Every generation naively believes their level of technology is innovative. Technology has even found its way into our board games. Recent games like Golem Arcana, Alchemists, and XCom integrate, if not require, a mobile device in order to play. But this marriage of cardboard and circuitry is nothing innovative, it’s old news! When it comes to device integration, one game trumps them all by over a decade!
Today on Thrift Sift -- the series about board games that I pick up at thrift stores because they look interesting, bizarre, or a combination of both -- I showcase a game that truly pushed the boundaries of turn-of-the-millenium gaming by seamlessly integrating not only an electronic device, but also the brand of a familiar TV show that we all knew and endured.
I’m referring to, of course, 2004’s The Apprentice board game, brought to us by the truly differently-thinking mind of Donald Trump, and proudly designed by uncredited. Does The Apprentice board game still get us as “fired” up today as it did back in 2004? Let’s find out, on this episode of Thrift Sift!
The Apprentice Game is based on the broadcast television show of the same name. For those unfamiliar with this game’s televised namesake, here’s a quick refresher course:
The premise of The Apprentice was simple: an assortment of sometimes competent strangers would be collected together, arbitrarily split into two teams, and then inexplicably forced to lodge with one another, all the while bickering about the self-serving business and marketing tasks assigned to them by Donald Trump. At the close of each episode, one of the aspiring unemployed contestants was determined to be slightly more incompetent than the others, and would be banished from the show by The Donald himself. The contestant’s dismissal was executed by the utterance of Trump’s temporarily famous television catchphrase “you’re fired”. The last contestant remaining at the end of the season won the privilege of working for Donald Trump. The other contestants received the parting gift of not.
The Apprentice television show exemplified the level of quality expected from network television! Is it any wonder why people watched it for some reason? Now, The Apprentice board game captures all the excitement of being watching people be assigned corporate busywork from the TV show, but does it with fewer commercials. I know you’re as curious as I am to find out how it accomplishes this... but let’s do it anyway.
The Apprentice board game includes a deck of Competitor cards (featuring a cast of characters who may or may not have actually ever appeared on the show), a deck of Task cards (featuring the assignments Mr. Trump considers crucial to running his business), a deck of Earnings cards (which will be distributed arbitrarily throughout the game), and an instructions pamphlet. But, the focal point of the game is the custom-made mobile device that talks to you in Donald Trump’s voice. But watch out, because, as in real life, Donald's voice has no volume control.
Now that we’ve braced ourselves for what to expect from the game’s components, let’s review the instructions pamphlet and find out how to play.
The instructions greet us with a memo directly from the desk of Trump himself. He writes:
This amazing game is based on my hit TV show The Apprentice. As you know, each week, two teams of competitors endure rigorous business tasks, which test their intelligence, chutzpah and street-smarts.
Not tested: their business, economics or project management skills.
The instructions then discuss what to do if the game starts malfunctioning and locks up. Followed by, not one, but two sections on battery safety, another paragraph about what to do if the game locks up, and a diagram indicating where to find the device’s reset button, to be used if and when the game malfunctions and locks up.
With so many malfunction warnings, should we be worried about product quality here? Certainly not! This game proudly carries the Trump name, just like a bounty of other quality products to do so in the past: Trump Mortgage, Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump Ice water, GoTrump.com, Trump Magazine, The New Jersey Generals, Trump Airlines, Trump Tower Tampa, and Trump University... none of which still exist today.
Regardless, now that we have the product’s multiple safety warnings out of the way, let’s move on to the gameplay instructions.
To play. First, divide the players into two teams, the red team and the blue team. The instructions state that it doesn’t matter how many players are on a team, so I suggest teams of three versus... 46,000.
Place the game unit in the center of the table.
Shuffle the decks of Competitor cards, Task cards and Earnings cards, and place them facedown on the table.
The Red team and the Blue team each begin with six Competitor cards.
Donald Trump himself provides the following tip regarding the Competitor cards: “You can keep your Competitor cards secret from the other team or reveal them. It’s your choice. However, I like to keep my strengths and weaknesses hidden as long as possible.” It’s true! And he’s very good at it. In fact, I’m anxiously awaiting the day that he finally reveals his strengths.
After each team has received their six Competitor cards, press the central unit’s start button. You are now probably playing the game. You’ll know for sure when Donald Trump’s disembodied voice begins telling you to do stuff, nearly all of which involves sliding cards through the apparatus.
If you miss one of the machine’s instructions, don’t worry, because, as Trump states in the rules pamphlet: “if, at any time during the game, you didn’t hear what I said, press the start button and I will repeat myself. Next time pay better attention!” ... But, what if we didn’t hear what you said because the game malfunctioned and locked up?
Throughout the game, Mr. Trump barks out random tasks to anyone who’s listening, and you’ll respond by selecting the Competitor from your hand with the best skill for that task, and then scanning their card. And then, on the next turn, you’ll do it again. And again and again and again until the final round of the game which reveals a twist that there is no twist; that’s pretty much it.
