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The Networks is a game by Gil Hova, published by Formal Ferret Games. It is for 1-5 players. In this game, players will take on the role of owner of a local television network. They'll be trying to acquire new shows and stars to fill their time slots with, as well as ads to pay the bills. The player that can best work the ratings to score the most viewers will be declared the winner.
To begin, place the left and middle scoring tracks in the middle of the board on the appropriate sides. The corresponding right scoring track is placed on the right side of the other boards to create a cohesive track. The season marker is placed on the season 1 space of the season track. The show cards are separated by season and shuffled into piles, one for season 1, one for seasons 2-3 and one for seasons 4-5. The season 2-3 and 4-5 stacks are set aside for later. The corresponding number of season 1 cards are drawn from the deck and placed face up below the scoring track as indicated on the board. The ad cards are shuffled and the indicated amount of them are drawn and placed face up above the scoring track. The same thing is done with the star cards, with them being placed face up above the ads. The advanced and interactive cards are removed from the network deck. The network cards are then shuffled together and placed face down below the show cards. Players choose a player board and take the corresponding colored starter cards, scoring square and turn order disc. They also are given 4 black cubes. Players place their starting ad and starting star in their green room on the left of their player board. They then place their starting shows on the right side of their player board, each on a separate time slot. They then place a black cube on the top viewer slot of each starting show. The final cube is placed near their player board to be used later on the scoring calculator. Players then place their scoring square on the 0 space of the scoring track. Their turn order disc is then randomly placed onto the turn order track. The player that is furthest on the left of the track is the first player. Each player is given a certain amount of starting money as indicated by their turn order and indicated on the board. The 300 viewer token and 100/200 viewer tokens are placed on it's space on the board. Play now begins.
The game is played over 5 seasons. Each season, players will take turns starting with the first player and continuing in turn order. On a player's turn they will perform an action. The actions that they can take are develop a show, sign a star, land an ad, take a network card, attach a star or ad and drop and budget. The first thing a player can do is to develop a show. Of course, it's also the most important action. To do this, the player must first have the prerequisites, for the show this could be a star or an ad, and be able to pay the development cost. The show is then taken from the face up cards and placed in a time slot beside the player's board. The show card in that slot is then rotated upside down and placed beside the reruns section of their board. Any attached stars or ads are discarded to the bottom of their corresponding deck. Starter cards are returned to the box. The prerequisite star or ad is then moved from the green room to beneath the show, lining them up so that they track is visible on the right side. The scoring cube is then placed on the top row of the show on top of the eye symbol. Once a player has collected a certain number of shows from the same genre, they will receive a genre bonus. They automatically score 5 viewers regardless. They then are able to choose from drawing 3 star cards and keeping one or drawing 3 ads cards and keeping one, gaining the landing bonus of the two that weren't kept instead. These choices are available if a player gets 3 matching genres. For 5, they gain a third option on top of the previous two. They can choose to draw 3 network cards, choosing one to play or keep. Any unkept cards are returned to the bottom of their respective decks. After the 5th show, the player is also allowed to convert money to viewers at a rate of $4 million to 3 viewers.
Another action that is available is to sign a star. To do this, the player takes a face up star card and places it into their green room. They then pay the signing cost associated with the star.
Yet another action is to land an ad. To do this, the player takes one of the face up add cards and ads it to their green room. They then receive the landing bonus associated with the card.
Taking a network card is much like the previous card taking actions. The player takes a face up network card and unless it has an immediate action symbol on it, the card is placed face up in front of the player. Immediate network cards are used immediately and then discarded to the bottom of the network deck. Some of these cards may be used only 1 time, while others have effects that last the rest of the game. Some cards only affect end game scoring. Network cards always supercede any other rules.
Players can also take an action to attach a star or ad. As long as a player has a show that has room for either a star or an ad and they have one of them available in their green room, they they can attach one to the show by sliding it under the show card. This action can also be used to replace a star or ad. The old card is discarded to the bottom of the appropriate deck.
The final action is to drop and budget. Much like passing in many other games, this ends the player taking any more actions. To do this, the player moves their turn order disc to the leftmost space on the drop and budget track. They then collect the reward on the space that was taken. If the space shows multiple rewards such as viewers and money, then only one reward may be chosen. Once all players have performed this action, play proceeds to the end of season.
At the end of each season, a series of 4 steps are taken. The first step involves income and expenses. Ads will provide income to pay any upkeep expenses from shows or stars. As long as the player's income is more than the expenses, they gain the excess money from the bank, If their income is lower, then they must pay money. If they have no money or not enough, they keep their money and must pay their expenses in viewers. The next step involves scoring viewers from the lineup and reruns. Viewers are calculated by adding viewers from stars and promo ads attached to the shows as well as the rerun values of any shows in the rerun section of their player board. Anything in the archives or in the green room do not count towards the viewer total. It should be noted that the player can use the scoring calculator on their player board to keep a running total for each season. Once the viewer total is determined, the player adds their total to the their score on the scoring track. If a player scores at least 100 viewers, they take their 100 viewer token from the board. If they get more than 200 viewers, they flip it to the 200 viewer side. If a player scores 300 or more viewers, then they take the 300 viewer token from the board. Once this step is done, the players move to the next step and age their shows. This is done by moving the scoring cube on each of their shows down one viewer slot. If the cube is already at the lowest spot on the card, then it stays there for the rest of the game until the show is cancelled. The final step is to set up the next season. This step is followed unless it's the end of the fifth season. In that case, this step is skipped and the end of game scoring takes place. To set up the next season any shows in a player's rerun area are moved to their archives. Any unused show, star, ad or network cards around the board are discarded to the bottom of their respective decks. New cards are drawn for shows, stars, ads and network cards determined by the number on the board. These cards are placed in their proper place around the board. Each player's turn order disc is moved from the drop and budget track to the turn order track and a new turn order is determined. If this is the end of season 1, the right scoring track is flipped over so that the scoreboard continues to wrap around the board. The season marker is moved to the next space on the season track and a new season begins.
