Game Buzz: Food Chain Magnate

In the last post, I talked about Bus, which was one of the first games published by Splotter Spellen. In this post, I’m going to talk about…

image by BGG user jmdsplotter

Food Chain Magnate was designed by Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga, and published by Splotter Spellen in 2015. It’s an economic game about building a fast food franchise, and has earned a lot of praise since its release. In fact, it is the highest rated Splotter game on BGG, coming in at #28 as of this writing. It’s a 2-5 player game that is listed as taking 2-4 hours to play. For my part, I have not played it, but it’s one of the Splotter titles I’ve been the most interested in, so let’s check it out.

The board in this game is made of of a map built randomly from a pool of 20 tiles. You won’t use all of them, unless you’re playing a 5-player game. There’s also a set of employee and milestone cards that will be laid out to the side. There will be $100-$250 in circulation at the start of the game, depending on the number of players, but players start the game with no money. Each player does get to place one starting restaurant from their starting set of three, which is done in reverse player order. You can choose to pass, in which case you must place a restaurant in a second round of restaurant placements (in which only the people who passed place a restaurant). Restaurants have to be placed on an empty space, with their entrance bordering a road, and so that their entrance is not on the same tile as another restaurant. Each player will secretly choose a bank reserve card, which will add money to the bank when the initial cash runs out. This means that no one knows exactly how much money will be in the game, and no one knows exactly how long the game will last.

image by BGG user Oblivion

In each round, you’ll complete a number of phases. The first of these is RESTRUCTURING. Here, each player will choose one employee to use. At the start of the game, you only have a CEO. These are chosen and revealed simultaneously and placed into a kind of pyramid structure. The CEO is at the top of the pyramid, and up to three employees can be directly below them. Managers can have 2-10 regular staff reporting to them.

In the ORDER OF BUSINESS phase, you determine player order by seeing who has the most empty slots in their company structure. That person gets to choose their spot on the turn order track first.

Time for WORKING 9 TO 5. Each player performs one action per card you have at work, doing all actions before the next player goes. Some actions are mandatory, others are optional. Actions need to be done in this order, no matter the position in your organization:

  • Recruit. Hire an employee. Your CEO gives you one Recruit action each turn, and other employees can give you additional Recruit actions. You can only hire people at entry level positions.
  • Train. Train an employee up a step by discarding the card and taking the next level. You can only train employees that aren’t in your organizational pyramid.
  • Initiate Marketing Campaigns. Marketers can place billboards, mailboxes, airplanes, or radio campaigns. Depending on the marketer, the campaign can be placed at certain ranges and have different durations. After placing the campaign, the marketer will be busy for a certain amount of time.
  • Get Food and Drinks. Kitchen staff and/or buyers can get food that are available for your restaurants to use.
  • Place New Houses and Gardens. Business developers can add houses in an empty area that is connected to a road, or gardens connected to a house.
  • Place or Move Restaurants. Managers can allow you to place restaurants – local managers have to place within a range of 3 from an existing restaurant and have a COMING SOON sign; regional managers can place anywhere and have no COMING SOON sign.

After actions, it’s DINNERTIME! Inhabitants of the various houses go out to get food as long as demand tokens have been placed on those houses. You’ll figure out where the inhabitants of each house are going based on who can provide what they want and how close they are. You get money for serving customers, with Waitresses and a CFO getting you more.

Now it’s PAYDAY. You can first choose to fire any employees that you wish, and then you pay for each employee you have. Some milestones and employee abilities reduce the amount you’ll have to pay, but it will never be less than $0.

Following this, it’s time to activate your MARKETING CAMPAIGNS. These add demand tokens to houses following certain restrictions depending on the types you used. You follow this with the CLEAN UP for the round, where you pick up all of your employee cards (those in your organizational pyramid and those that weren’t played). COMING SOON restaurants are now open, and any extras of milestones that were claimed this round are removed.

The game ends when the bank breaks for a second time. In other words, it’s over when the money that was added by the reserve cards is gone (at the end of the DINNERTIME phase). Whoever has the most cash wins the game.

image by BGG user usa175

This game does not look as intimidating to me as some other Splotter games, like Indonesia, Antiquity, or Roads and Boats. Maybe that’s just because of the theme, maybe it’s because this one doesn’t seem as oppressively heavy as those. It still seems like a heavier game than I typically play, and that’s not a bad thing – I really want to play that kind of game, I just never get a chance. This one seems interesting, if in need of a bit of graphical overhaul on the components. It’s just expensive, so I’d probably want to play someone else’s copy before I’d look to get my own. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that it has one of the best named expansions out there – The Ketchup Mechanism and Other Ideas.

That’s it for today. I’ve been running a little behind on my usual release schedule, but hopefully I’m getting back on track now. Thanks for reading!

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