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Game Review

Screw the Workers

Ages 10 and up
Games for the Mind
Game © 2003 Games for the Mind
game centerpiece

2-5 Players2-3 hours


As a take off on the Enron scandals -- you take the role of a CEO. Your goal is to make as much personal money as possible without going to jail. Hire, fire, and sell off divisions to make sure your own needs are no attention to the fate of employees.


To begin, players are informed of the goal amount of money they need to claim their "platinum parachute." This is dependent upon the number of players -- in a two player game the goal is $100 million, and in a five player game it is $50 million. The rules will specify the amount for the games with three and four players. Remember, the goal of this game is to make money for yourself, not your company. The main playing board is placed in the center of the table, the labor pool is given one worker for each player in the game. Players begin with $20 million for the company.

For the starting setup, players are dealt five cards each. From these five cards, they must pick one "division" card to be their starting company. They must pay the division value and for one "well paid" worker (aka your technically inclined partner). The well paid worker costs $3 million. This division is set in front of the player, and the startup cost is given to the bank. Players start with a salary of $1 million.

The game is played in rounds. At the start of each round, players determine who has the largest company (most divisions)-- ties are broken by the total value of the companies. The player with the largest company begins the round.

During the round, each player may do the following in any order

  • Pay their own salary.

  • Your salary becomes personal money and cannot be used by the company.

  • Use up to two cards from your hand.

  • Pay old and buy new workers.

  • Sell divisions of your company back to the bank.

To end your turn, you draw cards from the deck so that you have 4 cards in your hand.

After all players have made their turn for a round, the Economic index is adjusted. If the sum of the temporary and unemployed workers is more than the sum of the full-time and well paid workers then the economy goes down. If there are less temp and unemployed workers than full-time and well paid, then the economy goes up. After this is adjusted on the game board, companies are paid depending upon the economy. If the economy is in recession, then each company receives $1 million per division. If the economy is in "boom" then companies receive $2 million per division, and on the rare chance the economy is in "mega boom", companies receive $3 million per division.

Finally, companies are evaluated for partial and full monopolies. If a company has two staffed divisions of the same type (e.g. computer or telecom) and there are fewer staffed divisions of the same type between all the other players, then the player has a partial monopoly and is awarded an additional $5 million. If the player has at least 3 staffed divisions of the same type and no other player has any staffed divisions of that type, then they have a full monopoly and receive $15 million.

When the round ends, players reassess who has the largest company to see who goes first for the next round.

To add a new division, you must have a division card in your hand -- you pay it's value, and must then hire at least one worker to staff that division. The worker must come from the labor pool, unless the pool is empty. If the pool is empty you may hire an employee away from another company, however you must promote them to the next pay level to do so.

Workers have four main pay levels -- unemployed (in the labor pool), temp ($1 million per turn), full-time ($2 million per turn), and well paid ($3 million per turn). The game marks the difference by how they are placed on the division card... temps are on their side, full-time are upright, and well paid are upright and in the "well paid" section of the card. If you do not pay for a worker on your turn, then that worker returns to the labor pool as unemployed.

It is possible to have divisions without any employees.

At any time during your turn, you may raise your salary. You may at most double your salary. Salaries can never go down.

There are other cards in this game: Boom, Bust and Labor pool are in both the Basic rules and the Advanced rules. Boom and Bust change the economic indicator, and labor pool cards add more workers to the pool. In the Advanced game, three cards are added: Accounting scam -- which adds a division to your company that never needs a worker; Stocks -- which give a player stocks for each divsion in the company; and Anti-trust -- a card played against another player to make them lose fake divisions, pay fines, and sometimes go to jail. Honestly, these card descriptions are best left to the rules...Anti-trust in particular is quite complex.

One final rule of note, should the econmic indicator ever drop into "depression" during the game, then the game will immediately end. It doesn't have to be at the end of a round. When this happens, everyone loses.

Card closeup


Winning Conditions:

  • For the Basic game, have enough money to claim your Platinum parachute

  • or
  • In the Advanced game, achieve the platinum parachute and don't go to jail.

Our Opinion:

Thumbs Up!Clearly, the best way to play this game is to use the Advanced rules. We learned how the mechanics worked with the Basic rules, but the actual fun is when the anti-trust cards come into play. This game is a better "Monopoly" than Monopoly itself. It's not for kids,'s a tough-minded, cruel look into running a business with a dash of sarcasm.

We have played this game several times. Each time we play, the strategies get meaner. When we first tried to play, no one thought about defending a partial monopoly, and most of the time we didn't have to worry about the economic status -- until we realized how to force other players to make expensive decisions: we'd buy out the labor pool to force companies to hire from less successful companies, we'd hire employees away from the monopolized divisions to break monopolies... and we'd flood the labor pool to make someone else save the economy. Business is cruel in this game...just like in the real world.

The game plays simply, and reasonably well. There are a few minor problems that can be overcome by experience and a note pad. The most difficult problem was keeping track of each player's salary. The game lacks a good method to do this, so we recommend keeping a note pad nearby to record the salary of each player, especially when they give themselves a raise. The second minor problem is that the rules get fuzzy for companies that have financial problems. The optional wording that you "may" pay (not "must") your own salary is never really explained. If the company has some money left over, but not enough to cover the CEO's salary, does it give all cash to the CEO? We decided that the answer was "no." The final complaint about the play was that in the five player game, the deck of cards seemed to have too few company cards -- and too many cards that increase the labor pool. It's hard to decide whether a few of us experienced unlucky shuffles or if the deck of cards is imbalanced. Overall, the card deck played well, even when faced with that complaint.

Everyone who played this game with us enjoyed it. It was very fun and easy to play. The only drawback to the game is it's theme. If someone playing the game has recently experienced a job loss, it may not be an appropriate game to play. When you realize that you are firing workers without regard to who they are and what they do... that's when you realize that it's too close to reality for the soon-to-be or recently unemployed. The game does try to take some of the bite off of it's theme with humor, and usually succeeds -- but play it with a group that can handle the theme without too much bitterness.

Where to buy:

You may buy this game is online at Games for the Mind. As of June 2003, it costs $20.

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