Full disclosure: A preview copy of Construction Fever was provided by Ninja Star Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
Another busy week! For some reason, it feels like May is a stronger Kickstarter month than other months? Or I just got a lot of requests for Kickstarters before I got Too Busy, maybe? Who knows. Either way, there’s always more games, so let’s dig right into Construction Fever.
In Construction Fever, you play as CEOs of construction giants. Your goal is to impress your shareholders by building increasingly profitable projects, but you also (correctly) assume that they’ll fire you if you sink the corporate image (though it’s hard to imagine you doing so more explicitly than, say, Papa John). The only two things that matter to you are profit and reputation, so, how will you balance them? Can you lead your company into a profitable new future?
Almost none. Take the cards:
Put the blackish cards in one pile and the whiteish in another. Shuffle the piles, remove two from each, and place them in the center of the play area. Put the Green and Black Project Markers below them; they’re the white circles. Set the Credits in the center, too:
Give each player a player board:
Give them meeples to match:
- 3 players: 10 meeples
- 4 players: 9 meeples
- 5 players: 8 meeples
Once you’ve done that, you should be ready to start!
A game of Construction Fever is played over 10 rounds. During each, players will bid on highly-profitable but suspect black projects, and less profitable but better-for-your-image green projects. Balancing both is important, but at the end of the day the player with the most money (usually) wins.
To start a round, every player may return resting meeples to their meeple supply. There are no resting meeples at the game’s start, so, ignore this for now.
Now, the start player reveals a black project and a green project, placing the project markers below them. Put credits equal to the black project’s value (top right; not the meeple counter) on the project. Then, each player takes turns until the round ends.
On a turn, a player will either bid or pass. If you pass, you’re still allowed to bid on your next turn. A round ends if all players consecutively pass. If you currently hold a Project Marker of any color, you must pass, on your turn.
If you choose to bid, you may bid one of two ways:
- Black Project Bid: Move at least one credit from the black project to the green project, and put one or two meeples to the right of your player board (as indicated in the top-right of the black project card). Take the Black Project Marker from the player currently holding it or from the center, if nobody holds it.
- Green Project Bid: Set more meeples than the current meeples bid on the green project next to your board. If nobody has bid on the green project, you must bid at least one meeple. Take the Green Project Marker from the player currently holding it or from the center, if nobody holds it.
Once every player passes, the bids are won by the players currently holding the Project Markers. If a project has no bids, it’s discarded to the box along with any credits currently on it.
For a black project, flip the card over, add the credits to your supply, and place the meeples you bid on top of the black project card and place it in front of your player board.
For a green project, you will enlist help from other players. Do the same thing (flip the card over, place your meeples on top of it, and add the credits to your supply), but now the players to your left and right will take their meeples from their board and secretly place a number in their hand. Once both players are ready, reveal. The player who bid more meeples will help you on this project. If there’s a tie, the player on the left wins the bid. Slide your green project so it sits between you two, and they place their bid meeples onto the project card along with yours. Now you share the reputation bonus from the card (it’s not divided).
Finally, for each project (left green, black, right green) that has your meeples on it, you may move one to the resting zone on your player board.
Play continues with the player on the left of the player that started this round.
After ten rounds, the game ends. You can move meeples to your resting area, but they are not considered in your play area; only the remaining meeples you have after bidding. Reveal all projects; each black project is worth negative reputation equal to the number in the bottom-right corner of the card. Each green project is worth positive reputation equal to the number in the bottom-right corner of the card. Total every player’s reputation, including bonus reputation given for every other meeple on your player board (look below the meeples).
The player with the lowest reputation is eliminated. At five players, the bottom two are eliminated. If multiple players are tied for the lowest, eliminate none of them. That’s nice, at least.
All remaining players should add up their total credits (again, including bonus credits for meeples on their player board). The player with the most credits wins!
Player Count Differences
Weirdly, I actually prefer it at higher player counts than 3 — at three, there’s too much balancing happening for me, essentially. You’re either getting the green project or everyone else is, essentially, since it’s always split between two players. That makes the reputation thing a bit less interesting; you basically never want to take the high-reputation-penalty cards. At higher player counts, it’s a bit harder to track who has what, since at four there’s always someone left out of the entire conversation around green projects, and at five it’s just a bit more chaotic. I think I’d recommend keeping the game to those player counts, personally.
- Keep track of your reputation. You really need to remember how much you have. If you don’t and you keep buying black projects, you’re going to end up the richest ex-CEO in town. That’s not a bad position to have generally speaking, but it doesn’t win you the game.
- Don’t necessarily outbid your opponents on green projects. If your right neighbor has the high bid, unless you really want those credits, you’ve still got a pretty good shot to win it unless their right neighbor decides to bid outlandishly, which isn’t a really good idea.
