Spiel 2014 Preview: Office 21

Posted by James (admin) on September 30th, 2014

Office 21 cardsOffice 21 is a quick, card game where players are trying to have their ‘office’ of workers generate exactly $21 million profit, i.e. their values add up to 21.   Players take turns adding one worker (card) from their hand of three into their set of cards on the table (office).  As well as having different values, each card has a special effect too, such as removing a card from your own office, turning an opponent’s card face-down, looking at the next card on the draw pile and choosing to take it or put it back, and so on.

So, cards you play can be used to alter other player’s offices as well as your own office, which means there will be plenty of spoiling other players’ attempts, and subsequent petty revenge (which will be entertaining).  A few cards interact with each other automatically; for example, The Boss and Secretary get on very well indeed.  If a Boss card is showing and a Secretary card is played by someone then both cards are turned face down whilst they are, erm, occupied.  Face-down cards do not count towards your total (but will if they get turned back up again).

There are several ways in which a game can end, and the way it ends determines how the winner is judged.  A player wins if their office has a total of exactly 21 and still has 21 when it is their next turn – so other players get one chance to mess with their office and/or win a better way.  However, if a player plays a Tax Man card, play continues until that Tax Man is reached again (he could get removed) then it’s the player with the lowest total who wins.  Any player who exceeds a total of 21 is automatically out, so a player can win if they’re the last man standing.

Office 21 cover

Office 21 reminds me a lot of the excellent core game mechanic in Cold War: CIA v KGB – one of my favourite 2-player games (soon to be released with a Star Wars re-theme).  Office 21 offers some puzzle-solving gameplay, as you use cards to manipulate your cards to reach the goal total of 21; however, due to the interaction of up to 4 players, you’ll need to keep adjusting your plans to factor in changes made by your opponents, as well as making sure their plans don’t go to plan too.

The different game end triggers and victory conditions look interesting.  Whilst you may look like you’re doing poorly with a low total, you may actually be doing it on purpose and trying to make sure your score is so low no-one else can beat you when you play a Tax Man card.  Or, if you get attacked a lot by other players which reduces your total, then playing a Tax Man card may be a cunning move.

For more Spiel 2014 previews, check out my Spiel 2014 Previews page which lists the games on my radar with links to their previews too.


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