Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Coffee is for Closers: a terrible board game, reviewed

The following is a review I posted to of a game Melissa and I bought super-cheap back in January.

"To make a million dollars it takes more than skill and strategy," claims the cover of The Million Dollar Sales Game by Jim Madonna Marketing. Point of fact, if the game play is to be believed, neither of these things have anything to do with making a million, and pure, stupid luck is all you need.

My wife and I discovered this on the 75%-Off clearance games table at Barnes & Noble in January. This need not have been a sign of the lack of quality: they also had Acquire on this table, and we picked up an Onyx edition of Monopoly for $12.50. That night, over pizza, we tried out Million Dollar Sales.

We expected a variant on Monopoly, wherein we would have to use sales skills somehow to sell properties or goods, or deal with clients, distributors, customers, and competitors of some sort. What we got was Candy Land for salespeople.

You roll the dice, move your car, and do whatever your new space tells you, which may be a good or bad thing (either gaining or losing money, prospective customers, spaces on the board, or a turn), or a Stuff Happens card (which is a bad thing after drawing a card) or an Opportunity Knocks card (good thing). When you have five prospective customers, they may be traded for Actual Customers. When you pass the starting point on the circuit, you get rewarded based on how many customers you have.

The game involves remarkably little decision making. Really the only decision you make is whether or not to leave the main track for one of six Regional Customer tracks. These tracks slow your path to pay day, but each gets you a Regional Customer card, which counts as a customer on payday, and if you have all six customer cards, you get a bonus at that time.

The fact that the mechanics are so simplistic means that if the game is to be any fun, the fun has to come from the theme. And the theme is ham-handed. We quickly realized that this game is designed as a training tool for salespeople. The in-game text uses lots of sales jargon about listening and following up and creating a work plan and closing. All of this is presented in a lifeless and matter-of-fact way that generates exactly zero interest. It also doesn't attach any meaning to the actions described. You may be told that up-selling is a good thing, but you aren't told how you might do this as a real-life salesperson. So the game amounts to $40 flash cards without anything written on their backs [again, we got this on the bargain table; I'd be much angrier at the game if we'd paid $40 instead of $7]. I cannot imagine how this would be useful even if you were learning to sell.

The components in the box are very nice. Everything is glossy, printed in color on magazine-cover-like paper. The board is in full color and well-printed, and the cars are not cheap plastic. The dice are needlessly large. The box is well-arranged, with separate trays for everything and a clear plastic lid that holds everything in place to prevent contents from shifting.

The game was not without its cheesy entertainment value, mostly for meta-game reasons. The sheer ridiculousness of the presentation and the jargon made us laugh on several occasions, especially when a Stuff Happens card penalized me eight grand "just for being stupid." The salesspeak reminded me repeatedly of the play and film Glengarry Glen Ross and made me wish there was a vulgar, David Mamet-themed version of the game ("Mitch & Murray send Alec Baldwin to call you a c********r. Go back ten spaces." [link NSFW and family-unfriendly] Second place in this version would, of course, be a set of steak knives.).

So unless a phrase like "The Power of Listening Avenue" sends you into paroxysms of laughter, this game is eminently skippable. Even if you are trying to learn to sell, this game probably won't teach you anything of value. Go rent the movie and pick up some choice swears from Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon instead.

1 comment:

kate said...

Seriously? The best they could come up with is "stuff happens"?