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  • A Long Island Iced Tea.

Conglomerate: The Business Board Game Review

Players: 2-8
Playing Time: 2 Hours 
Publisher: Port Supply Co*
Category: Strategy

If you follow tabletop gaming on Kickstarter,  you will soon see a campaign to raise funds for a new business themed board game called Conglomerate.  When first asked to review this game, which is still in beta testing, I was expecting something that was still in progress.  Although that may be true, what I got was a very professional looking product.  The board, the money, the business licences and cards are all very well made and of high quality.  The only component that wasn't custom made, as far as I am aware, are the poker chips which are used as product tokens.

The premise of the game is that you are a CEO of a company; your goal is to ensure all the other companies fall at your feet.  You do this by buying business licenses of various capacities that will take your product from the mines all the way to the retail store.  Sounds simple enough, right?  It's not.  Your opponents will be trying to accomplish the same thing while making your progress significantly more complicated by using Professional Service cards (stop it, it's not what you think!).  There are six cards that you can get, each one has a symbol of one of the sides of a d6 (that's a six sided die for you, the one guy who doesn't already know that).  Each player begins the game with one random card, decided by the role of a die.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun these cards are.  Each one represents a professional (that was probably obvious given the name) that can accomplish one of two things when used.  The professionals are: Union Leader, Police Chief, Media Mogul, Crime Boss, Politician, and Lobbyist. The art on the cards are quite fun and their effect on the game is profound.  You may have as many of these cards at any given time as you like and you may play as many of these cards as you like on each turn.  They do fun things like (Police Chief) fine an opponent for all product they have in one of the business categories (more on that later), (Politician) revoke a business license, and my personal favorite, (Crime Boss) steal all the product from one business and make it your own.

Around the board you move a pawn (may not be a pawn in the final version) much like in that other business game where you screw your opponents with rent.  On each side of the board are five spaces, and one of four unique spaces on the corners, that require you to accomplish one of eight things.  On the side where you start the game are spaces that allow you to roll one or two dice to get more Professional Service cards.  On the first corner are the lawyers, they want their cut (boo!).  The next side makes you refill the associated mine with product, regardless of who owns it, followed by the Cooperate Helipad, that allows you to skip across the board and avoid what follows.

What follows is the tax man!  Each space on this side forces you to pay taxes on each individual product you own in that row. This can get costly!  If you are fortunate enough to land on the next corner, an angelic investor gives you money. It's like payday, only...more random.  The final side of the board holds the retail outlets of you and your opponents.  When you land on one of these, if you don't own the retail business associated with it, you are FORCED to buy all the product in that store for ONE MILLION DOLLARS (I so need an emote here that looks like Dr. Evil) each!  After that, the last corner is the Municipal Airport which forcibly moves you across the board to face the tax man and the dreaded retail outlets again.

The center of the board has twenty-five Business Licenses which are available to purchase.  Each player begins the game with two random licenses, the rest are up for grabs.  After you roll, move and resolve the space you land on. You have the opportunity to buy the first Business License available in that row or column.  The businesses are arranged by type from bottom to top.  They are Mines, Refineries, Manufacturers, Wholesalers, and Retailers.  Each individual product has to move through all the steps of production, you can't skip any step, and you can't move back a step.  After going through the production process they end up in Retail and your unfortunate opponents will have to buy them.

The licenses are also arranged from left to right by capacity.  The far left business of each row can only hold one product at a time, while the business on the right can hold five. This is important because if you only have a business with a capacity of one in any of the rows you are going to bottleneck your production, while product is stockpiling behind it, and only trickling one at a time through that step.

Game play is pretty straight forward, roll, move, resolve the space you land on, buy businesses, play Professional Service cards, move product and make deals.  The game is designed for two to eight players.  If you play with more than three players, you are likely to be missing a business for at least one of the production steps.  This will require you to wheel and deal with your opponents.  All assets are available to buy, sell or trade on your turn, with the exception of product that can only be bought on your turn and sold on other players turns.  How you come to an agreement with another player is completely up to you, and is completely betray-able by either party. While it can be played with 2 players, it lacks some of the fun that can be had by deal making.  I would recommend playing Conglomerate with at least 3, more would be better.

Conglomerate is a fun game!  We enjoyed ourselves, as did the people we got to play with us.  It has several unique qualities that add an interesting spin to the business board games of the past.  However, I have to admit that this game is not the type I prefer to play.  I would play it again if someone asked me to but it's not the first game that I would propose to play.  I want to make it clear, this is my preference, and has no bearing on the game itself, because I really did enjoy myself.  And I'm not just saying that, despite what the game developers tried to accomplish.

Keep an eye out for the beginning of their Kickstarter campaign later this month!

* Port Supply Co. is a creative team of pirates and ninjas working on board a pirate ship anchored in a secret tropical atoll (and yes, ninjas do get sea sick). This is their first board game.