Design: Jeroen Doumen, Joris Wiersinga
Publisher: Splotter Spellen (2015)
Duration: 120-240 mins
I’m not throwing too far back this Thursday, in fact only to a year ago when I first played Food Chain Magnate. If you’re not familiar with the game I wrote about it last summer, so please have a looksee here if you want to know a little more about the game itself and how you play it (and how I initially felt about it. Hint-it was all hearts and roses).
It’s interesting to reflect on this one because my feelings toward it changed quite a bit, and perhaps I’ve learnt a lesson in the dangers of playing the same game with the same person repeatedly. No offence to him, honest!
This was a much-anticipated game, pre-ordered months in advance to get in on that 4th print-run. A game about managing your own fast food chain in a 50s style setting. Choose from chains like ‘The Golden Duck Diner’ or my personal favourite- ‘Gluttony Burger’. The game isn’t so much about the diner itself but hiring and managing your employees and making as much money as possible by building, advertising and selling around the neighborhood.
I loved the no frills packaging, the retro look, the wooden food tokens and the super cute ‘menu’, which details the line of command within your fast food empire. I heard it was a difficult game, and I was ready for that challenge. But a (small) part of me really did think ‘well how hard can it be?’ I was wrong. Very wrong- it’s tough. There are many agonizing and brain burning decisions to be made every turn, and one hitch can lead to a total collapse in your grand plan. Not to mention this game is cutthroat AF. It’s an absolute must to play with people you don’t mind p***ing off. I can only speak for myself of course but personally I found it incredibly challenging. Which I don’t mind at all, sometimes I’m in the mood for those kinds of games. But to echo what I discussed in my Tash Kalar/Abstract post a short while back, it’s when I can’t seem to improve on my skill that leads to frustration. It’s not so much about winning (although it would be nice once in a while), but more that I like to see my skills develop, not worsen. Which totally happened with FCM. I actually won the first game I ever played; in hindsight it was a fluke. Jon became a master at this game whilst I seemed to be permanently stuck in dire straights. He has since thrashed me every single game. And now I know that’s probably going to happen I’m very conscious of it, and that can put a bit too much pressure on. And pressure=stress=not much fun.
I’ve played using different strategies, and I’ve carefully planned beforehand how I am going to approach it. On occasion I’ve attempted a casual ‘ah, let’s just see how this pans out’ attitude and I’ve also tried balancing the two. But I still haven’t won, or even came close to winning a game in the last several we’ve played. What I usually find is I’ll start to catch up, or at least look like a competitor when it’s just a little too late. What I have learnt is get the milestones first and get the good ones. Get anything that means paying fewer employees. It may seem obvious, but it’s so necessary, because it’s those pesky out goings that really burn your cash. Fire people! Get a fridge! Get CEOs as quickly as possible. Be very cautious where you build a new property. Get a discount manager; you will need the customers to come to you and not your opponent if you’re selling the same product. And give those houses gardens! Houses with gardens pay double the price… because gardens mean money and money means they’ll be willing to pay $40 for a burger and a beer. So these people are definitely crazy as well as rich.
There’s a lot to like in FCM; the design is concise and elegant, the rules are straightforward but the game is complex, and if you don’t mind getting savage it can be lot of fun. So I don’t dislike the game by any means, but I must confess that when it’s suggested to me my ‘yes’ is sometimes laced with slight dread. I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe at some point in the future I should play with a group, or someone else who may not absolutely annihilate me. I’ve also concluded that when it comes to fast food- I’m so much better at eating it rather than selling it. Nom Nom.
Thanks for reading!