So, what kinds of tasks will Donald Trump and his gaming device made from space age polymers be assigning to you? The game’s tasks can be sorted into three categories.
The first category is simply tasks that serve his own self-interest. Some examples include:
To understand the meaning of the phrase “selling ice cubes to Eskimos” and collect donations for me, Donald Trump.
Taking advantage of board game media to solicit donations from the public? That’s disgusting. I’ll be sure to address this issue in more detail during Pair Of Dice Paradise’s next kickstarter fundraising campaign.
To create a point of purchase display and sell the most Trump games at Toys R Us.
I think this is actually a trick question because, in my experience, any local thrift store already has a nearly infinite supply of Trump games. Weeding out the week contestants with a fool’s errand, I admit, that’s clever, Donald.
To look over Donald Trump’s taxes from last year and find the most mistakes - saving him the most money.
Mistakes? I would assume that your first mistake was giving complete strangers access to your personal tax records. But that’s just me. Or, as my new identification puts it, Donald J. Trump.
The second category of tasks demonstrate how out of my league Trump’s business training is. After all, there’s no way I would have ever thought that these were excellent business decisions:
To sell incense to the passengers on the subways of New York City.
An excellent enterprise for anyone who hasn’t been beaten up in a while and would like to rectify that.
To sell designer shoes to people on the streets of New York from the back of a van.
No business plan that originates “from the back of a van” has ever been a bad idea.
The remaining tasks fit snugly into the third and most plentiful category of tasks that demonstrate exactly how insensitive you can be while still being rich:
To go around performing good deeds for people... and see how much you earn in tips.
Aw, you were thiiis close to common decency. Okay, not really.
To sell prepaid phone cards to inmates at Riker’s Island.
Because just because you’re imprisoned, doesn’t mean you can’t be humiliated just a little bit more.
And finally, the task that encapsulates everything that has made Donald Trump what he is today, the pinnacle of free enterprise, The Most Innovative, How Could This Not Be A Good Idea That Anyone, Ever, In The History Of Civilization Has Ever Had On This, Or Any Other, Planet, task:
To collect the most money while living on the streets of New York as a homeless person.
Now, you may assume that this card must simply just have a series of very elaborate typos. You may argue that a typo is the only way someone would allow their name to be branded onto a game that insensitively, disrespectfully, and asininely implores people to impersonate destitute vagrancy for the sole purpose of increasing their chances of winning a vapid recreation an insipid television game show.
But, you don’t realize that this is actually an act of compassion! If capitalism has taught us nothing else, it’s that competition results in strength! And by competing directly with the homeless, you’re teaching them to become better entrepreneurs! And that lesson’s being taught to them for free! So, by mocking them for profit, you’re performing a public service! And remember, this public service suggestion brought to you by Donald Trump.
The only thing more blatantly inspiring that Mr. Trump could do, would be to include himself on a Competitor card with maxed out stats. Of course he did.
At this point, it’s logical to be wondering, “what will end this game?” Well, as the number of competitors dwindle, one team will inevitably run out of Competitors. But, instead of taking this opportunity to declare a winner, gameplay is prolonged by performing a Corporate Shuffle, in which the player with more Competitors still in hand gives several of them to the other player. Balancing out the teams. This allows the game to keep going!
When performing a Corporate Shuffle, you’ll still have no idea of what skills you’ll need for the tasks ahead, which may make the exercise seem random and pointless. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Trump himself demonstrates his wisdom with the following suggestion: “You can send over any remaining Competitors during a Corporate Shuffle. Since future tasks are unknown to you, this decision may be difficult. Do your best. I never said this would be easy!”
Thank you for that excellent advice. Yes, don’t bother trying to employ any strategy or tactics while playing this game, because Mr. Trump never said this would be easy! To his credit, he never said this would be fun either.
The game does eventually end with some kind of final boardroom showdown. I’ll have to take the rule pamphlet’s word for it though, because, by this point in the game, I’ve usually succumed to card sliders fatigue, and have collapsed in a heap under the table. So, while I can’t tell you how the boardroom showdown works, I bet it involves listening to Donald Trump’s voice while sliding cards through the machine!
The winner of the game is the player with the last Competitor remaining, whom Mr. Trump then ordains to become his young apprentice. The winner can then continue on the path to greatness, just like this person from The Apprentice TV show who went on to… uh… or this one who… uh… or this one who went on to appear on a subsequent season of the show.
The instructions conclude with one more section about defects and damaged parts.
Before playing this game, I was skeptical that a mere board game could capture the excitement of watching people on TV do menial tasks for Donald Trump. But I think the pointlessness of the randomly assigned tasks is an excellent representation of what it would really be like to work for Donald Trump. You have just about as much control over the outcome of this game as you do over the TV show, so, in that respect, The Apprentice television program is faithfully adapted by The Apprentice board game; a game that truly is an innovation, because I can’t think of a single other game that’s ever dared to put you in the role of someone pretending to perform arbitrary, random business tasks by repeatedly mimicking the act of paying for a pack of cigarettes with a credit card.