Not Quite Taking Care of Business – Globalization Reviewed

It must be rough to be a high-powered international businessman. I mean, you’ve got meetings to attend, golf to play, and companies to buy. That last part is the the main focus of an upcoming game from Closet Nerd and Sandstorm Productions. Globalization puts you in the role of a business-owner, and you’ve got companies to buy. Think Monopoly, but on a global scale. I picked up a copy of the game at GenCon and put it through its paces with my group of board-gaming friends. Want to find out what we thought? Well, keep reading.

Looks

First thing’s first. The game is beautiful. I mean, take a look for yourself.

Click to Embiggen

The board is made of a high-quality stock and the images on the board are bright and vibrant. The pieces for the board are all wooden and are high-quality as you could expect wooden pieces to be.

The pieces

As well, all of the cards that come with the game, though pretty thin, are printed well.

About the Game Itself

The basic principal of the game is this: you start with a company in a given market, and your goal is to get to a total net worth of $1 Billion. You do this by buying other companies, putting your companies up for IPO, building factories on your companies and building offices in other markets. To do all of this, you collect asset cards for the companies you own, pay your expenses for said companies and then do your best to keep your head above water financially. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s take a look at the board, mid-game, and then talk about how a given turn progresses.

A game in progress

Your turn begins by drawing a number of asset cards based on the value of your owned companies. Asset cards consist of straight-up money (1s, 5s, 10s and a single 50 million dollar card), Lawyer Cards (which let you either sue a player to take an Asset card from their hand, or defend against said action), Broker Cards (which let you buy a company that has been taken public, or retrieve for free a company you took public), Disaster Cards (which let you place a disaster on a market, or remove a disaster from a market) and Perceived Value cards (which are worth 25 million initially, or 100 million at the end-game, under certain conditions). Additionally, any of the Asset cards, aside from the money, can be used to initiate a Private Auction for a random company.

Sound like a lot to deal with? It’s pretty manageable once you get playing. The box states that a game should take between 60-120 minutes, and we had fun in our playthroughs, with some sizable caveats. Normally, I’d go into detail about what we liked, followed by what we disliked, but almost everything we enjoyed about the game came with some kind of rider attached, something that made it not quite as good as it could have been.

The Companies

The absolute best part about the game is the stable of companies. You can tell that some care was taken in their naming and their descriptions. You’ve got Nuclear Thais, Satalin Airplanes, Conquista Ore, Raj to Riches, and many others. The descriptions of the companies are a lot of fun to read and the companies themselves bring a lot of levity to the game. The issue is that there is no explicit reason to read the descriptions. As well, the names of the companies don’t affect the gameplay in any way. You buy certain combinations of companies to get extra money at the end of the game, and that’s great, but the great company names are very easy to overlook as the game progresses.

The Board/Cards

I mentioned above how great the game looks, and it does. There’s a level of professionalism in the production of this game that definitely stands out. In fact, the board and the cards (though they’re pretty thin stock) survived the spilling of a beer with nary an issue.

Just after the spill

The problem with the board is that, as the game progresses, you end up dealing with a bunch of different companies, a bunch of different markets, and a bunch of colors that are very easy to confuse. Every market is assigned a color, as you can see on the board. Problem is, the company cards for a few of those markets look very similar, color-wise (I[m looking at you, Pacific Rim and South America). The other issue is that the pieces the player’s use are the same set of colors. You can very easily end up confusing the color of a player’s pieces, the color of the markets, and the color of the companies. There’s a lot of gorgeous, vibrant color, but there might be a few shades too much.

The Gameplay

In the very beginning of this write-up, I said that this game reminded me of Monopoly. That’s true, to a point, but Globalization allows you to go into debt to make your purchases. Maybe it’s just indicative of our own spending habits, but the ability to go into debt leads to biggest set of issues that we came across with this game.

We would go, round after round, and it seemed no matter how hard we tried to avoid debt or keep it on the low side, we would end up in over our heads to the point that, with five players, we were running out of debt cards. The problem, we think is that even though you gain the ability to draw a crap-ton of Asset cards as the game progresses, it’s very possible to end up with 22-card hand that contains very little in the way of liquid assets. So, say you start your turn and are able to draw 19 Asset cards. You do so and you get only a few cards that let you then pay off the expenses for the companies that let you draw the cards in the first place. So, you go into debt, and you can’t win the game if you have any debt.

Something about that cycle made the game likely more difficult that it needed to be. We tried to keep a handle on our debt, but it soon spiraled out of control. This happened in both games, and with gamers that know a thing or two about board games. In each case, this made the games last far longer than the 2 hour suggested upper limit that the box boasts.

The Role-Playing Takeaway

If you want some inspiration for humorous companies, or some excellent tongue-in-cheek, then this game will help you. As well, if you want to take a break from your usual game, and you’ve got some gamers who enjoy Monopoly-style games, then I would think of giving this a shot.

The Final Word

Ultimately, we enjoyed our time with the game. If you’re the type of gamer that like Monopoly, then you will find a lot to like in Globalization. Given that some of us are the type that get drive a bit mad by Monopoly, I find it to be high praise that my group of friends generally liked the game. However, there were issues that kept it from being something great. We all felt like there was some secret, some strategy, something not explicitly mentioned in the rules, something that would let us really learn the game like we’re used to doing.

The big question, the one that determines if you should buy a game or not is this: would we play it again? The answer, for us, is yes. We want to take some time and kick this game’s ass. That having been said, we all felt like we should have been able to do that already, if not for the issues I mentioned above. This is one of those situations where I will give my recommendation, but with reservation. If these issues get tweaked or resolved, then I would be able to give it a much higher score.

Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Globalization will be available for purchase in October for something in the neighborhood of $40. Globalization is published Closet Nerd Games, in conjunction with Sandstorm Productions.

[tags]board games, Sandstorm, rpg, rpgs, role-playing games, reviews[/tags]

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