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Food Chain Magnate Review

The fast food industry is cutthroat, lawless, and extremely competitive in this little town. 

With hints of organized crime, controlled chaos, and shameless employee operations — you’re in for 2-4 hours of rat race restaurant management. 

Food Chain Magnate can best be described as a reactionary, industry-building, open drafting, market competition, and income-generating board game. I know that’s a mouthful, but it’s all true. 

Essentially you’re making multiple decisions at once to beat your opponents with supply and demand. It’s like a fast-food watering hole and you’re surrounded by lions. 

Brief Overview of Food Chain Magnate

Food Chain Magnate Board Game Featured Image

You’ll be starting off your fledgling restaurant empire alone, as the CEO. Right off the bat, you’ll need to hire at least one employee to help you run everything. Without them, you’ll be in the weeds. 

You’re not actually paying any of your employees, yet. Call it criminal, we call it “restaurant management.”

As time progresses, you’ll build a comprehensive corporate structure of various roles and duties. Some team members will run your advertising, putting up billboards throughout the town to attract locals to your establishment. Others will train new employees, make food, or be your personal errand boys. 

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there! Strategically coordinate your marketing, location purchasing, and hiring to survive the volatile food chain rivalries. 

Versions & Expansions

The Ketchup Mechanism & Other Ideas

In case FCM wasn’t hard enough, this bumps up the BGG complexity rating to 4.5/5! 

There are new milestones that disrupt normal opening strategies, forcing players to try something different. Also, customers are even more distracted because there are coffee shops and baristas everywhere! 

Unboxing Food Chain Magnate

Food Chain Magnate Board Game Box and Components

Just like an industrial kitchen, there’s a lot of stock to organize. This game contains the following components: 

  • 1 Turn Order Track
  • 8 House Tiles
  • 8 Garden Tiles
  • 5 German Player Menus
  • 5 English Player Menus
  • 16 Marketing Tiles
    • 6 Billboards
    • 4 Mailboxes
    • 3 Airplanes
    • 3 Radios
  • 16 Numbered “Busy” Chips
  • 3 Restaurants for Each Player
  • 1 Turn Order Marker Per Player
  • 222 Employee Cards
  • 84 Milestone Cards
  • 18 Bank Reserve Cards
  • 6 CEO cards
  • 1 Rulebook
  • Paper Money
  • Wooden Supplies:
    • 40 Soft Drinks
    • 40 Beers
    • 40 Lemonade
    • 40 Pizzas 
    • 40 Burgers

You’ll be hard-pressed to score a copy of Food Chain Magnate for under $100. The price is equivalent to the level of structure and strategy that factors into the gameplay. 

The component art is retro 50s and classic, seemingly innocent and old-fashioned given the mafia-esque business nature of the gameplay. Cards are easy to read with clear instructions on the promotional hierarchy. 

The game board is very monotone in coloring and could use some jazzing up. It works alright in terms of placements but can get confusing when differentiating between different marketing tiles. Basically, it could use brighter hues for contrasting tiles and placements — but it’s not terrible by any means.

My main complaint with the components is the cash. Especially since money runs this town, you’d think they would have colorized both sides of the bills. Alas, it’s a minor flaw in quality. 

Overall, the components hold up throughout the normal wear and tear of a bustling business, and I find them worth the price point. 

How to Play Food Chain Magnate

The turn-taking operations are fairly simple — it’s the strategy that’s hard. Since it’s almost promised you’ll lose your first playthrough, we added some GameCows tips to give you a slight edge over the competition. 

Game Setup

There are a few changes in card and map setup depending on the player amount, so it’s best to consult the rulebook for these steps before you get started!

Generally, the first steps look like this:

  1. Fill the bank pool. 
  2. Place the first restaurants. 
  3. Set a goal.

Phases

Rather than turn-taking, this game is played in four phases:

Phase One: Restructuring

Players choose which employees will be “working” this round, trained, or “on a beach” (aka paid leave). During the first turn, only the CEO (that’s you!) will be on staff. In the following turns, you’ll begin to build your company pyramid, hiring roles that report to the CEO or managers. 

Phase Two: Business Operations

The player with the most open slots in their business pyramid goes first, while the player with the least open slots goes last. Turn order will change between rounds. 

Phase Three: The 9-5 (Recruit, Train, Market, Placements)

This is a very task-heavy phase. 

Some employee actions are mandatory, while others are optional. During this phase, you have the power as the CEO to recruit an additional employee for free. If you hired the recruiting girl, recruiting manager, or HR director — you’ll be able to hire even more team members.

Next, you’ll need to train these employees, except you can’t train them while they’re working. Funnily enough, you can only train employees who are “on the beach.” So much for a vacation, am I right?

Don’t forget marketing! This also happens during phase three. Each marketing campaign is unique. You’ll have to analyze the range, duration, advertising material, and employee resources that factor into your choice. 

