I know, the phrase “learn economics” or, for that matter, “learn entrepreneurship” sounds like the worst possible foundation for a fun game. And yet, if you think about it, quite a few games, from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan, are built around basic economic principles of scarcity, supply and demand, and investment risk assessment. Ironically, Monopoly was originally created to show the evils and dangers of capitalism and monopolies, but that’s not really the game we have tucked on the family games shelf nowadays.
GoVenture is a company focused on the educational potential of games as a way to teach business fundamentals and the latest in their line of games is GoVenture Entrepreneur. It’s a pretty basic card game where you buy storefronts, then seek to pair up related products and potential buyers to earn money. Earn enough money and you can win the game. There’s a second winning condition too, related to world trade, but we’ll get back to that in a bit. To start, here’s the main card layout for this competitive game:
Along the bottom are the main cards: Products, Customers and Actions. The top part shows money, the world map, and the list of businesses. The graphics immediately tell you that this is aimed at an adolescent market, though it nonetheless has some strategies that put it in the same category as Uno or Mille Bourne to me. Look more closely at the map an you can see all six products: soccer ball (sports), lollipop (candy), game controller (video games), robot (toys), guitar (music) and baby animals (pet store). These, of course, correspond to the six business types. More importantly if you sell two of a single product or one each of the two products in a world region, you earned that region in your area: Get all three and it’s an alternative strategy for winning.
Though it’s a bit confusing, players start out with two product cards and a “free” business that they can choose immediately or after looking at their product cards. Obviously, you want to choose a business that matches your products so you have the possibility of selling them and earning some revenue.
Speaking of which, here’s my hand a few rounds into the game:
The soccer ball and two lollipops are my products – they are left face-up on the playing surface – and the green edged card is an Action card. Read it closely and you’ll see it’s always either something that adversely affects another player or benefits you. Or both. I have a Candy Business, and lollipops, so customer Bill Strummer is a great match: Along the bottom of his card you can see he’s in the market for candy or musical instruments. Selling candy to him is worth $4, which is good: First player to $20 wins the game!
Play is turn-based and a player always starts by picking up a product. They can then turn in any two products for an action card (smart strategy!), trade with other players or sell customers or action cards with a value to buy additional businesses. Finally, the third phase of a turn involves trying to sell your products to a customer: You can either grab the top discarded customer or pick one from the face-down deck. Either way, you can either sell to them or not, and if you cannot (because you don’t have the right product and/or business) they are immediately discarded.
That’s it. The fun’s really in the randomness of the Action cards. Here are a couple to illustrate their powers:
The Big Tip one is most notable: It’s worth $4 towards your $20 goal for earnings, so if you’ve hit $16 you can play this and BAM! win the game. Nice. Oh! All cards are face up and visible to every player except you should keep your action cards a secret. If it were up to me, the product cards would be secret too, but that ain’t the rules, so if you don’t like house rules, well, there’s very little left unknown in the gameplay.
Further along in the game, here’s a hand that’s almost, but not quite, the winner:
Add up the customer sales and it’s only $18: $2 more to go. Then again, notice the Action card: play Lawsuit and the other player has to pay you $2. Which is enough that you would indeed win the game. More importantly, from a strategy perspective, notice that I like to acquire lots of different businesses early in the game to maximize the products I can sell to customers. Being only able to sell one type of product means you only have a 1/3 chance that any given customer will be interested in your goods, and, worse, you have to have that product in your inventory too. WIth three of the six businesses as possibilities, the odds increase. Short term vs. long term strategy.
Surprisingly, I opted not to play the Action card and wait until I could next sell a product, which was a mistake: My opponent pulled off a big $6 sale and won the darn game!
In fact, she won with $24 in sales, not just that $20 limit. But such is the risk of any game, particularly when you have to decide whether you want to play super competitive, knowing it’ll mean the other player or players will also go after you, or play nice, in which case you might just miss that winning play.
There’s a lot I like about GoVenture Entrepreneur, but frankly it’s rather simplistic, a game that feels like it might be compelling to middle school-age children, with artwork aimed at an even younger crowd. On the plus side, you don’t need any particular literacy for most of the game so you could teach it to very young players and/or have foreign language editions where it would be a fun way to learn the Chinese or Spanish word for soccer ball or guitar, for example.
Mechanically there are some tweaks that could make this better too, top among them thinking through the conceptual game. I’d like to see “warehouses” added (as suggested in the above Action card) where you have a play card that has a small number of slots for products. Acquire the wrong products – those that don’t match your businesses – and you’ve got no income at all. The numbers should be bigger too: a piece of candy for $4 is reasonable, but buying a business for $4 is just silly. These changes add to the complexity level fo the game, but I think that’d be just fine since it’s very lightweight as it is, probably a complexity rating of 1 or 2 on a 1-10 scale. If you don’t have young kids or aren’t a teacher, this probably isn’t the business game for you.
Oh, and there’s a second variation of the game that’s included in the dual-game box: Monster. Same basic gameplay, but instead of customers and products, it’s monsters and bounty:
Fun and a lot more personality, but still a really lightweight game that will quickly bore all but the youngest gamers.
GoVenture Entrepreneur & Monster Card Game. $35.00 at GoVentureGames.com
Disclosure: GoVenture sent me a copy of the game in return for this review.