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Recently, the first of the Sid Sackson Signature Series games came out; Venture was one of three games, with Sleuth and Monad being the other two (all three being card games.) Without a wide-release print available in about 30 years, Venture is one of several Sackson games that isn't widely known beyond those who have actually looked into his oeuvre.
I was thrilled to see that my FLGS carried the Eagle-Gryphon Games Signature Series box that included the other two games mentioned here as well. For those who are interested in either the boxset or buying this game separately, I'm hoping this review will illuminate whether Venture might be a game for you and your gaming buddies.
WHAT DO YOU GET?
You get two decks of cards, each with 54 cards. A decent double-sided three-fold rulebook is also included. The guide explains everything you need to know and gives several examples of game play. I had a couple of questions after reading the rules, but they were all resolved by playing through the game and getting a sense of the flow. Overall, everything is of excellent quality.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Venture is a card game, specifically a set collection game. The object of the game is to create sets of 'conglomerates' (sets of three or more Corporations) that will increase a player's score. The larger the sets and the more 'related' the corporations are, the higher the scores will become. By "related", Venture uses an abstract system of six letters (A through F). For the Corporations of a set to be related, they must all share at least one common letter, though more sets of related letters bring in more points. The more costly the Corporation, the more letters it will be associated with. Venture is a game of buying at the right time and structuring your conglomerates with as little extra cost to you as possible.
The other two options available are 'Proxy Fights' and 'Reorganization'. Proxy Fights allow you to purchase cards from your opponents, bringing a little screwage-factor into the game. 'Reorganization' allows you to change around the placement of your Corporations to maximize your score and bury your more expensive corporations into your conglomerates so that they are at less risk of being stolen in a proxy fight. Reorganization is a strong move but comes at an ever increasing cost.
These are only the essentials of the game. For a fuller understanding of how the game plays, you can refer to the rules which can be found in the Files section and elsewhere.
WHAT MIGHT YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?
- It is easy to teach. Venture can be taught in about 5 minutes and I feel can be easily understood by all types of gamers.
- There are a number of meaningful, tense decisions to make. As I said before, Venture is all about knowing when to buy and what to buy. There are a number of 'luck' elements in the game. After all, there are card draws to refill both your hand of Resource (money and proxy fight) cards and the Stock (Corporation) cards which are laid out on the table for purchase. As change cannot be made when purchasing cards, you are constantly agonizing on whether it is worth sacrificing a few million dollars here or there to get the cards you want. You might agonize over whether to purchase an opponent's Corporation by playing a Proxy Fight card, use that money for something else, or hold off for a better deal knowing full well that the opportunities you have now may be gone an instant later. If the need to reorganize your Corporations is there, should you do it now at a lower cost to yourself or wait for more Corporations, more choices, but at more of a cost to reorganize? Venture is certainly a game of difficult decisions.
- It handles a variable number of players. Venture is known for working best with three to four players, but can play with less or more. I have only played two-player and found it enjoyable without feeling like it was missing something. I'm always on the lookout for a good two-player card game, and this one fits the bill. Venture can handle up to six players, but as there are some agonizing decisions to be made in the game, players might find themselves waiting for awhile before their turn comes up again.
WHAT MIGHT YOU NOT LIKE ABOUT IT?
- Venture is fairly abstract. At the heart of it, Venture is a game of buying cards and laying cards. It could easily survive any theme or no theme at all. I like the 'Corporations' theme personally, as it fits in with the Sackson's own personal affinity for the genre.
- Risk of analysis paralysis. Even beyond the tough decisions that have to be made, players must constantly add up the amounts of what they are buying, what they are paying; how much change they have left to buy other things; what bonus payouts they might receive, etc. The math isn't tough, but it's another thing to fill your brain with while trying to grapple with what actions to take and what cards to buy. As well, everyone can see what everyone else has played. One might feel tempted to try and calculate the odds of who might win and who is close to winning - yet another thing to engage the brain in. Lastly, the Reorganization action can take a little time if you don't know exactly how you want to restructure your conglomerates when you take the action. Be ready to wait while players scratch their heads as they decide what combinations of cards are most optimal.
I feel that I'm a little bit in the Cult of Sackson. I very much enjoyed reading his book - A Gamut of Games - and I greatly appreciate his straightforward approach to game design. I rate his more popular games like Bazaar, Acquire, and Can't Stop as some of my favourites. Venture hasn't had a lot of exposure due to its limited in-print status. I'm super stoked that Gryphon Games has taken on the endeavor to bring more of his games into print. I personally have rated Venture a '7'. It is certainly nothing revolutionary (again: it is a basic set collection card game) but I feel constantly engaged for the full 45 minutes that the game normally lasts. This is a brain burner - and maybe not always the kind I want to put myself through when I have a choice of game to play - but Venture is a quality game that I know I will have to revisit just to prove to my gaming partners that I've got the knack for it, which I have yet to prove!
A BRIEFER REVIEW IN 67 WORDS
If you like easy-to-understand set collection card games that allow for agonizing, meaningful decisions but also provide a quality challenge, you will most likely enjoy Venture.
If you dislike money games where you must constantly add and subtract numbers, while burning your brain over how to best organize your cards for the most points, try before your buy. (Come on; I'd never say don't try!)
Thanks for reading!
- Last edited Fri Oct 26, 2012 5:31 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Mon Oct 22, 2012 4:32 am
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
Nice review. I'm also a big Sackson fan and I picked up the box set at Essen. Looking forward to getting them to the table!