Sunday, May 11, 2008

Buy Low, Spell High

I actually had a more clever title for this but I forgot it.

Mother's day for me involved entertaining the troops while mom did whatever she wanted. The Flower will turn on the TV and watch it all day--each child gives me a new reason to hate Disney--but I really can't stand the audio assault that is television. Particularly commercial TV.

So we broke out this computer game I had bought for The Flower a few weeks ago called Fairy Godmother Tycoon.

The problem with buying "family" games is that they're produced by the shovelful (and are even called "shovelware" by hardcore gamers) and very often ignored in the press. I basically bought this on the strength of a single review from Gaming Nexus (via

Anyway, Fairy Godmother Tycoon (FGT) is a business simulator. It's closer to Lemonade Stand than Capitalism but has a great presentation and a good amount of complexity. In FGT, you visit various cities that are being cursed, and you run a potion shop to cure those curses.

The demand depends on the likelihood of curses for a given day--actually called The Weather Report, as it serves as a parallel to the weather report in lemonade. You build the potions from one or more ingredients that you buy (and the price of which fluctuates). Other variables, such as a backwards Robin Hood who steals the peasants' money and gives it to the rich, or tax stimulus checks, influence how much people can pay. You can upgrade your shop to make it provide potions faster or make the wait in your shop more interesting.

Your opponents are fairy tale creatures with a twist, such as the Magic Dragons (a bunch of tie-dyed hippy fire-breathing dragons) and the not-so-handsome-princes. Along the way there are some side missions involving other fairy tale creatures, such as the Three Pigs Contractors who need to find a way to make their housing more huff-and-puff resistant, and little Miss Muffet, whose curds and whey store customers are being frightened away by a biker gang run by a guy named spider.

This game illustrates the basic principles of supply and demand, cost of production, research and development and marketing. It's a bit heavy for a six-year-old, and you sure want to be able to read or be there to read for her, but it's workable, and it's a fairly forgiving game.

One thing I didn't like particularly is that, because you're supplying cures for curses, your primary way to stimulate demand is to create more curses. Also, the special actions are primarily dirty tricks, like hiring goons to steer people away from your opponents' stores or actually stealing money or supplies.

There's a lot of wit here to go along with the colorful artwork. Some of the jokes are sort-of Rocky & Bullwinkle style that fly over the kids' heads, but if you're sensitive to that type of thing, be forewarned. There are references to adult notions like fixing sporting events and--well, at one point, one of the three little pigs is try to describe how "brick houses" are built.


It even held The Boy's interest for a bit, and he's used to far more sophisticated fare. I can see him sneaking in a play or two when his sister's not looking to see more of the jokes and try out gooning.

The Flower isn't into gooning, though I was a little surprised that she didn't mind pulling dirty tricks on her competitors. At the same time, she had the same unwillingness to gouge people, regardless of market conditions, that The Boy had in similar situations at that age. They could both relate to pulling a prank or a joke, but not to "charging what the market will bear".

Actually, since people got mad if they didn't like the price of a potion, The Flower was inclined to undercharge for everything. I had to point out that that left her with less capital to improve her shop later on--a lot, and she's still dubious.

Overall, a fun afternoon. Worth the $20, I'd say. And it divides up neatly into a planning/reporting session and a real-time based game day, so that you can get up and do a victory dance (or whatever) in-between turns. You're not chained to the seat.

It worked out well.

Update: Having played through to the end now, I would say that the wit and funny writing holds up to the end, but the play gets just a bit tired by the last scenario. There's a free-play where you can go back and re-play any of the kingdoms, but I don't see why you would. The very last scenario involves driving three competitors out of business, and the last competitor has so much money, you're just buying supplies and kicking his ass day after day after day until he finally runs out of cash.


  1. Hi There,

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  2. Hi There,

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  3. Gonna hafta go with Troop, here.

    Sorry, Kelvin, Watson.

    You'll have to find some other way to give your advertising that 20-eyeball bump my site would've added.

    I like to think they're very elite eyeballs, mind you. The top .0001%. So I'm careful with what I expose them to.

    It's a trust issue. You understand.


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