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Subject: UMCR Stadium Review: Building a Football Empire with Worker Placement rss

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Nick Van Dam
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Anderson
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I received a review copy of Stadium, and have had the opportunity to play it a few times. I was initially unsure if I would like the game as I am not a huge football fan, but given that the core of the game is worker placement and resource management, game mechanisms I really enjoy so I decided to give it a try.



Components
The game comes with a lot of components. All the cardboard components are made of good standard thick cardboard. The meeples and cubes are made of plastic. The Art is consistent and appealing throughout the game. I like the variety of color, and the shadow figures on the cards.
The Main Board – The most eye-catching part of this game is the main board. It is of a stadium and is built out of three board which create a 3D effect. It is eye catching and really adds to the table appeal. It is easy to assemble and is functional within the game. A flat board could do the same thing, but the 3-level board really adds to the play.
The Placement Board – This is a simple board with large distinct symbols. Once you learn what they mean the board facilitates quick placement and play.
The cubes and meeples – each player color comes with 4 vice president meeples and 7 cubes. These have the appearance of coming from a 3D printer. They are solid and work well.
The tokens- all the resources are cardboard circles. The art and symbols match that of the boards. There are 1 and 5 value tokens for most resources which helps when accumulation increases. The symbols are not always centered, and some of the tokens have indentations on the back due, possibly due to how they were punched out, however this doesn’t affect game play.
The cards – There are two decks of cards. The employee deck is 24 cards, and the Football Player deck is 24 cards. That art work, language, and symbol usage on these cards is simple basic and clean. The design on these is really good. There is one thing I don’t like which is both decks have the same art on the back. This makes it difficult to differentiate which pile you are drawing from.
The Commissioner Token- This is the first player marker, and it is nice and thematic. It is a plastic figure with a football at the top.
The instructions – The instructions were perhaps my biggest hurdle to the game. The information is all there, but the way that it is structured made it difficult to understand exactly how to play. The instructions are kept to just a few pages which is nice, but it would have been more helpful had more pictures and diagrams been included. After reading the rules through a few times and watching a video on the publisher’s website I got the hang of how to play. It really helps if you are already familiar with how worker placement games are played.



Game Play (this is not intended to be a full rules explanation)
The object of the game is to build the best Football Business Empire, which is measured in victory points. This is accomplished in several ways; improving your stadium, gaining fan satisfaction (firework tokens), and winning games in playoffs, finals, etc. This in turn is accomplished by the placement of workers/vice presidents and the management of the several resources in the game.
Each player begins with 2 workers that are called vice presidents. (in a 2-player game this number is increased to 3) Each player places one worker in turn on an action board. These gain the player resources (money, equipment, employee/player cards, construction tokens, fan satisfaction tokens, game win tokens) and have the option to perform an action (gain more resources, hire an employee, hire/draft a player, hire a new worker/vice president, build onto your stadium. After all workers have been placed they are activated in order from upper right to lower left. After all the activations have taken place the stadium phase begins. Here you pay all your workers, employees, and football players, you gather income and resources based on the additions to your stadium and your football players. The commissioner marker is passed to the next player, and the next round of play begins.
This continues until one player has built up their stadium with all their construction cubes. That turn is resolved, and then final scoring is done counting victory points to see whose Football Empire is the most prosperous.



Our Experience
It took a practice playthrough to figure out all the rules and how it all fit together, but on subsequent playthroughs we had a bit of fun. Once I saw some similarities, like having to pay your workers was very similar to having to feed your workers in Stone Age or Agricola, it helped to make sense of the core of the game. I moved beyond this core by focusing on different things during the different play sessions. I tried building up the stadium at the different levels, and focused on winning football games, I increased the number of employees and football players, and tried just running through all my cubes as fast as possible. The game definitely can have a different feeling depending on the strategy you choose to employ. I found that the strategy to get cubes down on the field seemed to be the strongest, and the easiest way to gain points. As a result, I don’t think you can let anyone get too far ahead on winning games and taking spaces on the field (playoffs, championships, etc.). This must always be a main part of any successful strategy. The building up of the stadium and entertainment tokens can be used to augment this and gain that extra few points, but they don’t feel like they can carry you to victory alone.
I played the game at several player counts and the setup change does make this an enjoyable two player game, but the game really shines at three. Three player creates more of a challenge of jockeying for position without the board feeling too crowded. Four players also works but then the bonuses that form due to unused spaces can become a bit too rare.
At the end of the games I did get a similar feeling to Stone Age and Agricola, where I looked at my Stadium and team and got the satisfaction of seeing the empire I had built. Even when I didn’t win this was satisfying. This is one of the things I enjoy most about worker placement games, and I’m glad to see that Stadium captures this feeling.

