(With the release of El Capitan, a revised edition of Tycoon featured in this issue – we thought it would be interesting to see the reception Tycoon received when it made its debut. So, we’ve “flashbacked” to Kban’s review of the game from the Summer 1998 issue of GA REPORT.)
(Jumbo International, out of print)
As designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Horst-Rainer Rösner, Tycoon is a business game for three to four players (and a playing time of about 75 minutes) of building hotels and factories in nine different cities. Each player starts the game with an airplane, six hotels, five\ factories and $15 million in starting capital. The game consists of three paydays, each triggered when one player has built his 7th, 12th and 18th house.
Before dismissing Tycoon as being yet another variation in the Acquire genre, note that it has several novel mechanisms and twists that mesh together quite well to produce a unique gaming experience that is very worthy of its 1998 German Game of the Year nomination.
In Tycoon, players purchase airline tickets of two varieties: expensive direct schedule flights to or from the named city or less expensive charter flights between two cities. The more expensive direct flight tickets may also be used to move a space (or more) around the board giving a player greater flexibility in movement (and justifying their additional cost). Two of the direct flight tickets and six of the charter tickets are turned face-up. On a player’s turn, he can buy as many tickets as finances allow. Tickets are then replenished in the same 2/6 ration. The player then can stay put and erect a hotel or factory there. There are only two landing spaces at each city; if the first one is occupied, the second player is forced to spend more to build a hotel or factory at that site.
As hotels are added to a city, payoffs for first and second place buildings (i.e. the number of hotels) increase and eventually decrease. (The economic concept of diminishing returns is finally realized in a boardgame.) When a key red space is covered by a hotel, the first hotel built in the city must be “renovated”. Renovation results in the hotel moved off the track (placed in the city “center”) so that it no longer counts towards ownership of a chain in the city. To put the hotel back in play, the player must eventually fly back to the city which allows him to place that hotel, for free, on the next available space in the chain!
Factories are more expensive than hotels but guarantee a second place payoff on each payday and first place payoff if the factory is built in the city with the longest hotel chain. Players receive six hotels per round but have only five factories for the entire game.
Money in Tycoon is very dear. The starting capital is totally inadequate for both building six hotels (and/or factories) and buying airline tickets. As a result, one must fly off-board to one’s home bank to take out small ($10 million) or large ($16 million) loans. Returning to the board requires an expensive direct flight ticket. In our playtesting sessions, all our players have concluded that taking out a loan on your first turn is virtually mandatory.
When one player has built his sixth hotel, it’s payday. The other players who have yet to complete that round get one more turn, ensuring that everyone has had an identical number o turns. We’ve added a rule: rotation clockwise of the first player for each round to partially negate the advantage of being last in a round. Each city is then scored by paying the player with the most hotels in a city the bonus for first place with second place earning roughly half as much. Factory bonuses are then paid in the same fashion. The final payout is for diversity. Players get increasingly more money for each city where they have hotels (according to a chart on the game board). Loans are then repaid (or rolled over at a greater cost) and each player receives six more hotels. After the third payday, all remaining loans are repaid and players add up their remaining money. The richest player wins!
