Quick Look: Thrown Under the Bus – The Game of Office Politics
Designer: James S. Cole
Artists: James S. Cole & Steve Ellis (I)
Year Published: Currently on Kickstarter (Link at the bottom of this review)
Thrown Under the Bus, the light hearted Game of Office Politics, TUtB is packed with cringeworthy buzzwords and all-too-familiar office tropes that will keep players entertained while they steal credit for coworkers’ hard work in an attempt to advance up the corporate ladder. But be careful. Fellow associates are attempting to do the same thing, and once you play a dirty trick on them, they now have access to this new trick. Anyone who has worked in an office environment knows there is no more brutal kill-or-be-killed workplace than the modern office setting.
Thrown Under the Bus (TUtB) is designed so that non-gamers could easily learn and enjoy but still has the complexities and advanced tactics that will keep seasoned gamers engaged. TUtB hits that delicate balance while creating a fun thematic experience. An average game takes between 30 and 60 minutes depending on group size of 2-6 players and their experience level. The Ages 16+ is more of a theme suggestion, the mechanics and rules can easily be understood by younger players but we felt why get them jaded about work before they enter the workforce. Let them discover that joy the same way we did…
Don’t let the cut throat theme fool you, Thrown Under the Bus is fun and cathartic release at the end of a long week of dealing with your coworkers quirks and protecting your station at work.
A Memo from Shane “Bogue” Bogardus – CEO of BOGUE Corp.
Attention Benefits Department,
Having fired myself from corporate life, I resigned myself to take on this corporate game challenge of reviewing Thrown Under the Bus. I was pleasantly surprised and glad I did. I survived similar experiences of the situations regurgitated onto the cardboard conference table within the flavor text which brought back many great and ….well… not so great memories and moments with past colleagues.
First the setup – (not to get that person fired) but of the game. Preparing the table to play was as easy as making up and padding the number of cold calls you made that week during your one on one with management. Yes that easy! It took less than 5 minutes to get playing with areas created and dictated as to where each token and card was to be placed for the start of a meeting I normally would have been late for.
Thematically you can see the attention to detail with the conference room and player boards known as your “desktop” which provides an above average playable space and designed layout. Though this is a prototype version I received from the designer, I know the final sizing will be modified to minimize cost in materials to bring this product to market. The playful illustrated artwork is very easy to identify and interact with. I encourage designer James S. Cole to keep that level of simplistic card text and the math that goes with it at this versions current level.
Once play began, unlike many euro and advanced American made games, it took less than a turn to fully grasp the concept of promoting oneself while demoting your fellow “colleague” at the esteemed Bogue Corporation (ticker symbol: LOSR).
Using the days of the week with the wrap around mechanic to push actions to the following week (Friday to Monday and Monday back to Friday) gave the five day work week that much needed overtime flow of activity to deliver the full value of all cards played each turn.
The game is formatted in the BEST PRACTICE style of rounds and turns with each player taking a turn within a non-static number of rounds to reach the end of play. Each round consists of 3 phases:
The work week– All players starting with the well themed first player called the Employee of the Week and moving clockwise turn order lay one card and one Influence token down on any of the days of the week on their desktop OR that of an opponent. These are laid down with backside up keeping the information of that days’ activities secret until Phase 2 begins.
Friday meeting – Each player starting again with the EotW reveal their cards starting with Monday and working their way towards the weekend.
This process activates either a math equation of tallying up their pluses and minuses to move further up or down the promotional track around the conference table. There are bonus cards you gain as you get promoted that activate which are either an event or action card the player must implement according to the text on the card. This action generally moves a player up or down the corporate ladder further each round.
End of the Week – Players cleanup their desktop, discard played cards, reset their boards, shuffle (if needed) and deal 5 new cards for the next round.
While rounds and player turns continue, the mechanic that stands out in Thrown Under the Bus is the process of collecting not only your used cards to your discard pile at the end for future use but that of your opponents. The cards that were played on your desktop board by your opponent now become yours for future use. They may have used one of their negative cards to reduce your status at Bogue Corp which, as the rulebook so creatively notes, is a reminder to you of what that colleague did to you providing you ammo for future retaliations in the game. Very few deck builders or card manipulation games incorporate this critical element that sets this design apart from most. Nicely thought out touch to the overall theme!
The other mechanic that stood out like a sales expense at a gentleman’s club was how a FIRED employee/player of Bogue Corp (dropping below 1 status at the board room table) can continue playing and influence the final winner. This made for some after work/at the bar collusion a lot of fun. Dropping the unpopular player down a rank or so highlighted your need within game play to make allies with those that looked to be on the outs with “management”. The ol’ line “It wasn’t me who ratted you out, it was him!” came from the mouths of many during the sessions. This feature kept all involved from the beginning to the end which in today’s quick-to-lose-interest attention span of watching :10 sec TikTok vids at work made the game engaging from start to finish.
Winning conditions are simple with TWO possible outcomes. First, the constant act of moving your spot at the table up from the mailroom to Senior VP is at the forefront. The first player to ensconce themselves in that CUSHY seat with the corner office wins. The second and less resolved outcome is running out of the “corporate” deck cards in the center of the table. This might be more of a reality with a 5 or 6 player game given the amount of cards played but we did not see it happen in the games we played.
Overall the game lives up to its promise of a simple to set up and easy to learn game for any extended lunch-at-work play or weekly gaming table. If kept in the cupboard where the old 1990s VCR collecting dust once called home, it would be a perfect work place addition. You will most certainly find it to be the go-to entertainment for today’s corporate office recreation rooms. You know the room; the unlimited snack bar with the ever flowing kombucha tap and overflowing granola station. Mmmmm!
As CEO of Bogue Corp I authorize the use of this “team-building” tool to further the cohesion and synergy of our organization of truly talented individuals. Keep up the good work team!
CC:// HR Department
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