One criticism you hear about a lot of games is that they’re derivative, not doing anything new and just slightly modifying certain mechanisms to make the product. So it’s refreshing when a designer openly and blatantly admits to ripping off other designs. Such is the case with
Copycat was published in German by 2F Spiele as Fremde Federn, which is more keeping with the F theme of Friedemann Friese’s other games. Rio Grande’s English version, however, is called Copycat. As Fremde Federn roughly translates as “to adorn oneself with borrowed plumes”, a lot of people thought the English title would be “False Feathers” – guess not. It’s a 2-4 player, 95 minute game that openly lifts mechanisms from Dominion, Puerto Rico, Through the Ages, and Agricola. The game is about trying to raise the capital to run for president (hence the Obama-esque portrait of Friese himself on the cover).
The game comes with 114 cards, including 40 start cards, 55 action cards, 55 action cards, and 4 overview cards. There are also 28 office workers, 8 playing pieces (for order and career path), 25 green VP markers, and a game board. You start the game with three campaign workers, as well as a deck of start cards consisting of 7 money cards and 3 point cards. An office card is placed in the first window of the office building. 11 cards are dealt to the street area.
The game takes, at most, 11 rounds. In each round, there’s a planning phase, an action phase, a buying and success phase, and a cleanup phase.
PLAN: Each player draws five cards from their deck. Play order is determined by each player choosing a card from their hand and reveal simultaneously. The player with the highest value goes first, and so on. If there’s a tie, the tied players simply switch position in play order. The cards used are discarded.
ACTION: In this phase, players take turns placing one campaign worker in an empty office. This is the portion of the game that most resembles Agricola – there are pre-printed offices, offices that appear throughout the rounds, and card offices that are there from the beginning but may be different from game to game. Before or after placing a campaign worker, you can also play cards and/or use the action of offices. That’s right – you don’t have to use an office as soon as you claim it. Once you use an office, you put your worker on its side to indicate that the office has been used. If you have no more campaign workers to place, you have to pass this phase and can’t take any actions. You may voluntarily choose to not place all of your workers.
BUYING AND SUCCESS: In player order, each player may play any remaining cards and take any remaining green, grey, or yellow office actions that haven’t been used yet. You then add up your money from cards played and office spaces, and use this money to buy one card from the street area (two if you get an extra buy action). Each card has a cost, which will go up by one or two coins based on its position on the street. Empty street spaces are not replenished (yet). Red cards may be present on the street, and if any are to the left of the card you buy, you get them as well. Think of these like curses in Dominion – they really have no use and just clog up your deck. They can be gotten rid of, however.
After purchasing, add up any VPs you may have gotten and advance your marker on the career path accordingly. This ends the buying and success phase.
CLEANING UP: Each office with no worker gets a VP token. All cards from the play area are discarded, and campaign workers are removed from the board. Each player only keeps three campaign workers – any extra you acquired are put back in the supply. A new office card for the round is flipped up in the next empty space, and some (possibly all) street cards are removed from the game, with the empty spaces filled with older cards, then new ones until eleven cards are out again.
This continues until eleven rounds have been player, OR until someone reaches 95 points, OR the last doctorate has been purchased. The player with the most points is the winner.
It’s difficult for me to assess how this game plays without seeing it. The setup instructions aren’t even included in the regular rulebook for some reason – they come on a separate sheet, which I can’t find online. And without knowing what all the different offices do, I don’t really know how it will play. From what I’ve seen of the art, it looks like the game has a pretty good sense of humor (typical for A Friedemann Friese game). I find it a little odd that you not only don’t have to do an action right away when you place a campaign worker, you can still do it later. I don’t know how cards will contribute to the play of the game.
I see the mechanisms from Dominion (deck-building), Agricola (worker placement), and Through the Ages (card selection), but I’m not sure where Puerto Rico comes in. I hear that 7 Wonders was once supposed to be included, but was cut out. Apparently, Friese noticed that the top ten at BGG was full of games he didn’t want to play, so he tried to combine them into something he did want to play. Time will tell how well he succeeded – it’s gotten some good buzz so far. I’m definitely interested enough to want to play, but I’m not sure it’s something I want to own. Part of my reluctance is the similarity to Agricola, particularly the worker placement aspect. I know a lot of people like it, I just always felt like it was too easy for my plans to get completely destroyed by someone else taking the one action I was building to for the last five rounds.
Anyway, Copycat looks interesting to say the least. The same can be said for a lot of Friedemann Friese’s games – he always has a unique take on the subject matter. Thanks for reading!