The scoring system of Tycoon rewards both a player’s dominance in a particular city and the breadth of his holdings. This duality makes for painful choices which have a direct effect on the final outcome. The only luck factor here is in the ticket availability. Watching your opponents’ moves and reacting accordingly is crucial to eventual victory or defeat. Tycoon is a delectable balancing act that impresses me more each time I play. Among 1998’s Spiel des Jahres nominees, Tycoon has become our group’s favorite. Highly recommended. — Kban
Copyright © 1998, all rights reserved
Winter 2008 GA Report Articles
reviewed by Herb Levy
(Z-Man Games, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; $49.99) With 2008 being a presidential election year, it is only natural that the marketplace will find itself swell with games seeking to simulate the event. But rather than looking at the upcoming election, 1960: The Making of the President looks back to one of the closest elections of the last ...Read More
Reviewed by Joe Huber
(Lookout Games, 1-5 players, ages 12 to adult, 30 to 2 1/2 hours; about $70) The ranking system on BoardGameGeek is fairly good at keeping new games from rising too quickly in the ratings – unless a game is a runaway hit. In 2005, Caylus (Winter 2006 GA REPORT) rose to the top ten in short order. In 2006, it was Battlelore ...Read More
reviewed by Herb Levy (Ystari Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-120 minutes; $55) Despite being a relatively new company, Ystari Games has, to its credit, released a remarkable series of very strong games. Ys (Winter 2005 GA REPORT), Caylus (Winter 2006 GA REPORT), Mykerinos (Summer 2006 GA REPORT), Yspahan (Winter 2007 GA REPORT) and Caylus: Magna Carta (Fall 2007 GA REPORT) read like ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Robot Martini Games, 3-4 players, about 20 minutes; $5.99) With 2008 being an election year in the United States, it is only natural that games with an election as a focal point would appear in the marketplace. And so it is with, Ballot Bots, a reworked version of a three player game called Treeo, published by Robot Martini Games (www.robotmartini.com) where ...Read More
Reviewed by Chris Kovac
(Red Juggernaut Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 60-90; $49.99) Battue is a very thematic area conquest boardgame designed by Jim Long where you get to play competing barbarian hordes overrunning and looting a Roman city. The barbarian with the most loot (a combination of loot cards and controlling the high value building tiles) at the end of the game ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Eggertspiele/Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 12 and up, 75-120 minutes; $59.95) Suppose Puerto Rico (Spring 2002 GA REPORT) and San Juan (Spring 2004 GA REPORT) had a child. What do you suppose it would look like? Well, if the child was delivered by the design team of Michael Rieneck and Stefan Stadler, the same team who gave us Pillars of ...Read More
THE STRENGTH TO LEAD If you want to get sort of philosophical, it seems as though you can divide people into two basic groups: leaders and followers. Some people like to "go with the flow", following a trail already blazed, having full confidence that the direction to be taken is safe, secure and true. On the other hand, some people like to make the decisions, ...Read More
(Z-Man Games, 2-5 players, ages 10 and up, 60-120 minutes; $55) One of the great games that has flown under the radar in recent years is Tycoon, a candidate for the Spiel des Jahres that received feature treatment from us nearly 10 years ago in the Summer 1998 GA REPORT (and reprinted in this issue). This brilliant game by the design team of Wolfgang Kramer ...Read More
(With the release of El Capitan, a revised edition of Tycoon featured in this issue - we thought it would be interesting to see the reception Tycoon received when it made its debut. So, we've "flashbacked" to Kban's review of the game from the Summer 1998 issue of GA REPORT.)
(Jumbo International, out of print) As designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Horst-Rainer Rösner, Tycoon is ...Read More
Reviewed by Jeff Feuer
(R&D Games/Abacus Spiele/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 60-90 minutes; $49.99) One of the things we love about Euro Games are those tiny little side rules and exceptions that go along with the basic rules. Some games are like Puerto Rico (Spring 2002 GA REPORT) and all the players need to know every last one of the rules ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy LEAGUE OF SIX (Czech Games Edition, 3-5 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; about $50) The title sounds like a band of superheroes out to right the wrongs of villainous criminals. It's not. The title actually refers to six towns of the Holy Roman Empire that, in 1430 AD, joined together to preserve their commercial interests and protect their security ...Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (MOD Games/JKLM Games, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 45 minutes; $39.99) The time is England in the 5th century with Saxons and Celts clashing for control. In Macht & Ohnmacht (Power & Weakness), the struggle within the struggle is critical as not only knights but magicians too, operating in cycles, will determine which side will win. Macht & Ohnmacht (Power ...Read More
Reviewed by Al Newman
(Adlung-Spiele, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; about $10) Adlung-Spiele makes nothing but inexpensive card games but over the last few years, several have emerged as genuine gems. Verrater (Winter 1999 GA REPORT) and Meuterer (2000), both designed by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle, have become revered as classics and are highly rated at Boardgamegeek.com. Quite a few others have turned ...Read More
[We welcome first time contribute Andrea "Liga" Ligabue, a well known gamer from Italy with a varied background, broad interests and a keen insight in gaming. As he says: "I was born in Modena in 1972 and since my childhood I really enjoyed playing and inventing games. My real "debut in society" was when I was 16 years old and I entered for the first ...
Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Days of Wonder, 2-3 players, ages 8 and up, 30-60 minutes; $25) One of the most popular games in recent history has come from the talents of Alan Moon: Ticket to Ride (featured in the Spring 2004 GAMERS ALLIANCE REPORT). Not only has the game won many honors, it has also spawned a series of sequels in its wake including Ticket ...Read More