Bottom Line by : Maruca Industries
Over view: This is a Monopoly like, roll and move on a track, property acquisition game for three to six. My copy is from a thrift find, and may not have a proper balance of cards for each type. It was definitely short on 50,000 dollar bills, and we improvised a pile of these. Otherwise my set appeared to be in good shape. (I would appreciate if anyone could post a file of the proper contents, so I can determine what is missing.)
We played with three people, as a follow up to Mystery at the Abbey.
The box strikes me as a low budget design, graphically, but they did spring for some nice bits inside. The board is high quality construction, but, again, budget graphics. The track for movement is presented as a roadway, with numbers along side to indicate the appropriate site to place your markers. While this works, it is awkward in a couple places where the numbers are closely spaced (particularly the corners before and after the Hotel blocks). And I don't see why they didn't put the numbers directly on the road. The Properties and event spaces are very generic in design. It would have been easy to add some character by giving the hotels individual names. The track takes a convoluted route through the inner space on the board, the space that Monopoly leaves empty, which is good in that it means more options built into the game, but, due to the graphic design, a little cramped.
The Money is quite nice, for paper money, with an elegant design, and looks like it might have been produced for another game. This thought led me to re-examine the money, and it is copyright to the games designer. There is an odd note on the money that makes reference to a book he has authored, but I didn't find it with a google search. The cards are pretty simple, of a fair weight and all, but, I would have liked to see color on both sides, as I repeatedly put them back into the wrong stacks. Money comes in three denominations: 50,000 - 2,000,000 and 1,000,000. There are four decks used in the game. Gold, Goldfix, Options, and Debts. I will talk about them in the portion on game play. The tokens in my version of the game are nice, if abstract, plastic cars, in 6 colors, that match heavy cardboard tokens that the players use to mark ownership of properties. I found it odd that the designer put bears on the tokens. There are, in fact, bears in a number of places on the game board as well, but a shortage of bulls. I understand the symbolism of bears and bulls in a game of finance, but the only bull I found was on the box cover.
One page, front and back. I think these must be from overseas, as the paper is not a standard US letter size, but slightly narrower. Pretty simple. There is a parts list, but it is not specific on the number of cards, bills or tokens provided. The rules state that the rules are not rigid. They encourage house rules. We had to make a few decisions while playing as to rule intent. There are few restrictions on inter player barter, which should make this game better with more players. We had the minimum number. Otherwise, cards can mostly be used during your turn only, and there are some restrictions on when during your turn. The exception that comes to mind is the use of option cards as defense against opponents attempts to buy your properties out from under you.
Roll and move games generally suffer from a over abundance of chance. This game is no exception. The roll and move mechanic is straight forward enough, and a bit tedious. It also doesn't really fit the motif, but it does act to restrict options. I spent a good deal of my down time trying to figure out a mechanic that would serve better. You land on one of 5 types of spaces.
On a property space you will either have the option to buy, if unowned, or be required to pay rent, if owned, the rent increasing in proportion to the number of properties of that type the owning player has.
On Option spaces you have the chance to buy options, blind, from a deck. Options will give you the power to force other players to relinquish properties and sometimes Gold, often at a loss. These is always fun, but they can also be used to counter such attempts, and most players quickly learn to horde some option for defense.
The Bullion house spaces allow you to either buy a chunk of gold, generally at the default price, or buy draw a Goldfix card that allows you to buy or sell gold above or below default. On the second half of the board one of these allows you to draw 3 Goldfix cards at once, which, on several occasions, allowed me to buy Gold Cheap, and sell it high on the same turn. We started referring to this as getting paid to touch the gold, as it seemed artificial. It is also one of the ways I made my fortune.
The Real Estate spaces allow you to, depending on the specific space, either buy Property spaces upon which you have not landed, or sell off your properties at profit. One rule question we had was in regards to Real Estate spaces that allowed the player to sell property to the bank at a profit. They would typically state a value for a full set of Properties of one type. The rules allow the player who lands on these places to sell their full set to the bank, if they have one, or act as an agent for others who hold properties from the set, charging a commission that is totally negotiable.
We think the rules imply that the bank only buys whole sets of a given property type. The way we played this was that, if you owned the whole set, you could sell the whole set, but not portions. If you owned part of the set, and the rest was unowned, you could do nothing, but if the whole set was owned, but divided amongst players, they had to negotiate how to divide the offer. Generally, the person who landed on the space would expect the lion's share, as broker. But, if they got greedy, others would simply refuse to sell. If anyone refused to sell, the game allows others to call in options, if they have them. We had one creative moment when "G" first refused to sell, then called in options to corner the market on the Hotels.
In our game, both my opponents landed on spaces that allowed them to purchase whole blocks of properties at once early in the game. I, on the other hand, ended up with a lot of Option cards early on. As none of us had played the game before, no one had a strategy in mind, but I lucked into a strategy built around the gold market. There were, in my view, flaws in the game that allowed me to make large profits on buying and selling gold with rapid turn around of the cash. Rental income in the game seemed to provide only a very modest return on investment, with property investments showing their big payoffs in resale values. My opponents both played games built around property investments - "C" conservatively buying an selling without new debts, and "G" taking on huge debts to buy large tracts. It quickly became hard to monopolize a property type, as we became afraid that "G" would get monopolies. "G" had also managed to hoard enough Option cards that trying to effectively call an option against him proved futile. He always had one he could use for defense.
There are a couple other oddball spaces. One charges the player a tax, but it is a fixed sum. Two others call in debts, forcing the player to pony up some cash and settle some of his outstanding debts. These seemed like contrivances, in a way. There were not enough spaces like this to feel like a real threat, and there seemed to be no dis incentive to pile on the debts. Also, after a few laps, everyone seemed to have enough option cards that no one could force any properties back into the open market. And no one was going to let anyone else get a monopoly, so there wasn't a lot of incentive to try.
This game isn't great, but I think it has a good deal of potential, and it is a far superior to monopoly, as it grants some real options in strategy. I rated the game a 4.5, and think it's BGG rating of 5.43 (as of this writing) is overly generous, but I tend to think most BGG ratings are high. I see that various versions of Monopoly rank similarly I hope to create some house rules that I think will bring this game to a level that I would rate it above a 5, but, without major revision I don't see it going much higher.
The disincentive to piling up debt is that if you have a credit balance you can't win the game. You have to land on the Bank and have $5m in cash on hand and zero debt.
You played the Real Estate squares right: only if all of a given property is owned can you sell for the big bucks, and then you negotiate who gets what portion of the money, just like Dragon's Den or Shark Tank.
Lyn Lee Fox
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The cards are pretty simple, of a fair weight and all, but, I would have liked to see color on both sides, as I repeatedly put them back into the wrong stacks.I don't understand. The cards DO have different backs. So I'm going to guess that you meant the money. However, I would disagree with you about that as I find the blank backs of the money a useful feature: we always kept our money in a pile face down covering our cards. This way other players would know only minimal information about what resources you have available to you.
Strangely, the roll and move doesn't bother me as much in this game as it does in most other roll and move games. I think a big part of that is because of the rule that if you borrow money on your turn before you roll, you get 1.4 million debt for each million you borrow, but if you borrow at any other time it's 1.8 million debt for each million. So while you really want to borrow a little as you can get away with, there is also a fairly high incentive to make sure you have enough cash on hand for whatever the dice may bring. So while the roll and move still adds more randomness than I'd like, it's at least partially mitigated by it having an element of risk management.