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Welcome to the world of the powerful, of those who pull the right strings at the right time from the shadows of the big companies. Each player becomes one of these people, trying to increase their power and influence by hiring employees, creating new departments and taking over the sought-after positions of divisional heads to procure influence and privileges. Divisional heads can resign to join the board of directors (in hopes of becoming the chairman, of course or get hired as an external consultant. All the while, players are investing in stocks and bribing other players to make their way to the top.
Just a quick review of Power Struggle. Got it for Christmas last year and my game group LOVES it. Not a game for new gamers though. Very complex rules that take a while to sort out. But once you get it everything clicks together fairly quickly. It's the right combo of strategy, interaction, and savvy. Highly recommended.
There are are a lot of cool mechanics and well designed features. I like this bribe mechanism very much because it makes you feel like you're in a dirty company climbing to the top. This is definitely a game that I want to play again and again.
[Editor's note: this review was originally posted to BoardGameGeek
First off, I'd like to mention that this is my very first review. I've been a member of this site since 2003, but I've never been much of a writer. So why, after so many years, am I writing my first one? Because no one else has, and this game deserves attention. So please be gentle. :p
Oh, and one more thing. I wrote the latter half of this review while suffering from stomach flu, so if I all of the sudden become incoherent, you know why. =P
In Power Struggle, players act as corporate puppeteers, pulling strings from the shadows of a big company. Players strive to increase their power and influence within the company by hiring and firing employees, creating new departments, acquiring the special services of division heads, investing in stocks, controlling the board of directors, and bribing other players. The first person to achieve 4 of the following 6 conditions wins the game:
Upon opening the box, you'll find an abundance of colorful, high-quality components: a large and lavishly illustrated board, a number of event and archenemy cards, gorgeous paper money, over 100 meeples (managers), 60 cubes (employees), player aids, bribe folders, and thick privilege tiles. Eggertspiel never seems to fail at delivering extraordinary components.
The rulebook, unfortunately, is the most disappointing part of the game. It seems to be organized well, but there are quite a few typos, errors, and unclear rules -- at least in the English translation. With divisions, departments, main departments, department heads, division heads, employees, members of the board, a chairman of the board, and many other terms that are sometimes not adequately explained, things can get awfully confusing.
I read the rules front-to-back twice and reviewed them a 3rd time before playing, and yet we still referenced the rulebook at least twenty times in our first game. This is not to say the game is terribly complicated. It isn't. Most of the actions available to the players make perfect sense. There are simply quite a few different actions available, and quite a few ways to score points, and wrapping your head around it all can be tricky.
On the positive side, the designer has gone to heroic effort to highlight these errors, in threads such as this one:
Power Struggle is primarily an area control game -- complete with variable player powers and frequent backstabbing -- played in a series of rounds. Each round consists of a directors' meeting followed by 4 to 7 department turns.
A directors' meeting is simply a preparation phase for the round, where the players elect a new chairman of the board and determine new division heads (both based on majorities), assign privilege cards to the chairman and division heads, score influence points, and sort the event cards.
The player with the most members of the board of directors becomes the new chairman, and the players with the most department managers in a division, become division heads; the same player may hold one, none, or several of these positions. The chairman and the division heads each offer unique special powers. Obtaining them is crucial.
So what are these privileges?
In one of the more unique elements of the game, the head of the communications division next takes 6 random event cards, along with the payment card and the directors' meeting card, and creates an event deck with them in any order he wishes, with two restrictions: the payment card (where players are paid for holding certain positions and owning shares) must come before the directors' meeting card (an end-of-the-round card), and the directors' meeting card must be in the bottom half of the deck (the 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th card). The events and their order are only known by the head of Communications.
The events and their order impact the game in a number of ways. Many of the event cards raise or lower the motivation level, which in turn affects several of the privileges offered to the division heads, as shown above. Other events immediately penalize or reward players holding certain positions.
Next, there are 4-7 department turns, depending on how many event cards precede the directors' meeting card in the event deck. At the beginning of each department turn, the top card of the event deck is first revealed and resolved. Then, beginning with the communications head and proceeding around table, each player takes one action.
There are quite a few different actions available to the players, so I'll summarize:
Hire Employees, Found New Departments, and Restructure Departments involve adding or moving employees and department heads (henceforth called managers). The player with the most managers in a division will become the new division head during the directors' meeting. The number of employees is the tie-breaker.
Resign as Divisional Head: When the division head resigns, he may do one of two things: 1) move both the division head and all of his managers from that division to the board of directors, where they will score influence points during each directors' meeting and may become the chairman of the board, or 2) turn his division head into an external counsel -- one of the victory conditions. Either way, the division is closed, and all other employees and managers of the division, including those belonging to other players, are fired!
Bribe Other Players: A player can make a secret bribe (by placing cash in the bribe folder) to obtain a corruption point and a privilege card from another player. A privilege acquired through a bribe has a stronger effect than the standard privilege of a divisional head. If the bribed player accepts the bribe, he too gets a corruption point, but if he rejects the offer, he has to fire one of his employees!
Use a Privilege Card: See the Development privilege and the Legal & Patents privilege above.
Buy Points: A player can dismiss employees or spend money to advance on the competence (victory point) tracks:
There are several other ways to get points, too. Influence can be obtained during the directors' meeting by holding positions on the board of directors. Main departments can be created and scored with the Found New Department action. And Counsels can be acquired with the Resignation action. On the other hand, Shares can only be bought with cash with the Buy Points action, and Corruption only comes from making or accepting bribes. Some of the privilege cards give bonuses to these actions as well.
Ok, so now that you understand the basics of obtaining points on the tracks of influence, shares, main departments, corruption, and counsels, you may be wondering, what is the 6th condition, defeating your archenemy?
At the beginning of the game, each player is given a secret archenemy color card and a secret archenemy competence card. The color card identifies one other player color, and the competence card lists 3 of the 5 competence tracks. This victory condition is fulfilled by leading the named archenemy at any time during the game on all 3 of the competence tracks listed. If you happen to draw your own player color as your archenemy, then you can fulfill this condition by leading *all* of the other players in 2 of the 3 competences listed.
If a player has at least 4 of the 6 conditions fulfilled on his turn, he may declare it. The remainder of the department turn is then played, and if he remains the only player with 4 conditions fulfilled, he wins. If any other player is able to meet 4 of the 6 conditions on the same department turn, then the player with the most money wins.
For the sake of brevity, I've left out many of the more finer details of the game, but you should now have a basic idea of how the game works.
So what do I think? Power Struggle is a mega-hit for me. It very well may be my game of the year. The game offers a number of fresh twists on standard area control mechanics, multiple paths to victory, and plenty of room for crafty play. The variable (and unknown) length of each round due to the order of the event cards and the enhanced power of bribed privileges are both ingenius.
I'm not the only one who loves the game. Says Eggertspiele's Wolf Wittenstein, "As far as I am concerned this is one of the best games for a party of three players that I have encountered in the last decade. The game usually holds the tension up to the very last minute." It's no wonder that the game won the Hippodice 2009 award for best full-length game, and it's also no wonder that Eggertpiele raced it to market within a matter of months. The freshman designer deserves a wild round of applause.
I can hardly wait for my next game of POWER STRUGGLE!