- Check how many meeples your opponents have. I generally, if I need to, will bid one meeple fewer than my rival’s current worker count. That puts pressure on them to either waste everything or to give it to me for cheap. If I really want it, bidding as many meeples as they have is fun (since they have to beat my bid and obviously cannot).
- Be careful about passing. If you’re going to pass, you better be okay with the next person passing, as well, because you might get stuck missing out on something you wanted if that causes a consecutive pass (or if you forgot to count their meeples and they can’t bid on the thing you thought they were going to bid on). If that happens, it’s on you, but it can really mess you up (especially if someone else gets the thing that you needed the person who passed to bid on). Like I said, keep an eye on your opponents.
- Try to avoid putting all your meeples on one thing. If you bid like, nine meeples on one green project, that means it’ll take 8 rounds for you to get your full contingent back. That’s terrible. It basically takes you entirely out of the game, which isn’t much fun.
- Be bold, but also be careful. You can lock everyone else out of the green project if you bid more meeples than they have on your first move, yes, but that means that they might just tell you where to shove it and consecutively pass, allowing the one player who claimed the black project to gain a ton of money (meaning you gain very little / none, despite placing lots of meeples on it). That’s obviously not ideal, but you know.
- Sometimes that’s a great move, if you’re on the other side of it, though. I mean, if they place all their meeples on the green project, why not just pass? If everyone passes and something has no bids, it’s discarded. This means they put up four meeples for a worthless project that only builds up their reputation. They’ll be positively furious, which honestly sounds pretty funny. That’s why you don’t do that.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I don’t normally like auction games, but everything in this has a clear value, which makes it easier for me to understand. I think there’s an almost worker placement spin on this bidding, since you gradually recover money and you can (and usually do) outbid opponents, which feels a bit different than your normal auction game.
- Fairly small footprint. It’s not a very big game and there’s not a lot to do, which I appreciate a lot.
- Seems expandable. I could see extra projects that have certain effects or advantages (or disadvantages) getting shuffled into these as Kickstarter bonuses or a mini-expansion. I’d be into that; as it stands, 24 cards isn’t a ton in a game. It doesn’t feel light, though, which I appreciate as well.
- Plays pretty quickly. There’s not that many decisions to make. It almost feels like an Oink game, weight-wise. It’s definitely on the lighter side, strategy-wise, which is also nice.
- Having the secondary auction for green projects is a nice catch-up mechanism. It gives some players who didn’t win them a chance to participate (and it gives the player who potentially pulled a black project an opportunity to get out of the hole this round).
- The gradual meeple refresh is interesting. It gives you sort of an income, which I like a lot. That lets you predict players’ buying power (and it definitely offers a catch-up mechanism for players getting shut out of auctions; eventually you’ll be able to outbid anyone), which is good for the strategy part of planning during the game.
- The icons are a bit difficult to get. It’s not always clear what the icons mean or what they relate to, either. The wrench for “workers” isn’t that bad, but the credits icon doesn’t look like much on the project cards, which can be confusing for players. I think it would help to make a fair number of the icons larger. For instance, on the player board, the +1 Reputation symbol isn’t really used anywhere else (and in fact gets a green circle on the green projects, and an orange circle on the black projects).
- The cards flip along the wrong axis. I’ve flipped the cards over incorrectly like, five times. This is a very minor nitpick and I’ve accepted that, but I’m complaining about it anyways.
- 3 players feels less interesting than other player counts. At three, you don’t have a lot of players who need to get green projects since they can usually just mooch off of whoever gets it, which means the bidding isn’t quite as aggressive as I’d like for it to be. It also usually means that whoever gets the most black projects just … loses, which also isn’t that fun. I still enjoyed it; I just found it underwhelming compared to other player counts.
- It’s possible to mess up badly enough that you knock yourself out of the game. Don’t bid all your meeples; that’ll do it pretty quickly. But also, if you take too many high-value black projects, it’s pretty likely that you’re going to get knocked out of the game. That’s unfortunately just the deal for games with late-game player elimination; if that’s not your scene, then you might want to consider other games to play.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I’ve enjoyed Construction Fever! Like I said, I generally am not a huge fan of auction games, so it’s nice to see one that I like well enough pop up on my radar. To be fair, Ninja Star has made / published a bunch of games that I’ve enjoyed — Yokai Septet was a ton of fun, Sweets Stack is solid (and I still need to review it!), and, I mean, Wolf & Hound is delightful. It’s good that they’re changing it up with mechanics every time; all of those games are wildly different from both each other and Construction Fever. What I like about it is the multilayer auction system that goes with managing your reputation and how you work somewhat cooperatively with other players so that they can work on projects that you can also hop onto. The whole thing is very nice. Add in a nice ramp for potential expansion content and you’ve got yourself a solid Kickstarter title. I’m interested to see what else gets added as the campaign progresses (although it’s getting tougher out there for Kickstarters). Either way, if you’ve wanted to live out your CEO dreams and occasionally develop some potentially shady projects, Construction Fever might just be the game for you!