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Burn Rate
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Store:  Strategy Games, Card Games
Edition:  Burn Rate
Theme:  Humorous, Computer
Format:  Card Games

Burn Rate

second edition

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Ages Play Time Players
13+ 30-45 minutes 2-4

Designer(s): Rich Koehler

Manufacturer(s): Reveal Entertainment, Cool Studio

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Product Description

Burn Rate is based on the creator's experience during the recent rise and fall of the new economy. With a simple, fun, and uncannily realistic game system, you and your friends will struggle to keep a dot-com startup afloat as the bad business pours in and the money runs out.

Product Information


  • 102 Full-Color Play Cards
  • 52 Full-Color Employee Cards
  • Illustrated instructions
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Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.4 in 10 reviews

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by Shannon
February 24, 2014

This is a hysterical game for all of us who lived through the zenith of the era and worked in it. We even made new card ideas for our real bosses.

Sad but true
May 19, 2004

Humorous games are common in American game publishing. Some companies, such as Placebo Press and Cheapass, butter their bread with a catalog full of funny games. And while some games succeed in being both good and funny, the landscape is littered with hilarious game components in funny boxes with catchy titles. Games that make you laugh for 10 minutes then make you wish you were doing something else.

Burn Rate, the dot-com card game, is the initial offering from Cool Studio and its premise is funny because it is so grimly true: Players take the role of a start-up dot-com company and simply try to avoid bankruptcy and be the last company to survive.

There are no good business plans in Burn Rate and no way to turn a profit. You spend the whole game churning through bad ideas, dealing with incompetent employees, and hoping to get more funding to last another churn. Its a lot like real life! nod all the software engineers reading this.

So, where does Burn Rate land? Is it really a good game that happens to be funny as well, or is it just a bunch of humor in a box? In my opinion, Burn Rate is a pretty good game, and despite its flaws, has enough going for it for me to recommend it.

From a production standpoint, Burn rate is very good. The 154 cards are sturdy and glossy. The cards are intelligently designed, with color-coding and a simple numbering system, so that their function and requirements are easy to see. Once you understand the game (which you can learn in just a few minutes from the well-written rulebook) theres no need for a reference sheet because everything you need is on the cards.

The game itself is very easy to explain. There are 2 decks in Burn Rate: an Employee Deck and a Play Deck. The employees work in one of 4 departments: Finance, Development, Human Resources, or Sales. There are also expensive contractors to help your engineers work on all the bad ideas that the Sales Department brings on-board. Employees are rated for their skill on a scale of 0 to 3 and have a Burn Rate (their wages). No matter how many employees you have in a department, only the most competent manager contributes his skill to the company. The rest just play Spider solitaire and cruise the web, costing you Burn every turn. The exception to this rule is the Vice-President of the Department. If you hire a VP, his ego requires that he be the department head, even if other employees are more skilled. Truly cruel in Sales, where VP Dawn Ledbetter has a skill of 0 and will swing at any bad idea pitched her way.

The Play deck is the meat of Burn Rate, driving what good and ill fortunes will befall you and your opponents. Play cards have a color and list of numbers on them. The color tells what department it affects and the number is the skill you need from the department head you are targeting.

Play deck cards are divided into two types: Offensive and Defensive. Offensive cards have an arrow at the top and red numbers, so you know to inflict them on another player. These cards are nothing but bad news for the company you hit with them. Offensive cards let you poach employees from other companies or force other companies to make bad hires. The most insidious card is the Bad Idea. Bad ideas are what made the dot-com boom into a bust. Online grocery stores, free internet access, and banner ad servers are just some of the bad ideas in Burn Rate. Hit your opponent with one of these and hell be forced to commit his engineers to work on it, or worse, hire costly contractors if his engineering team is too small.

Defensive cards let you hire and fire employees, complete and release the bad ideas youve been working on, and win much needed funding. Since you dont actually make any money when you finally launch, for example, the Surgeon Generals Medical Advice website, the only way to get more money to handle your Burn is to get funding via your finance department.

Burn Rate plays along quickly. If your hand is a muddle, you can simply discard up to 4 cards, pay your Burn, and draw new cards for next turn. Otherwise, you can play up to 4 cards, resolving their effects one at a time then pay your burn and refill your hand. You always have to have enough workers for all your bad ideas, so if you are short a few engineers you have to pick up contractors to fill out your work force. Contractors are expensive and if they stay in your hire more than a few turns, you can be sure that youre on your way to dot-com oblivion.

Burn Rate moves along quickly and in no time, youll all be suffering such a high Burn that everyone is rocketing toward bankruptcy. Id say if you play a 45 minute game, youve done pretty darn well, maybe even a longer life than a real dot-com or two!

As social satire, Burn Rate is a hit. It nails spot-on the nature of the Internet business industry. The interactions and failures of employees with the business of the company are bound to elicit a sad laugh of commiseration from all of us in the corporate workforce.

And as a game, it holds up pretty well too. Game play is quick and easy. There are no special exceptions to remember and the rules are tight and easy to learn.

If people are going to have a problem with Burn Rate, it will fall into one of four categories:

Lack of control: If the cards are not there, theres nothing you can do. Got the +$20 funding card but need a 3 skill finance manager to play it? Too bad, theres only one guy in the deck with a 3 and youve got dead wood in your hand if hes working for someone else (Well at least until you can poach him). And if youre saddled with several bad ideas and no way to release them, tough luck. Youll be tail-spinning in no time.

No strategic planning: Burn Rate is very tactical. You deal with whats in front of you with whats in your hand. Blowing through your cards is critical, and theres rarely a card thats better to hold than it is to play immediately. Theres no way to build up defenses or set any kind of long-range goals.

Mean Factor: Burn Rate is mean. Not in a I wont trade with you and Im gonna cut off your road in Settlers sense but just in-your-face nasty. Those Offensive cards cant always be heaped on the leader, so you just have to strike where theres opportunity. And because the game inherently forces a downward destruction of your company, its hard to recover.

Player Elimination: Weve grown accustomed to newer games that never eliminate a player from participating. But in Burn Rate, when youre broke, youre out. And everyone else keeps going. Of course, its probably only 10 minutes between the first belly up and the last, but for some, that might be unacceptable.

Put those criticisms together and thats a formula for frustration. Well, to some people. If you go into the game knowing that everyones already one foot in the grave, and that youre in for a chaotic ride with a good dose of humor, youll have a great time playing Burn Rate. I know I do!

by David
Excellent Fun
April 21, 2004

I bought this game on a whim when living in the USA. A co-worker was buying it over the internet and yelled out, 'hey do you want a copy too'. At the time is was quite cheap, so I quickly yelled back 'yes'. What an excellent decision that was.

I brought the game back to Australia with me and when the technologycompany I was working for announced it was shutting down in four weeks I brought the game into the office and we began playing it at luch time. Before long we were playing it 3-4 times per day (we had no work to do) and everyone got hooked. I could have sold 10 copies of the game within two weeks.

Its a good game for four people, you can attack, be attacked, and then extract revenge with some clever plays. I highly recommend it.

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