Previewing: Conglomerate

VictorI’d like everyone to meet Victor.

Victor was very much like your average kid at that time. He probably liked to run around pretending to be cowboys and Indians, getting into snowball fights, playing baseball, and picking on his sister. Chances are, at some point, he also played Monopoly.

Like many, kids like Victor grew up and had children of their own. And their children played Monopoly.

And so did we, their children’s children.

For so long, it just seemed part of the childhood experience, playing iconic board games like Clue, Risk, Monopoly, Operation, Sorry!, and so on. They persisted for decades in part because, as far board games went, they were known a known quantity Рparents knew what Monopoly was and could participate in the experience with their children if they wanted. At the very least, they knew what it was.

Then came computers, video game consoles, Settlers of Catan, and the Internet. In less than two decade’s time, traditional board games fell so far out of favor that games like Risk were no longer a staple household item anymore. Sure, we grew up aware of Monopoly and Friends, but not all of us would have our own copy; it was now actually possible to make it through childhood without playing them. We had so many new choices of what being a ‘game’ meant, and the classics just weren’t cutting it anymore. Collective interest waned.

But there’s a deep, dark, horrible secret we have to share with you…

People still play Monopoly…willingly.

It’s true! Board gamers largely looks down on Monopoly (and those who enjoy it) in the same way that most now would to a person who opts to look something up in physical encyclopedia instead of taking to the web. The thing is, previous generations played games like Monopoly because they were the games that lasted. It’s hard to stomach, but they were the better games. Now, modern game design has far surpassed what most of these classics have to offer mechanically, but the average consumer likely hasn’t heard of Catan.

One can make the argument that part of those who still enjoy the classics do so because they aren’t aware of better alternatives, but there is also that annoying, undeniable, unmistakable fact that another part of the reason they’ve endured for so long is because there is something about them people have enjoyed.

Enter Conglomerate: the Business Board Game. Monopoly 2.0.

The premise behind Conglomerate is similar. Instead of Atlantic City tycoons, each player takes on the role of a corporate CEO. The objective: force your opponents into insolvency. This is done through buying and selling businesses and their product.

While players move around the outside of the board, the interior acts as the marketplace in a 5×5 grid. Each row is a different production level for “stuff”, represented by Product Tokens. The bottom row has the mining business (where Product Tokens are created) , and the top row has retail businesses (where they are sold). Each column depicts levels of capacity, ranging from a mere one-product cap to a five-product cap. As players land on spaces, they will have the opportunity to buy the closest business to them in that row or column.

 

Prototype Shown

Prototype Shown

 

In classic Roll And Move fashion, players take turns rolling the dice and moving around the board. The first side of the board are the mining spaces, where landing on them generates Product Tokens for whoever owns that business. The second side are tax spaces, where they have to pay money for the Product Tokens they have in that row. The third side are the retail spaces, where players are forced to purchase the Product Tokens on that square. The fourth side are the service spaces, where players get Professional Services cards that aid them on their turn with powerful one-shot effects.

After players move, they then have the ability to buy and sell cards and businesses with players, or try to purchase Product Tokens from them. This is done through haggling, bartering, collusion, etc. Lastly, they’ll have the opportunity to advance tokens up the supply chain one level, or to another space on that level.

Ideally, the goal is to have at least one business in each of the five levels to create a supply chain without having to beg, borrow, and steal from your opponents. (But feel free to do that anyway). Players keep taking turns until all but one CEO remains standing. There are no golden parachutes here.

Conglomerate is part homage to, and part replacement for, the game of Monopoly. It embodies a lot of the same essence to it, with players moving around the square board, the throwback graphics, (subject to change), buying businesses, trying to force other players bankrupt, and so forth. What it improves upon, though, is taking some of the pure luck out of the equation. (Though don’t worry: there’s still plenty to spare.) The game thrives with more players, as there is only a finite amount of businesses to own, and the rules encourage people to wheel-and-deal with and against one another for Product and power. (In fact, the fewer the players, the more it requires people to be ruthless.)

Conglomerate is Monopoly for the next generation. It updates a lot of the antiquated aspects of the classic games, while still leaving the spirit of them intact. Strategic use of Professional Service cards can swing games when timed right, and there is a much more active method of conspiring with each other – against the lead player, for example. It doesn’t completely reinvent Monopoly, but rather succeeds at dragging it into the 21st Century. People enjoyed the classic games for a reason, and even if many of those games have shown their age at this point, there are many that still find them enjoyable. Conglomerate is a game for those people. If you are one of said individuals, or are interested in learning more, be sure to check them out on Kickstarter.

 

Photo Credits: Victor by chicagogeek.