After these business steps, it’s all about customer satisfaction and placement. Follow the actions for your kitchen staff to stock your shelves. Then, start placing gardens, houses, and restaurants in valuable locations on the map to garner local attention. 

Phase Four: Dinnertime

The best time of the day is dinnertime!

All the local inhabitants venture from their homes to get their favorite foods. There’s a wide range of reasons why they’ll come to your restaurant or give it a miss. It’s mostly according to demand, distance, and pricing. If your business can deliver on all three, chances are high you’ll get their business. 

Phase Five: Payday

This is the firing stage, where you get rid of any low-hanging fruit and pay your assets. 

Phase Six: Marketing

Run through all the ongoing marketing campaigns: billboards, mailboxes, airplanes, and radios. Each has its own special reach and effects that apply now. During this stage, you’ll see how many marketers you have available and how many are still tied up in advertising. 

Phase Seven: Cleaning

New restaurants pop up, milestones are refreshed, company structures are analyzed, and turns repeat from phase 1. 

Game End

Sometime throughout gameplay, the bank will “break” twice. This just means that the bank has run out of money, and you must reset the reserve for the second stage of the game.

The game officially ends when the bank breaks the second time. All funds are paid out, and the player with the most cash in hand is the food chain champion. 

GameCows First Playthrough Tips

Practice makes perfect in Food Chain Magnate. Tap into different strategies to find what gives you an edge. Here are two major tips to keep in mind:

  1. Milestones are key.

Reaching a milestone before your opponents is vital to success. As the game progresses, valuable milestones will be snatched up, so it’s best to beat the competition to the one aligning with your strategy.

  1. Hire a Recruiting Girl.

Expert players recommend hiring a recruiting girl in the first round, and a trainer in the next. You might snag the “First to Train” milestone, as well as have fewer tie-downs in future rounds by hiring early on. 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Quality, smart game
  • Individual strategies

It’s no surprise that Food Chain Magnate is included on the top lists for intelligent gaming experiences. I think the enjoyment level is paralleled to your gaming squad’s mechanical understanding. For newer board gamers, I would completely avoid this game, as it would take ages to even get started. 

Since I played with some veteran gamers, they had no issue learning the rules slowly as we played through. Food Chain Magnate deserves all the praise it receives for being such a smart game with fresh building techniques and actions. 

Instead of choosing a card and having it directly apply, you have to think about how it plays into your revolving corporate structure. You can’t just train employees you hire, you have to train them while they’re at the beach. Rather than applying the marketing instantly, it comes into play only after the dinner rush and transcends into the following turn.

Everything is reactionary, based on following players’ actions in hiring and marketing. You do make independently strategic moves, but the opponents’ decisions weigh heavily on your success.

Cons:

  • Heavy learning curve
  • Can be too complex at times

If you don’t know what you’re getting into, FCM can come off as super intimidating. Is it a long, complex game? Yes, but it’s marketed as such. If you’ve ever played anything from Splotter, you probably already know how intense their games can be.

Call it a downfall, but if you’re not expecting such a long rule-learning time, you’d be annoyed with FCM. It’s difficult to process all the phases in the first run-throughs. Even as an experienced gamer, it took me a good hour to remotely understand how to run my business.

Food Chain Magnate Review (TL;DR)

Set in the 1950s, 2-5 players suit up as CEOs of budding food chains; tasked with managing incomes, marketing operations, hiring team members, and more! Your ultimate goal is to make more money than the rest of the players as you juggle locations, strategy, countless employees, and the dinner rush. 

Eat or be eaten in this complex, strategy board game. You’ll need at least half an hour to learn the rules, set everything up, and get started. Expect three hours or more of hard decisions and card mapping for your first few games.

Conclusion: Verdict?

Food Chain Magnate is a game for serious players who want revolving strategies and challenging moving parts. There’s a plethora of tasks to allocate, people to manage, and customers to manipulate into purchasing your food, and your food only!

For players looking to breeze through a drafting, card-building game — this isn’t the best pick. For that, we’d recommend something like Wingspan

If you’ve played Dominant Species, Brass: Birmingham, Age of Steam, or Arkwright, it’s safe to say you’ll dig Food Chain Magnate. 

If you’re on the fence, try it before you buy it. It’s at a higher price than most games, but the components and value are 100% worth the investment. 

We hope you enjoyed our Food Chain Magnate review! If you’re a serious gamer looking for a challenge, this empire-building board game is for you! Have you tried Food Chain Magnate or its expansion? If not, we’d love for you to purchase a copy through one of our Amazon links. It’ll buy us a cup of coffee at absolutely no cost to you!

Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! As always, we’d love to hear from you.

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Stats at a glance

Players: 2-5

Ages: 14 +

Crazy!

120-240 Mins

Publisher: Splotter Spellen

Published: 2015