Game Buzz: Ground Floor

It seems like there are a lot of city building games coming out or being Kickstarted in the last months.  One of the most recent is:

image by BGG user DrMayhem

Ground Floor is a game currently on Kickstarter, designed by David Short and published by Tasty Minstrel Games.  It’s a 2-6 player game for ages 12 and up that takes 90 minutes to play.  You’re an entrepreneur trying to allocate resources and staff to build up your company from (you guessed it) the ground floor.  It’s got worker placement mechanisms, and features a 2D building aspect that looks pretty cool.

The game will come with 6 player boards and player aids, as well as a main board, 20 economic forecast cards, 120 info tokens, 120 money tokens, 12 player markers, 2 status markers, 13 tenant improvement tiles, 6 specialty tiles, 36 remodeled room tiles, 29 floor improvement tiles, 16 supply cubes, 6 CEO markers, and 150 time markers.  At the start, each player will choose a color and get a CEO marker, 2 player markers, and 4 time markers for that color, as well as a player board, a player aid, 7 infor tokens, a specialty tile, and the remodeled room tile matching their specialty tile.  Turn order isi initially randomized, but will be determined by popularity as the game goes on.

There are three stages in the game.  Each stage is divided into three rounds.  Each round has five phases.  The phases are: Receive Income, Hire Employees, Schedule Business, Conduct Business, and Reorganize.

RECEIVE INCOME: Each player receives income base on the location of their CEO marker, which is on the employee track of their player board.  You may be getting money, though at four you’ll be getting nothing, and at five, you’ll have to pay or fire someone.  You may get some extra money from improvements.

HIRE EMPLOYEES: Here, you’ll be able to hire new employees.  The most popular player goes first, paying the cost indicated on the job market track and moving it one space to the right.  You’ll also add three new time markers next to your ground floor (they won’t be available until the next round).  Each player may hire one employee at a time, but hiring keeps going around until everyone is finished hiring.

SCHEDULE BUSINESS: Here, you’ll be allocating your time markers and investing in tasks.  You start with four markers, and get three more every time you add an employee.  During this phase, each player will take turns choosing one task on their player board or main board and assigning time markers to it.  This goes around the table until all players have assigned all of their time markers.  On the main board, you can place in the consulting firm, the advertising agency, the marketing bonus, the warehouse, the factory, the economic forecast, the retail outlets, or the construction company.  These won’t get resolved until the conduct business phase, and I’ll talk about them then.  You could also place on a room on your player board, and benefits are determined by whether or not the room has been remodeled (you can remodel a room at any time during this phase by paying $3 and 3 info – it doesn’t cost an action to do this).  The basic ground floor rooms are:

  • Assembly: Three time markers get you one supply cube.  It must have a place to be stored, or it gets discarded.  The remodeled Assembly only needs two time markers.
  • Training: Two markers allows you to train one employee.  This is like the hiring phase, but costs you time instead of money.  The remodeled Training only needs one marker.
  • Meeting Room: One time marker gets you one info.  The remodeled Meeting Room allows you to do this as well, OR place two markers for three info.
  • Storage Closet: This allows you to store one supply cube indefinitely without cost.  The remodeled Storage Closet allows you to store two, and comes into play with one already on it.  This is not an action you can take during this phase, but it’s a place to store those cubes from the Assembly.
  • Research & Testing: One time marker plus one supply cube gets you three info.  The remodeled R&T costs one time plus one supply for four info OR 2 money and 2 info.
  • Advertising: One time marker here allows you to place one time marker from the general stock in the networking box of the Advertising Agency on the main board.  Remodeled Advertising allows you to do this OR spend two to place one marker from the stock on the print box.

