Do you have what it takes to rise through the ranks and succeed in the cut-throat business world? Pull the strings and take control of the corporation in Power Struggle! Best your enemy executives in influence, experience, shares and even corruption. Manipulate departments such as Accounting, Communications and Human Resources. Strategically place your managers and employees to make sure you end up the top dog in this corporate board game!
Power Struggle (or Power $truggle to be accurate) is a corporation-themed strategy board game designed in 2009 by Bauldric & Friends. It seems to be a sleeper hit, not attracting a lot of publicity even though the vast majority of reviews and player feedback on it have been positive. It is a highly complex board game similar to Agricola, and has the same target demographic and the same lasting appeal.
The premise of the game is pretty simple: you and your fellow executives in the corporation are out to determine which of you is the most influential, wealthy, experienced and corrupt bigshot in the company! That’s where the simplicity ends though, as Power Struggle boasts half a dozen victory paths, a huge choice of actions and fairly complex rules and mechanics.
Winning the game requires you to excel in at least 4 out of 6 tracks to victory. There is the Influence track determined by your control over the company’s chairmanship and board of directors. There is the Shares track based on how much you have invested in company stock. There is the Main Departments track that improves as you successfully merge departments. There is a Counsel track based on how many external consultants you employ, and there is even a Corruption track based on how often you bribe or are bribed by other players.
The 6th path to victory is a secret goal where you are allocated an Archenemy and a set of 3 tracks that you need to beat them in. Once you achieve the required threshold in 4 out of 6 of these paths, you can declare that the current round is the last one. However, other players might have more victory points than you, especially since the Archenemy path is secret, and also since other players could achieve more victory paths in the final round after your declaration. So it becomes a choice of declare-now-and-risk-it or wait-but-risk-somebody-else-declaring-first.
So how do you play the game and achieve victory? The full gameplay mechanics are too complex to describe in this review, but I will attempt to provide a summary of how the game flows. The game board (which represents your corporation) has 6 different divisions, under each of which there are 6 departments. Above all these is the board of 5 directors, and above that is the chairman’s office. The entire game is based on the control and movement of personnel in these areas.
The main mechanic involves placing a manager and his employees in a department slot. These managers will be your pawns in the battle for supremacy in the corporate world. At the start of every round, a Director’s Meeting happens. During this meeting, the existing chairman is “let go” and the player with the most members in the board of directors gets to promote one of the board members to be the new chairman.
At the same time, control of each division is determined. The player with the most departments in each division gains control of the division and becomes the new division head. If the same player was the outgoing division head, nothing changes. However, if a different player gains control of the division, the old division head is kicked out and the player with the new majority gets to place one of his goons as the new division head. Here’s where it gets interesting: the old division head isn’t “fired”. He gets to choose if he gets promoted to become a board member, or becomes an external consultant (which I guess is the same as being fired actually). So it may be a good thing to lose control of a division!
So what’s the use of being a division head? Each division head (and the chairman) have unique abilities. The head of Controlling earns more money when payday arrives, while the head of Accounting gets to buy shares for cheaper. The head of Human Resources gets to hire more employees, while the head of Development gets to “entice” employees away from other players’ departments. The Chairman gets to set up a new department for free, while the head of Communications appears to have the most powerful ability. He gets to determine how many turns there are in the current round, and what random events will affect the players.
These abilities are powerful enough as it is, but you can bribe them away from their owners for an even greater effect! A bribed Development head can “entice” 3 employees instead of 1. A bribed Communications head gets a free action before the next Director’s Meeting. The other abilities also receive substantial boosts. Bribing is therefore very tempting. The game even provides you with nice bribe wallets so that nobody will see any money changing hands. They will still see the bribe wallet changing hands though, but at least they won’t see how much (or how little) cash you’ve put inside it.
As mentioned before, the Communications head determines how many turns there are in a round, letting each player perform between 4 to 7 actions. These actions include creating new departments, splitting departments up into new ones and merging them to create main departments. You can also hire new employees, bribe other players for their abilities, and use cash to buy up shares, departments and external consultants. There are other special actions, such as the “entice” action that the Development head gets to use.
There are plenty of ways to play the game. As mentioned before, there are 5 different competency or victory paths you can excel in. You will usually need 3 of these plus your secret Archenemy goal in order to get the minimum 4 points needed to win the game. It is also very reactive, depending on what other players are doing. If everyone is buying shares (which are limited), it won’t be efficient for you to compete with them. If other players are using their fired division heads to create external consultants, you can use yours to take control of the board of directors and chairmanship, and score Influence at the same time.
Power Struggle is a complex but fun and rewarding game. It might take a few games to get your head around the many rules and actions available. But once you do, you will enjoy a game that depicts the backstabbing and politics of corporate battles in a unique and exciting way. Power Struggle is ideal for you if you like advanced strategy games such as Agricola, or corporate-themed games such as Acquire (though at a much higher complexity).