Review: Temp Worker Assassins

Game Name: Temp Worker Assassins Published Year: 2016
Game Publisher: Self Published Player Scale: 2 – 4
Game Designer: David Newton Run Time: 45 – 60 mins

In Play

If you’ve ever wanted to kill your boss, imagine how much more you’d want to kill them if you worked at Bureaucrat Castle, where your boss could be a Payroll Pirate, a Public Relations Troll or even the Acquisitions & Mergers Viking.  Well now you can! (you can’t go and kill your boss, this isn’t an endorsement, it’s a board game review).  As a top-class assassin you’ll infiltrate the castle-come-office, you’ll stalk your victim, you’ll plan and when the timing is just right, CHLUNK, you’ll hit them with…a stapler.

Temp Worker Assassins is a deck building, worker placement game that takes place over 5 turns framed as days of the week, using your Assassin meeples you’ll scurry off to certain departments, which will invariably enable you to become a more proficient killer by either imbuing you with particular skills, equipment or allowing you to access different Targets.  Alternatively, an assassin can make an attempt on a Target, where the player will begin playing and chaining cards from his/her hand to deal out more or equal damage than the Hit Points of the Target.  On a successful attempt the Target card is awarded to that player for Victory Points, and kill or not, that assassin meeples is set to the dungeon to think about what they’ve done.

Departments

 

Once all Assassins are placed, the day ends and they all leave for the night to work and kill again the following day.  After five rounds of this, the game ends and victory points are totted up and a winner is declared.

The core mechanics of this game are very simple, and the streamlined interlinking of Deck Building and Worker Placement make this a very easy game to pick up and play for veterans, and also for newer gamers.  The game pace is such that players will very quickly establish their strategies, patterns and counter patterns, so as each new day begins, there is a flurry of movement as workers are placed, and only as the day wears on, do your options become limited and more thought required – which personally I think makes for a clever and interesting thematic mechanic, as I do far less work in the afternoon too. I’m also more likely to want to kill my boss by the end of the day (again, don’t actually kill your boss).

Player Hand

Like many worker placement games, strategies need to be adaptive, as “Blocking” forms the core player interaction – although there are a few cards that specifically hinder opponents, and in later rounds Targets fall quite rapidly, so if you’re planning on an attempt you have to be fast acting to get the one you really want.  The same is true of plundering the supply line of stationary when you need that last pencil to improve the score of your stapler.  With ten Departments, many with multiple action slots to be filled there is always some choice, more choice than one normally expects to see in such a game.  On occasion this can lead to a little Analysis Paralysis, and every so often a Department falls a little flat in comparison to another.

Target Row

There are five standard Departments in each game (six in a four-player game), means the large deck of cards provides a wide range of variation and game-on-game variations.  There is even a “Hard Mode” when you’re ready for more of a challenge.  Equally there is a decent array of Target cards that you can’t always bank on that potentially very valuable General Service Golem making an appearance (this Target awards 3 victory point for each Typing Pool Zombie you have killed, where these Zombies are very, very easy to kill, but in themselves worth very little).  Finally, there is a very large deck of Stationary cards, and as these are what you’ll be building your deck with there are plenty of them – here I would lean towards there being too wide a range – especially in a two player game, where circling through them is much slower.  Having a set of cards that were removed in a two-player game would make the deck far slicker.

Stationary Cards

I’m a fan of deck builders, and this game does a very good job with this mechanic, there is a great deal of satisfaction when chaining card after card into a grotesque stationary-horror tableau of fantastical death.  Unlike some deck builders, where a small, concise deck is preferred, Temp Worker Assassin excels with a larger deck where much of the fun is drawing cards.  The gamble and risk of pulling the card you need is what makes this game for me, and sets it aside from others such as Star Realms or Dominion- where you are limited to the cards you have in your hand.  Instead, Temp Worker Assassin has more of a Texas Hold’em Poker feel, gambling on the next card out the deck being the one you need to make the kill.  No, you don’t need to risk this, and you can build your hand more conventionally – which is how I started playing – but as soon as one player starts taking those risks and hitting bigger rewards the game changes pace completely.

Depending on the spread of Departments, Stationary, and Targets occasionally it can be difficult to play catch up when a player is able to take the lead.  The Bulletin cards – awarded each day for the player who makes the first kill are pretty powerful cards and are certainly worth fighting to gain a couple of.  The easiest way to do this is the Typing Pool Zombies, which aren’t worth a great deal individually, but stacked up, especially with the Golem can be a highly lucrative tactic.

Adam Bolton has done a jaw-droppingly brilliant job with the art work in this game.  As a lifelong comic book fan, the comic book slant on the fantasy artwork can’t be ignored or highlighted enough, and it does something different with an otherwise very tired genre – I’m looking at you Magic the Gathering.

Targets

Temp Worker Assassin blends two very simple mechanics and does so simply and seamlessly, and yet feels and plays differently.  The theme is fun and charming accentuated by the brilliant artwork allowing this game stand out from a genre crowded area of tabletop gaming.

 

The Good:

Easy to learn and play

Great variability

Plenty of choice in each round

Amazing artwork

Different and funny slant on fantasy genre

The Bad:

Little player vs. player interaction

Few catch up mechanisms

Gameplay can be a little longer than game weight expectations

I want oversized cards to see the artwork better

I also want custom Assassin meeples – but then I’m just greedy

Box

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