Updated: Feb 19
With its broodingly dark box and black-backed cards, Jeebsy Games' Business as Usual looks like a heavy strategy game but it's actually much lighter and more accessible than it seems.
The premise is that the 3-4 players are entrepreneurs competing to set up and run businesses in the four sectors of an island. Through the course of the game, you'll be generating profits (gold and three other resources) from your businesses so that you can acquire other businesses, achieve your individual and card-determined objectives and win by being the first player to amass '10 Respect' in order to buy the Central Bank. Along the way, you'll be picking up Lobbyists and Influencers, upgrading your businesses, and you'll be voting to elect a President whose policies will affect game play.
So far so good. Tho' there's quite a lot going on in Business as Usual, Braden Jeremy and Jeff Lewis have designed a game where it's all very manageable. You will try to plan your actions in order to make the best use of the resources available to you (gold, time, employees and clout) to buy up more businesses and to set up toll booths to extract income from other players. Aside from taking income from the businesses you set up, each turn you also draw an Event card. These are random effects that may be either a hindrance or benefit (the ratio of positive: negative is around 3:1 - so you're more likely to benefit). The Event cards vary quite a lot tho' in the significance of their impact, so expect quite wide swings. Through your movement, you can visit spots on the board that let you draw from other decks. These are all positive but, again, some turn out to be much more valuable than others - so the luck factor is high.
The effects of the Event and other cards can also upset any plans you have for your next and future turns because quite a few of the cards involve 'take that' actions that steal resources from other players... So it can be frustrating to plan a profitable acquisition that will meet one of your objectives only to find an Event card has allowed an opponent to steal the resources you were planning to use. However, that's all part of the fun of the game. As they say repeatedly in The Godfather, 'It's not personal - it's strictly business.'
We were less convinced by the use of a six-sided die to determine the number of actions you take on your turn. At its heart, Business as Usual is quite literally a roll & move game because it costs an action for each 'space' you move around the board as you go from business to business, and it costs an action to buy a business. If you roll low, you are scuppered: you can't get very far and you may not be able to take any very useful actions. Tho' statisticians will argue that this probably evens out over the course of the game, that's scant consolation to reassure players who see their opponents rolling 5s and 6s while they are struggling to do something with a measly 1. Some cards can be used to generate additional actions but we'd have liked to see more mitigation and less reliance on blind luck. In our Board's Eye View plays of Business as Usual we experimented with replacing the dice rolls with a system whereby players paid a resource for every action they took. When we coupled this with a higher starting bankroll, we found it worked rather well: so certainly an option to try for those who want a little less luck and a tad more agency.
We like the way Business as Usual demands a balancing of resources and offers different ways of achieving the game-winning Respect-scoring objectives, and we've had some fun with the Presidential elections and their effects on players' income streams. We were less impressed with the rule that specified that a player who moved to the Central Bank space could collect all the taxes paid. This is essentially a retread of the much-despised but common misinterpretation of 'Free Parking' in Monopoly.
If you're looking for a light business-themed game then Business as Usual offers an interesting alternative to Monopoly and similar games, but its mechanics are familiar enough to make the game easy for family members to pick up and play. Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of the game produced ahead of its upcoming Kickstarter launch. Click here to check out the campaign. The artwork from Oksana Mykytiuk is attractive but we are always nervous about black-edged cards because they so easily show up minor nicks. If the finished version of the game sticks with black-edged cards, we'd recommend sleeving them.