I've been playing No Thanks a lot lately. Also played Amun Re earlier last week. Empyrean, Inc. has been stuck in my brain for a while, too. Then I woke up at 2am and somehow synthesized them into a bizarro "vulture capitalist" auction card game loosely themed around private equity firms like Bain Capital. Also, birds in business suits.
Just like No Thanks, the gameplay on a single deck of cards in the middle of the table. Each player begins with a certain number of chips, let's say 10. The goal of the game is to create a diverse portfolio of companies representing a variety of industries.
On your turn, reveal the top card. This newly revealed card represents a company that you own. The card card lists which industries the company represents, sort of like the resources from planets Empyrean, Inc. The card also shows a track of incrementally increasing costs that you must pay to buy this company, just like Amun Re's region auction cards. Most start with a minimum price of 1, but get increasingly higher.
If you want to keep this company, simply take the card. If you're interested in selling the company, say so and put your meeple in the space indicating your minimum price. The other players then take turns placing a meeple on the price they're willing to pay for that company. The highest bidder takes the card and pays you their chips. If no one offered to meet your minimum price, then you simply take the card.
There is a separate sideboard listing all the industries in the game and their current market value. After a sale, raise the value of each industry by one increment if the sale price was higher than that industry's current market value. If the sale price was lower, then lower that industry's market value by one increment.
Final scoring is based on how many complete sets of each industry you have in your portfolio. A complete set is one of each industry. You also get bonus points if you have the most of a particular industry, but those bonus points are based on that industry's current market value. There may also be role cards that give you additional bonus points.
A note on art direction and theme. My wife is waaaay turned off by the idea of playing a predatory speculator. We discussed some rethemes, but none quite fit the mechanics presented here.
That new theme might be soft enough to make the game more approachable.
UPDATE: More bird companies!
JP Morgan Cheep
Trader Blue Jay's
Buzzards of the Coast
Pinfeathers & Beyond