Demon Worker is a game by Shogo Kuroda, published by Japanime Games. It is for 3-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of one of the most powerful denizens of the Underworld as they attempt to claim the empty Demon King’s throne. To do this they’ll need to interview and hire the most competent demons, pay them a fair salary and put them to work enacting your most evil and nefarious plans. Of course their opponents will also be trying to make a bid for the throne as well. The player that can best unleash their inner demon and prove they have what it takes to rule the underworld will be declared the winner.
To begin, the Work Area cards are placed in the middle of the table in a specific pattern as shown in the rulebook. The EP board is placed beside the cards. If there are only 3 players, the Cemetery and Trash Dump cards are returned to the box. The Planning cards are shuffled together and placed face down below the board, leaving room for a discard pile. The Sacrifice, Weapon, Magical Stone and Food tokens are placed beside the board in separate piles. Players choose a color and take the corresponding player pieces. They are also given a Summary card and 2 Human Worker cards. The Human Worker cards are placed face up in front of them. The player will place one of their player pieces on each card. They will also place one of their player pieces on the 0 space of the scoring track of the EP board. The Round Marker is placed on the 1 space of the Round Track. The Demon Worker cards are shuffled together and each player is dealt 6 cards each face down. Players are also dealt 2 Planning Cards, which they must not look at just yet. The first player is chosen and is given the “1” Turn Order token. The remaining players take consecutive turn order tokens in clockwise order from the first player. Each player is given 3 Sacrifice tokens, 2 Weapon tokens and a Magical Stone token. Play now begins.
Before the game can actually start, players must interview Demons by having a Demon Worker draft and making their plans. To perform the Demon Worker draft the players will look at their Demon Worker cards and choose one of them to keep. They will then exclaim, “You’re Hired!” and place the chosen card face down in front of themself. They will then pass the remaining cards in their hand to the player on their left. This process is repeated and continues until each player has selected 6 workers. Once this happens, players will pick up their 6 Demon Worker cards and place them in their hand. Next the players will need to make their plans. This is done by look at their 2 Planning cards and choosing one of them to keep. The other card is placed face up in the Planning cards discard pile. It should be noted for players playing their first game, the Interview process should be skipped and each player should simply use the 6 Demon Workers that they were originally dealt. Once all this is completed, the game can actually begin.
The game is played over 5 rounds. Each round is divided into 3 phases. Each phase is played in order. Those phases are the Supply phase, the Assignment phase and the Cleanup phase. The first phase is the Supply phase. In this phase, each player will receive the resources and EP shown on their Turn Order token. Players keep track of their EP by moving their playing piece upward on the scoring track of the EP board.
The next phase is the Assignment phase. In this phase players will take turns assigning their workers to the work areas, beginning with the player that has the lowest numbered Turn Order token. To be able to use a worker, the player must pay their salary. This comes in the form of their Dispatch cost and any additional costs. The amount and type of resources that must be paid for the Dispatch cost are shown on the left side of the Worker card. The player must then pay any additional costs that may be required. These additional costs come in the form of Food tokens. The rule is that if there are multiple workers on the same work area, then the player must pay 2 Food tokens for each worker already assigned to that work area. It should be noted however that there are a few exceptions to the rule. The Trash Dump and the Audience Chamber never require any additional Food token costs be paid. Both allow any number of workers to be present at any time. Once the player has chosen a worker, they will then place their worker and proclaim, “Go,” along with the worker’s name. This makes it possible for the other players to see which worker is being used more easily. The worker’s salary is then paid and the player piece from that worker is placed on the chosen work area card. At this point, the worker’s special ability takes effect. Once it’s resolved, the effects of the work area are resolved, starting from the top. Both the worker’s special ability and the work area’s effects must be used, only the War Room’s effect is optional. Once a player has assigned their worker, the next player in turn order will take their turn. One last thing, players have the option of passing if they aren’t not able to pay their worker’s salary or if they just don’t want to place a worker. If a player passes, they are done with the Assignment phase and may not place another worker later. Once all players have passed, the Assignment phase ends.
This brings us to the final phase, the Cleanup phase. In this phase, players prepare for the next round. This is done by following a few steps. First, each player will collect their playing pieces from the Work Area cards. Next they will place one of their playing pieces on each of their workers in play. Players will then pass their Turn Order Tokens to the player on their left. Finally, the Round token is move 1 space on the Round Track. A new round will then begin starting with the Supply phase again.
The game continues until the end of the 5th round. At the end of the Cleanup phase of the fifth round, players will not move the Round token, instead they will count their points. Players gain points for summoning 5 or 6 of their Demon Workers, for completing Planning cards and for paying the dispatch cost for each worker they have in play one last time. Players move their playing piece on the EP board fore each point they gain in these ways. The player with the most EP is the winner.
