Food Chain Magnate: the game where food is a religion. If you haven’t heard about it, imagine a game where you place a billboard for beer right outside a house that likes burgers, so they won’t go to your friend’s restaurant which sells the best burgers but no beer.
It’s the first time I’ve played, and I did find the game hugely interesting. It’s able to feel a lot shorter than it is – we set up and were taught the rules at 12:15, and were done a bit before 4pm, so our game was about 3 hours of gameplay and no-one felt bored or had a bad time, so far as I could tell.
Missing out on some early bonuses felt a bit gutting, as players who simultaneously reach a milestone get some kind of perk that is locked off from the other players. Missing out on the Fridge (lets you store food) that 3 of our 5 got, I decided to push my hire-heavy strategy and also was lucky enough to get the only Waitress bonus handed out. Also stuck up the first billboard with 1 other player, which meant permanent, unchanging advertising without salary costs. Make food? Whatever, that can wait until later.
One of the other players grabbed a healthy early lead, and was well on his way to the first $100 bonus when he got surprise-screwed out of his favourite sale, which had been netting $25/round. If he’d pushed a little harder and got that bonus, the game would probably have been much shorter and nastier, but that was the start of his downfall – he hadn’t upgraded the management tree in pursuit of quick cash, and this limited his flexibility.
Meanwhile, my ‘recruit and train everyone’ strategy was turning its own corner, as it had looked like a sure loser in a speedy game. I got a Guru, which gives huge training flexibility, and a relevant bonus to other Trainers. All of a sudden, if I wanted a staff member, give me a round to prep and then I could have them. So, I did what any sane person would do and hired a Zeppelin Pilot.
This guy is amazing; he floats around and absorbs lemonades/cokes/beers from the clouds. Or something, I have no idea. Anyway, I wasn’t the only person with a Zeppelin, but it did finally give me a route to produce enough food/drink to sell. At long last, I stopped ‘breaking even’ with waitresses (who pay you, for some reason) offsetting staff costs and began making money.
A couple turns later, I was feeling like I might catch up in time to win, and decided to make an Executive Vice President to help me manage vastly more staff. Incidentally, as a meta-game thing, at this point I took ages to pick staff because I typically was playing 13 out of 18 staff cards, while the other players ranged from 5-12 staff cards total. Not a good strategy for people with Analysis Paralysis!
Here, we broke the bank, and I became the luckiest guy on Food Street. Everyone had secretly voted at the start for a ‘short game’, with a smaller bank (the game-ending condition being that you break the bank twice), which also meant that we were all reduced in the number of managers our CEO could have underneath him. Though I was the only person who secretly voted for a ‘long’ game, the short game gave me a massive tactical advantage thanks to my Executive VP, since I could field ~12 other employees when others were fielding half that.
At this point, it was the home stretch. To be blunt, it wasn’t particularly close; the stuff on the board was going fine, and I had a big enough hiring/training engine that there was a finite amount the others could do to stop me. I also quite liked my place in the middle of the turn order, since I could see what general things people were advertising and hire accordingly – though, of course, I lost the final sale to the tiebreaker of “highest in player order” – damn!
I think it would be really hard to end the game before the full-recruit train-hard strategy kicks in, although I can definitely imagine if someone built and marketed a niche they could score on par. On the other hand, if more people were recruiting hard then the bonuses would be more scarce and reduce its dominance. I can imagine this is a game that rewards playing with the same people multiple times, so you can really get to know some key plans and try to scupper them.
There’s also the fact that I was totally on the fence about getting a Zeppelin Pilot over a Radio Advert, which would have been a more board-controlling type of play. In the end, Zeppelin was the right call, but it could have been a totally different game!
This was originally posted on Reddit on 14th Aug 2016.