Type: Worker Placement/ Euro

Time to play: 60-120 minutes (Teaching: 20 minutes)

Best played with: 4 Players (1-5 Players)

Ever wondered what it would be like to run a company in a post 2008 collapsing economy – watching the country fall into recession around you and trying to find pockets of profit in the chaos? Crisis is that game – a deep economic simulation of how an economy is the sum of it’s parts with exogenous forces sometimes thwarting the best laid plans….

Crisis is an enjoyable market simulation probably most akin to the simpler and classic Agricola. The big challenge is for it to stand out from an already vast genre of worker placement euros – whilst the theme does help, it won’t be enough for everyone.

The game starts off with a steep learning curve – as you might expect for worker placements. You have a series of options for meeple placement and all of them have linked effects. You can recruit workers, you can sponsor new buildings, you can buy resources or you can position for the next round. One novel mechanic (unless you are a fan of Brass) is that this game allows you to draw a loan to get extra cash – however, you will pay interest every turn for the debt that you have outstanding.

Across these options you will be seeking a simple engine to start to generate points – either directly or buy one of the end steps where you sell to the market. Will you make bread or produce steel? In keeping with the genre you will want to produce / use different resources to your opponents. The least competed path is the one to victory.

However, this game comes into its own between rounds. The game is not as much about your individual actions but the fact that if you as a group collectively outperform, the economy recovers. If you under-perform, the economy’s slump deepens. There is an ever changing points threshold for you to overcome and for every point that any player misses it they drag the economy down.

A failing economy has mixed impacts – making labour cheaper, but making it harder to come back later. The ideal in this game is to slingshot – go into as much debt / recession as possible whilst you build your engine. Then rush into points and chase that economy back to the summit. However, there is not space in this game for multiple players to do this – it’s too tight, and the economy is too brittle. One player lagging behind will bring down the group.

If the economy does collapse then players ahead of the economy can win early in the game, but don’t underestimate the challenge of controlling this fate as the economy shrinks. If you rush for the early win, but the economy survives – you are almost certainly the least likely to win in the long run.

So this game is not about the micro, the tactical, the individual rounds. This game is about when you make your play and how you build the strategy. Is this a short game of a failed state, a medium game of struggle and eventual failure, or is this a story of hope and recovery. A good player group will bring this economy back to shape, but with 5 difficulty levels it is easy to adjust this to the experience of those around the table.

I think the delight in this game is seeing which story will emerge and whether you can manage your engine to the situation. Don’t just build the best late game engine – that is not the whole point of the game. If the economy ends before your engine starts delivering – it was probably our fault and you have definitely lost.

Is this semi-coop? If it is, then it’s a good example. A player who takes down the table has lost, but has not taken the game from others. However, every player has an incentive to do just well enough whilst investing in the future performance of their engine.

What’s not to like! Well, there’s a limited pool of domestic workers each round (drawn from a pool). However, international workers make up for this at a cost. The biggest factor is the buildings. This small sample draw each round can really benefit some players and hinder other strategies. Likewise the events that are drawn can have an asymmetric impact. Thematic / story driven players will like this, but a traditional “zero luck” euro player will hate this – it’s completely out of your control.

I also have to flag that while the components are nice and the card stock is good, this is a fairly expensive game for a good euro. There is a lot of competition in this particular market and as a big fan of Uwe Rosenberg’s games and Mindclash games, I have an eye to the fact that competition is fierce.

If you are at a convention though, check this out and if you enjoy a chunky economy simulator with lots a story, then I would say this could be worth taking home.

Last notes,

  • If you want a semi co-cop, then this is the type of game I would go for
  • If you hate to chase an unattainable target, start at easy and work slowly up the difficulties!
  • If you win, try a harder level and see if you even make it to the end of the game!