Don’t play on an empty stomach: Food Chain Magnate, Splotter Spellen 

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Pre warning: My 5th bullet point kind of contains spoilers! 

I spotted FCM back in December last year, and upon realising it had sold out (and was only available on eBay for some ludicrous price) well I was majorly disappointed to say the least. I also read rave reviews and heard it was brilliant, cue further disappointment. With that I pre-ordered it in the 3rd print run and it turned up almost 10 weeks later. Needless to say I was psyched to play.

So was it worth the wait and does it live up to the hype? Um, well in a word….yes. It would probably be a more refreshing read for me to say it sucks, and list all the negatives. But that would be a lie. Because it’s really good. I pretty much expected it to be. You can usually wade your way through the hype with some genuine research; watch some videos, check out the rule book, read some articles and make an educated decision. Some games I can automatically say ‘looks cool, but it doesn’t look like a great game’. Ghostbusters for example. I was initially really excited, then after having a better look realised it didn’t have much to it.  Having read some other reviews since I  know that I made the right choice with that one. Another i’m dubious about is Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (I posted about this a few weeks ago). Again I got very excited, it  looks beautiful and it would be a great collectable. But until I see a solid unbiased review or a rule book I’m taking a cautious approach. Anyway…. back to FCM. It’s good!  I thought i’d summarise with some short bullet points as to why it’s continued popularity and acclaim is much deserved.

  • It’s extremely challenging without being unnecessarily complicated. You randomly lay out the tiles of a small town and each place your first restaurant. You start with a CEO and you make an initial recruit….and that’s it. May your time as food chain magnate begin! The various employees you recruit allow you do various actions;  you can place different  advertisements, build houses and open new restaurants. You can make food, pick up drinks, and train other employees. You make your profit at ‘dinner time’ and you pay your employees wages thereafter. The base of the game is that simple. The only areas that are a bit more fiddly are 1/ deciding where the customers are going to eat at dinner time, this is based on your product value and distance from each house 2/ The employees have to be trained to their next stage, which allows you to make bigger and better moves. The training stages are outlined in the handy ‘player menu’ which you will find yourself checking on quite a bit. The real complexity of the game is with how to use these tools,  and which strategy to take. It also becomes very challenging when your opponents  unintentionally (or intentionally) start  messing up your best laid plans.

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  • There is so much freedom in this game and many paths to explore. There are so many strategies you can take and things to achieve. A good idea is to familiarise yourself with the ‘milestone’ cards right from the start, because these can really help you hit the ground running in terms what you set out to achieve. There are so many ways to play FCM that you literally want to play again straight away to play differently.
  • It’s incredibly smooth. Each round is lightning fast and there’s no build up, you just jump straight in there, get on with it and ride it out till the end. I can’t think of many other games I’ve played where I couldn’t wait for the next round to begin, and literally didn’t want to stop playing (you know to do mundane necessaries like get a drink or go to the loo. Now there’s the mark of a good game!)

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  • Don’t be put off my the estimated game duration. I think every game i’ve played so far has been around the two hour mark, but it’s definitely one of those games where time just disappears. It could easily go over 4 hours with more than two players, but you can control this somewhat with the reserve cards. The game ends when you break the bank twice. The second bank run is determined by the reserve cards you play in secret. However, if you all agree to go for a shorter or longer game you could always discuss beforehand what reserve to put in.
  • A negative, I guess if you want to look it that way, is that it’s a pretty unforgiving game. If you make some bad choices in the early rounds you really find it hard to come back from it. If you’re a bit sloppy with your strategy then your plan can go way off track. But I don’t really see this as a negative, it means you work hard to find a good strategy and plan carefully in advance. A quick heads up: The Executive Vice President, Luxuries Manager and CFO can make drastic changes to the game. Waitresses, coaches and trainee managers are a must!
  • Another negative/positive (depending on what kind of game style floats your boat) is that it can be extremely cut throat. I think some people might raise an eyebrow at some of the profanities I’ve used whilst playing. I do love a game with a bit of vicious competition. But it’s not for everyone.
  • The theme works perfectly with the mechanics, and I love the simplistic and evocative art work (I heard that Splotter actually used free clip art images!). The design is fantastic. Even the back of the cards look like fast food packaging. Each restaurant’s name is a nod to another Splotter game which I thought was really cool, and I love the player menus and food shaped components. Don’t play on an empty stomach!

So that’s it from my thoughts on FCM. Rating….dare I say 10/10?!

 

 

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