Review: Management Material: Information Technology
Publisher: Zipwhaa, Inc.
Year: 2003
Tagline: What’s your excuse?

Cover shoes two M's handcuffed together with a necktie between them

how we met

I encountered Management Material: Information Technology at a thrift shop, like usual. But it was kind of an impulse buy. It was bagged up and hanging near the line to the registers. I’m not a big fan of the cover (like, what are those M’s about? I get the reference to the name, but what are they?) but having created my own card game related to Information Technology, I was excited to check it out! 

how it plays

The object of Management Material: Information Technology is essentially to be the last slob standing. You are trying to avoid taking on projects because they award you with points, and if you get 30 or more points then you are promoted to management! And that means you lose. 

The game has two different decks of cards. The RESOURCE deck consists of EXCUSES and RECOGNITION cards. The ASSIGNMENT deck consists of PROJECTs and EVENTs. 

Players start the game with 5 cards from the RESOURCE deck. The game is played in rounds. The first player takes the turn marker to indicate it is their turn. They then draw 2 RESOURCE cards and then turn over a card from the ASSIGNMENT deck.

Example excuse cards like that you are building Y3k defenses
D’oh! I’d love to but my screen went blank again

More than likely the player will turn over a PROJECT card. These cards show a number in the lower left corner indicating their level of effort, basically, and a snarky assignment on the right. All cards have accompanying cartoons that are a lot of fun too. 

Example event cards like make the website pretty
“Mother loved paisleys..” *snort*

The first player must either take on the PROJECT card, thereby adding that many points to their total, or make an EXCUSE that equals or exceeds the effort required by the PROJECT card. If they are successful then the next player must also excuse themselves or take the PROJECT card. This continues until the PROJECT card is claimed, even if it circles multiple times (this rule is not clear in the rulebook but is clarified on the website).

When a player has an EXCUSE then another player can also play a RECOGNITION card on the active player. These cards generally make that active player look better or will try to bribe them or something. They increase the level of effort of that PROJECT, which will cause the active player to have to take the card or play another EXCUSE. RECOGNITION plays are one-time and do not stick to the player or PROJECT as it passes round. 

A few cards in the ASSIGNMENT deck are EVENT cards. Those are doozies, so I won’t reveal more than one. If you play this game, I want you to discover them blindly like John and Keri did. But they shake things up. 

Event card asking all players to pass their cards to the left
There’s a lot more pain where this came from

Play continues until a last player is standing and all others have been promoted to management. The non-manager is the winner!

how it went

I am a veteran of Corporate America, reporting to the same mother ship for many, many years. I love office humor, and I love IT humor. I knew this game would be a fun play through for that reason alone. 

I did a little reading about how the game came about. The designer is from Wisconsin, which is probably why I found the game at thrift. One of the things the publisher website encourages that the rules do not mention, and that we did not fully embrace, was treating the game almost as a storytelling game. It’s one thing to play numbers and beat numbers, but trying to weave a consistent story and calling on your real life experiences to give more depth to your excuses is where the magic is supposed to happen. I like the idea of that gameplay better than what we played, but I think many of the cards make that approach difficult by being too specific. Or by not giving us roles so we can create their stories. “Karen did it again!”

Our group often adds storytelling flavor to the games we play naturally, and Management Material: Information Technology didn’t bring out our creative sides, for whatever reason.

There are a number of things that I thought Management Material: Information Technology does well. One is that the back of the turn marker is an advertisement for the artist that did the illustrations. I thought that was a neat idea and great way to thank your artist (beyond paying them; always pay them). 

The turn marker is a computer that says "My turn"
The back of this card points you to the artist’s website

A lot of the humor was spot-on, and this game is aging now. IT will never be a theme that ages terribly well, but the humor will remain for those that were around at that time. And most of the references are still valid in this game, like blue screen of death, JAVA, translating technobabble, 404, etc. And I daresay the reference to sticky keyboards is evergreen.

The snarky concept of avoiding work in order to win is common in office-themed games. But I very much enjoyed the idea of weaponizing RECOGNITION. It would have been more humorous to me if the RECOGNITION was coming from us as fellow workers instead of always the boss.

Recognition cards show a gross boss winking at you giving thumbs up
Ah the price of general competence..

From a gameplay perspective I definitely have a few criticisms. I think there are better ways to accomplish the ability to make excuses than just highest number – maybe a combination of numbers and some other variable. There is an old game called Overpower that uses a nice, elegant concept that I think should be implemented elsewhere, as I think it was poorly executed. I used to play a homemade version using our role-playing characters, streamlined rules and proper balance years and years ago. An office version would be endless fun! But it would be more role-centric.

Another challenge of Management Material: Information Technology is having players drop out of play. Then you have people just sitting around watching play, no longer participating.

In our play, I ended up shooting up the ranks pretty quickly due to a combination of bad luck and playing poorly at the beginning. I sat back with my glass of wine and watched John and Keri battle it out to avoid PROJECTs and make EXCUSEs. The EVENT cards played a huge role in extending this play. 

My project cards adding up to 33
This is what I bit off and chewed while everyone else played the game

I would estimate they played a little over half the game without me. Eventually Keri ran out of EXCUSEs and had to take on the PROJECT that pushed her over the edge into management (I assume I outranked her though as first loser) and John won the game!

play or pass

Pass. Management Material: Information Technology is good for a few giggles, but ultimately the game relies too much on humor. The replay-ability is not high, at least for us. And you are really just trying to play bigger numbers than your opponents, assuming you have not been knocked out of the game already. While I very much appreciate the humor, this game gets a pink slip from me.