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I enjoyed Counting Zzzzzs quite a bit, because even though the game was one of average quality, the creativity and humor it inspired made it a worthwhile game; one that was enjoyed by all I introduced it to. Showbiz Shuffle (Blood and Cardstock Games, 2002 - Joan Wendland) has the same inspired creativity, with similar mechanics, so I was curious as to whether it would be as big of a hit with my groups. The theme of the game was about movies - an almost universally popular topic - and one that I’m surprised more companies don’t utilize (Traufambrik is extremely popular because of its theme, despite the fact that superior auction games exist.)
After playing the game several times, my verdict is that while “cute” and having an interesting theme, the game play doesn’t really offer any real choices to players. Now, this is the case in several light games I own, but many of these games offer humor and a terrific fun time to cover the shallow mechanics. Showbiz Shuffle is entertaining, and quite a few of my fellow players enjoyed it; but the pizzazz wasn’t there - the game seemed to fall a little flat. I loved the artwork, enjoyed laughing at the funny movies we were putting together; but the finished product left me feeling a little flat.
Two decks of cards are shuffled and placed near the board - a “Bod” deck, made up of various actors and actresses, and a “Biz” deck, made up action cards players can use during the game. Each player is dealt 5 Bod cards and 1 Biz card, with an additional five Bod cards being dealt face-up in a row in the middle of the table (the “Cattle Call”).
Another pile of Genre cards is placed on the table - each with two sides, denoting one of the five movie types (Action, Romance, Family, Drama, and Specialty). Each Bod character has colors on the bottom of their card, denoting what movies are their specialty - matching the color of the Genre cards. Bod characters also have an icon in the top left corner, denoting whether they are a director, star, or support, and a point value in the lower left corner, showing how good they are at their jobs. Some Bods also have special text, giving some sort of restriction on their play or bonus when they are used. One player is chosen to start the game, and play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a turn, the current player refills both their hand and the Cattle Call to five cards, if necessary. The player may then play cards from their hand into one or two movies in front of them. A movie is started by a player placing a star or a director on the table, and then a genre card next to that Bod, stating what kind of movie they are producing. A completed movie is made up of one director, two stars, and two supports; and all of the cards placed in a movie must match the genre of the movie. A player may add one card from the Cattle Call to one of their movies, and two cards from their hands. When adding a Bod from their hand, a player may place an actor in a movie that the actor is not proficient in but must place the card upside down, showing that the actor’s points are negative towards that movie. Players may also play one Biz card per turn also - cards that affect either their own movies or other player’s movies - usually to add points or subtract points. New Biz cards can only be drawn when a player adds a Bod to their movie that allows this.
When a player finishes a movie, they total up the sum of all the points of the Bods and Biz cards affecting that movie, taking into account any bonuses on the cards. The player then can start a new movie. When the Bod deck runs out of cards, each player can take one final turn, and then the game comes to a close. All points from unfinished movies are deducted from players’ scores, and the total sum of all scores is noted. The player with the highest score is the winner!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: The box is your typical card box - I wish it was the kind with a lid, but it does hold the cards fairly well. The cards are of good quality; and I can attest to this personally, because mine have passed the evil duo of young children test and survived. The genre cards are plentiful with way more than are necessary, which of course is better than having too few.
2.) Artwork: I really enjoyed the artwork on the cards, done by Lar deSouza. Each character is a caricature of a famous movie person - I think. Some of them were immediately recognizable, even though they had titles such as “Expensive Star” (Marlon Brando), “Funny Man” (Eddie Murphy), and “Former Funny Man” (Robin Williams). Still others I was able to identify by going to the artist’s website, http://www.lartist.com/menu.htm , where several of the caricatures are named. For me, the artwork was the highlight of the game - as I’m a big fan of caricatures - and these are top-notch. This underlines my opinion that a game should always strive to get as good artwork as they possibly can, and not to settle for half-baked artwork. Showbiz Shuffle goes above and beyond with tremendous illustrations.
3.) Rules: Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the rules. In reality, the rules are quite simple, and I found myself able to teach the game quite easily to others. But the six pages of rules that came with the game were not very well formatted, and I missed an important rule that you could have two movies at once, because it was in the middle of an unrelated paragraph. Some “cheater” cards are included with the game, but the information on them is so obvious that they are unnecessary. I would have preferred that the rules regarding Biz cards (which are, though simple, the most complex thing in the game) be put on these Cheater cards instead. The rulebook meandered throughout the rules, and didn’t really have any purpose or good layout.
4.) Strategy: I couldn’t see any strategy in the game that really amounted to anything. On your turn, you play the cards that best benefit you. There are some card combos that yield extremely lucrative points, and if you are lucky enough to get one, your chances of winning have gone up tremendously. Picking the genre of the movies you start is probably your biggest strategic decision, and usually is dictated by the other cards in your hand. The game is mostly luck.
5.) Fun Factor: And even with this high luck factor, almost everyone I introduced the game to enjoyed it; because they liked putting movies together - the dream of many people. I really didn’t think the game was that much fun, but I deferred to those I played with. I will admit that I had a lot of fun slapping a NC-17 rating on someone else’s movie or laughing about the pairings of characters in a Romantic movie, but it just didn’t grab me much.
6.) Time: The game is really fast - almost too fast. The end of the game is extremely anti-climatic because no one places any cards, since non-finished movies will probably lose one the game. Maybe in a four-player game (the maximum players), the deck should be gone through twice. Either way, I’m usually happy to see the game end, but the others complained that it was over too quickly.
It’s fairly obvious that I’m not a huge fan of the game, but I do see it’s appeal to the mass market, especially to folks who enjoy movies and don’t care how much strategy is in their game. I found that young couples were the ideal market for this game, excepting that couple that includes me. I don’t think that strategy gamers will be much interested in this game; and if you’re looking for a creative game with similar mechanics, I highly recommend Counting Zzzzzs - another easy game, but a superior one. Showbiz Shuffle is just going to shuffle into the back of my shelf - pulled out only on request, or to look at the amazing artwork.
“Real men play board games.”