Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager Review

Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager
Deck Building, Set Collection
Box Fox Games
Seh Hui "Felix" Leong

Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager is a fantastic deck builder with some really clever twists- lots of deck builders have you managing cost to fill your deck with desirable cards, but in this unique game, the currency you spend to restock your store is the very profit you're collecting to win yourself the game.

So, we play a lot of deck builders around here.  We love the genre, and so we’ve amassed a pile of favorites.  And to find a space on that mound, where great games like Hero Realms, Clank!, and The Quest for El Dorado sit in permanent residence, a game has to do something unique.  Well, Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager brings enough uniqueness to the table that it’s assuredly gotten us to take notice.

In Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager, players will start with a humble beginner deck, the makings of their very own supermarket.  It’s a classic tale of ambition – your little but growing town is just waiting to have some new commerce, and you, of course, are just as eager to line your pockets and master the art of management!  But, as the Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager rulebook will warn you, you’re not the only one with plans.  Your opponents’ stores are opening just as yours is, and it will be the manager who masters market flux, inventory management, and personnel assignment who will come out with the biggest pile of cash.

This is what it’s all about – the player with the most MIELlions wins!

Jess: And when you put it all like that, it sounds like, uh, work.

Andrew: Well, yes, but not moreso than running a railroad or owning a farm, and we play approximately ten billion games about those things every year.  Personally, I found Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager’s theme to be unpretentiously relatable, and its artwork is colorful and fun!

Your shop

Mechanically, Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager hits a lot of the familiar notes of other deck builders.  You and your fellow players will start out on even footing, with a basic deck of goods (some food and clothes), some cash, and a single Junior Salesperson, ready and eager to make you some cash.  During the course of the game, you’ll manage your deck’s inventory as well as your employees, each of which has unique abilities which will help you in your management task.

As the game unfolds, Sales Forecast cards will be revealed, which can be earned by turning in the listed combination of goods.  By doing this, you will earn piles of cash to add to your deck, letting you make bigger purchases and hires.  The ebb and flow of these Sales Forecast cards will set the tempo of Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager, acting both as the game’s natural timer as well as providing targets for you to hit with your inventory management.

How do you get goods to sell, you ask?  Well, we’ve already come to one of the really unique things about Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager.  To add cards to your deck, be they inventory for sale or employees to work in your store, all you need to do is spend the cash that’s in your deck.

And you do that by discarding it.  Like, forever.  And that’s where this game’s genius starts to show.

Andrew: Ok, that may not seem like a huge deal at first, but this is where Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager  gets really clever.  See, nearly every deck building game gives you a currency that you can spend on new cards – after all, that’s the ‘building’ part.  But in every other case I can think of, that currency nearly always ends up back in your deck once you spend it.  Not so with Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager.

Jess: Which makes perfect sense, right?  I mean, you spend money, it’s gone, it’s not just magically back in your bank for you to withdraw later.  Believe me, I’ve tried, and the arresting officers were really specific about the details.

Everyone’s got to start somewhere

So every expense you make in Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager will not only add some cards to your deck, but it will thin your deck of the very money you’re looking to make.  But the clever among you will likely point out that all you’re doing is moving some money out temporarily – once you turn your goods in and earn some cash back, you’ll be flush again!  Right?

Turn in the right goods and earn a pile of cash…as long as you’ve got the right employees on hand

Well, yes, absolutely.  But it’s not sooo simple.  When your store earns money, it doesn’t actually go into your deck, it goes into your ‘bank’.  Money in your bank can be moved into your deck on your turn, but it goes into your discard pile, meaning that you’ll have to cycle your deck before you see the profit you’ve made.  Meaning that, unless you’ve planned well, you could find yourself burning turns waiting for your money to show up while your opponents have a chance to grab Sales Forecast cards for themselves.

Changing conditions will alter your strategy throughout the game, adding complexity and replay value

And not only that, but the decision about how much of your profit to dump back into your desk is a critical one!  Cash cards don’t do anything other than let you purchase, and filling your deck with them can result in you finding yourself without the other cards you might be looking for on any given turn, like inventory or employees!

Jess: The puzzle that Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager puts in front of you is fiendishly clever.  There aren’t too many moving parts – you can see what sets you are all hunting for, and you know what the market looks like on any given turn.  But by having to consider where the money goes and where it comes from, Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager becomes something unlike most other deck builders I’ve ever seen.

Andrew: Same here.  I also love the simple but meaningful influence your staff have on your deck.  In order to undertake certain actions, or to do them better, you’ll need to have the right people on hand.  For example, you’ll probably want a recruiter to make future hires cheaper, and you’ll definitely need salespeople in order to fulfill orders.  However, misjudging how much to spend on your personnel is a great way to absolutely tank your profit margins.

Previously-acquired cards can be used to modify current requests

And profit is ultimately the goal of every player in Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager.  Once the Fiscal Reporting card has been unearthed from the depths of the Sales Forecast deck, you will finish out the round, cash out your inventory, and total up all your profits wherever it may rest.  The player with the most money is the winner.

Adding to Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager is the ‘Employee Driven Mode’, which completely flips the game on its head.  This mode greatly restricts what you, the manager, can do every turn.  Instead, you are almost exclusively limited to the actions your current pool of employees can do, though to compensate nearly all of them get more/different powers than they have in the vanilla game.  It’s a really fun variant, adding even more complexity to your deck building strategy.  This mode truly transforms the game, and is definitely worth trying.

There’s also a dedicated solo mode, but we haven’t tested that, so we can’t speak to its experience.

Differences in an employee’s powers between the regular vs. employee-driven modes

Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager is currently being self-published by Box Fox Games, who provided our copy for review.  There is no retail US distribution of this fantastic deck builder, but the Box Fox Games Facebook page is very active and the best place to order directly from the designer/publisher.  For those looking for a unique and engaging game, and who might also want to be interested in supporting the game scene in Malaysia, we highly encourage you to check out and consider ordering your very own copy of Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager!

Our copy came with this wonderful little reminder of where Pasaraya came from – 100% Malaysian, from the design to the production.

Andrew: So I really like Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager quite a bit.  There’s a cleverness to its design that, with just a few little tweaks, manages to turn otherwise-classic deck building gameplay into a thinky, engaging puzzle that I really enjoyed tackling.

Jess: I liked it too!  I think my best experiences with it was at 2 players, but that’s probably because that mode had the least volatility and lower likelihood that orders I was trying to complete would get scooped by someone else, but it really just works at any player count.

Andrew: Like I said, with so many high quality deck builders out there, it takes a lot to stand out from the pack.  And I truly feel like Pasaraya: Supermarket Manager does enough that’s new and fresh that it deserves a place in our collection, and is definitely worth checking out!

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