Monday, May 20, 2024

Silicon Valley Preview: Get In The Tech Mindset With Latest From Scott Almes

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Economic games have it tough. All those numbers, all those moving parts. In an increasingly diverse board game landscape full of players with rather short attention spans, these games have had to put more effort than in the past to be truly appealing. Whether in be theming or mechanical innovation, we’re seeing a shift in how companies get these games out of the extreme hobbyist circles and into the hands of more casual players. Take, for example, Silicon Valley, the latest Kickstarter by Grail Games (which they were kind enough to send me a preview copy of). Designed by Tiny Epic series designer Scott Almes, it utilizes a novel form of tile placement to make the business growth of the game a little more exciting than others in the genre. And with the current board game audience made up of a lot of tech workers, the theming really feels like a no-brainer.

What’s In The Box?

  • Game Board
  • 24 Product Cards
  • 48 Launch tiles
  • 35 Employee cards
  • 27 HQ cards
  • 27 VC cards
  • 140 Blocks of Code
  • 96 Money Tokens
  • 4 Company Screens
  • 4 Starting HQ Mats
  • 4 R&D Mats
  • 4 valuation tokens
  • 4 turn order tokens
  • 1 Rival Board
  • 18 Personality cards
  • 18 Decision cards
  • 5 Attribute tokens
  • 1 round tracker
  • 2 decision pawns.

Backers at the $68 AUD/ $50 USD Entrepreneur level can also exclusively get plastic code blocks and metal coins.

How’s It Play?

The core idea behind the gameplay is that players are all trying to get a brand new tech startup off the ground by hiring employees, getting VC funding, and making the right market choices. Each round you make three actions out of a possible seven, where you can gather resources, hire/poach employees, launch or sunset products, grow your HQ, etc. Like most games of this sort, which ones you use will depend on where you are in the game and what your needs are. Not everyone will take the same actions.

Silicon Valley employee cards
Some of the employees you can find in Silicon Valley.

Unlike the real Silicon Valley, in this game you actually need a real product in order to get funding and grow. To do that, you use the blocks of code gained from employees or outsourcing (buying direct from the bank). These products combine together to form a tableau, making for something distinctly visual and easy to understand. For games that deal in business simulation, that’s impressive. That code can also be sold to get VC funding, to increase valuation and gain cash for other projects.

When you’ve used all of your actions running your company, you then let the company operate. This is where you collect from ongoing effects (vs the more instant ones that you’d get during the actions) and pay upkeep on your company’s resources. After all, labor isn’t cheap in Silicon Valley. The game ends when a company’s valuation goes past $1 billion, and the highest valuation is declared the winner. At which point you can eat Mark Zuckerberg’s heart (I think).

Silicon Valley VC Cards
Different VC companies and the effects they can have.

While the normal game is for 2-4 players, you can also play the Solo Variant titled “Chasing The Unicorn,” where you play as an ousted tech CEO working from the ground up to get $1 billion before your rival that kicked you out. It’s a nice little drive for the solo game, and the mechanics of the game aren’t crazy hard nor is it a cake walk to hit a billion in seven turns. I’m not sure if it has as much replay value as the core game, though.

The Verdict?

If you want a game that’s still an impenetrable battle of wits and cutthroat business savvy, then Silicon Valley might not be for you. Like most Almes games, it aims for accessibility, a way into a kind of game that won’t make your head hurt. While most economic games can come across as arcane and impenetrable, Silicon Valley‘s innovative use of tile placement makes it accessible and fun without sacrificing the depth that fans of the genre crave. The block placement lets you work outside of your own head without giving things away to your opponents. There’s plenty of ways to compete and mess with other players, but no one action can screw everyone over. The theming may drive off some (Silicon Valley has a…complex reputation right now), it’s definitely worth checking out for aspiring businessmen and techies alike.

You can still back the Kickstarter, which ends tomorrow at 11 EST. The base game will run you $39 AUD/$28 USD, with the aforementioned upgrade going for $68 AUD/ $50 USD. The game is planned to hit retail in Q1 of 2023.

Images via Grail Games

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