Pros

-The Theme is Unique and interesting. I haven’t come across a “football” board game that was about anything but the actual game. Stadium takes a broader view of the whole industry around the games of football. Thematically a nice fresh Idea!

-Stadium has the cool 3 level playing board, that looks really nice on the table.

-The art work and use of color give the game a fun clean look which I enjoy.

-The box size is appropriate for the components of the game. I really appreciate this as boxes that are full of air waste shelf space, which is limited for me.

-The game is fun to play at a variety of player counts.

-The tokens are all punched out when the game arrives and are bagged up nicely.


Cons

– The name Stadium brings up a few games when typed into BGG

- The rule book, without the help of an online play example and several re-readings of the rules I wouldn’t not have been able to figure out the game.

- Some of the resources are not intuitive, the fact that most resources are traded in to get something, but the game win tokens are not, and the entertainment tokens have not value beyond being a part of end game victory points. There are also a few symbols on the Stadium board that indicate bonuses when actions are taken on the placement board. These special Building effects weren’t intuitive for me.

- Several of my tokens were dented on the back side when they arrived, and the image/symbol on them was off center.

- The game is weighted in such a way that you have to focus on the cube placement on the field. (playoffs, championships, etc.) This limits the paths to victory that might have existed.

Responses to the Cons

- The name fits and is appropriate, it is just unfortunate that the search doesn’t work better.

- The rule book is my biggest Con for this game. As I said it has all the information, but it just isn’t clear. Perhaps in time someone will post a play-through that clarifies the game play. Currently I just suggest reading the rules and watching the video on the publisher site. This along with a practice play-through should get you to where you know how to play. I do think it is worth the extra work as the game is fun.

- The challenge that this game has over games like Stone Age is that the resources are less intuitive than things like wood and food. That said once you are aware of the differences the game does begin to flow.

- The dented and off-center tokens may bother some people, for me they didn’t affect game play or enjoyment in the least.

- The fact that the field placement cannot be neglected may be a negative by some, as for me I choose to see it instead as a feature of the game. In much the same way you cannot neglect any aspect of your farm in Agricola, and instead must do a bit of everything… here you must keep up on the field (championship. Playoff) front. If you don’t like this I suspect, there are some house rules that can be implemented to adjust the balance. One way I accidentally augmented this was by turning in game win tokens to place cubes on the field. (a rule I got wrong in my first play) Doing something like this drastically changes the balance here.




Final Thoughts

I’m really surprised how much I enjoyed the game. Stadium is a game I didn’t think I would like when I first heard about it. It is football themed, which isn’t a big selling point for me, but I actually ended up really enjoying the theme and how it fits into the game. I like the small amount of chance mixed into the game through the use of the card. I also really like the way the bonuses can become scarcer as workers/vice presidents are increased. This creates a natural arch to the game and a progression of play. I also like the way they incentivize spaces that were not previously chosen, which creates more interesting decisions for the people playing the game.
Who do I recommend this game for? If you like football then I would consider Stadium, as it offers a unique take on a football game. It is less about the game and more about what surrounds the game. If you like worker placement games and want one with a very unique theme, then Stadium is one to consider. After getting around the challenge of the rules I found a pretty fun game with a fun look.

I rate this game a 7.5/10.


Check out my other reviews on the UMCR Review Geeklist
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Greg Bigler
United States
Zionsville
Indiana
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I also struggled with the rules and created a rewrite that will, I hope, make the rules much more clear and easy to understand.

Stadium - A Plain and Simple Guide
 
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Mark Hanny
United States
Idaho Falls
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There is a rules revision you can find at:
http://www.joemagicgames.com/explore-2.html

 
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