We recently reviewed The Networks on Episode 101, but wanted to post our notes on the game as well.
The Networks designed by Gil Hova and produced by Formal Ferret is a game about having the best TV Network. Players are trying their best to slot TV shows, pick up actors, and get sponsors to gain the most viewers so their network will be the one that has been watched the most over five seasons. However, players must also be savy in how they allocate their funds so as not to produce shotty shows causing you to loose viewer at the end of a season.
Setup is very simple. Players receive their player boards that have on them slots that represent different aspects of the game. These slots are show times, green room, rerun, and archives. Slots on the left side of the player board can have any number of cards next to them. Starting shows are distributed to players based on the network they pick to represent. Everyone is equal at the beginning of the game, so you are simply picking your color during setup. Players receive starting money and the viewer tracker for each player is placed on the board in the center of the table. Depending on the number of players, the network shows from the appropraite season deck, actors, and sponsors are placed in the center of the table. There is also an additional score tracker that is placed in the center that flips over after the first round.
Playing the Game
On a player's turn, they take one action. They can develop a show, sign an actor, land an ad, take a network card, attach a star or Ad, or Drop and Budget. Play continues around the table clockwise and continues until each player eventually performs the Drop and Budget action. Time for clean up, age your shows by moving their individual trackers down a season and discard the reruns to archives if you placed any shows there. Remove any unclaimed cards and then reset the shows based on the correct season deck, draw ads and actors for next season and advance the season marker. Turn order is determined by who dropped out first last season and start the next round.
The simple actions are the sign an actor, land an add and take a network card. If you sign an actor, then you need to pay the cost. They go to the green room.If you land an Ad, you get the landing bonus and it goes to the green room. A network card gives you a bonus and these may be a one time effect, on going, end of game or use immediately.
Develop a show is the big action. Here you take a show from the center area paying the costs to the rights for the show. You then pick a time slot to place the show, putting any show that is currently in that time slot in the rerun slot on your player board. If it gets in the time slot it was set for, your viewership will be greater. If your show needs an actor or ad, then it will indicate it on the card and you have to have it in order to develop the show. These requirements are in green and anything in grey is optional, like adding another actor. That is all there is to developing a show.
If you can't take any of the normal actions, then you have to Drop and Budget, meaning you are out for the rest of the season and you have to rectify your expenses versus your income. If your income is greater than expenses, you get money, if expenses are more, pay the bank. If you can't pay, then you pay your total cost in viewers on the score track. Now, record your viewers from this season on the score track based on the season the show is in and any bonuses you might get from actors or ads.Don't forget to count those shows in reruns as well.
Genre Bonus: When developing shows, a bonus can occur if you have the same type or genre of a show, like Comedy or Sports. These bonuses can provide you immediate actions like taking cards from the actor or ad decks. So basically, it is performing set collection to get a bonus and can be a big deal. It is also important to keep others from doing it and might force you to take a show that might not work best to your advantage, but it is better than fellow players getting the genre bonus.
There's only one action per turn and each action is very easy to understand. But, with only one action per turn you have a lot of decisions to make. You need to make sure you have stars and ads ready to go into a show but there are other things to consider like some actors work best in certain genres. If not assigned with the right genre they will have less viewers. Some ads work better on certain genre shows and you need to make sure you replace your aging shows in order to keep the viewership up. So each action is critical in planning out subsequent moves. Speed for the gameplay and there really isn't that much potential for AP in this game as long as players stay engaged. It is also easy to track how the other players are doing because it is all right before you. Money, while it was constrained, never felt that it was an issue that was a negative. Iconography was easy to understand and lack of keywords was a big plus.
We may have gotten a bad copy, but the print layer on the cardboard components started to peel away, especially on some of the money tokens. Also because the card art is so similar, early on it was easy to confuse which cards were ads, which were stars and which were shows but the border colors helps eliminate some of this confusion.
RDTN Final Thoughts:
Marty: I love the theme of this game. As a child of 70s and 80s TV shows, the cheesy show names and silly actors just make this a fun game to play. But don't let the silly names and art fool you. There are some important decisions that have to be made each round. You always need to think about the future while making sure you can afford what you currently have on air and maximizing your viewer potential. This game will stay on my shelf as that light to medium weight game that is easy to teach and quick to play.
Tony:I really enjoyed Stockpile last year and this year, it is going to The Networks. This game will get the plays and would enjoy looking forward to an expansion that can add shows or new elements to the game like FCC regulations. What is this? Negative cards that can hurt your station, yeah, event cards. This is a good buy and with expansions, will be a game to be sure to add to your collection.