still others will cost you points if you fail to complete them:
“What did I eat? Because of the noxious fumes you leave behind, you must land in the Bathroom for some poopin’ time. If not, lose 3 BPs if you take these fumes to your review.”
Hey … I’m not making this stuff up! They get worse! Fortunately, there is a wide variety of cards, so at least the humor isn’t repetitive within one particular game.
As mentioned, some cards will result in negative points if held onto until the end of the game. You can get rid of these by gossiping. To gossip, a player must land on the same space as a fellow worker. He may then give him any one card from his hand, but must take one from the opponent at random. You may get something good, or something bad. Gossiping can be like that. Another advantage of gossiping is that you get to roll and move again.
Another way to get rid of bad cards is by taking a lunch break. This can be done at any time and as often as one desires. That’s certainly not office policy of any business I know! At lunch, a player may discard as many cards as he desires for 1 BP each. However, he misses two full turns. Still, going to lunch is a great way to get rid of those penalty-laden cards.
The game also had a “get the leader” mechanism. The player with the greatest number of brownie points is considered the employee of the month. Several cards force this industrious employee to perform certain tasks. Being the leader is NOT a good thing.
The game ends when the clock reaches 5:00 PM. Sometime between 3:00PM and 5:00PM, each player may decide to visit the boss for his annual review. The player then rolls the die and receives extra brownie points, ranging from 0 – 8. The amount received depends upon the number rolled and the time of the visit. The optimum time to visit the boss for a review is 4:00PM. Going for a review, however, means you will suffer penalty points for any “negative” cards in your possession. It also means that your time in the game is completed (which just might be considered a blessing).
Once all players have visited the boss or 5:00PM is reached, the game expires and the player with the most brownie points is victorious.
I won’t deny that I laughed numerous times at the wittiness of the cards. One combination of cards had me practically in tears. I am ashamed to say that the humor was mostly sophomoric – but, hey, I still enjoy Airplane and Animal House! Still, humor wears thin and is not enough to sustain a game. The rest of the game is simply a matter of getting cards and trying to do what they instruct. Movement is by die roll, so that is predominately a matter of luck, too. It falls squarely in the “beer & pretzels” category of games, but doesn’t have enough game there to sustain it even in that venue. There just isn’t much here beyond the humor to hold my attention or warrant further playings.
The lead changed hands numerous times during the game, with points being won and lost on a frighteningly quick pace. Humorous situations did arise which caused all of us to laugh a bit, but the game itself was underwhelming.
Finals: Spouey 16, Steve 14, Greg 13, Keith 13
Ratings: Spouey 6.5, Steve 6, Keith 5.5, Greg 3