To many, they are our modern day legendary heroes: the founders, or maybe even serial founders, of giant Internet corporations. Multi-billionaires with power over and a vision for the future of mankind. But are they heroes? We only have their own word that they aren’t evil. And even that not anymore after Google removed “Don’t be Evil” from their mission statement recently. For all we know they might as well be villains, ready to force their vision of the future on us whether we want it or not. Fortunately, their visions for the future are not all that compatible. Before anyone forces anything on us we’ll have to wait and see who will be the last man standing.
Which brings us to Evil Corp, the subject of this Kickstarter preview. It pits three to six CEOs against one another in a Battle Royale of capital. Their visions range from sending the privileged few to a New World on Mars to the genetically engineered abolition of free will. Whichever future comes to pass, it’s a bit of a way there still. A way that needs money, technology, and a secret lair worthy of a multi-billionaire villain.
Evil Corp is a card-driven game where each card has different uses. One use is to play a card and build a business in the related city on the hexagonal board. Businesses are good because they make money for you at the start of each turn. Money that you need, for instance, to play a card and build a business.
A profitable new business is not all you get when playing a card this way. You may also add another stage to your secret lair, an impressive building that comes in four stages, and each stage increases your hand limit. At the start your hand only can have three cards, so getting that lair built is hugely helpful. Most important, though, is what a card does for your secret plan. If the card your played is in your player color it becomes locked, meaning that other players can not buy it away from you in a hostile takeover. Having a locked card in all three levels is what you need to trigger your endgame and possibly take over the world.
All those cards have an entirely different way to use them, too. It’s called Nasty Business, and it’s where Evil Corp gets a healthy dose of take that mentality. Some cards, when played as Nasty Business, let you take money from an opponent for alleged breach of contract. Others allow you to remove an opponents business. Not all of them are that nasty, some just let you take money from the bank or buy a new business for extra cheap. Those latter cards are nice, but lets face it: When you’re playing a game called Evil Corp you want to mess with your opponents before they can mess with you. So why not play that card that makes an opponent bankrupt? It doesn’t actually touch their money, but it has the same effect as regular bankruptcy: The player that caused it may take a business from their victim. That’s more fun, isn’t it?
On your turn, you can perform the above actions as often as you like as long as you have cards and money. And if you still have money but no cards you can buy more cards. Even so, your turn will end at some point, and then the world itself messes with you. This is where the board comes into focus, because you’ll draw a world event and then roll the dice to see which of the six markets it applies to. World events mostly increase or decrease the profits for players with businesses in that market, but there is the possibility of a natural disaster that all players with businesses in the affected region will have to pay for.
That’s how things go until a player gets their three locked cards together. As soon as one player manages that they reveal their secret plan – which isn’t actually relevant to the game, but is always mustach-twirlingly evil. The other players then have one round to stop them, and this is where things get bit hard to write about because this part of the game is still in flux.
In the prototype we played, stopping someone’s endgame depended on first having the right cards and then rolling the dice. After a light-ish but strategic game up to that point rolling dice to win was supremely unsatisfying. We thought so. The playtesters thought so. The designers thought so. So this part is still going to change, but we don’t know what the final version will be. Either it will still involve a bit of luck, but will let you leverage your assets to improve your chances, or it will be a purely tactical mechanism for which we don’t know the details yet. Either way, you’ll have to wait and see what the final version on Kickstarter will be. We hope it’ll be good, because the rest of Evil Corp was a lot of fun already.
And what’s not to like? It’s a medium-to-light game, but it has a good level of strategy, a good level of interaction, and the prototype we played already had an excellent visual design. We love the secret lairs! I recommend the advanced game with the once-per-game special CEO powers adding another level of strategy. To get the most out of Evil Corp you should find some enjoyment in screwing with your opponents. The take that aspect is there, but it’s much less evil than you might think after reading the rules. You want to slow down everyone else, sure, but your resources are limited. If you spend them fighting with one player you’ll just help a third one to victory. Proper strategic balance is important, and that makes Evil Corp work very well for me.