Play continues until the end of the fifth season. Once this happens final scoring occurs. After season 5 scoring has been determined, viewers are scored once more for the end of the game. Income, expenses and scoring reruns are ignored. However shows still age after season 5 scoring. Players then score 1 viewer for each star in their green room. Network cards that score viewers at the end of the game are then scored as well. Players compare their viewer totals and the one with the most viewers is the winner.
This is a really humorous looking game. All of the different cards have really great looking art. There are lots of humorous parodies of stars and shows, as well as the hilarious ads. It doesn't take much to understand what each card is a parody for, shows like Doctor What or Person of Disinterest. I really like this fun style of art and the cards themselves are designed really well with a satin style finish to them. The wooden pieces are all really great too, as well as being bright and colorful. The player boards, viewer tokens and scoring track boards are all made of cardboard, as are the money chips. They designs are all really great, I especially like the uniquely designed player boards and the cardboard money. However, with all the things I like about the components, there are a few things that I found to be an issue. For one, the money tokens sometimes tend to separate from the cardboard they're printed on. Not all of them are like that but even with the best removing techniques, some of them will unfortunately tend to pull up a bit on the corners. It's not a major issue but one to be aware of. Another problem is that the colored scoring squares and turn order discs don't exactly match the colors on the player boards. I mean it's easy to figure out which ones go with which board, but I felt like I should be able to place them side by side without there being any differences. In my copy the purple tokens were almost navy blue and the pink tokens were more red than anything. Like I said, you can figure out what goes with what, but I'd have preferred a little better matching job. In any event, these are only minor gripes and nothing to get all worked up over. The main thing is that for the most part, you get some great looking decent quality components. For me, that's good enough.
8 out of 10
The rulebook is really well designed. There are lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. I really like how well the rules are covered in a very step by step manner. There's nothing difficult to understand at all. The rules do a great job at covering every step so that you'll be able to play the game properly. Also included are some sidebars the explain how to change the game for 2-3 players as well as playing a more advanced game. Each of the different card types are explained thoroughly with very detailed pictures. Another thing included in the rules are the rules for playing solo and with only 2 players. There's even an almanac that covers several of the different cards. If that's not enough for you, the back page has a solo player game log where you can write down the date, your name and final score from your solo play throughs. Overall, it's a well written and thought out book. I'm very pleased with the final results.
8 out of 10
This is a really fun game. It's card drafting at it's finest. It's fairly simple to learn and play. There aren't a ton of decisions to choose from so it's not one that's going to burn your brain. Even so, there seems to be just enough to choose from to make it interesting. I really enjoy the euro style gameplay where most of the focus is on your own network and making it the best you can. However, you might want to keep an eye on what your opponents are doing as well. Just so you don't allow them to take something that might catapult them past your own network's ratings. I've played this one several different ways and found that the best gameplay is with 3 or more players. The solo game I'm glad that it was included. However, I found it to be impossible to win. Maybe I wasn't playing it right or just had horrible luck. Whatever the case, I would much prefer to play with other players. I would not recommend getting this game simply for the solo player option. 2 players was a bit better but still not as enjoyable and fun as a fully immersive 3 or more player game. With 3 players, I had a lot more fun. I must also address the theme for a moment. I'm sure there will be some players that will compare this to Prime Time, another game about running a TV network. While the game play isn't the same, the game does have similar feels in a sense. The major difference is that Prime Time is much better with 2 than Networks is. Still, with 3 or more players it's a very close race. I like both equally well and feel like there's no reason that you couldn't own both. If you're a fan of Prime Time, then you're sure to enjoy this one as well. For me, it depends on what I'm feeling like at the time. If I want more of a straight up card drafting experience, I'll pick this one no doubt. As far as rating this game goes, I would recommend it.
8 out of 10
The Networks is a card drafting game about running a TV network. It doesn't take an extremely long time to play. Most games sessions last about an hour or so. The artwork is very humorous and fun. I really enjoy the cartoon style humor on the cards. There are a few issues with some of the components though. The scoring squares and turn order discs don't exactly match the player boards and the money tokens have a tendency to separate from the cardboard when you're punching them out. Nothing major to worry about but something that should be noted. The game is quite fun especially with 3 or more players. Fans of the network building game Prime Time should enjoy this one without feeling like they're buying the same game. I would recommend this game as a multiplayer game but not simply for the solo game option. It's fairly simple to learn and equal in many ways to the previously mentioned game, Prime Time. This is one that I look forward to enjoying for quite some time.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Formal Ferret Games at their site.