This is game with some nice looking pieces. First off there are a whole bunch of thick cardboard tokens. There are Sacrifice tokens, Weapon tokens, Magical Stone tokens and Food tokens. These are the resources that players will need to pay the salaries of their workers. Each of these are brightly colored and bear a small image of the resource they represent. There are also x5 tokens, 50EP tokens, Turn Order tokens and a Round token. The x5 tokens are gray and have a space to place a resource token on it. This counts as having 5 of that particular resource. The 50EP tokens are used for players that go over 50 points on the EP board. These have a purple fire with green numbers on them. The Turn Order tokens are large rectangular tokens with large colored arrows on them and a list of resources on them. These tell players who goes first and who goes next. The Round token is a bright green token with a little red demon holding a round sign. All of these tokens are good and sturdy. They look nice and work well with the game’s other designs. The board is a single fold black and white board with very little in the way of artwork or designs. This is one of the aspects of this game that I feel fell a bit short. It could have been more colorful or artistic. Instead it’s just bland and colorless. I really don’t like it. Something else I don’t like are the Summary sheets. These are really thin sheets of glossy paper with an image of that color’s demon lord. It also has a reference for the iconography in the game, along with explanations of the different work areas and worker’s abilities. I do like the references and explanations. That’s one really good part about the sheets. What I don’t like is the thin quality of them or the satanic references. Not to be a prude, but why was there a need to have anything other than a color for these? Why was there any reason to have Satan and Beelzebub, along with the other demons, on these? What purpose does it really serve? As for the quality, why not have made a simple card with references or something thicker and sturdier. I simply feel that these will be torn fairly easily, which might be a good thing as the “thematic element” of them aren’t worth keeping. Thankfully the cards are actually kind of cute and fun. I know, cute demons right? In any event, the cards are great quality and look well thought out. These take a bit of getting used to, due to the iconography, but it’s nothing to worry about. The final pieces are the bright wooden cylinders that are the player pieces. These look nice and are easily distinguishable between colors. For the most part, I think the game looks good. It’s just those few pieces, the board and summary sheets, that leave a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, it’s pretty decent.
6 out of 10
The rulebook for this game is a bit unusual. It is a long rectangle with 3 folds that expand it out to 4 pages across. There’s a little bit of artwork across the book but it’s rather small making it difficult to see. There are 2 or 3 examples that help players understand the rules a bit better. The book has sections that explain the different work areas, workers and planning cards. This is a great reference and easy to use. It really helps you to understand the iconography of the game. I prefer using this to the actual summary sheets. It’s easy to pass around and doesn’t have the references on it. While the design of the book is a bit weird, it actually does a pretty decent job of explaining the rules. I would like to point out however that there are a few areas where the rules were a little redundant and seemed to make no sense. I had to reread a few paragraphs just to understand what was being said. Still, even with these minor issue, I think the book is good overall. Of course it wouldn’t hurt to have a few changes either.
7 out of 10
So far, this game has been like a mixed bag of nuts. You’ve already seen my mild displeasure with the components and my so-so feelings on the rulebook. As for the gameplay, that might be the one redeeming quality that saves this one. While it is a different take on the worker placement genre, it’s still a fairly good game. The worker placement feel is still there, it’s done through the use of the cards you play as your workers, along with the location that you place your workers on. Most workers have a certain location that they work best on, so utilizing them in these places will allow you to gain the most bang for your buck. Like any good worker placement game, the idea is how to best manage your workers and gaining the resources you need to complete Planning cards. Of course one thing that can really make or break you is the initial draft of Demon Workers. If you start off with the right group of workers that are able to play off of each other, then you can really get moving quickly. However if you pick a group that doesn’t work so well, it may take several rounds before you get your machine up and running like it needs to be, possibly costing you the game. Thematically the game makes sense. The cards really give off the vibe of that theme. However, as noted earlier, some pieces just don’t feel so thematic and really give you a feeling of disconnect from the theme. I’m also not a fan of games using Satan and Beelzebub in them. While I understand that it’s a game and that the artwork is very cartoonish, I think those characters could have been left out and something used in their place. I just don’t see the need for them in the game. I know that there will be some people that will disagree with me and may find nothing wrong with having the characters present. That’s simply something I feel every player has to decide for themselves. As it is, the game is not bad, I simply dislike the theme. Fans of worker placement games may enjoy this one, especially if they have no problems with the theme. For me, I can appreciate the mechanics and the thrill of the gameplay. I just disagree with the theme. I also think the idea of the game being for only 3 and 4 players is a bit odd. Sometimes I enjoy playing games with only 1 other person, yet this one doesn’t give me that option. You have to have 3 or more players and it really works best with 4. I prefer a game that scales well from 1 to many. Unfortunately this one doesn’t do that. Overall this is a game that I would recommend trying first. I don’t think everyone that enjoys worker placement games will like this one, but I think many probably will.
8 out of 10
Demon Worker is a worker placement style game set in the darkest reaches of the Underworld. The game is fairly average when it comes to play times. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes or so. The components are a toss up. The artwork on the cards is great, but the EP board is very bland. I also dislike the thinness of the summary sheets and the use of Satan and Beelzebub as characters. The rulebook is fairly decent but it too has a few problems as well. The game itself plays good but the theme is not fully integrated. I dislike the theme but could have been ok with it minus the aforementioned characters. The game does have a unique take on the worker placement mechanic but a bad initial card draft can ruin your chances of winning pretty easily. This is one that I think fans of worker placement games may enjoy, but should probably try it out first. For this reason, this is a game that I would recommend trying before buying. For me, it was more of a miss than a hit. Not to say that the game is bad, it just didn’t work for me. I’m sure that some players will find enjoyment out of this one though. To them I say, “Work On.”
7 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.