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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 succeeds on two levels: first, it's great fun to play; and second, it does a great job of abstracting the absurdities of the dot.com business model.
The mechanics of the game are very simple and straightforward - anyone can pick it up and play in just a few minutes. It can be argued that players are at the mercy of the cards they hold, and that is somewhat true, but there are enough opportunities for strategic decisions to be made that you rarely feel you have no control.
The fact that no one earns any income in the game is one of the brilliant and hilarious commentaries on the dot.com business world portrayed by this game. The only way to increase your cash holdings is to secure additional financing. The grim reality is that everyone will eventually run out of money and go out of business - it's just a matter of time. How many times have we seen that played out in Silicon Valley and elsewhere?
One element of the game that isn't immediately obvious is the importance of table talk. Each player is constantly vulnerable to having other players foist costly 'Bad Ideas' on them. A little bit of pleading and coercing can go a long way to redirecting the flow of Bad Ideas to another player. It's all about creating an image that you are poor, and convincing everyone else that another player is wealthy. Call it effective marketing...
This game is a definite favorite with my group, and I can easily recommend it.
By the way, we combined two sets to allow up to 8 players. The game takes longer with each additional player, but it's still just as fun. If you do this, I suggest you also add a rule that in any given round, no more than 3 players can take action against a single player. This preserves the original 4-player game proportions and prevents ganging up on a player unfairly.
Initially, I found this game to be a bit complicated. The rules weren't very clear. However, once I started playing it and testing the waters, it became quite addictive. It's tremendous fun, and depending on who you're play with, can be pretty competitive. You'll also find that there are various strategies you can use to try to win. Those who were in the dot-com business will find this game particularly amusing and fairly true to life!
A truly unique and fun to play game. Feel the power behind firing, hiring, and engineering your way out of oblivion. The game is NOT about who can make the most money, but rather who can loose all their money slowest. Losing your capital is inevitable because of your built in Burn Rate. This is a great game for people of all ages.
I picked this one up on the strength of a review by Larry Levy, and he wasn't wrong. It's a well-designed, nicely paced and fun game. I'm happy that I was steered in its direction, so I am paying it forward a little. I'm sure the game's target audience extends beyond past and present dot-commers, but possibly not THAT far. In any case, capitalists and students of the Peter Principle can't help but enjoy this lighthearted game.
My co-workers and I (all IT/tech folk) tried this over lunch this afternoon, and the one ex-dot-commer in our group came out on top. Perhaps he was playing from experience?
Very low learning curve with this game, and it's topical subject matter made it all the more fun to play.
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!
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.