The Big Cheese

Published by Cheapass Games, designed by James Ernest and Jon Wilkie.

I bought this little card game from a specialist games shop for a mere 2. It is a game for three to six players, and is very attractively simple. The rules are printed on one side of a small piece of paper. The cards are printed one side only in black and white, with very simple line drawings and hand-written lettering. The style goes for cuteness over lavish production, and I think succeeds.

Each player is a businessman hoping to become the boss of the company. The boss will chose as his successor the player who delegates and prioritises most efficiently. A game lasts about forty-five minutes.

The pack of cards is placed face up in the middle of the table, and the players bid for the top card, not knowing what lies beneath it. Each player has ten counters to bid with. These represent underlings that he, as a senior executive, controls. If a player bids high and wins a card, he cannot use it straight away, because he has delegated many of his underlings to work for a long time on that project, because he has attached to it great importance. Each turn, one of his underling markers is removed from the card until none remains and then it can be played.

When a number card is played, a die is rolled to see how much the card scores. In the basic game, this is a six-sided die, the result of which is multiplied by the number on the card. Another variant is to use multi-sided dice, and assign different die types to the various cards. For instance 1d20 could be rolled to determine the value of a card with 20 written on it. Both these methods yield very highly variable values for cards, and this is the game's main weakness. A player may play very well, but be a little unlucky, and lose, while another could get one value 20 card, roll a six and get 120 points. The game is won by the first player to make 200 points, so you can see that luck plays a massive part.

In all other respects, it is a very good game. It is quick to learn, and very well balanced. There are three kinds of card. Most are number cards that have values between 2 and 20. The other two kinds are Veto and Big Cheese cards that do not score points, but allow players to cancel number cards, or increase their value. Some players may consider that some cards, like Veto or number 2 cards, are not worthwhile having. These players will then not bid for them, and so other players will pick them up cheaply, which means that they can be played quickly, and so become worthwhile. The bidding system thus makes every card worth considering.

A possible fix for the game might be to roll 1d6 and on a 1 or 2 halve the value of the card, on a 3 or 4 score the value of the card, and on a 5 or 6 double the value. Another might be to remove the die roll altogether and just score the value of the card.


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