Food Chain Magnate: Opening strategy for beginners

Food Chain Magnate is known for the importance placed on its openings. Following Splotter’s philosophy that the first turn is pointless if it can’t make us lose, no mistake goes unpunished. Thankfully, learning to avoid them is quite easy. All we need to know are the differences between three employees: Recruiting Girl, Trainer and Marketing Trainee.

OPENING PHILOSOPHY

In a race, there are several ways to win. One is to run faster. Another, perhaps more controversial one, is to leave the track, get into a car, and run over your opponents before they cross the finish line. Strategies in Food Chain Magnate work on the same spectrum. On one hand, we can deliver food as fast as possible. On the other, we can take our time training our staff and crush our opponents afterwards.

In practice, this gives us three choices. Recruiting Girl focuses on flexibility and speed, while Trainer, as we might expect, focuses on training. These two openings are used in every game. The third, Marketing Trainee, is only available in a handful of maps, making it quite uncommon. Several players can choose the same opening. Hence, we might have two Trainers and three Recruiting Girls in the same game.

Our choice should be based on two factors. The first is how much money players will add to the bank. Small amounts promote aggressive salesmanship while large ones promote training. The second factor is our opponents. We should always strive to beat them either in speed or the quality of our staff. If we can find a way to do that, we’ll win.

RECRUITING GIRL

Recruiting Girl is the aggressive choice. It cannot train until it sells food but it gives us a good choice of employees. That makes it the most flexible opening and also the most varied one. While most often paired with the 200$ reserve card, we can also find strategies for both less and more money in the bank. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always the best pick.

This opening shines when homes are close together. Being able to hire lots of low-ranking employees makes it easy to sell food so we ought to focus on that. The most common path with Recruiting Girl is to aim for the First to Hire 3 People in 1 Turn milestone. It requires a second recruiter, but it still leaves us with one spot to market drinks, pizza or burgers.

Jump into training the second you are guaranteed a sale. You don’t even need to wait for the next turn. Two employees can be covered with a single drink so you have room to spare. The trick is to hire the Trainer on the same turn as your food producer. That way, you’ll be able to hire employees, train them and pay them all in the same turn. Some good targets are Coach, Campaign Managers and even New Business Developer.

However, we can be more aggressive. Two Management Trainees are nice, but so is getting an extra marketing milestone. It’s a way to get a leg up on other people who also chose Recruiting Girl as their opening. Don’t be afraid to run several marketing campaigns, just hire more food producers! Here, making the first burger or pizza is a huge boon because it gives you a free cook.

Either way, prepare for a possible stall. While Recruiting Girl gives us an explosive opening, unpaid teenagers have their limits. When the adults come in with their zeppelins and radios, your Errand Boys are going to look silly. But you can still get to them. Lower prices to delay their penetration into the market and prepare yourself for a price war.

The milestone for being the first to spend 20$ in salaries can be perfect here. It allows us to chain several trainers, which is extremely powerful. It can be hard to get in most games, or simply too slow, but it’s the perfect tool for Recruiting Girls to turn the game around and beat the Trainers at their own game.

TRAINER

Trainer is slow, but powerful. It assures us the First To Train milestone, which makes the first three salaries free. This not only allows us to get better employees before anyone else, it also does away with the need to sell food first! Trainer is a good opening for maps that make early sales difficult and you almost always want to put 300$ into the reserve.

Generally, we’ll aim to train a Coach or Guru. Then, we’ll use them to obtain a powerful marketing employee, like Brand Manager. This creates a lot of demand, which we can easily cover by training Chefs, Cooks and Zeppelin Pilots. Making everyone in the city crave hamburgers with a well-placed radio can win us the entire game.

The trick is what you do when you aren’t training. Trainer isn’t a flexible opening and we’ll miss quite a few milestones along the way. I heavily recommend getting one of the +5$ marketing bonuses, as it’s hard to fight price wars without them. You can also try to hire your own Recruiting Girl to speed things up. However, don’t forget that you can get a free cook with a Kitchen Trainee.

Like I mentioned, Trainer favours price wars. We might arrive late to the board, but we’ll have better food production and access to Discount Managers. Pay attention to the distance between restaurants; a slight price reduction can give us control over a good chunk of houses. Still, it’s impossible to do everything. Focus on paying salaries and gaining an incremental advantage.

MARKETING TRAINEE

The Marketing Trainee is an unusual, hyper-aggressive pick. It is immediately followed by an Errand Boy with the goal of selling drinks on turn three. This is enough to score a good chunk of the bank and assures us the best milestones in the game. However, it comes with a hefty drawback: We’ll fall behind in both employment and training.

This opening becomes available when two houses are close to each other. If we can market to both with a single billboard, that’s 30$ per turn with just two untrained employees. Unless our opponents react fast, we’ll cross the finish line in no time, particularly if the bank doesn’t have much money in it. Needless to say, if we are interested in this opening we should choose 100$ as our reserve card.

Our company is assured to fall apart at some point. Sooner or later, our opponents will use their better staff to steal our sales. We must have a plan for when that happens. First, we can try to extend our early game advantage as much as we can. Marketing more drinks, lowering prices and opening more restaurants is a good first step.

After that, we can also try to hire some cooks or do some training. Even if we fall behind, it’s important to keep pushing forward. Every sale counts. The moment we get stuck we might not sell anything anymore. Remember, you are sacrificing the long-term quality of your staff with this opening. Just accept your weakness and plan accordingly.

Note that we don’t need to sell every single burger. As long as we get a bigger chunk of the bank than other players, we’ll win. Most games of Food Chain Magnate can be won with just 400$. With an early lead, good reactions to your opponent’s moves and the CFO bonus you might be able to cross that line. Don’t get caught off guard!

In the end, openings are important, but they aren’t the entirity of Food Chain Magnate. In fact, I’ve yet to see anyone lose because they picked a slighty worse one. Rather, they are important because they inform our decisions for the rest of the match. They are the base in which they are built. Remember your strenghts and weakness and work from there.

2 comments

  1. Fascinating article.

    I played FCM a bunch a few years ago, but I quickly soured on it.

    It just didn’t give me what I wanted.

    I saw all the different employees and the “deck building” mechanic and I wanted a sandbox. I wanted to play around with different combos of employees and try different strategies. Instead, I discovered a “race” in which my decisions are greatly influenced by my opponents. The majority of the time I can’t just recruit the employees I want, I have to recruit the employees to counter my opponent’s strategy. That is not fun at all (to me).

    There are a few games in which I don’t mind having no agency and being railroaded into whatever counter-strategy is needed to have a chance to win, but I much prefer games in which I have more autonomy.

    1. Thank you Nathan,

      I’m glad you brought it up, because many have described Food Chain Magnate as a sandbox of sorts. But it’s true it’s actually extremely competitive and centred on countering opposing moves. I just finished a game in which my strategy was focused exclusively on keeping myself one step ahead of my closest opponent. It has more options than usual and it’s fun to explore them, but they are clearly there as a tool to have a challenging experience, not to explore them. In that regard, Roads & Boats, is a more open-ended game by the same designers.

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