CONDUCT BUSINESS: In this phase, the main board is resolved in the following order:

  • Consulting Firm: During Schedule Business, you put a marker in the topmost space of the left track.  During Conduct Business, you get 10 info if you have a marker in the right track next to any marker in the left track.  After players collect their info, you remove the markers from the right track and slide the markers in the left track over.
  • Advertising Agency: During Schedule Business, you put a marker in the first available space.  During Conduct Business, each player in reverse order will determine what kind of marketing they wish to do.  If you choose Networking, you move your time marker and one more from the stock to the networking box.  If you choose Print, you move your time marker at a cost of $1 and 1 info.  If you choose Broadcast, you move your marker for $2 and 2 info.  After this is done, you’ll adjust your popularity one space for each three you have in Networking, one space for each two you have in Print, and one space for each one you have in Broadcast.  All markers used are removed – any leftovers roll over to the next round.
  • Marketing Bonus: You can’t use this during Schedule Business.  In Conduct Business, each player (except the least popular) either gets an additional time marker for the next round, 2 information, $2, one supply cube, or the ability to remodel one room for $1 and one info.  You only get one, each bonus can only be chosen once, and they are not used in the two player game.
  • Warehouse: During Scheduling, you pay money or information.  During Conducting, you collect the associated supply cube.  Hopefully you can store it, or you lose it.
  • Factory: During Scheduling, you pay $2, 2 info, and one supply for the first available space.  During conducting, you move your markers in order from the factory to the retail outlets.  This allows you to set the price for your products.
  • Economic Forecast: You can’t Schedule here.  During Conducting, you reveal the current Economic Forecast card.
  • Retail Outlets: You can’t Schedule here either.  The Economic Forecast card determines how many customers will be shopping during the Conduct Business phase.  Each customer will buy the cheapest product from the lowest price bracket that is being sold by the most popular business.  You keep going until all customers have brought something, or all products have been bought.  Each product that is left drops to a lower price bracket, or is liquidated for $3.
  • Construction Company: You pay $4 and 4 info to place here during Scheduling.  During Conducting, you can buy an improvement for $1 and 1 info, or a new floor for your building for $2 and 2 info plus $2 and 2 info per floor you already have.  Improvements and floors will go on your player board, and provide new abilities that can be used at various points during the game.  You can only buy floors and improvements that associate with the stage or earlier stages.

REORGANIZE: During this phase, you move all of your markers from your player board to the stock.  You can choose to downsize by firing employees, then you take time markers for your employees and your CEO.  Any time markers remaining on the main board stay there.  You replenish the most expensive space in the Warehouse, move all player markers off of Marketing Bonus spaces, reduce every marker on the popularity track by one, and update the Job Market according to the Economic Forecast card.

At the end of the ninth round, or when someone builds their fifth floor improvement, the game is over.  You get points for remodeled rooms, tenant improvements, floors, achievements, and one point for every three money and three info together.  If there’s a tie, the most popular player wins.

Several cool things in this game.  First, the player boards look really awesome.  As you add floors, you are building up your building on your player board, which creates a nice 3D effect even though it’s a 2D board.  I also like the way the theme and mechanics are integrated.  There’s a level of abstraction with using time tokens and supply cubes, but they are used in a way that makes sense.  You’re doing your own thing, but in order to advance in the game, you have to venture to the main board.  It seems a little weird that you have to spend equal amounts of money and information for just about everything, but kind of cool that you have to collect two different kinds of resources to advance.  In all, I think this will be a pretty solid worker placement game.

I think I’m sick of Kickstarter.  I’m glad people have a way to market their games and get some capital up front.  And obviously, it’s working quite well for the board game industry – Ogre and Zombicide collectively pulled in over $1.5 million.  But I’m sick of hearing about Kickstarter.  I’m sick of the endless debates about whether or not it’s good for the hobby.  I’m sick of every other game using Kickstarter to launch.  I’m sick of the long periods of time between success and release of the games.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Kickstarter is a bad thing.  I’m just sick of it.  I’d rather hear about a product, get excited about it, and look forward to getting a copy within the next month.

When I covered Kings of Air and Steam (the last big game Tasty Minstrel Kickstarted, still unreleased almost six months later), I complained about stretch goals.  This has become the norm since then, and I’ve cooled down in my negative opinion of them.  I have to point out one stretch goal that Ground Floor is offering if they get to the $75,000 level – each backer will get a free copy of another game by David Short called Skyline, a dice game about building a city.  I think that’s kind of a cool bonus, but they still have over $23k to go in the next week.  Will they get it?  We’ll see.  Thanks for reading.

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