Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
In the far distant future, corporate america has rebranded itself as corporate galaxy. Ready to climb the
corporate galactic ladder? Well it’s time to realign your career path as we take a look at Bureaunauts, a new game of exploration and career advancement now in funding on Kickstarter. So let’s dive in and see what it takes to become the galactic CEO.
In Bureaunauts, players are racing to try to complete as many of their career goals as possible. Each player is a peg in the galactic corporate ladder and they must shrewdly use their photons (the game’s currency) to file paperwork, explore the galaxy and fight the denizens that inhabit it. As players climb the ladder, they will be promoted and gain influence with the department heads of the corporation, who will eventually determine who the new galactic CEO is… and also the winner of the game.
How to Play:
To setup the game, players first shuffle the space cards and deal out a 8×10 grid of face-down cards. This will form the galaxy sector that players will explore during the game. Each player then collects their dual dial, spaceship tokens, player board, influence cards, and meeting token. Finally, each player is randomly dealt 5 career goals. These are what players are trying to complete during the course of the game.
The game of Bureaunauts is broken out into a series of Fiscal Periods, each of which has 5 Steps:
1. Jelly Activity: Solar Jellies will move around the galactic sector and new ones will be spawned. Solar Jellies are the bane of any Bureaunaut and must be defeated, if that aligns with your career goals that is.
2. Budgets: Each player collects their budget for their fiscal periods. This starts at two photons, and is increased by one when the first player completes a career goal for each level.
3. File Paperwork: If you wish to move or take an action, you must pay one photon to file the appropriate paperwork.
4. Actions and Movement: Actions happen before movement does. Each player uses their dual dial to either choose a grid coordinate to move to, or sets it at ** to signify taking an action. Different actions include:
- Ship upgrade: The more upgraded your ship, the better at combat it will perform. It costs 1 photon to upgrade a ship to the next level (max level is 4).
- Goal Adjustment: Your career goals must be completed from left to right. This action lets you rearrange their order.
- Reassign Career Goal: Swap out one of your career goals with a face up goal card from the available ones.
- Under Budget Career Goal: Pay 3 photons to complete this career goal.
- Repair Ship: if your ship was damaged by pirates or jellies, you must pay one photon to repair it.
- Have a business lunch: You can place one influence card with a department head. You may only take this action if you do not wish to take any more actions during this fiscal period.
When you move your spaceship, you move the token to the grid coordinates you chose on your dial. You immediately reveal the card you landed on. Results include:
Relic: You find a relic. These are used to complete the appropriate career goal.
- Space Pirates: You find pirates. You may attack these pirates to complete a career goal. If you end the fiscal period on a space with active pirates, they damage your ship. To beat a pirate (or jelly), you must either have a ship of higher level than the pirate, or pay photons equal to the difference.
- Ship Upgrade: A free upgrade of your ship to the next level.
- Photons: You find some money.
- Empty Space: You find nothing. Bummer.
- You might also find a jelly swarm or pirate lair. These are high level adversaries.
Step 5: Repeat step 3 and 4 until everyone passes.
Rounds continue in this manner until one player has completed all five of their career goals.
Career Goals must be competed in order, and players can achieve them by: defeating space jellies or pirates, upgrading their ships, finding relics, or paying money. Once a card is completed, a player gets to put an influence card into two spaces on the department head board. If the player was the first one to achieve that corporate title, they get an extra card to place.
Once a player has completed all 5 goals, the round is finished and the game ends. To find out who is elected galactic CEO, each department head stack is shuffled and a card is drawn. The card drawn is considered a vote for that player. A player needs to win 3 out of the 5 votes (or 2 out of 5 votes twice) to be elected. If no player has the majority, then the drawn cards are discarded and a new vote is cast. The player elected to corporate CEO is the winner.
I liked that Bureaunauts doesn’t take itself too seriously. From the 8-bit style artwork, which fits the game well, to its thematic manual, Bureaunauts is definitely having a good time making fun of corporate america.
It’s a good thing that Bureaunauts is full of humor because it’s not an exceptionally deep game. It’s pretty easy to learn and the turns will go by fairly quickly. I think Bureaunauts will appeal to people who love that sense of exploration. Since there are 80 cards to explore during the game, players have a lot of places they can travel to.
I will say that luck is going to play a pretty big role in your games of Bureaunauts. While there are no dice being rolled, there are many other luck dependent factors. From the face-down cards you are discovering, to the career goals you are dealt, to even the end game, a lucky player is going to have a nice advantage.
That being said, the designers did create some mechanics to make sure the game isn’t completely luck dependent. For example, you can swap out your career goal as an action if it’s not working out well for you. You can also move to any card on the grid with a move action. So you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in a corner.
When it comes to the end game, I found it to be really unique. I liked that even if a player seemed to be steamrolling the game, everyone is still in it until the end. A pile may have 10 cards of one color and only one of the other, but a lucky draw can give an underdog the win. While this might not sit well with players who love to control every aspect and setup their wins, I did find it to be a clever way to end the game. It works well to keep all players in it until the end.
Finally, when it comes to player scaling, I think Bureaunauts plays a little better at the higher end of the player counts. With more players, you will see more cards explored, have more jellies to fight, and there will be more interaction between players. We tried Bureaunauts with only two and while it worked, the galaxy felt a little big for just the pair of us.
If you are looking for a light-hearted approach to a game of exploration and achievement, then Bureaunauts is definitely worth checking out. The 8-bit artwork definitely triggers some nostalgia in me and I enjoyed the humor in the game.
If you’d like to become a backer, pledges start at $45 for the full game and stretch goals. Bureaunauts is scheduled to deliver in December 2016 and you have until Monday, September 5th to become a backer. So head over today and check it out.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.