Overview: The world is a different place than it was about 50 years ago, when Risk was introduced. Sure, there are still plenty of wars being fought with military might. But there’s another way to take over the world as well—through corporations. Globalization is a board game about building a financial empire worth $1 billion, published by Closet Nerd Games and Sandstorm Productions.
Players: 2 to 6 players
Ages: 12 and up
Playing Time: 1 to 2 hours
Rating: Thumbs up: Risk meets Monopoly, minus most of the boring stuff.
Who Will Like It? Players who like financial games and aren’t afraid to spend money to make money. And you have to understand that it’s not personal—it’s just business. It also helps if you can add quickly, since you’ll be trying to keep tabs on your net worth and adding up all your expenses.
One of the fun things about the game is the names of the corporations, which are mostly puns. A few examples: the Ukrainian manufacturer Stalin Airplanes, British media company English Channel 2, or the Latin American technology outfit Brazillion to One. There are six different industries, with six companies in each, spread over the globe. There are some aspects to the game that do feel like actual corporate business (IPOs, paying expenses, accumulating interest on debts) but there’s no direct trading and dealing between players, which may be surprising in a game about corporate empire-building.
1 game board, 36 large company cards, lots of little wooden company tokens and factory tokens, 1 Interest die, Power Combinations Tracker boards, and two decks of cards: Assets and Debts.
The cards are fairly standard, nice quality and easy to shuffle but fairly boring-looking. The Capital and Debt cards simply have a big number in black or pink, and the other types of cards (Lawyer, Disaster, Broker, Perceived Value) are marked with a small icon, a bit of flavor text, and some instructions. I think I would have preferred the instructions to be larger and the flavor text to be smaller (or just omitted), to make the cards easier to use.
The Company cards are larger, showing various information: value, revenue, expense, IPO value, industry, region, market. There’s also the company logo, its location, and a short paragraph about the company. While these company bios are amusing, they’re also not necessary to the game (and in fact the first time we played I don’t think we read any of them at all—but we were too busy figuring out the rules).
The board is sturdy, glossy and really big, about one and a half times a standard Monopoly board. It shows the world map with various locations of the companies, has all the company logos around the board (organized by industry) and has a helpful basic gameplay guide in one corner. While playing the game, I realized that the board didn’t really need to be so big—there are, after all, only 36 companies and nine regions, so the whole thing could have been smaller. But I have to admit that it looks really impressive, and perhaps playing a game about global empires just wouldn’t feel right with a tiny board.
You’ll need a pretty big table for Globalization. With the board, the cards, the tracker cards (which are pretty big) and then all the company cards for each player, it barely fit onto my round card table. We even had to set our snacks on extra chairs off to the side to make room for everything.
The one last thing: I wish they’d provided more markers. The little round wooden bits are used on the map to indicate which companies you own, but they can also be used for keeping track of the Power Combinations on the tracker card (which helps you determine your net worth); by the end of our first game I’d used all of mine to mark companies on the board, and had to do my Power Combinations in my head. Next game I’ll be sure to have some generic markers available to everyone for the Power Combinations.
The rules look a little involved at first but the actual gameplay, once you get into it, is fairly simple. Everyone starts with ten Asset cards and a company drawn at random (with a value of at least 2). Your goal is to build a corporation worth $1 Billion in net worth, through companies, offices, factories and Power Combinations.
Power Combinations are key to reaching $1 Billion, because the companies are only worth $10M to $60M. For example, Power of Production is Manufacturing, Resource and Finance—if you have at least one company in each of those industries, that adds $100M to your net worth. There are geographical combinations as well: Regional Dominance, owning all the companies in a region, is worth $200M. Monopolies can also be worth quite a bit: you start off with two companies of the same industry in any market, which gives you $100M. Then each time you add another company of that industry anywhere in the world, it’s worth an additional $100M.
The location of your first company determines your initial market. The world in Globalization is divided up into nine regions (North America, Pacific Rim, Russia and so on) and then these nine regions are grouped into three markets (Western, Central and Eastern). In order to buy a company in a region, you first have to establish an office there, which costs $10M in your initial market or $20M in the other markets.
A turn order consists of the following:
- Draw Asset cards (according to the revenue listed on all the companies you own)
- Pay Expenses (also listed on the companies you own)
- Transactions—build offices, factories, and play Action cards
- Public Auction—auction off a company
- Collect Interest—if you have debt, you’ll accumulate a little more at the end of your turn
The more valuable the company, the more revenue you get, but the bigger the expenses as well. And while you max out your revenue at 15 cards per turn, your expenses don’t have a maximum limit, so it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew.
The Transactions phase of your turn is when you can build offices around the world and add factories to companies you own (which increases their value and revenue). You can also take a company public if you’re short on cash. Each company has an IPO value listed on it. You put the company card on the board, collect the cards, and now you no longer get revenue from that company but you also don’t have to pay its expenses. In addition, any player can use a public company as part of a Power Combination.
Lawyer cards simply allow you to take a card from another player (unless they respond with a Lawyer of their own). Disaster cards are played on a region, and then any player with an office in that region draws half as many cards on their turn, until the Disaster is removed with another Disaster card. Brokers can be used to buy companies that have gone public—you can buy back one of your own, or buy one that somebody else took public. In addition, any of the cards can be used to initiate a Private Auction: flip the top Company card, and buy it for face value if you have an office in the appropriate region.
In the Public Auction phase, you flip over the top three Companies and choose one to auction. Depending on where players have offices, you can get companies very cheaply at the beginning of the game by picking a Company in a region where you have the only office. Later in the game the bidding gets much more competitive as everyone has increased their global presence.
Unlike Monopoly, you can go into debt—in fact, you may need to in order to buy what you need to win. Whenever you borrow money, you get Debt cards to tally up your total debt. But you can’t willingly take on more debt than the value of your hard assets—companies, offices and factories. And you also can’t win if you have debt, regardless of the net worth of your corporation, so eventually you’ll have to get it all paid down.
Once you’ve achieved your $1B and paid off all debts, you can “knock.” Everyone gets one last turn, and then you calculate your net worth, adding up all your hard assets and Power Combinations. There are also Perceived Value cards which can be worth $100M if you have the right Power Combination to go along with them.
Globalization is an interesting take on corporate finance: it’s not really like Monopoly or Risk but it does involve taking over the world financially. I like the way debt is incorporated into the game and the way IPOs can be used to get revenue at the expense of control over a company—both of those feel like real business. But aside from the auctions, there didn’t seem to be a lot of business done between players, which seems odd. You would think there’d be ways to do a hostile takeover, for instance. Game designer Brian Knudson does suggest on BoardGameGeek that you can do some wheeling and dealing on the side, but that might have been nice to mention in the rules. There are some variations suggested which I haven’t tried yet, but they could change the feel of the game.
There is a good deal of luck involved, since drawing Assets from the deck can get you a handful of $1M cards or—if you’re really lucky—the single $50M card, which can make a huge difference in your debt. Since the order that the companies are available for auction is also random, it’s harder to plan where to put your offices ahead of time. However, there is still room for strategy in balancing your risks versus rewards, and knowing how far you can extend your reach before you’re spread too thin.
At one to two hours to play, Globalization is on the higher end of my preferences for a medium-weight strategy game, but it did feel like it went pretty quickly. It’s not at the top of my list, but I’m looking forward to playing it some more.
Wired: Global domination without all the messy fighting. Slick board, fairly streamlined play, great company names and logos.
Tired: Not enough markers provided; takes just a smidge too long to play often.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of Globalization from Sandstorm Productions.