Mousie, mousie!

Card game The Big Cheese reviewed by Pevans

In fact the idea of this game is corporate brownnoses trying to get into the boss's good books. The Big Cheese is hardly a game at all. It's a clever bidding mechanism. Having said that, it makes a terrific little filler - another winner from James Ernest and Cheapass.

The game is simply a deck of cards: printed on one side in black and white. To this you need to add 10 markers for each player and a die (you can also use a set of different dice - 4-sided, 8-sided and so on - but I prefer the d6 version).

Most of the cards are 'projects' with a numeric value. Players bid with their markers for the current project. High bidder wins and she places the number of markers bid on the card - taking them away from her stock available to bid with. Each time another card is purchased, players take one marker off each project they own. When the last marker comes off, the project matures and pays out: roll the die and multiply by the value of the project. Add this to your score and the first to, say, 200 wins.

There are two other cards, which are bid for and which mature just like projects. You then hold them until you want to use them. The 'Veto' allows you to cancel an auction, discarding the card that was on sale. 'The Big Cheese' lets you re-roll a pay-off.

This is such a brilliant mechanism it deserves to win awards and I fully expect to see it incorporated into bigger games in the future. As a game on its own, it's short, sharp and great fun! The key to the game is having enough markers to ensure you get the high value projects.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to do this consistently. You can't afford to sit on your markers forever or you'll never score any points - and those markers come back faster than you expect. So sooner or later you have to take the plunge and hope to make a killing. Despite the apparent randomness, the game produces close results and has been enjoyed by everyone I've played it with.

Finally, a word on the multiple dice version. This one calculates the pay-off as the roll of an appropriately sized die - and you play to just 30 points. The problem with this is that the scores for projects fluctuate wildly - you can get more from a 4-point project than a 20. This makes it impossible to value a project and turns the game into a lottery.

The Big Cheese was designed by James Ernest and published (in the USA) by Cheapass. It is for any number of players and takes 20-30 minutes to play. Pevans rates it 9/10.
This review was originally published in Games Games Games 138, December 1999.

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