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Subject: I'm the Boss: Explain Yourselves! rss

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Chuck Uherske
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I've now played I'm the Boss enough times to have started to form a lasting opinion about it, and I must say it's a game about which many of the comments perplex me.

I'm the Boss seems to have a pretty wide standard deviation of opinions about it. People rate it very high, or rank it pretty low, at least relative to other games with its average rating. I wonder about the divergence in the opinions.

I can understand complaints from people who don't like negotiation games. Or who don't like games that can get interactive to the point of being loud. Heck, I myself tend to be more of a silent brooder as a game player, rather than a talker (though I love I'm the Boss.) So while I don't mind these aspects of I'm the Boss, I can understand others not liking them so much.

But what I don't understand are the comments to the effect of "it's all chaos," "there's no game here," "it's all just randomly screwing your neighbors," etc.

I'm the Boss has a *lot* of deep tactics to it. It is a hand management game as much as it is a negotiation game. The negotiation elements of it brilliantly tempt you into forgetting that it's a hand management game also, and you can get carried away with the card plays and forget what you're doing. But all those elements are there.

Figuring out when to play cards, when to get in on a deal, when to draw cards vs opening negotiations, is all pretty subtle stuff underneath the surface chaos. You're trying to bleed your opponents' hands of valuable cards while holding on to your own and maximizing their value when utilized.

This was driven home to me when I was playing LOTR: The Confrontation at the same vacation where I played I'm the Boss -- in both games, you've got to know when it's OK to potentially waste a card, and which ones you really need to hang on to. I'm the Boss just makes it that much harder to see because of all the interaction going on.

Is that vacation card you're holding to be played now? Maybe if the other guy is using his Investor card, you play it, but if he's using his Clan card, you hold back. . . yeah, let him spend a Clan card to get that deal, it's not that good. . . the game is full of close calls like that, all the more fun for being under the time pressure of active negotiation.

It's also a very brilliant game of chicken in places. How many cards are too many to spend to hold on to control of a deal? Maybe the deal isn't worth it overall, but once you're in the soup it's all sunk costs, so if you just spend that onnnne more. . . .

The more I play this game, the more I'm convinced there is interesting math and probabilities and hand management and plenty else to go along with the boisterous fun. Explain yourselves, I'm the Boss haters!

 
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I don't hate KKK Chuck, but compared to Traders of Genoa, it's not very compelling. meeple

I think what turned me off was its Pit-like atmosphere. Might have been better if play went around the table in sequence, with each player getting to play a card (or not) in turn, rather than everyone playing cards (and usually yelling) at the same time.
 
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JEREMY PAQUETTE
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I just got to play this past evening...
It was a bit chaotic for me, as I both have some trouble hearing, as well some trouble processing the spoken word. I really have to concentrate sometimes to filter out the important stuff from background noise. This made it awfully hard for me to keep up with and respond to what was going on... by the time I got the gist of a deal, it was already just about completed. That made the experience a little bit painful.
 
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Nate Sandall
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I only played it once and I got really pissed off. That normally never happens to me! Of course the kingmaking situation didn't help. I am willing to try KKK again with a different crowd however, but I'm with Fawkes in that I'd rather play Traders of Genoa or any other negotiation game. Part of the problem I think was I'm the Boss seemed more like a yelling whack-em game to me. Maybe each group plays it a little different, more or less structured, or something?
 
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Teacher Fletcher
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This is the only game we've yet played that we had to stop playing before the game is over.

(I made a post about this in my journal before.)

Essentially, each guy in our group insisted on letting themselves get the smallest cut of every deal just so long as he was included instead of someone else.

I think the game has an essential flaw -- that when you allow someone to use your investor, you do not LOSE that investor card or anything else.

In any other kind of negotiation game, you lose something by agreeing to help someone. If it's a trade, you lose the commodity you are trading. If it's a game like Diplomacy, you are moving a troop somewhere when you could have moved him elsewhere.

I'm probably being a little unfair to the game, and I know there are a lot of BGGers that like it, but it's not my thing at all. The goofy theme and graphics don't help.

I'm currently negotiating () to trade this away with someone on BGG.

The genre of negotiation games is perhaps the most interesting one of all to me. I love the idea that you are playing with human nature, that loosely-wired thing. I just find it unfortunate that this was my introduction to the genre.

I have since ordered a copy of Intrige. I have an unplayed copy of Diplomacy -- awaiting 7 players and a free, long night. I would love to play Traders of Genoa, as well. I think I will like all of those games more than I'm the Boss.
 
