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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.
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.
I purchased this game because I've 'been there, done that', and I like games with a sense of humor. (This game even pokes fun at itself; one of the bad ideas for a 'dot-com card game'!) It has become the runaway hit at the office here; we will routinely play a couple times a week at lunch. In fact, it has become so popular that one of the guys went and got his own copy so that we could run more than one table.
The game is well done, easy to learn and plays in about 30-45 minutes, perfect for lunch. We routinely play rather cutthroat, sticking one guy with the worst sales VP and the worst development VP, which means that the poor victim gets all the bad ideas and never gets rid of them. We've had several games come right down to the wire, with one guy winning with a funding of 0.
For a fairly quick and raucous card game with a lot of interaction among the players, you can't do much better. For me, it ranks up there with Bohnanza.
If you're looking for a game where being devious is part of your strategy or you have aspirations to explore your inner nastiness, this game will satisfy you. You'll hire and fire your employees, poach employees from other players, force bad hires, cause bad ideas to happen to good dot.coms and maybe, if you're lucky, have one of your competitors go bankrupt! Life is good in the dot.com world. You'll laugh, curse, scream and give evil looks, but you'll never give up. This game has become a favorite with our gaming group. It's easy to learn and once you get the hang of it, you'll find yourself being a shrewd business person. There is a slight turn angst because you're trying to figure out how to make your cards work best for you, but that's really minor. It's a really terrific game!
burn rate: (noun) The rate at which a company burns through cash, implying a negative cash-flow (i.e. more cash goes out than comes in).
Burn Rate's sub-title is 'The dot-com card game', and that's exactly what this game is about: controlling the burn rate of your dot-com start-up. Much as the way Scott Adams' cartoon 'Dilbert' mimics high-tech life in a cube farm, this game mimics life in a high-tech start-up in the late nineties (at least in the US). I know because I've worked for a couple of them, and indeed am still working for one of the few survivors.
Art imitates life. It's a tired cliche, perhaps, but only because it is often so very true. So too does this game imitate life. The basic premise is that you're running a dot-com startup, and your goal is to go broke last. That you will go broke is pre-destined; it's only a matter of time.
You have a hand of 6 cards, and the basic flow of the game is to play good cards for yourself and bad cards on your opponents. You may play or discard up to 4 cards each turn, but you may not both play and discard in the same turn. You then pay your expenses and re-fill your hand up to 6, and play passes to the next person.
In this game your only expenditure of money is for employee salaries. As such, almost half of the cards in the game represent employees. Each employee belongs to one of four departments: HR (Human Resources), Finance, Sales and Development. There are no actual workers in any department other than Development, only managers and vice-presidents. (I'm sure there's some subtle comment being made here by the designer, but I'm afraid it escapes me .....) Each manager or VP has a skill rating (0 to 3) with a higher value being better. Each department must have a single department head, which is usually your best manager. If the department has a VP in it, though, then the VP must be made the department head, regardless of their skill rating. A good strategy, therefore, is to force your opponents to hire a lousy VP, especially when they have a really good manager! The manager doesn't leave, so they'll wind up paying for both the bad VP as well as the now-useless manager. Excess managers and VPs are hard to get rid of, too.
At any time, only one person from each department will be available for hire. To start the game, each player will in turn choose any one of the currently available employees to hire, replacing the card taken with another from that department, so that four are always available for hire. When everyone has four starting employees, the game begins.
The cards that make up a player's hand can only be played if the appropriate skill level requirement is met. When playing cards on yourself, you must have a department head whose skill level is at least that required by the card (having a more skilled department head allows you to play more and better cards). Conversely, when playing cards on someone else, the card played must meet or beat the opponent's department head (so the better the opponent's skill level, the harder it is to play cards against them). In either case, not having a department head at all means that that department has a skill level of zero, making it harder to play good cards on yourself, and easier to play bad cards on others.
Examples of good cards would be Hire and Fire cards (HR department) and Funding cards (Finance). Examples of bad cards to play on others include Bad Hire cards (HR) and Bad Idea cards (Sales). The Bad Idea cards are the heart of the game, and all come from real ideas of real companies. My favorites are the 'On-line Pet Store' idea (complete with a sock puppet on the card) and the 'Name-Your-Price Auctions' site (with a guy in a Star Trek uniform singing on stage). Each of these Bad Ideas require 1-4 Engineers to staff the resulting project. As mentioned earlier, Engineers are the only non-management employees available for hire, and managers and VPs in development can't be used to staff projects (because we all know they don't really know what they're doing, right?). They are good for something, though, as the only way to get rid of a Bad Idea is to throw a Release Party, and your ability to do so depends on the Development department head's skill level. If you don't have enough engineers to staff all of your projects, you must hire contractors, and they cost 3 times what an engineer would. There is no limit to the number of contractors in the game; as in real life, there's a limitless supply of them (they come out of the woodwork, seemingly).
As a game, it works well. Obviously there's quite a bit of the 'screw your neighbor' element to this game. By extension, there's a great deal of player interaction, too. And as I said at the beginning, the theme here is so strong and accurately done, it borders on being eerie.
On the less-positive side of things, though, you never seem to have the cards you really need when you need them (unless you're lucky), and players wind up spending many turns simply discarding cards. Yes, I suppose that exceptional planning can help, but with only a 6-card hand, there's only so much you can anticipate and plan for. In some games these kinds of conflicting decisions can lead to a deliciously excruciatingly painful decision making process, but this game is just too light to be in that category (indeed, one of the Bad Idea cards in the game is the game itself!). Perhaps being able to play and discard cards in the same turn would help cycle the cards more quickly? I'll suggest this the next time we play. Another thing to keep in mind is that this is an elimination game, and some folks are not overly fond of those (myself included).
Despite all of that, I like the game, and it just begs for expansions; I'll likely buy them if/when they come out. Some ideas I have: 1) a gifted engineer who demands a signing bonus or higher salary; 2) a money wasting HR idea, e.g. free lunches every day that costs an extra $1000/month, but gives you a free hire in any department when first played; or 3) a dead-weight developer who not only doesn't contribute to a project, but actually costs you an extra engineer just to counteract the damage they do. The possibilities are endless!
It may be a bit hard to find the game, but you can visit their home page for some guidance (http://www.burnrategame.com). I suggest hunting it down if any of the above sounded appealing, as it is good, light fun. And if you have ever lived through a dot-com, start-up experience, I'm willing to bet that your therapist will agree that this game will help the healing process along quite nicely.