Theme and What is it?
Smartphone Inc. is an economic simulation boardgame set back when smartphones were just gaining popularity. You play as a CEO of a large manufacturing corporation, which seeks to spread its influence worldwide. Players have to research new technologies, build logistics networks, produce and sell their smartphones to customers to earn money. The richest corporation wins.
The main feature of Smartphone Inc. is the player’s pads (mats). All players have two pads with several action symbols on each side. Each turn, you plan your actions by connecting these pads; all visible symbols give you profits depending on their type and all covered symbols improve your production. The game lasts exactly 5 turns consisting of 8 simple phases each.
In the first phase, the players simultaneously connect their pads behind the screens.
Then the players show their pads and proceed to the Pricing phase. At the beginning of each round, all smartphones have a cost of 5, but their price changes by visible +$ or -$ symbols.
The corporation with the lowest price will perform its actions earlier, but having a higher price is better for your profit. So you have very interesting decisions to make – sell your gadgets cheaper, but before your opponents’ turns, or try to get more money if the market is still in demand.
Smartphone Inc. demonstrates the mechanics of supply and demand very clearly. Each country has a different number of customers (represented by slots on board) who want to purchase smartphones at a certain price (or lower).
If there are no dissatisfied customers left, you can’t sell your gadgets and they will disappear (return to your pool) becoming obsolete. So it is very important to understand how many goods you will produce at the third phase of each turn and make sure you’ll have buyers.
The fourth phase is a Production. If you have a factory symbol visible, you take one improvement pad from the pool in turn order. Improvement pads are used same way as player pads – you can connect them to get additional actions.
Otherwise you just get production tokens which grant you +1 additional smartphones per turn until the end of the game.
The Technology and Logistics phases work similarly. Players get progress markers for each visible cog and truck symbols on their pads. Then you collect enough progress markers so that you can research new technology or found an office in a new region. Each technology gives you permanent bonus and if you were the first to research that technology, you also get patent rights, which grant you a good amount of money at the end of game. New offices allow you to cultivate business in new countries so you can sell more smartphones and earn more money!
The next phase is the Sale phase. All players, according to the turn order, sell their produced smartphones to the customers. At this step, you can take sales away from your competitors by selling your smartphones on the cheap before your opponents even have a chance to hit the market. In the last phase, all players receive money for each sold smartphone and for each region where they sell more smartphones than their opponents.
The best element of Smartphone Inc. is the high level of player interaction and variability of game play styles. You want to sell more smartphones and control more regions, but the number of buyer slots is limited, so you want to reach them faster than your opponents. You can focus on logistics to capture new unoccupied markets, or research technologies which make your company more flexible than the competition. Also, you can flood markets with a large number of cheap gadgets. Any style of play can work, which makes the game have great replay value.
I also like that the game rewards you for each action you take. Player mats are made in such a way that if you play this game for the first time and don’t know how to build a great strategy, you will always make some progress anyway. Whatever you do, you’ll always see profit.
Smartphone Inc. is very lenient for beginners, but it can be very competitive for experienced players. It’s one of those easy to learn and hard to master games.
Game Build Quality
There are no miniatures or excessively specialized components in Smartphone Inc., making it more affordable. The markers are transparent plastic in different shapes. The main board is done with punched slots and there is a composite organizer with trays for each player. This makes the game more user-friendly.
The design of the game is minimalistic and focused on infographics. If the game board were brightly illustrated it would be difficult for players to keep focused on the right elements. Whether or not you favor minimalist designs, it’s very helpful for a game about economic planning.
This game is basically a race for money. Each turn you try to be faster than your opponents. Go to their territories, sell your smartphones, get technology patents, etc. But the rest of the players want the same things you do! I was so keen on playing this game that I didn’t even notice that the game had come to an end. It was that awesome!
Age Range & Weight
Smartphone Inc. is rated for ages 14+ and I think this has a lot to do with its economic theme. It’s a serious game for serious gamers. I don’t recommend playing this with children under 14. This game can get quite aggressive, and younger children may not be able to handle it.
Smartphone Inc. is a solid midweight German-style economics game. This game creates detailed simulations of economic processes using easy-to-understand mechanics. And as I said earlier, the most exciting element of Smartphone Inc. is the interaction between players. So it’s not a game about dry economic calculations — it’s all about intense competition. It’s fast and addictive and you’ll love it just like I do!