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Big Boss

Wolfgang Kramer's Big Boss first appeared in 1994, when it was published by Kosmos. It's seen various reimplementations and re-themes over the years, including Chartered: The Golden Age (Jolly Dutch), which we featured on Board's Eye View back in 2020. This new edition from Funko Games is an updated version of the original game, where players are founding and expanding companies and using their income to buy shares that will grow in value as the companies grow.

Big Boss owes much to Sid Sackson's classic game Acquire (Avalon Hill), which dates back to 1963. Like Acquire, companies in Big Boss expand across the numbered squares on the board until they come into physical contact, in which case they merge: or rather the larger company takes over the smaller one. In Big Boss, that can be a mixed blessing: the smaller company that is swallowed up in a merger pays out its value to its shareholders, so they don't automatically benefit with shares in the larger company but the cash payout they receive can put them in a strong position to buy shares in the market.

Turns in Big Boss are super quick because the 2-6 players each have a choice between just two basic actions: draw a card or play a card. The cards all bear a number that corresponds to a square on the board. When you play a card, you are placing a building on the board on the numbered square. This will either be to found a new company (if you are in a square that's not within three squares of any existing buildings) or expand an existing company and so increase its share value. In addition to your one card action, you can choose to buy shares in any company - not necessarily the one you've just founded or expanded.

The abstract board and economic theme are reminiscent not just of Acquire but also Shark (Korea Boardgames) but, of the three, Big Boss has the most impressive table presence, particularly as your companies expand not just horizontally but vertically too. Whereas Shark uses dice, with an inevitable luck factor, Big Boss is a game where players feel more in control because they may have in their hand numbered cards that can dictate how and where a company will expand. As with all economic stocks and share games tho', ultimate success is all about timing your investments. And there's a distinct game arc. Initially you'll almost certainly just be putting out startups and using the income they generate to buy the first share in them but as the game develops, it becomes worth investing in cards that add value to companies in which you already own a share, ideally by adding levels to that company...

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