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(ron lee)
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i like the game but i disagree with you chuck. playing the game feels like, to me, trying to close a screen door and finding, as you close it, more and more hinges folding in strange directions. The door might crash into a heap at your feet if you can't finesse the thing into staying upright and closing. the feeling is chaotic.

the game is chaotic not just in feeling. although theoretically you can calculate an expected value of playing a particular card, the variability of the value is too great for such a calculation to be much use. this is because: the cards, in general, relate very specifically to only one investor. your ability to play/stop a particular investor will depend on the disrtibution of cards associated with that particular investor currently in players' hands. in general, ratio of the # of different types of cards to the # of cards in peoples' hands at any given moment is quite large, meaning it's hard to predict accurately how many of a particular type have the potential for being played. also, there is no really good measure of expected value, since there is a wide, wide region of possible trading outcomes in which the players trading recieve a benefit over not being included in the trade.

even if luck were not such a large part, the issue of expected value is overshadowed by the following skills:

the ability to finagle top dollar in the zone of possible trades
the ability to make another player seem like the leader
the ability to make people *like* trading with you
the ability to threaten to play a card to get your way (bluffing)

not to say that there isn't management/calculation necessary. it's just that, beyond rough calculations, you don't get any benefit out of fancy analysis.
 
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Chuck Uherske
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Bathtub Hoax and Ron,

I actually don't disagree with your characterizations of the games in many respects. I may not be expressing myself well, which given my sleep-deprived state is quite likely.

Re Bathtub Hoax's point about the Investors: I actually think this is a strength of the game, not a flaw. I like the fact that Investor cards have a different "strength" than Clan cards, because one is re-usable and the other isn't. You've got to use your Clan card when it's worth it, or else you've tossed away an asset for a return below value. So I am much more likely to play a vacation card on someone's investor than on their clan cards. I'll let someone spend a clan card and get a deal if I don't think it's that good. I might stop the same deal if the guy will get the money without having to spend a card, by using his investor.

Also, the permanent strength of the Investor cards adds a long-term strategy element to the game. It tilts the balance away from playing for the moment and building for the long term. You've got to draw more cards frequently enough to defend against recruitment cards and also to attack with them. Usually in I'm the Boss, you want to be the person sitting with at least two Investor cards at the end, for precisely the reasons Bathtub Hoax gives. That's not a flaw in my view, it's a strategic element. The Investor cards are inherently valuable, even for people without great negotiating skills.

Re Ron's points, I don't at all mean to imply that the game allows for precise calculation. I do think that it allows for a lot of highly intuitive tactical play. When you try to start a deal you don't know how many people might be able to stop it or steal it, but you can look at the hands they're holding and make a good intuitive guess.

Ron's comments remind me of how he is usually more aware of his opponents' situation than I am during games. When we play Traumfabrik, he always knows what the other players need whereas I hardly ever look at that, hardly ever play to screw up their plans except when it's the obvious thing for me to do. So I find it noteworthy that Ron finds the game chaotic because you don't know whether you are really going to be able to stop a given investor. But I'm not usually thinking about stopping a specific investor -- I'm usually thinking about stopping a specific *player* -- whether blocking one person's investor causes the deal to swing to someone else. That's a bit more predictable because each player only has so many ways to defend himself.

But mostly I'm thinking about my own situation, whether other people are going to mess ME up. I look around the table and decide whether to expect it, so when it happens, it doesn't frustrate me, it's just part of the delightful unpredictability of the game that I'm trying to work around.

I still think the game is very rich in tactical elements. Sure, negotiating is a skill in this game, but it's not the only skill. I'm not the group's best negotiator but I usually do pretty well playing it.
 
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Chuck Uherske
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Here's a weird random thought.

Which game has more multi-player chaos, Through the Desert or I'm the Boss?

I'm sure 90% of BGGers would say I'm the Boss.

But for me personally it doesn't feel that way. I actually feel slightly more multi-player chaos in TtD than I'm the Boss.

In neither game can you make reliable plans because you don't know who is going to do what to you when. The only difference is that in TtD the other players mess you up silently by placing their camels to hem yours in; in I'm the Boss, they make more noise while messing you up with what they say and how they play their cards.

But which do you think of as more "chaotic?" I actually feel more able to execute a plan in I'm the Boss, though ever so slightly.

If "chaos" is noise, I'm the Boss has a lot more than many games. But if it's just lacking control due to the sum total of other players' actions, I'm not sure it's that different from most multi-player games. It certainly doesn't offer the control of Traumfabrik, but I would name Through the Desert, for example, as a game that offers no more than I'm the Boss, though it doesn't have the same reputation at all.

But then, that's just me. I suspect not a soul would agree with me here.
 
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