Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Sotiris Tsantilas &
Nikolas Sakaloglou


No. of Players:
2 - 4

G@mebox Star



As suggested by the title, Briefcase is a business game in which the players take the roles of managers, and in this position they will acquire ownership in different companies in order to gain victory points. However, the companies do not just generate victory points, but they also possess different production capacities and special abilities which the players will use during the course of the game.

Briefcase operates on a modern deck-building mechanism, but the authors Sotiris Tsantilas and Nikolas Sakaloglou have tried to give this mechanism an independent, innovative twist, and so the player decks of action cards in Briefcase are not made up from different cards which are drafted for every new game, but instead the decks of the players only may contain four different types of cards which are available in every game. You might be tempted to think that such a restricted choice of cards is not nearly enough for a deck-building game since there is no variety, but these thoughts will be quickly dismissed when you have a look at the company cards included in the game. A total of 30 different companies is available, and only 15 of these companies will be drafted to be used in an upcoming game. Even though the companies will not be mixed with the players' decks of action cards, it is the special abilities of the companies which will give the game variety and a good deal of strategic capacities.

At the beginning of the game each player's deck is made up of a total of 3 Buy-cards, 3 Activate-cards and 6 Obstacle-cards. Each player starts with a hand of 4 randomly drawn cards, and at the end of their turn the players will discard all cards from the hand and fill it anew with four freshly drawn cards. As usual in deckbuilding games, the discards cards are shuffled whenever the deck is exhausted, including all new cards which have been purchased in previous turns.

The Buy-cards may be used to purchase companies and resources, and everthing purchased will be placed openly in front of the players. Resources are stored on the player's storage card, with the limitation that a player may only keep a maximum of 5 resources in storage at the end of his turn. The only exception to this is the Energy-resource which can be stored in any quantity. Companies on the other hand are placed openly before the player, but all freshly acquired companies (including the Power Plant which is given to each player at the start of the game) need to be activated in order to become useful.

Each company card lists a combination of resources which is necessary for its activation, and if a player plays an Activation-card he may spend the required amount of resources in order to activate one of his companies by flipping its card over to its backside. The activation of a company has the following effects:

  1. The company will score some victory points at the end of the game.
  2. The company will immediately produce some action cards which the player adds to his discard pile.
  3. The player now can use the special ability of the company.

As you can see, it is the production capabilities and special abilities of their companies which the players must take into consideration. Especially the special abilities are manifold, and so a player may be able to store more resources (Warehouses), remove unused cards from his deck (Oil Refinery), replace a Buy-card with two other action cards of the same type (Logistics Company) etc… Especially the cheaper companies give the players access to resource- and card-related abilities, whereas the more expensive companies will grant access to more sophisticated abilities which may result in bonus victory points at the end of the game or possibilities to interact with the other players. So, a player may get additional victory points for each Buy-card in his deck (Investment Company), he may take a personnel-resource card from each other player's storage (Media Company), or he may force the other players to discard a card from their hand (Law Firm).

Of course, all the special abilities listed here are just examples for the broader variety found in the game, but it it should be noted that especially the more powerful abilities do not stay active once they have been activated. Instead, the use of certain powerful special ability requires the player owning the company to flip it back to its deactivated side, and now the player must once again activate the company in order to use it again.

I have not yet mentioned the Obstacle-cards. At the beginning of the game the only use associated with these cards is to block access to certain resources, moving blocking cards from one resource-type to another. However, during the course of the game players will find other uses for their Obstacle-cards by activating specific companies, and so the usefulness of this type of cards will slowly be enhanced.

The Hire-cards are not even included in the player decks at the beginning of the game, but once again the players may get access to these cards by acquiring certain companies. Later on the hire-cards may be used to get access to the production of other players' companies by playing a Hire-card together with the resources necessary to activate a company. However, the company's owner will profit from this, since he will get half of the resources which had to be paid by the hiring player.

The playing mechanism found in Briefcase is refreshingly original, since it departs from the "normal" deckbuilding mechanism which is commonly found nowadays. Instead of giving the players access to lots of different cards which they must add to a quickly growing deck, the player decks in Briefcase are much better manageable due to their quite restricted contents. In fact, it seems that the rather restricted choice of four types of action cards effectively reduces drawing luck in comparison to other deckbuilding games, since each card-type will be revealed more often. This gives the players a slightly better possibility to plan ahead, provided that they have not watered down their action decks by adding too many cards of each type.

A well-composed action deck gives the players room to focus on the companies, and herein lies the key to winning Briefcase because the abilities of the companies are the backbone of a player's strategy. The players are challenged to develop effective production chains, and while such an optimization task usually leaves each player to focus on his own fate, Briefcase also offers some moderate possibilities for player interaction due to some specific companies.

To sum it up, Briefcase comes up with an interesting combination of card-based deckbuilding and resource-management mechanisms which are usually found in boardgames, and it is the first game I have found which offers such a combination. The deckbuilding-mechanism has merged quite smoothly with the other components of the rules, and I rather like the fact that the players do not just manage an ever-growing pile of cards, but instead they may try to plan ahead and see how their strategy works out. All this results in a quite innovative kind of challenge!

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany