Game Buzz: Briefcase

With all the noise about Kickstarter in the board game world, it’s about time someone tried out their competitor, IndieGoGo.  If you don’t know, IndieGoGo is another fundraising site like Kickstarter.  There are two major differences: IndieGoGo is an international site, whereas Kickstarter is only domestic; and IndieGoGo charges the money immediately, not when the project is funded.  However, if the project is not funded, you get your money back (as long as the project is using the fixed funding option).  Today’s game is the first big one I know of to have gone the IndieGoGo route:

image by BGG user 3pod

Briefcase was designed by Nikolas Sakagolou and Sotirios Tsantilas.  It’s being published by Greek company Artipia Games, whose first game (Drum Roll) was one of the big games of Spiel 2011.  Briefcase is for 2-4 players aged 10 and up, and takes 45 minutes to play.  It’s a deck-building/resource management game set in the world of business.  I’ve had my eye on this for a year or so, but it really climbed up when the cover art was released.  The IndieGoGo campaign has 11 days remaining, and though it has met its goal, they’ll still be glad to take your money.

Briefcase is a DBG. which means that the main component is the cards.  You get 96 company cards, 30 company randomizer cards, 48 buy decision cards, 36 activate decision cards, 45 obstacle decision cards, 16 hire decision cards, 24 personnel resource cards, 20 steel resource cards, 20 concrete resource cards, 20 paper resource cards, 20 imported resource cards, 20 energy resource cards, 2 resource block cards, 1 company block card, and 20 victory point cards.  In addition, there’s one central bank board.

As is standard with DBGs, you have a bank of cards in the center of the table.  Some cards will be in every game – for each player in the game, you use 5 concrete, 5 steel, 5 paper, 6 personnel, 12 buy, and 4 hire cards.  Each of these will be sorted into a pile of like cards.  The two resource block cards are each placed next to a random resource pile.  You’ll also be using all of the energy, activate, and obstacle decision cards.  The variability in the game comes with the 30 different companies, with 8 first level and 6 second level companies randomly chosen via the randomizers before the game begins.  Each company gets its own pile.  Each player begins with a power plant company card with the deactivated side face up, as well as an initial deck of 3 buy, 3 activate, and 6 obstacle cards.

Each player begins with four cards in hand.  On your turn, you have three steps: play, discard, draw.

PLAY: Play any number of decision cards from your hand – buy, activate, obstacle, hire, block, or unblock.

  • Buy – You can purchase an unblocked company (just one) by playing a number of buy cards equal to the cost of the card, then placing it deactivated side up in your play area.  You can only buy second level buildings if you’ve activated two first level buildings.  You could also buy resources at the cost of one buy card each.  You can only store up to five resources at a time.
  • Activate – By playing this, you can activate a building by paying its cost in resources.  The activated building stays that way unless deactivated by some other company.  These buildings give you abilities like producing new decision cards, which help you build your deck; using resources as other resources; increasing your hand limit; and so on.  You can also choose to activate the central bank if you have at least two first level company cards.  Discard as many buy cards from your hand as you want from the game and gain one VP card per buy card trashed.
  • Obstacle – Obstacles don’t really do anything.  You can use them in special combinations with buildings, or to move blocks.
  • Hire – Play a hire card to hire another player’s activated company by paying the activation cost, half of which goes to the player you’re taking it from.  You can’t refuse one of your companies being hired, though you can refuse resources.
  • Block and Unblock – Discard any two decision cards of the same type to move a resource block to another resource, or to move the company block to another company.

DISCARD: Once you’re done, discard any decision cards you’ve played and whatever may be left in your hand.

DRAW: Draw up to your hand limit (initially 4, but can be increased by certain companies).  As with all DBGs, if you don’t have enough cards to draw, shuffle your discards and go from there.

The game ends when there are only two type of resources are remaining in the market OR when all companies have been purchased OR when there are no more buy cards in the decision bank.  The game continues until all players have had the same number of turns, and then there’s a final scoring.  You get VPs for activated companies, certain abilities, cards from the central bank, and one VP for every 4 resources you have in storage.

As with all DBGs, the secret to this game’s success will lie in how the cards interact with each other and the number of combinations you can achieve.  There’s a list of the cards included in the rules, but I didn’t look through them too closely.  The theme is pretty unique, at least among DBGs, and it seems very easy to pick up.  However, I’m not really feeling very excited after reading the rules.  I imagine that the companies provide some nice variety, and the mechanism of being able to steal companies from other players adds some extra interaction.  I’m not sure how much depth there is in the game – I’m willing to give it a try, but at the moment, I don’t think it’s something I’ll seek out.  Thanks for reading!

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