Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Employee of the Month - a profoundly quirky game

Employee of the Month is a game that has stuck in my head far longer than it has any right to. I got rid of my copy long ago since the game isn't that great to play but the quirky mechanics of the game continue to stick in my head.

Simply put, Employee of the Month is an auction game where everyone shares the same pool of money.

The way it works is every turn, a positive card and a negative card get auctioned off. Players take turns choosing from a row of money cards, high card winning.

And here's the twist. The money comes in two flavors, your reputation with other employees and with the boss. And you keep your winning money cards. At the end of the game, you only score the negative points if you have the most in either of those two denomination. (If you have the most in both, you get double the negative points)

Oh, just to make it even crazier, some of the points are special Kudos points. You only get those if you have the LOWEST in a denomination.

Employee of the Month uses a mechanic which I honestly haven't found anywhere else. It fits the theme of office politics surprisingly well and creates some interesting brinksmanship situations.

However, while it mechanically works, it has some playing issues. The two denominations are limited enough that it's easy for most anyone to do card counting. That makes it easy to force someone into a downward spiral to lose points from the negative cards. It's even easier to prevent someone from going for a Kudos strategy. Plus, there were times when a high negative point card would be tied to a low positive point card. Nobody would make a bid and that round would be a wash.

On top of those issues, there are other auctions games that are quick and portable. For Sale and High Society, for example, are stellar games that take up the same spot on the game shelf and are much, much better.

Employee of the Month is a strange, quirky game unlike anything I've seen. I'm glad to had a chance to try it back when I did. However, between the gameplay issues and the fact that there other light auction games I'd rather play, it didn't stay in my collection.

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