Type: Area Control / Euro

Time to play: 45-75 minutes (Teaching: 5 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Players (2-5 Players)

Americana and McDonalds, a feat of history and capitalism. Franchise, is a feat of board gaming simplicity that brings this to life. In this game you will take on the role of a franchisee and you will expand across the nation. You will gain income in large cities, only to have your Franchise ruined by low cost competition. It’s an exciting creative destruction.

So you start with a simple shop. Each turn you score income, you expand and you decide whether to expand in your existing cities. The income is simple, the more cities you are present in the better. The expansion, is also simple. Can you cover the costs of reaching the big cities, or will build out through the towns and villages before taking the big cities. Slow and steady or following the cross state highway to your next big venture.

If you can hit the big cities on your own, then you can drain the money from these towns. Why? Each town is a big circle with numbers. The more franchises present the more numbers that are covered. All franchises present earn the income of the largest number visible. The next franchise that comes in covers the next largest number. So the first guy, earns the big bucks – how long is up to his competition. If other players come in, everyone gets paid less. At first that still makes your trade and their trade worthwhile, but after a few people joining the city, you will have to ask whether it was worth the cost to rush there!

Adding to that complexity though – once a franchise has a strict majority in the town they control it. No use for other franchises to join and the city becomes shut off. Anyone in the city leaves their franchise there (you might get points in the end game) but you as the city leader score points immediately.

So, that simple decision to expand is a choice between bumping into your other players or trying to spread to the clean country air of cities not yet overpopulated.

Once you are in a city, that third decision arises. Do I expand? Well two shops means less total income (okay not strictly right from an economics perspective but you get the point). However, by doing this the attraction to other players goes down and the ability to block them out of the town is more apparent.

This is a fascinating game of bluffing, positioning and income. Can you maintain the necessary funding to run an aggressive and expanding franchise, but also defend the key turf. This is a complex challenge with states scoring bonus points, and big / small cities offering very different risks and points. All this combined with a delicately woven map of highways and byways to take your pieces across the board.

Lastly, the game compounds the potential options with it’s best trick. Giving players 4 game breaking tokens. You can use them to expand more aggressively, capture a city or get money. These can be used tactically to break deadlocks in cities, or to jump across the map. These are the crucial devices to outwitting a good player in this game.

What’s not to like? Well actually the fact is that this game is simple and fierce. You might want a deeper more complex game, or you might just not like the way in which players have to trample each other to get to the top, but ultimately this game is excellently crafted for what it is. A simple helping, served perfectly – American at it’s finest.

Last notes,

  • If you want an area control game to bring new players into more board games, I think this is a great intro plus game.
  • If you don’t want to take from one player to give to yourself, then this game is ruthless and you should warn players
  • If you win, try again and watch how everyone changes their use of those tokens!