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Diet Evil Games changed their name to Dancing Eggplant Games earlier this year. Still a strange name for a company; but their first two games, Fraud Squad and Nobody But Us Chickens, were good games with the chicken game being one of the best light games I’ve ever played; and one I still bring out frequently. I was therefore quite eager to try out Employee of the Month (Dancing Eggplant Games, 2004 - Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum), hoping to play another light, fun game.
I did enjoy Employee of the Month, as it had a unique bidding mechanism and interesting scoring method. It was a little more fiddly than I wanted, and the game play was not intuitive to first time players; but the experience was still fairly enjoyable. I won’t bring this one to the table near as often as Nobody But Us Chickens, but it has a time and place. The game is quick and simplistic, but the strategies to the game; while at first seeming varied, probably won’t be that much different. It’s a fair game, not a great one; and if you enjoy the theme of sucking up to your coworkers and boss and like quick bidding games, then this game is right up your alley.
Three separate decks of cards are shuffled - a “Favors” deck, a “Suspicions” deck, and a “Brownie Points” deck, and then all of them are placed in the middle of the table. A “First Bid” card is placed in front of one player to show that they are the -shockingly - first bidder, and seven cards are drawn from the Favor Deck and placed in a line face-up on the table. These favor cards are numbered from one to ten and are in two suits: “coworkers” and “the boss”. The first round begins, after which the “First Bid” card passes to the next player clockwise around the table.
In a round, both the top card from the Suspicions deck (showing one to five symbols on it) and the Brownie Points deck (showing either one to six “brownie points” or two to eight “kudos”). These two cards are collectively auctioned off in this round.
- Starting with the first bidder, players may push one of the Favor cards face-up forward, bidding with that card.
- The card they bid must have a higher value than any other card bid so far. A Boss card is considered higher than a Coworker card with the same value.
- A player may pass, which removes them from the bidding for the remainder of that round.
- The player who wins the bid takes the Favor card they bid, and both the Suspicions card and Brownie Points card.
The “First Bid” card is passed to the next player, the taken Favor card is replaced with the top card from the Favor deck, and the next round begins. Play continues until the Suspicions and Brownie Points deck are exhausted; at which point the game ends, and scoring begins.
Scoring is slightly complicated. Every player scores one point for the sum of the symbols on all “Brownie Point” cards they have. Players then total the sums of the numbers on all of their “the Boss” suit cards and “Coworker” suit cards. The player with the highest sum of each category loses points for the sum of all the symbols on their Suspicion cards. (It’s possible for a player to lose double points.) All other players can ignore their Suspicions cards. The player with the lowest sum of each category gains points for the sum of all the symbols on their “Kudos” cards. (It’s possible for a player to win double points.) All other players must ignore their Kudos cards. The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: The box is my favorite size for a card game - larger than some people might like, but the cardboard insert holds the cards well, and the cards don’t fall out like smaller card boxes. The card quality is fairly good, and I was pleased to see that the border for each type of card was a different color, making it fairly easy to quickly tell the difference between the cards. The only component I really didn’t like was the “Bid First” card. It quickly got tiresome passing the card around the table, because many rounds went fairly quickly. I can’t think offhand of a better way, but everyone at the table got confused about the card at some time during the game.
2.) Artwork and Theme: The artwork on the game is funny, and for those who’ve worked in an office, the artwork detailing the different aspects of butt kissing is funny. I’ve seen several complaints on the internet about the theme, wondering why people would want to play a game about their job. I’m a little unclear as to the popularity of the theme, myself. I found it interesting, but the game mechanics overshadowed the theme for me, and I didn’t see how it really helped the game much.
3.) Rules: The rules were very clear, although I think the formatting could have been nicer (a single sheet of paper with small font type was a bit confusing). The game was not the easiest to teach, however. I had to run through the scoring three separate times the first time I explained the game, and I was teaching experienced players! I finally played several rounds, then did a practice scoring; and everything finally clicked into place for everyone. That, however, took almost as long as half a games’ time - so the game (especially scoring) isn’t exactly intuitive.
4.) Strategy: I still haven’t quite figured out the best way to play the game, but it feels like there probably is only one correct way to play it. I’ve seen strategies tried such as one player taking Favors of only one suit - one player ignoring Kudos, and only taking Brownie Points, and one player taking everything they could get - not caring about Favors. Extreme strategies seem to fail in this game, and the goal is to basically be balanced. This doesn’t allow a lot of room for maneuvering, but still allows for a pleasant diversion.
5.) Fun Factor: I thought after reading the rules and looking at the cards, that players would get into a “Dilbert” atmosphere, and make snide comments about the pleasures and annoyances of the modern business world. But the mechanics overshadowed the theme, and it basically became just a bidding game. It was an interesting bidding game, and one that all the players enjoyed; but there was nothing really grabbing about it that made players squirm in enjoyment.
For an independent publisher, Dancing Eggplant Games is doing an excellent job. Employee of the Month is a good game with excellent mechanics; perhaps, just a bit themed incorrectly. A lot of the things I mentioned above are minor, and none of them would turn me away from the game; but there are so many better auction games or filler games out there, including Nobody But Us Chickens. If, however, Office Space is your favorite movie, and Dilbert your favorite comic, and you love bidding games with a unique mechanic, then this game is for you. I just don’t think that many people fit that category.
“Real men play board games.”