Full disclosure: A review copy of Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager was provided by Boxfox Games.
I’m always super excited to get in games from outside the US / Europe; been spending some post Gen Con time thinking of ways to get more in to take a look. We’ve already seen MetroX, and Let’s Make a Bus Route is also fantastic (along with Paleolithic [review coming soon!], from Shepherd Kit). Naturally, when the opportunity to check out Pasaraya was presented to me, I jumped at the chance.
In Pasaraya, you are working tirelessly towards the one thing you truly believe in: money. You’ve decided to do so by entering the cutthroat and lucrative supermarket scene, figuring you can make it work. How hard can running a supermarket be, you ask? Well, since you’re doing it via a deckbuilding board game, I can at least guarantee that it will not be as simple as you anticipated. Can you build the foundations of your supermarket empire?
I used to have the whole stack of cards organized in order specifically for a narrative, but that dream died a while back. Anyways, here’s how you set up the game. It’s set up like a normal deckbuilder with some changes.
Start by giving each player a Player Mat:
Also give them a Junior Salesperson card:
You’ll put the Junior Salesperson in your market (along the top line of your player mat). Now, set out the Inventory Cards:
There are only three types. Each player should take two Food and one Clothes and place it in their Warehouse. Nearby, set out the Employee Cards:
There are four major types, but each Employee card is split, with two Employees per card. There are also some Employee-Driven Variant Employee cards (and an AI solo game deck):
I didn’t get a chance to review this version of the game (it’s very different), but you won’t use them for the basic game. Use those once you’re a bit more familiar with the core.
Set out the various denominations of money:
Each player should take 7 Miel and place it in their Warehouse and 8 Miel in their bank. Now, you’ll need to build the Sales Forecast Deck. It’s mostly Sales Forecast Cards:
Note that there are Year 1 and Year 2 cards; that’s an important distinction. You’ll also need the Current Prices Cards;
There’s one card that’s Starting Prices; set that aside, for now:
You’ll also want the Fiscal Reporting Card:
Similar to Coloretto, when you see this card, the game’s about to end. So here’s how you make the deck (from bottom to top, face-down):
- Bottom: 13 Year 2 Sales Forecast Cards
- Fiscal Reporting Card
- 7 Year 2 Sales Forecast Cards + 2 Current Prices Cards
- 1 Current Prices Card
- 9 Year 1 Sales Forecast Cards + 2 Current Prices Cards
Once you’ve done that, flip three unused Year 1 Sales Forecast cards face up — these are your starting Sales Forecast cards. You should be all ready to start! Have each player shuffle their deck and draw 5 cards.
In general, Pasaraya plays pretty similarly to the deckbuilders you know and love, like Dominion, the Dale of Merchants series, or The Tea Dragon Society. On your turn, you’ll be able to perform actions with cards in your hand to hopefully buy additional cards and score money. At the end of the game, the player with the most money wins.
Turns progress in 5 phases, each with their own stuff to do:
Starting Player Reveal
So, if you’re the first player of a round, flip the top Sales Forecast card of the deck and place it face-up in the center row. If doing that would mean there are more than 5 Sales Forecast cards face-up, then you must discard the card with the lowest reward value (+X on the card) from the game. If there’s a tie, the player to the Starting Player’s right decides.
Now you can perform actions. You can do any number of these in any order you’d like:
- Purchase: You may buy Inventory from the Supply by returning Miel from your hand equal to its cost to the Supply. Unlike other deckbuilders I’ve played, when you spend money in Pasaraya, it’s gone for good. You’ll have to earn it back. Place the purchased goods into your Warehouse.
- Hire: Move an Employee from the Supply to the Warehouse, paying the cost on their card.
- Stock: Add an Inventory card from your hand to your Supermarket (the line at the top of your player mat).
- Standby: Add an Employee card from your hand to your Supermarket (the line at the top of your player mat).
- Withdraw: Move any amount of 1 Miel cards from your bank to your Warehouse. You can get them next time you shuffle your deck.
- Sales Forecast Action: At some point in the game you may end up with one of the Sales Forecast cards in your hand. If you do, you can play it as an action (usually removing it from the game after use).
- Use Employee Ability: You may move one of your Employees from your Hand to the Warehouse or from the supermarket to the Warehouse to use its ability. If the card has more than one ability, you may use one or the other (but not both).
- Sell Inventory: You may sell one item from your supermarket back to the Supply and gain Miel according to the Current Prices card. Take any money earned from this and place it in your Bank.
So one thing you’ll often want to do is collect Sales Forecast cards. The only way to do this is via a Salesperson’s ability, which will allow you to collect one by returning the inventory it requires to the Supply. You’ll then add the money on the card (including additional money and excluding reduced prices) to your Bank, as all money you receive goes to the Bank unless otherwise stated.
Once you’ve finished your actions, proceed to Cleanup.
Just discard any cards you didn’t play this turn into your Warehouse. At least you get to keep them, unlike SPQF.
Refill your hand to 5 cards. If you’re out of cards in your deck, shuffle your Warehouse and then use that as your new deck, just like a deckbuilder.
Reveal Sales Forecasts
So, if there are fewer than 3 Sales Forecast cards face-up (because enough players bought them between rounds), you must now reveal Sales Forecast cards until there are 3, face-up.
Play continues until the Fiscal Reporting card is revealed. If you reveal it during Starting Player Reveal (Phase 1), you complete that round. If you reveal it during Reveal Sales Forecasts (Phase 5), you will complete the next full round.
Once you’ve done that, have every player discard all their cards and combine their deck and Warehouse. Tally up your Miel between that pile of cards and the Bank, and then sell all your inventory back to the Supply, earning a number of Miel equal to each card’s cost (sorry; shouldn’t have sold it at cost).
