AMBITION (also known as SCHOCKO & CO.) is a four-player game based quite loosely on the chocolate business.
Each turn players buy cocoa on the "world market," hire and fire employees, have their workers process their cocoa into chocolate, send their salesmen to sales meetings where they obtain sales contracts for their chocolate, and have their secretaries and accountants process the contracts. The object of the game is to outearn your opponents by the end of the eighth turn.
The game is structured around two different and unusual kinds of auction. At the beginning of the turn, players decide arbitrarily how much cocoa (measured, charmingly, in bars) will be put up for auction. It is then distributed among the five "cities," and each city auctions off its cocoa in turn.
The cocoa auctions are silent, with written bids. If the other players have overspent in turn's first auctions, you may be able to get cocoa for a song in the last--but if they haven't, you may have to bid high to get any cocoa at all.
If the cocoa auctions are nerve-wracking, they hardly compare with the auction of sales contracts at the end of the turn. A fixed number of contracts are made available (based on the number of sales- men that the players have committed), and they are turned up and bid for in turn. A typical contract is for 30 tons (three bars) of chocolate. The starting bid and maximum price are given on the contract card. The auctioneer sets the price at the starting bid and increases the price until a player decides that the price is good enough and accepts it.
It's quite possible to get so utterly underbid here that you can't sell *any* of your chocolate. It's also possible to get a couple of small- quantity but high-value contracts while your opponents are waiting for the high-quantity contracts to come along.
Along with all the buying and selling is the management of your staff. Hiring factory workers, salesmen, accountants, and secretaries not only costs you cash that you can barely afford, it also clues your opponents into what your plans are.
This is a tough game to master. Everything depends on your ability to outplan and outwit your opponents. You have to set clear goals for yourself and stick to them. This is particularly hard because the auctions--particularly the sales auctions--are excitingly unpredictable. It's easy to get seduced into accepting the wrong contract just because its price is so tantalizing and you can't bear to let any of your opponents get it.
AMBITION is, unfortunately, not widely available in the United States. The only store I've ever seen carrying it is Games People Play, in Cambridge; I got my copy via a friend who overbought games on his last trip to Europe and ended up with a spare. It's a marvellous game.
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell