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Subject: Case Closed! - A Review of Briefcase rss

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Benny Sperling
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This review was originally posted at http://gamesandgrub.blogspot.com please visit them for reviews of the latest and greatest games!

Deck-building games are something most players are familiar with, considering the popularity of Dominion and its copious expansions. Having played many of the DBGs out there (Thunderstone, Nightfall, A Few Acres of Snow, etc) I was excited to see a “Resource Management” DBG, and from Greece no less. I enjoyed my play of Drum Roll--also by Artipia--and thought "wow, I bet Briefcase will be great if it’s anything like Drum Roll." Sadly, aside from both being Artipia Games, they aren’t alike at all

Briefcase is, in fact, a game of being able to do very little while shuffling around papers, sort of like the real world of business. Until you begin to acquire holdings, you’re going to be doing very little (big emphasis on VERY little). Each player starts with the same deck of 12 cards, 6 Obstructions, 3 Buy, and 3 Activate. Each turn, the player draws 4 cards (Did I mention very little?). Depending on luck of the draw, the player may get 2 Buys and an Activate in their hand during one of the first 3 turns. This is vital, as you will need to Buy companies and Activate them in order to do anything. There are 6 Resources for the players to manage as well: Cement, Steel, Workforce, Paper, Energy, and Imported Resources (which act as a wild card). However, 2 of those resources are blocked every turn. This is where the Obstruction cards come in, when played as a pair they can move a block from one Resource to another. Players will have to be cognizant of how many Resources they hold, as there is a limit of 5 that can be kept from round to round, excluding Energy.

The Deck-Building aspect involves the above mentioned start cards, of which players can acquire more by Activating their companies. Each company is bought in an Inactive state, and can only be Activated by playing an Activate card and spending the required resources, which in turn produces more cards to be put into the player’s deck. The game continues until 4 of the Resources are depleted or all of the Buy cards have been acquired or all of the companies are owned. In our games, the Resources ran out much sooner than anything else. This was due to the need to Buy Resources and Activate companies so they would score VPs at the end of the game.


For my taste, Briefcase could have been better. It feels like you’re playing in a straightjacket with all of the limits. Think of a gorgeous new Corvette with a tiny little lawnmower engine in it, that is how Briefcase feels to play. It has this great glossy exterior, you strap in and think, "Oh man, this is gonna be great!"

...then you rev it up and the game locks you down. Players will experience many “wasted” turns where they cannot get enough of the same cards together to actually make a play. The rulebook is well written, the company effects are very cool, the game is even great when the cards line up; but too rarely is it possible to get the cards you really need into your hand at the same time without a huge measure of luck.

I think of Dominion and Thunderstone as the 1st generation of DBGs and their follow ups as the next generation. Many of the next generation of DBGs push the boundaries of the originals, but Briefcase seems to fall into the trap of being too confining like Dominion in early rounds. Yes it can improve with certain cards in the buy areas, but it doesn’t push enough beyond Dominion to be the great game it had the potential to be.

It should be mentioned, though, that during one of our plays we stumbled upon an accidental variant where the players draw 6 cards a turn. This opened Briefcase up and made it feel like the shiny Corvette it could be (but maybe too much so.) If you play Briefcase and feel locked down like I did, try drawing an extra card each turn and see if that helps move the game along.

Note: Corvette is used as a point of reference. This reviewer was not contracted by GM. Briefcase was acquired through www.indiegogo.com during the funding campaign in February 2012 with the reviewers own funds.
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Jools Thomas
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It sounds like your saying this games is a bit rubbish using the default rules but great if you draw 6 cards instead of 4. Am I reading that right?

Personally, I think I might try drawing 6 and putting two cards back on top of your deck in any order (k2 style).
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Benny Sperling
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The game has some "wasted" turns with only drawing 4 cards. I like your idea of drawing 6 and putting 2 back.
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Kostas
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Well,i don't think it's a disadvantage.
Not every game has to be easy and simple at start.
It gives the impression of how difficult is starting new businesses imo.
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Richard Ham
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CLICK THIS BEAGLE if you're looking for in-depth gameplay video run-throughs! :)
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Interesting notion. Honestly, I would think drawing 6 cards (even putting 2 back) would make the game way too easy. As it is, the game has a great acceleration curve where you start out slow, and by the end of the game are making really big exciting moves. Kind of like Le Havre. That would be lost if you could do whatever you want every turn. Remember, every time you get a bad draw of 3 or 4 obstacles, that just sets you up for a stronger draw on a following turn...

Good review, btw! Just not sure I agree
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Steve Carey
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The designers have posted an official variant of drawing 5 cards instead of 4. Seems to be a reasonable compromise.
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