Fast Food in the Flying Fifties: Food Chain Magnate Review

We broke in a couple of new games a week or so ago out in Northwest Chicago.  The first one we broke out was the 1950s-themed Food Chain Magnate, a fun little business-oriented game where you battle as competing food chains in a single city.

Overall Feeling

Food Chain Magnate does a nice job of capturing the feel of 1950s food entrepreneurs, of ’50s diners with waitresses, and of the Mad Men who drove consumption of it all.  You build your own little food company that will specialize in burgers, pizza, drinks, or some combination of them.  You’ll run the company through a group of Vice Presidents and balance supply (Cooks, drinks pickup guys), demand (marketers), and infrastructure (VPs, recruitment, training).  You also deal with the tactics and spacial relations of a city map that randomizes every game and strategize where you’ll place your restaurant(s), type and placement of marketing vehicle, plan which residences you’ll serve and plan drink-gathering routes.  The most fun part is building your company’s organization structure, and the producing or gathering of food items for consumption.

Interesting Mechanics

This isn’t one of the quicker games we’ve played, but of course, we were playing it for the first time and it would go quicker in subsequent games.  The turns are fairly straightforward and not very complicated nor with a lot of phases.  You sort of just execute what your company’s active employees do every turn, then make critical decisions about how to structure your company, including who you might fire, or send off to plan for training.  On top of that, you’re effectively creating supply with your burgers, pizza or drinks, and then creating demand with your advertising, and then bringing them together to make money.

There’s some wonkiness to the map itself, at times in determining how marketing vehicles like mailboxes affect certain residences.  Some of the rules around who serves which homes are complicated, but I think they’d be pretty clear once you get the hang of it.

Theme

This isn’t really a heavy themed game but it’s got enough light artwork plus components that work well together to create enough of a 1950s, growing city, entrepreneur theme.  There are aspects of the game that don’t make a ton of sense, such as the way the city is laid out, the way demand is determined, the way marketing vehicles work, even the way drinks are picked up by a truck route instead of produced, while burgers and pizzas are simply cooked up by cooks.  At the same time, it has a very good business feel.  The way you re-structure your company each turn is fun  and it’s something you can image doing.  I was fortunate enough to have a good game where I first started out in the pizza biz, but was able to grow my business to include drinks and even some burgers.  I could feel my business growing and adding profit lines, and investing into it for further development.  So great business feel + decent 1950s feel gives it a good feel overall.

Do Something Ability

It’s definitely there for this game, because you’re going to build a company of your own, with its own corporate reporting structure, and you’re also going to build your own restaurant empire and production line(s).  Additionally, you and other players will populate the city with competing marketing vehicles.  So you will have a food-happy city by the end of the game, but more importantly, a big company of your own.

Replay Ability

One unique element of the game is that it has a mechanic to make it of varying length, so there are short, medium, and potentially, much longer games.  So there are going to be games where one entrepreneur wins by dominating a single product line with a lean company, others where diversified product lines and big, bold marketing campaigns with big companies behind them win the game.  The city itself gets randomized as well, so there will be different configurations.  I won’t say the game’s possibilities are endless, but there is enough going on to want to play it many times to see all the different possibilities.

Verdict

I thought this was a fun game and I’d play again.  At the same time, marketing and business management is what I already do Monday-Friday, I want to do something else when I play games.  I’d rather slay dragons or zombies, or travel space or explore new worlds or terraform new planets or something.  That aside, it’s a good game.  It does it’s theme well, it has multiple paths to victory and many strategic choices that have to be balanced out, and enough random factors to make re-playing it seem like a fun prospect.  I think it would move quickly enough once you’ve been through it a couple of times.  For a business/entrepreneur type of game, this I think is a good one.  The 1950s theme just adds a little flavor.

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