At the end of last Summer I had the chance to play Smartphone Inc., an economic simulation game that I’ve been really intrigued by. The Kickstarter for the reprint of the game had already passed and I wanted to dig in to see what this game was all about. After spending about 10 days with the game, I was kicking myself for not backing the Kickstarter project.
Since then the game has been released worldwide and the finished project is a thing of beauty.
Building a Mobile Empire
Smartphone Inc. puts you in the role of building a cellphone empire as you aim to conquer a worldwide market. The game takes place over 5 rounds and each round is broken down into easy to understand steps. Each player has two double-sided cellphones where they will essentially program what your company will do during the round. The different corporations will start in different areas of the map and also have a unique starting bonus tile.
You’ll set the price of your mobile devices, produce crates of product, put resources into R&D and expand into other countries. At the end of the round, players will sell their products based on the players with the cheapest prices and going up from there. Prices will dictate so much of your turn so adjusting this each round can make a big difference.
Developing the Latest Tech
When you put resources into research and development, you’ll unlock new technologies that open sales opportunities and bonuses. The more I play the game, the more I see the value in this stage of the round. Players who ignore R&D will find they have less sales opportunities as the game progresses which can ruin your company.
Each unlocked technology comes with a bonus that can be a one time perk or a bonus that lasts the remainder of the game. Just like any technology, the first player to unlock it will gain end game points for being an innovator. The next player to research that same tech will receive it at a reduced cost but won’t receive end game victory points. The variable set up using the R&D tiles keeps the game fresh and some of the bonuses feel more advanced than others.
Victory points are counted on the nifty score board that is shaped like a tablet. The player who leads after 5 rounds wins the game.
Taking Over the World
Every round of Smartphone Inc. begins with programming which feels like a puzzle that each player has to work through. It’s common to want to try and do everything during a round. Because this programming happens behind player screens, you have no idea whether your opponents are pushing their prices sky high or producing a crazy number of phones.
Smartphone Inc. is a complex game without ever feeling overly “weighty”. Since each round is broken into distinct steps that are tracked on the board, it’s easy to follow along. Once you get a round or two under your belt, the game moves so smoothly from round to round.
An area of the game players need to focus on is how they expand their offices around the map. Selecting the expansion (truck) icon will give you tokens to expand into other countries. The game really changes as players compete against one another in each country. Bonus points are given to the player who sells the most products in a region. This bonus increases as more players build offices in a region which means winning a region becomes more valuable.
Smartphone Inc. is an economic strategy game that fires on so many levels. Finding the right balance between pricing and production depends on how aggressive the other players want to be. Being in a position to block other players from selling in a region may mean another player will have to dump their unsold product at the end of a round.
You absolutely feel the tension of running a corporation as you grow. This is what makes this theme pop for Smartphone Inc.
A Top Pick?
I’m not shy in saying that I love Smartphone Inc. I don’t gravitate to economic games generally but this one has impressed me at every turn. The main board with its die cut insets are fantastic. I love the translucent components each player places during the round. While I haven’t personally dug into the solo mode, I’ve actually considered checking it out! This is huge for me because I’m absolutely not a solo gamer.
During my dozen or so plays of Smartphone Inc., it’s easily moved into my Top 10 Games of all time. While I’m sad that I missed the original release in 2018, I feel like this 2020 re-release is is a must own for fans of mid-weight strategy games.
This game was provided to us by the publisher for review. Read more about our review policies at One Board Family.
- Easy to learn and teach without sacrificing game depth
- Gets competitive as each corporation expands
- Each round allows players to adjust their strategy
- Excellent components throughout
- This game is a table hog
- Just “OK” at 2 players (fixed in Update 1.1 expansion)