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Evil Corp Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look: Evil Corp


Designer: Alfie Dennen, Allix Harrison
Artist: Michał Ozorowski, Liam Brazier
Publisher: Newbie Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 45-120 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Evil Corp. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.



Review:

tl;dr: Build your evil empire quickly, look great doing it.

Getting to the GameSetup for Evil Corp is pretty slick. The hexagonal board folds into a stack of trapezoids, and the centerpiece holds all the cards you'll need for the game. Unfold the board around the centerpiece, and choose a starting player. Each player then chooses which evil CEO (is that redundant?) to use, claiming also that CEO's special power cards. Deal each player 3 Opportunity cards and $5B in cash. Time to get megalomaniacal.



The goal of Evil Corp is crazy simple, but the rulebook won't do you many favors when it comes to explaining the game's fuzzier elements. To win, collect and buy all three phases of your evil plan before anyone else can accumulate theirs. Do so, and you're *almost* guaranteed to win. On your turn, you will collect revenue from the shell businesses you've scattered about the globe, refresh your hand of opportunity cards, and then use your cash and cards to cement your victory. Each individual card is either a Phase or an Agent. Phase cards are color-coded to the CEOs, and must be built in order from one to three. These cards may also be used for their Nasty Business effects instead, varying across a variety of actions from stealing money or businesses from your opponents to gaining money from the bank for laughing in a really, REALLY evil fashion (yes, really). 

Playing the GameEvil Corp can feel like multiplayer solitaire at times, and can get even worse at higher player counts. With six CEOs, we found that players didn't have enough to do or care about on other people's turns. I think that 3-5 players is the sweet spot here. Player interactivity is pretty low, but when it happens, the game really gets interesting. Mainly, you'll be playing with the other people at the table in two ways: the aforementioned Nasty Business card effects, and Hostile Takeovers. For the former, forego the phase portion of your opportunity card, and follow the instructions on the bottom half. The latter requires a little more explanation.



I mentioned earlier that winning the game only happens after you've completed all three phases of your particular evil plan. You can choose to construct someone else's phase instead, and this provides both benefits and drawbacks. By playing phases, you get to increase your HQ level, a really cool 3D corporate model that looks and feels excellent on the board. The higher your HQ level is, the higher your maximum hand size gets. The more opportunities you can hold in your hand and draw on your turn, the more likely it is that you'll find your colored phases. The drawback to this is that you're putting out the phases your opponents need, and because they're not yours, your enemies can purchase them from you. This ends up really only being a drawback in name only, since if they do, not only do you get the money back from playing it the first time, but you also don't lose the HQ level you gained. In practice, this feels both weird and for the best. Setting you back a level would draw the game out considerably, as the early game is spent with everyone dropping phases 1 and 2 to get their hand size up, and then just cycling through cards on their turns. 

Evil Corp also handles a fluctuating world economy by adding in World Event cards at the end of each player's turn. The last thing you do is draw a World Event card, and then roll the game's provided chunky d6 to determine which section of the board it applies to. These allot anywhere from +/- 1 or 2 billion to the revenue phase, to even wiping out revenue in that section completely. There are lots of ways to manipulate the markets through opportunity cards though, so even this last event doesn't mean the end of the world. Evil Corp leaves that part to you.



The endgame is a neat addition that was met with mixed feelings at our table. Once a player constructs all three of their phases, their next turn signals the Endgame phase. On this phase, players at the table can play Agent cards in an attempt to subvert their lair and remove them from the game. The Agent rolls a die attacking the defending CEO's phase 1 card. If the CEO rolls higher than the Agent, the Agent is thwarted and that CEO or another may try again. If the Agent rolls higher than the CEO, they attack phase 2. If the table as a whole is able to successfully attack all three phases, the CEO is removed from the game, and gameplay continues with the next player. The trick here is that the defending CEO gets a bonus to their roll equal to the phase being attacked (+1 for phase 1, +2 for phase 2, etc). So, Agents have to be incredibly lucky to get through. It's very, very hard to eliminate someone in this way, but that feels ok since an Evil CEO with their hand on the evil plan button should have a pretty decently defended lair. 

Overall, Evil Corp is a good game that needs just a little more tweaking to be great. It plays quickly, looks great on the table, and the theme is fun. There are small rule quirks that just don't work, though, and I hope they're cleaned up by the time the game ships. My prime example of this is an Auditing mechanic. The game rules state that at any point, if a player takes an illegal action, the other players can yell "Audit!" and call them out. If the illegally-acting player can't reasonably state what they did was an honest mistake, they are fined $2B by the auditing player. If they can explain it away, then the player who is auditing them is forced to give them $2B. The rulebook example of this is drawing a card above your hand limit. I can't see a situation where either side of the argument "wins." Whether an honest mistake, or an attempt to gain an advantage through breaking the rules, you're going to defend yourself by claiming it was an accident. How do you decide which is which? It fully stops the game to determine just how big of a jerk either player is being, and it's not great. We completely ignored this rule in our games, and didn't miss it.

Artwork and Components: Blindingly outstanding. I can't say enough about how truly great this game looks. The artwork on the CEO cards is just phenomenal and really lends a great sense of theme. The board is tactical digital lines, laid subtly in gray on black, and feels exactly like what I would imagine any maniacal executive would want to have immediate access to. Opportunity and World Event card art is just "fine," but it's possible that I have placeholder art, and the design could change before shipment. If it doesn't, though, the rest of the game more than makes up for this tiny hiccup.
  


The components are similarly great. The centerpiece of the board houses the cash and cards perfectly, though we did want a dedicated discard area. The paper cash looks really nicely done, and the current kickstarter has a backing tier with upgraded plasticated cash, and I'm REALLY excited to see what that brings. The business cubes are simple wood, but again, could be placeholder. The CEO HQ constructed corporate art is absolutely inspired and adds a really great eye-catching piece to what could normally be pretty blah. Again, the look and feel of this game is absolutely outstanding.

The Good: Game looks and feels crazy good. Thematic elements are wonderful, and gameplay overall is tight and quick (time is listed at 45-120 mins, I can't imagine this game taking 2 hours once you get the hang of it, even at 6 players).

The Bad: The rulebook needs an overhaul, it's too editorial and doesn't fully explain vague concepts well. Higher player counts give too much downtime between turns.



Score: With a theme taken straight out of your favorite spy novel, Evil Corp does an admirable job of balancing solid gameplay with a great feel. It's just tongue-in-cheek enough to be winking at the genre, but subtle enough to be taken seriously. A phenomenal table presence excuses a couple of minor game annoyances, and there's still time to clean those up. The bottom line is that there's a solid game in this box, and it's worth a look. I'm giving Evil Corp a score of Here's My Evil Plan, in Detail.




Check out Evil Corp on:

     

On KICKSTARTER now! Campaign Ends July 14, 2018.

About the Author:


Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
Evil Corp Kickstarter Preview Evil Corp Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on June 22, 2018 Rating: 5

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