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Bag building, area control, the board game – An Evil Corp. Review

Not to be confused with Evil Corp, Evil Corp. (yes that's a full stop after Evil Corp), is a bag building game all about frightening villages, and the organisation behind the yearly event is of course Evil Corp. So you take the role as a monster manager, who is looking to build a team of monsters to win the annual competition. Evil Corp. Is a head-to-head game for 2 to 4 players, which each player count varying the setup accordingly. After a single play, I felt like I was playing head-to-head Quacks of Quedlinburg, although there isn’t a push your luck element, the cartoonish nature and bag building feels similar.


Evil Corp. Is played over several rounds; in which you will be taking actions back and forth until both players pass. The game continues until one team or player has accumulated 2 victory tokens. Importantly, at higher player counts, you won’t be able to interact with every single board, as you’ll be limited to certain boards in front of you, in which you’ll need to most likely seek to overcome different opponents.


A round works the same way, with players drawing 5 monster tiles and keeping them, behind your screen, before the start player takes an action which could be:

Deploy a Monster

Activate a Monster

Recruit a Monster

Pass

Before the next player goes, and so on.


The actions are relatively straight forward, with recruiting being how you gain new monsters, with the market refreshing as you recruit new monsters to your team. Importantly, gold is open information and does not stay between rounds, so you need to ensure that if you gain gold, you spend it before passing. New monsters go into your draw bag, meaning you’ll see them most likely in a new round (unless you have any draw monsters' abilities).


Deploying and activating monsters, are the key actions, you’ll likely take most in the game. Deploying a monster is generally straight forward, taking a monster from behind your screen and placing onto a space on a village (that you have access to). You can’t place a monster into a space that is already occupied though, so there’s a limited number of spaces, you’ll have to consider where each Monster in your team goes. When you add or remove a monster to the battlefield or a fortification, you immediately adjust the pawn toward your opponent several spaces equal to the monster’s terror value. And playing monsters early in a round, comes with the bonus that if you are the first to play a red or blue monster, you will be able to take the relevant bonus; granting you either coins or the power stone which will mean you win ties.


In addition to the battlefield, there is the fortification, which allows you to retain that monster on your board for a later round (at a cost!). There is also the demonic portal, which gives you access to demon tiles, which give you instant abilities. And then there’s the port, which give you additional gold coins. Gold especially early in the game, Gold feels too restrictive, like there isn’t enough to be able to buy new monsters, or retain monsters between rounds, you’re forced to decide between this round or preparing for the next, but as the game progresses, Gold almost feels too plentiful. Some monsters do have instant abilities (shown by a lightning bolt), which sometimes have a cost, but generally give you the ability to flip an opponent's monster, remove a monster, gain gold, make an opponent reveal their hand of monsters, or allow an opponent to draw a monster.


Activating a monster, allows you to generally disrupt your opponent or gain a bonus, and most of these feel very similar to the deployment bonuses, or an extension of e.g. you draw tiles, gain additional terror, move monsters. Needless to say, there is a fair bit of take that in this game, and you can find yourself on the receiving end of ability after ability, feeling that your taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back, which creates a sense of needing to be able to adapt and being prepared to change your plans as a result of your opponent's actions. Which I think may frustrate some people, especially when you may have spent resources (which aren’t always plentiful) only to see that monster discarded, turned to inactivate or returned to your bag.

After both players have passed, play proceeds to the night phase, which is essentially a clean-up phase, which involve handing out rewards, restocking the port, loot and power stone, clearing village boards, discarding all gold and drawing back up to 5 monsters. Play continues through day and night phases until one player had achieved two victory tokens.


I have been surprised at how much I have enjoyed and haven’t enjoyed Evil Corp. On the one hand you have a tug-of-war like aspect that feels somehow like Air, Land and Sea as you compete for different theatres, however, air land and sea condense the same feeling into 5-10 minutes, with the ability to withdraw to go again. Here in Evil Corp. I found myself essentially having to concede a fight because I had no chance to recover the loss, meaning my opponent could maximise their rewards. And you might say, ah well that’s down to you, but in part it's down to the luck of the draw of the tiles, as much as there is player decision and agency, you can find yourself stuck with a handful of rubbish, while your opponent has drawn into those freshly acquired monsters, meaning they are at a substantial advantage.



Therein lies my other issue, the game feels unnaturally slow to get going, The Shores of Tripoli starts out slow, but there feels like there's purpose as you build with the ebb and flow of your opponent. Here, it's very much down to the lack of resources, combined with the potential luck of not seeing those freshly acquired monsters as soon as you hoped. Now that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed Evil Corp. I have, in fact it's been easy to get to the table, and I’d pick this over Quacks of Quedlinburg pretty much every time, I’m just not sure if there is a rewarding sense of escalating tension that makes it worthwhile. The box outlines 45-60 minutes, which feels a bit too optimistic, a 60-75 (or possibly 90 minutes with 4), feels like a safer gauge. I also have minor component concerns, the colour of the monsters and tokens are much more vibrant in the rulebook, but they are actually a mixture of being duller or for example the port spaces are vibrant but the monster tokens are dull. It's almost like someone said, oh we better update the colour palette and then did about 40% of the job! I'd also like to see more than 3 demon tiles in the base box to add that touch more variability to the setup.


As you know I rate games as a:

Buy or play

Wait for sale or play if you like games XYZ

Avoid

Evil Corp. Isn't an avoid by any means, Evil Corp. gets a firm “Wait for Sale or play if you like XYZ” and there are several aspects that make me draw comparison to other games, if you enjoy bag building games like Quacks of Quedlinburg, this is probably light enough rules wise to be a firm recommendation. (I’m not sure I agree with the 2.50+ weight recommendation for Evil Corp.) Equally that Tug of War aspect like Air, Land and Sea, Blitzkrieg make Evil Corp., another game that could be recommended in that category. And that area control like aspect, again feels like Evil Corp. Could fit into this selection of games, however, Evil Corp. comes with the bonus that it plays and plays well at 2, 3 and 4 player. The team game (2 v 2) has probably been the highlight of my plays, although the two-player game has been good too, working together for control over multiple villages with another player, has been the highlight. However, if you aren’t a fan of bag builder games, the additional mechanisms here are probably not enough to make you overlook bag building. But overall Evil Corp. Is fun, cartoonish and probably not to be taken seriously. But please rename it! Evil Corp. even searching for it, brings up another game called Evil Corp.


Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Evil Corp. To review from Hachetteboardgames UK. I was not paid for this review and all thoughts remain my own.


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