John Company attempts to tell the story of the British East India Company from the inside out. Players will steer their dynasties through the company's history, vying for position, power, and prestige. The goal of the game is simple: Use the Company and the Company's trade to secure your place in society back home. To this end, you guide your scions through their careers, exchanging favors for positions in London or plush colonial posts. Players collectively control the Company, facing tough budgetary decisions and conflicting interests. Should a Governor conduct a campaign to expand company holdings or invest in his region's infrastructure? Perhaps the honest tax revenues would be better diverted to expand his summer estate back home... As the game continues, the Company may face open rebellion in India or outright failure as it grapples with increasingly bold attempts at regulation from the British government. It's even possible that the Company's trade monopoly will be revoked, leaving the players to form and operate their own trading firms. Each game offers a huge range of possibilities, informed chiefly by the decisions the players make. In addition, players can tailor their experience by using one of the three tournament scenarios that cover the Early, Mid, and Late Company that can be played in about 90 minutes. The game also offers a full campaign game that will take players from 1720 to 1857 in an evening.
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User Ratings & Reviews
John Company has an obnoxiously difficult rule set to learn and teach. I watched half a play-through, a full how to play video, and read though that dumpster-fire Sierra Madre calls a rulebook. An essential clarifications/errata exists and it's 3 pages long! Even with all that preparation we still found ourselves stumbling through our first play and looking for rule clarifications every couple minutes. The second play was no better. After a month apart from the game, the rule questions became even more frequent, and confusion plagued every single step of the game. The design itself feels undercooked and constantly broken. To predict the outcome of player actions would require everyone to fully understand the rules and interlocking mechanisms. That's NEVER going to happen. Even then, I don't see any potential of the game providing anywhere near enough enjoyment to justify that overhead.
John Company is fascinating, surprisingly accessible, and wonderfully clever--but it's very easy to go through the game on autopilot. This leads to new players and even those with some experience of the game having little ability to see (much less take advantage of) the inflection points. But the sandbox nature of the game is a delight. Each playing feels very different, even if you're just along for the ride. As an aside, it is a shame that Cole Wehrle's work is marred by Phil Eklund's bizarre alternate-reality paeans to British colonialism.
Republic of Rome meets Greed, Inc. with a little 18xx thrown in, distilled down to a wonderful game. It's dripping with theme, tension, and an accurate representation of history. This game has everything I love about games, and everything I wish games would be. After many plays I still feel like I'm barely scratching the surface. I look forward to many, many more plays.
This really needs a group willing to commit to multiple plays to explore the space. I say that about all of Cole Wehrle's games, but this one is especially true. Working up to the Full Campaign is like a 6-7 play commitment... Early Company two or three times... Post Monopoly two or three times, then maybe launch into a two or three plays of the full campaign. And then... maybe then... you can actually start to get your arms around what this game has to offer. But this is definitely not a game you can introduce to someone with the intention of playing it only once or twice, and then turn around and play it with a new group of people. If you have a gaming group of 4-5 people who are enthusiastic about this, then I am very jealous. It does have that core weakness of every negotiation game, though: the game is only as good as the least interested person at the table. Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition