Review: Downsize

Game Name: Downsize Published Year: 2016
Game Publisher: Braincrack Games Player Scale: 2 – 6
Game Designer: Lewis Shaw Run Time: Less than 30 mins

You’re the Boss, the CEO, the Big Cheese, and you only care about one thing:  profit.  In this rapid-fire (pun intended) light, small box, card game you’ll want to make money fast, and sack employees off faster to Downsize efficiently.  Get out while the going is good to sit back on your nest-egg of Returns while your opponents duke it out over that last pitiful million dollars.  This is Lewis Shaw’s Downsize.Downsize In Play

To say this game’s mechanics are slick and simple is an understatement; each player may take one of two actions (or one of three, if playing with the Market Movements expansion that also comes in the box).

Hire an employee or Fire employees.

When you Hire an employee you draw a card from the Employee deck and add it to your hand.  Employees come in two types; Specialists and Standard.  Specialists can be played (Fired) on their own, with the effects written at the bottom of the card carried out immediately.  Standard Employees are fired in pairs, and this is the meat of this game.  Earning MoneyEach pairing gives a particular effect; so when I Fire a Corporate and an Investment employee,  I take two Returns cards; which is very good.  Instead, I might want to Fire a Corporate and a Legal employee, which will enable me to also fire that really annoying chap from HR at the same time.  The game ends when either all of the Return cards are gone (any players left with employees at this point will have to pay them off, losing valuable Returns), or, all players have Downsized, and have no Employees (no cards).  The winner then is the player with the most money.  Easy!

EmployeesAll the pairing combinations and their effects are on a handy reference card (and on the reverse of this you have the rules and game end information.  On a card!)  Function and form meet splendidly in this game in a way that would make all but the most austere Bauhaus followers applaud (politely of course).  The strict minimalist design and vibrant bold colouring means reading your hand and reference card is easier than loading new paper into the office printer.  And yes it could easily be argued that the game is “sexist” and that all the employees are male, but it could also be argued that people that say that are petty because women wear ties to you know!   This game can be taught and fully understood within minutes, it is compact and light enough to play on a lunch break, or

Lunch time game

Literally playing on my lunch break

on a games night when you’re waiting for fellow gamers to finish their game or to just turn up (let’s face it, someone is always late).

Chance does play a significant role in this game, and a duff hand of cards can leave you reeling, while starting off with a healthy amount of Corporate, Investors and maybe even and Auditor or two can mean you’ll not only pick up plenty of Returns, you’ll also be able to “steal” (or Audit) your opponents, making it an almost landslide victory for you.  But the deck does run through very quickly and tides can change, and even if they don’t, it is such a short game you will find yourself declaring a best-of-three (or five or seven etc.).  Do not take this to mean there is little strategy, far from it, with only four standard employees, the combinations of the pairings can mean very different things, and keeping your hand size down, but down to the right cards is a tricky balance.

The optional expansion: Market Movements, adds far more depth of play, and some real cut-throat moments.  This game has great player interaction, often you’ll be Auditing an opponent’s Returns pile, or Head Hunting their best Employees, but with the expansion (it comes in the Boardroom Edition) you’ll be launching Smear Campaigns, (my personal favourite) Hacking, Tax Bills or, if you are being especially nasty to a player who has already Downsized, the Bailout.  All of these flavourful cards adds more gut-wrenching punches to game that already has players taking off their ties and rolling up their shirt sleeves.Market Movements.jpg

If you love your high-fantasy and super detailed artwork then the minimalist look of Downsize might not appeal to you, but give it a go and you’ll be sucked into a fun, challenging, and quick hand management game faster than HR can process another sexual harassment case against that guy in IT.  Still unsure about buying this game, well I saved my best argument for last, the ace up my sleeve, my trump card you could call it:Trump Card.jpg

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