Build your business and sabotage the competition to win in the new card game, Control Alt Deceit. From Aidan Price and first time designer Étienne Garbugli, Control Alt Deceit simulates the growth of technology companies from the garage prototype all the way to filing for IPO (and, thus, winning the game). There is nothing special or unique about the gameplay; it really is as simple as drawing and playing cards. Where Control Alt Deceit stands out is theme — and the great name! All the card abilities pertain to challenges faced by startups like hiring rockstar developers and getting funding.
Players start with five cards and one unfair advantage card. The unfair advantage is your secret ability to help you edge out the competition. Each turn, players draw three cards and play two. Much like in developing a business, you can be hit with random roadblocks, and these come in the form of event cards. Event cards are played immediately and don’t count toward the two plays. Some have positive effects like drawing extra cards or swapping unfair advantage cards while others are negative like losing half your hand. Other cards you play add money to your business venture like employee perks, funding, and competitive advantage cards. To win the game and file for IPO, you need a specified amount of money depending on the number of players and one of each business model card (product, marketing, and first client). Maintain your position for one round, and your business is successful! But wait! — it’s not that easy. Much like many tech companies who are fighting for their share of the market, you can play dirty by playing sabotage cards on your opponent. Unless they reveal a protection card, they’ll be faced with some awful consequences, such as getting hacked or being slapped with a lawsuit.
I only received a prototype version, so I don’t know what the final card quality will be. The cards I played with were not coloured and were without final artwork. However, from the images I’ve seen of the art, it looks great. There was a lot of text on some of the cards, which, with the black and white cards, felt busy and a lot to take in. The layout on the final cards greatly improved on this, though, with the card ability and flavour text separated neatly and important parts coloured to stand out.
The gameplay and abilities may need some refinement or further clarification in a rulebook (which I was playtesting without). Some aspects of the game like “finding” money were a little confusing. I think that means I need cards worth the specified amount already played into my business, but it could mean needing to play new cards worth that amount. For a sabotage card like Buy Out Offer, does the sabotaged player have their next turn to play cards worth $1 million, or, if they don’t have $1 million already played, do they lose all visible cards immediately? If all players already have $1 million in their businesses, is the card just useless? Some small details like that could use some improvement but might be alleviated with a good rulebook.
Having worked in tech for both startups and big companies, board games are something many of us really enjoy. A game that mimics the business process and has an almost self-deprecating humour with cards like the ridiculous employee perks is sure to be a hit with your coworkers. Compile some code, and bust out Control Alt Deceit while you wait.
Control Alt Deceit is available on IndieGoGo for only a few more days, so grab it quickly while you still can. The campaign has a flexible goal, so the game is going to be produced regardless (perhaps just in a smaller print run). This is a fun thematic game that could be hard to obtain in the future. $20 USD gets you a copy of the game and four exclusive IndieGoGo cards (while still available). This may seem like a lot compared to games with similar components (such as Sushi Go, Saboteur), but it is worth a little extra if you are supporting an indie designer whose work you enjoy.