it's time for a new review of one of my top 10 games
I will start by answering three questions about the game (feel free to consider them as a TL;DR) and then proceed to analyze the game on 7 rating criteria which I explain further in my user profile. Your feedback for this review or my criteria in general is always well appreciated.
Why do I love Food Chain Magnate so much?
First, I have a history of chasing this game. I wanted to buy it in Essen 2016, but I resisted since my significant other wasn't attracted by its looks and its complexity. I thought "maybe for Christmas" - but then the game was sold out. Second, with the reprint announced, I had the opportunity to borough the game for a few days, played it (with my girlfriend ) and had a blast. This could be the best strategy game I have ever played. Even if it might not be for everyone, it is nearer to my personal holy grail of board gaming than I could ever have expected. It might be the first real competitor to Twilight Struggle for my personal number one - a masterpiece.
Other than me: Who should buy this game...
Gamers who have friends that don't mind some really tough, 99% luck free competition for some 2.5 to 4.5 hours (depending on player count and analysis paralysis). This game is hard and unforgiving - every mistake you make will haunt you, but on the flipside there is no greater joy than watching your plan unfold. If you like tough decisions with high rewards and punishment and direct competition for the consumer's souls, this game is for you.
...and who should not?
It is quite expensive and sometimes difficult to find at all. People who play for harmonic, light experiences without having to think too much about strategic gameplay will not find it worth their money. This one is exhausting and brain melting. Any occassional gamer who plays this against seasoned gamers will lose. If you don't like that, this game is not for you. Additionally, this game is hard competition and punishing "take that". If you can't stand the sad look of your opponent's faces when you snatch away a certain milestone or draw away all customers from their restaurant, you should avoid this as well.
Review considering 7 criteria
Strategy & Depth (20%): 10.0
Outstanding. As I said before, there is a ton to think about in this game. It begins with your initial placement of a restaurant and the choice of your bank reserve card (long vs. short term goals). It goes on with deciding how to prioritize the milestones, who to hire and train first and finally how to combine marketing, pricing and producton into a strategy to take over the market. Apart from the initial player order and the map layout there is litereally no luck element in this game. Every single decision is meaningful, its costs and benefits are only moderated by your (mis)calculations and the player interaction. Every dollar you earn in this game, you earn because of your hard work towards it - and it is completely right to feel awesome for it! Food Chain Magnate, in my opinion, sets new standards on how to be as strategic and deep as Chess and yet so much more appealing and interesting for modern board game geeks.
Fun per Time (20%): 9.0
First of all, this game is really funny. It is a heavy strategy game, but the black humor of the oddities of capitalism is present in every bit of it, especially in the rulebook. Set up takes a lot of time; when my own copy arrives, I will build some kind of card organizer which should help to reduce it significantly. A game of Food Chain Magnate is generally long, but the playtime varies strongly depending on player count and bank reserve cards. If this game is for you, i.e. if you don't mind the competition and toughness of your decisios, this time is well invested. Food Chain Magnate keeps the tension from the beginning until the bitter ending. It is a perfect experience if you want a serious gaming challenge. Unless, that is, you are completely left behind due to some serious mistakes. This game has an element of de facto player "elimination" where you are not eliminated technically but where you are left with no possibility to ever catch up again. If you are that player, you will have a hard time. If you are not, the experience of playing this game is close to perfection.
Replayability (20%): 9.5
As with other heavy strategy games, there is a lot of intrinsic replayability in here because there are so many strategies and tactics to try and improve. In addition to this, there is the unknown bank reserve, the map layout and the starting player order that creates differences between every two games. The only reason this isn't a full 10 is simply that from my experience the number of legit strategies might be limited and might even be a little imbalanced - I'm not sure yet. For now, I want to play this again and again and try out new things in every game.
Theme Integration (10%): 10.0
Perfect rating in this criteria because, in this game, you are a boss, you are the one to hire and fire your employees, you are a mean capitalistic person who only opts for his own benefits. You have to be, because if you are not, the others will see your weakness and will shamelessly exploit you! Every gameplay element is dripping with theme: All the staff's abilities make sense. The marketing mechanism adorable. You need to create a desire in the bizarrely abstinent population of the zen like town before you can sell your junkfood. The calculatable AI of the consumers is a delight, because it shows the predictability of people in a humorous way. All this is rounded off by the retro look of every component in the game, especially the menu, which is the very best game overview I ever saw in a game. Food Chain Magnate, in my opinion, provides an outstanding example of how to make a game much more accessible due to the perfect theme integration. It is much easier to explain and remember the rules because you can tell a story to every one of them.
Mechanics (10%): 9.5
Lovely. There is a lot in here that remembers me of good old Dominion, but the card aquisition is no classical deck building because you have access to every card you have in each round. The organigram you lay out every round becomes more and more complex, but every step of a turn is well organized, every course is written in the menu. Even if almost every milestone feels overpowered at first sight, they work very well. My favorite mechanic in this game is the simple decision tree potential consumers use before they decide which (if any) diner to visit tonight. In my first two games, it was sometimes hard to keep track of it for me, but once understood it is very intuitive. Marketing and drink gathering needs some practice to understand as well, but all other mechanics are incredibly straight forward and simple. The high complexity of this game completely arises from the weigh of choices and the player interactions, perfectly guided by the elegant mechanics.
Aesthetics (10%): 8.0
I know, I know. Meh. Most people I know were not hyped by the look of this game, especially the prototype-like game board. In my opinion it is functional, but some lovely details on the map wouldn't have hurt. This game also lacks an insert, which would have been nice since there is a lot of stuff in this. Especially with an insert, the game box itself would have benefitted from 1-2 more centimeters of depth. Having said that, I love the overall appeal of the game. The wooden food components are nice, the cardboard has decent quality and the artwork on the cards is awesome. I like the overall retro 50's or 60's look, the pale colours, the minialistic art and - as I said before - I adore the menu!
Originality (10%): 10.0
I never played a game like this. Food Chain Magnate is the most thematic and in the same time strategic economy game I know. It is not a game I want to play with everyone, but with the right group, this is satifying as a ride to hell and back. Although a game of this is exhausting I can't imagine a day when I don't want to play this in the near future. I will hug this game when my own copy arrives and I will never give it away again. Absolutely unique and unprecedented.
Final Verdict: 9.45 / 10.00
- Last edited Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:02 am (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:23 pm
I agree completely. The game is immensely satisfying because the only unpredictable element is your opponent's strategy.
I agree completely. The game is immensely satisfying because pthe only unpredictable element is your opponent's strategy.
I love this game, but I have to challenge you a bit on replay-ability. I think there are only a couple excellent starting strategies, so it gives you a sense of familiarity with many games. However, there is not a dominant strategy and after this initial bottleneck there is a huge responsibility to be predictive of your opponent's actions. If there was less predictability, then this would feel random.
They do a good job balancing this, but it still doesn't stop a slightly stale feel from arising. This does NOT occur quickly, likely over about 4-5 plays (ie. 20 hours), but then you discover the intricacies in the late game. There, the familiar strategies will develop on how to weasel out of a losing position, secure your lead, or how to flood the board to complete your win if prices go too low. Once this arises, I encourage you to take to the online forum to learn some new strategies.
Regarding the ascetics - it fits very well for the theme in my opinion. The colour reminds me of McDonald's wrappers.....authentic, but mass produced. In truth though, component quality is great.
Otherwise, I strongly support your statements. An excellent unique game that you need to play with a bunch of other competitive @$$'s!
Sidebar - a testament to how developed this game is is the fact that you will consider almost all the resources available to you. There are very few duds for options, just wrong times to take certain options.