The player with the most Miel wins!
Player Count Differences
So there’s no real difference in the Sales Forecast deck at various player counts, so the game is just going to be significantly longer at four players than it is at two (just by virtue of “you’ll likely play the same number of rounds, but now they have two players instead of four). That may be something worth noting, if you’re the kind of person who prefers for games to be about the same speed no matter how many players you have.
There’s also likely to be a bit more competition for certain Sales Forecast cards, since there are four players actively working towards them instead of two. Also, interestingly, certain things (Employee and Inventory cards) are limited-supply, so you might run out of appliances if enough players hoard them.
I’d say my personal preference is for two-players, here. Four takes a bit longer than I’d like.
- Focus on your economy. You really want to make sure you’ve got a good economic engine, so you’re buying inventory to sell for Sales Forecasts and cycling on that. If you don’t, you risk running out of steam or getting rapidly outpaced by other players.
- Keep your deck light. I find the easiest way to focus on the economy is just keeping my deck to Exactly What I Need Right Now; if my deck is light enough, I can use an Employee to activate a reshuffle or add something to my Warehouse and immediately get it next turn. That predictability is invaluable in an engine-building game of any kind. Too often, I see friends and co-players overbuild their deck (so it’s huge) and while that’s great, it means that your variance is super high. You do that enough times, you end up with several turns where you draw exactly 1 Miel, which is a pretty big waste. Dominion is viable with a huge deck; I think Pasaraya is not.
- Buyers are your friends. Being able to cheaply buy multiple Inventory items is great, even at the end of the game. That said, if your deck is light enough, you’ll basically never need a Worker (since the cards you bought will likely be in your deck next turn, anyways).
- You should never be without a Salesperson of some kind. I find with running a light deck it’s pretty easy to just have two Salespeople cycling through each time (and only selling when one is in your Supermarket and the other is in your hand, unless it’s an emergency).
- Sales Forecast Modifiers are interesting. One particularly useful thing you can do is use one on the same turn you’d do the sale anyways, and then have all the required ingredients. Then, you earn more points and you get the card back again! How fun is that?
- Track the game’s progression. One particularly important thing to do is to know that when the game is ending, you basically want zero Inventory; otherwise, it just means you’ll have to sell the remaining items at cost. To that end, leverage all of your Salespeople to sell off your stock at the game’s end (unless you can get a Sales Forecast card, which is usually more valuable, anyways) so that you can make some more money.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the theme. You’re running a supermarket! That’s super endearing. More unique themes, please.
- Love the art. It’s very upbeat and whimsical and colorful. Makes grocery shopping fun.
- Always here for a deckbuilder. It’s one of my favorite genres of board games, being honest. I particularly like the solo mode here, and it makes me wonder if there are ways to extrapolate these kinds of actions to other deckbuilders for fun solo play.
- The component quality is really nice? The cards are very thick. Like, it makes the deck very pleasant to use and shuffle.
- Actually getting rid of money is a really cool thing. There are a bunch of deckbuilders where you just kinda discard your money after its played and that’s fine and all, but in Pasaraya you have to return it to the Supply and can only get more money from selling stuff, which is kinda awesome. I guess that means it’s feasible for you to get stuck without a concrete way to gain money, but I feel like I‘d quit before my Bank ran out?
- The dual-use Employee cards are nice. I generally like multi-use cards. It was one of my favorite things about Carthago, recently, as well.
- It comes with an even more challenging mode that I didn’t even have time to mention. That’s a lot of game for your buck, but there’s also the Employee-Driven Mode, where you can do basically no Actions without using an Employee card to do so. That will take a fair bit longer, but it’s definitely an exciting spin on the base game. I tend to look favorably on extra modes / variant play for games that already have a solid base game because, worst-case, you can just play the solid base game even if you don’t like the variant. Options!
- The box is kind of odd. I get what they were going for with the shape and the design, but the insert inside the box is kind of not-useful and so the box is a bit taller than it needs to be. Is that room for an expansion?
- Having the card backs be non-symmetrical was kind of a bad move. This means that the Miel cards (which are semi-symmetrical on the front) tend to be put in your Warehouse in whatever order they end up in, but then they’re shuffled and it’s possible to infer what cards are on top of your deck. This is partially, I assume, why Dominion has symmetric backs.
- The tone of the game changes kind of aggressively if people are using Thieves. I didn’t see that happen in too many games I played (though it happened in a few games that I watched). I don’t really love take-that in games, and for engine-building games it feels kind of frustrating to have a take-that option in Pasaraya, one that feels largely … unneeded. I’d rather see a wider variety of Employees with new abilities than anyone with a take-that ability, or I’d be fine with an Unfair-style mode where you could ignore any take-that in the game if you don’t want to deal with it.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, Pasaraya is solid! I’m looking forward to trying the Employee-Driven Mode once I get a bit better (I’m still not good enough to beat the Easy Mode AI, I think, so, gotta work on that), but I appreciate the wide variety of options it brings to the deckbuilding table. Like SPQF, it does a few things that no deckbuilder on the market right now (as far as I know) is doing, and as a huge fan of deckbuilders, that excites me both for the game right now and as a piece of proof that you can successfully take a fairly-well-done concept and add some spin on it to make it something uniquely yours. Pasaraya does that by delivering on its theme through solid mechanical work to actually create the feeling of buying and selling goods at a supermarket and sending your employees on break and managing your capitalist empire. I wish more board games strove to be authentic and invested in their theme in the same way that Pasaraya is, and if you’re looking for something new in the deckbuilding scene, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out! (That’s a supermarket pun, by the way.)