This is such a great title for an economy-themed game in a fantasy setting that it's hard to escape the conclusion that designers Timofey Bokarev and Fedor Korzhenkov started with the name and built the game from there on. No matter, it's still a great game!
The premise of Orconomics is that players are entrepreneurial orcs trying to start businesses across the various sectors of orc industry. Players each start with two businesses (worth one point each) but, to win, you need to be the first to score 11 points, by establishing more businesses and achieving quests (open objective cards that can be claimed by a player when they meet the card's criteria).
Play takes place on a modular circular board: literally, a jigsaw puzzle board. The segments are each numbered and you can lay them out in numerical order or you can opt for random set up. Either way, the set up affects game play because many actions apply to neighbouring sectors. For example, dice are rolled each turn to determine the numbered sector to activate but this also triggers dividends or costs in both the sectors that are immediately adjacent to the one that is activated. Dice statisticians will realise that using two d6 to determine numbers from 2-12 will mean that some sectors get activated rather more frequently than others (you are three times as likely to roll 7 than 11). This knowledge may influence your choice of where to place out your industries: sector 7 is loss-making (instead of earning skulls, industries in this sector cost you skulls every time the sector is activated) but the sectors to the immediate left and right of sector 7 will be paying out every time 7 is rolled on the 2d6...
Aside from paying dividends and calling in levies from all players in the active and adjacent sectors, players get the opportunity to bid for the right to build an industry in the active sector. Bids have to be in gold skulls (equivalent to and freely exchangeable for 4 silver skulls: the base currency of the game). You can always take a loan secured against any of your established businesses (just flip the token). That immediately gives you a gold skull but it'll mean you'll be required to pay a silver skull in interest at the start of your turn for the rest of the game.
Finally, the active player gets to play cards from their hand (players all start with three cards and two more can be bought at the end of your turn at a fixed cost of 1 gold skull). The cards each correspond to sectors on the board and they can be used in two different ways. You can use them to activate that sector's ability (a single matching card is sufficient for this if you already have an industry in that sector, otherwise you need two matching cards). You can also use them to place out or advance 'start ups'. This is another way of getting businesses into play but it's a three-stage process, during which time your fledging companies are vulnerable to 'take that' attacks from other players...
You have to remember that Orconomics does not take place in our safe, highly-regulated shark-free business world. It's part of the cutthroat orc society... You can expect a typical game of Orconomics to start off as a relatively genteel affair as players initially build their nascent business empires, but play will get increasingly aggressive as players perceive their rivals to be within grasp of an 11-point victory. You can play Orconomics as a two-player game but it takes up to five players and it's at its 'take that' best with a higher player count.
Too often, business games take themselves too seriously. With its appropriately orcish art by Anton Kvasovarov, Orconomics has no pretensions. Ares Games have come up here with a game that's great tongue-in-cheek fun and which plays comfortably in about an hour. The game is on Kickstarter right now. Click here to check it out.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)