Food Chain Magnate Overview
Game Genre: Economic Simulation
Designer: Jeroen Doumen, Joris Wiersinga
Publisher: Splotter Spellen
Number of Players: 2-5
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Business is a holy union of product, operations, marketing, human resources, and finance, all rolled into an organization whose goal is to churn out tons and tons of cold, hard cash. As the owner/CEO of this capitalistic enterprise, there are a lot of decisions to mull over. Doing well in one area might net you a competitive advantage, but neglect any of those components and you’ll be headed down the road to bankruptcy or worse.
Food Chain Magnate places you in that commanding role. Any thought of you being a mindless drone doing a repetitive task to make other people rich is immediately wiped away when you realize you’re in control of your own destiny! You get to hire the people you want! You get to pursue whichever business strategy you want! The buck stops with you!
As a fan of business simulations, Food Chain Magnate checks all of the right boxes. With all the complex machinations that goes on in the world of business, Food Chain Magnate manages to boil them down into a series of mechanisms that are sensible and easy to pick up. Want people to demand a certain type of product? Advertise to them using billboards, mail campaigns, and radio towers! Want to compete against your rivals for customers? You can lower prices or open more chains! Have an exclusive product that you’ve convinced people they really want? Jack up the prices to present yourself as the premium burger chain amongst pretenders to the throne!
Likewise, your consumers also behave predictably: they want food and drinks at the cheapest prices so long as it’s not too inconvenient for them to get to your restaurant. Furthermore, they also demand that all of their wants be fulfilled. The game revolves around this very concept. It’s up to you to decide how to tackle the issue when everyone else around you is attempting the same thing.
All these business concepts that you can ponder over leads to a wealth of strategic considerations. It forces you to plan out what goods you want to produce and advertise (if you want to advertise at all!), what steps your opponent might take to steal away business, where to open new establishments or get new customers to show up, and what sorts of milestones to go for as you shape your strategy. In other words, it’s the choices that make the game, and there sure are a lot of interesting choices to be made here.
To keep strategies lively and active, the game also provides players with milestone bonuses. These milestones neatly capture the concept of the first-mover’s advantage. Basically, players are rewarded for being the first to do something by receiving some added bonuses. These bonuses can give you operational efficiencies, help you scale, or give you a revenue bonus when you sell a certain good. More importantly, milestones help people to differentiate their strategies and provide a point of focus.
With all the intensity and engagement on display, the game still isn’t without its faults. Food Chain Magnate is a very cutthroat game as it embraces the notion that all’s fair in love and war. And as you play the game, you’ll be in a constant state of war, albeit in the midst of an economic war. As you and your opponents jockey for customers, those who lose the price or location war will not only suffer a loss of revenue, they may find themselves discarding every food and drink item produced that round. This in turn leaves them further and further behind with no catch-up mechanism to bail them out. Brutal. Maybe even demoralizing. Play wisely. There’s little margin for error.
But that’s what precisely draws me to the game. Food Chain Magnate captures everything I look for in a business simulation. I can produce, market, compete through lower prices, and build out an organizational structure that I can be proud of. More importantly, I can work to out-maneuver other players and that always brings me a deep sense of satisfaction when everything I’ve built up allows me to feed the entire board and turn a profit while everyone else sits there, their restaurants empty, their food unloved. Economic warfare indeed!
Verdict: 10/10 – Masterpiece: Simple mechanics give way to complex strategies and loads of interesting decision-making to keep every round engaging and fun. How you focus on production, marketing, or organizing your company will make or break you. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.