Being prescient of the world around us is a very hard thing to be. Being able to read your opponents is just as hard. Evil Corp combines these two concepts and blends them with just enough humour to stop it from feeling too grim. Look behind this humour and you get some rather dark themes but, on the surface, it's an enjoyable board game for those willing to be patient and even more for those willing to backstab.
Let's start with the setup, shall we? There are quite a lot of instructions to Evil Corp and understanding took a bit longer than I was willing to admit. The instructions aren't too bad at explaining it but there a few small nuances it doesn't explain that we had to assume rules for. This isn't wholly bad but it means that sore losers get even sorer. To win the game, players must build their evil base and push their evil plan by spending money and getting the right cards. It's all about biding your time till you have the equipment and funding to win the game
Turns are split with certain actions the player can take. You start by counting up the land you have and gaining money from that, which you can then spend in a manner of ways. You can buy more cards to use against other players, use that money to upgrade your base or keep it as a safety net to stop yourself from going bankrupt. At the end of your turn, you roll the world die and pick up a world event card that affects one area in the world. This could mean adding a little value to your properties or it could mean taking a whole lot out. Luckily, if you don't like the results, there's always a card to deal with it. The entire game will be spent going through cards to find the right ones to upgrade whilst regularly knocking down opponents to get ahead.
In this vein, Evil Corp is not a game you want to play with friends who aren't willing to backstab. You won't get a friendly game out of this but that's part of the fun. In the box, there are CEOs you play as, all with different visions for the future. These are: The Technocrat, The Utopian, The Visionary, The Expansionist, The Oligarch, and The Savant.
They are all equally arrogant and equally powerful, with different traits, end goals, and more. For the most part, CEOs are reasonably similar with small quirks and unique endings. They feel balanced as they're similar mechanically but have just enough uniqueness to make swapping around rather fun.
Each Ceo starts with the foundations of a base and a few billion dollars for their troubles. Along with this comes property in prime locations that you benefit from every turn. There's this good emphasis on the world economy in Evil Corp. You draw for your base and properties each turn and this can keep you growing and moving. There's an interesting theme of generational wealth and income inequality here that you should probably explore on your own.
This isn't the only theme that pops up as you play. There's this real biting satire around wealthy leaders that plays with public perception really well. Each leader has a humanitarian goal they promise to the public and the disastrous way they aim to achieve it. Many of the leaders have tangible causes that flirt with that line between villainous acts and consequentialist beliefs. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
Those beliefs work to great effect with a little bit of roleplaying. If you take up the role of your CEO and make moves in their line of beliefs, the game becomes a rather fascinating affair, even if this might be skipping the point of the game's themes. Emulating powerful leaders probably isn't what the team are going for.
Each turn, you gain billions of dollars for your properties, discard cards you don't like and draw to your hand limit. Your hand limit is initially only three and the only way of increasing this is by upgrading your base, something that is done with cards and funding. You will often find yourself breezing through cards to try and upgrade as fast as possible. This is a bad idea. Other plays can take advantage of both the cards you throw out and all the money you spend on it to get themselves ahead.
Once your base has been upgraded 3 times, you can flip over your CEO card and reveal your master plan for a measly 9 Billion dollars. Once this is done, the others have one turn to stop you or you win the game.
There's this fascinating choreography that goes on in your time with Evil Corp. You often have to pretend your hand is worse than it is or you're not as powerful as you actually are. The CEO at the top is always the first to crumble. Evil Corp fits this dark balance between Monopoly and Coup. You don't tend to hide things in Monopoly but you will here. If you can upgrade the base or start your evil plan, you might want to indicate that someone else is powerful or drop some good bait. This means that players might waste resources attacking someone else so you can take the lead and possibly the game
As you throw out cards or use them, you can raid them with other cards that are easy to find. This means throwing out powerful cards that you can't use is often the worse move. You don't want to accidentally load the barrel of your opponent. This being said, you could throw something away to have someone pick it up and become the player's biggest target. Essentially, you can throw a card out intentionally for someone to pick up, making them the biggest opponent on the board. If you can indicate that someone will win soon, you can get your enemies to use their resources to take them down. This means there will be less to fire at you.
A good player will bide their time, a great one will make the times of others end. You can play it sneaky and snipe people out with just the right card or play meta politics making people seem much more powerful than they are. Evil Corp has replaced Monopoly as my go-to friendship ender and I love that.
Evil Corp - The Bottom Line
Evil Corp does quite a lot of things well. The character's backstories add an interesting dynamic to roleplaying (if you like that) and even plays into that with cards like "make an evil laugh for 5 Billion dollars". It's very aware of its over the top dark humour and mixes it with just enough slapstick to stay jovial. The themes of Evil Corp are very dark but the game isn't. You might need quite a lot of patience for this and the rules take a while to get used to but it's worth it when they stick. Just make sure to play with friends who are as evil as you are.
Get This Game If
- You're looking for a game where you backstab a friend
- You want a game that feels like monopoly but much darker
- You've always wanted to play the role of an evil CEO
Avoid This Game If
- You want something short
- You're looking for a game that's as easy as Monopoly
- You don't have a little bit of a sadist in you
Evil Corp retails for MSRP $49.95 and is available on their site right now
The copy of Evil Corp used for this review was provided by the publisher.