Economic Board Games Negotiation Board Games

I’m the Boss! Game Review

It’s in the title.

A new edition of the classic negotiation game I'm the Boss, from Eagle-Gryphone Games, brings drama front and center.

Games are a conversation. In this case, the conversation starts with someone asking how to split up a bunch of money and ends with someone yelling, “I’m the boss!”

I’m the Boss! Which I’m going to not abbreviate so you have to imagine someone yelling it at you every time you read it, is a negotiation game from the 90s from prolific designer Sid Sackson, who is the creator of Acquire, what I consider to be one of the most important branches in game design. He’s also part of a cute BBC documentary that lives on a weird corner of the internet.

If you like your negotiation games light, filled with regular injections of drama, and wrapped up in a little more than an hour, this is the game for you.

The premise of I’m the Boss! is CORPORATION. We’re all departments in a corporation of some kind, business people doing business things. On a turn, you either try to make a deal on the space you’re on, or you roll the dice, moving the deal marker the number of spaces rolled, and then you try to make a deal at the new location, or you draw three cards and your turn is complete. Once a certain number of deals are completed, the game is over.

For example, the deal in the bottom left requires blue, and then four from purple, red, orange, yellow, and green.

Now, how do deals work? Each player has a placard in front of them to start, which is one of six departments. Depending on how many players are in the game, some might be off to the side, ready to be grabbed. Each deal space on the board requires a specific configuration of departments for the deal to be successful, and it’s the responsibility of the boss (whoever is the active player) to negotiate a deal. Each deal has a dividend payout, which is a multiplier on the board which multiplies a dividend card in the center of the board, which grows with each completed deal (so the deals become more valuable as the game goes on). The boss negotiates a split of the dividend between participating parties should the deal be successful.

As an example, a deal might require red, yellow, and blue teams to participate, and then a combination of two teams from orange, purple, and green.

Here’s where the chicanery begins. Each player has a placard in front of them to start, which represents a permanent team. They also start with a bunch of cards, which represent teams and several special cards. A player might play half the cards needed to make a deal successful, working only with the boss to make a two-person deal.

There’s also cards that when played in threes, allow you to steal someone’s placard, cards that cancel card plays, cards that send players cards and placards off on business trips (temporarily removing them from the deal), and the all-important I’m the Boss! cards. These cards let you reset the deal that’s currently going on, and now you’re responsible for making the deal. All bets are off. It also has the added benefit of resetting turn order, which passes clockwise from the current boss each turn. So, you can use one to skip a player’s boss turn who you think has a lot of money, for example.

What you get from this cocktail is my favorite kind of negotiation space–one that’s simple, easy to parse, and gives the players the freedom to behave as they will. You can be an upright, honorable salaryman who always sticks to their guns, or you can be a capricious power-hungry devil, jumping on top of any opportunity that you can seize, and damn the consequences!

I’m the Boss! shares this quality with Intrigue, another one of my favorite negotiation games that came out the same year, though Intrigue is a bit more austere. I typically play the shorter variant because I find it can outstay its welcome if you play too long, and you can find this variant in the new edition’s rules, which are clear and well-written.

This re-issue of a classic game does justice to a classic design. Nuff said.

About the author

Thomas Wells

Writer. Portland, OR.

1 Comment

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  • Interesting… as a fan of Sid Sackson, I may have to try this at some point.

    Thanks for a great review!

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