This is a game of building and share buying. It comes with 100 smoked plastic blocks straight from another of Franckh's offerings, Terra Turrium, and a board of 72 consecutively numbered squares. There are 72 matching cards and 7 shares in each of 8 companies. The overall effect production-wise is, as you might expect, stunning.

You start with 12 cards and a cool 30 million. Each turn you may play a card to either found a company or extend it using the biolding blocks. The size of the company represents the current share price and when you add to a company you receive its new value in cash. You may also buy up to 2 shares per turn and a maximum of 2 companies over the course of the game which are worth the equivalent of 3 shares each.

Founding a company involves playing a number card and a block on the appropriate space. Two further blocks are also placed on adjacent spaces to which you may not own the matching cards. This gives a base of 3 blocks for an income of 3 million.

Adding to a company may be done horizontally using number cards or vertically, usually with storey cards. There are 18 of these added to the number pack and they allow building at various different levels. These are quite valuable as they add the value of their level to that of the recipient company.

If you run out of useful cards, then you may buy one as the sole action in a turn for 5 million. Gradually the board fills up and the game ends when all the building blocks have been used. There are opportunities for merging companies, which causes the less successful one to disappear, and sprawling megaliths may result, although company values are limited to 50 million.

Scoring involves totalling the present market value for your shares and adding to this three times the market value of each company owned. The remaining cards in your hand are deducted at five million each.

So how does it all add up? If aesthetics are your primary concern in a game then look no further. Once the game is in full swing the expanding companies with their soaring towers really do look superb.

In considering play value there is no doubt that there is a significant luck factor in the game. Picking up the right cards can be critical. Holding the outer cards of rival companies and thereby dictating their future expansion or otherwise is a fundamental tactic.

Shares are often in big demand and tend to disappear quite quickly, particularly in those companies which are expanding rapidly. Buying your first company costs 15 million and often needs to be finely balanced as it may be a major disincentive to further investment from your opponents. This applies even more when grabbing your second company at 30 million. Juggling your cash between shares, company purchases and card buying does give scope for some skilful play as does the choice of expansion possibilities although one's options are usually quite limited in all these areas.

Cash flow (or lack of it) is a constant problem early in the game and you may be forced to expand one of your rival's companies, if it provides a valuable transfusion of income, rather than concentrating on your own. Passing may be the only option available if the cards are in the wrong places or you are too broke to buy more. In the end game it is important to keep a close eye on the diminishing blocks (or perhaps hand, as they're kept hidden in a huge bag). You may have lots of useful placements but not enough blocks to make them all count.

Despite the overall emphasis on luck rather than skill (or perhaps because of this!) the game is very enjoyable to play even if you lose catastrophically, which I have done on numerous occasions. It also seems to play well with any number of players. The main drawback is the price but I have now played eight times and have already got more out of Big Boss than several of my other German games. Enough said!

Steve Owen

On to the review of Axiom or back to the review of Auf Heller & Pfennig.

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