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Subject: Project Pornstar – not your typical card game rss

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Martin Smith
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In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this game is not intended for kids. It is also not aimed at adults who are not comfortable with sexual themes, related humour, and cartoon graphics of people with nipples showing. Consequently, I would have thought, the makers have eliminated as potential customers some substantial parts of some large countries. On the box it says, “Warning! Persons with strong religious beliefs and devoid of a sense of humour should avoid contact with this game!”. I would agree – but would say that “and” should read “or”. So, conservative gamers, advocates of political correctness, and even those who would describe themselves as strongly religious or moral may wish to stop reading now – and certainly should avoid this game like the Plague.

For those still with me, ‘Project Pornstar’ is a little card game about making porno movies by a small German manufacturer, Papergames.de. As was the case with that company’s pirate game ‘Piracy’, mine will be the first formal review of this game on BGG not written by someone who was apparently a member of the game’s production team. [And who, as a reviewer, charitably described the artwork - for which he was the person responsible - as ‘good': see thread http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/29395 ].

And once again it has also been pointed out that some early high ratings given to the game on BGG were disproportionately from persons associated with the game’s production and playtesting [see thread http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/99468]. So, as with ‘Piracy’, I approached the game with much scepticism (even apart from the blatantness of the theme). But, frankly, it was quite fun, and after our playing of it I am also forced to echo Hans’ comment that “My wife even likes it”.

Game Components

The colourful, bookcase-size box belies the contents somewhat, as the game components comprise only 100 playing cards, 100 small plastic discs in yellow and red (to act as money chits), and a single (huge) page of rules, printed in English and German. The cards are of perfectly acceptable quality, and colourful, and their art is of the overtly basic cartooney type. No photos of adult film stars or erotic scenarios here (although the pole-dancer illustration on the front of the box is a bit more 'lifelike') … .

Gameplay

Each player starts with 5 credits of money and 5 cards, and replenishes their cards back up to 5 on each round. The cards are Action Cards, Actor/Actress Cards (which range widely in terms of desirability, giving your movie either positive or negative points), and Hardware Cards (that represent sex toys and accessories, and other sundry items). Each turn you can play an Action Card (which costs 1 money chit) and/or an Actor Card or a Hardware Card. The aim is to produce/construct an adult film (using the various cards) and finish it so as to collect more money in credits. Then you can start another one, and another, until the game ends and the money is counted.

The money you get for a finished film depends on its total of positive and negative points for the cards that make up the production. Sexy and attractive actors/actresses give positive points, whereas ugly or creepy ones give negative points (unless of course you play a Paper Bag action card which cancels out that actor’s negative points).

Each film must have at least two actors, or one actor and one hardware item - but the real money is in movies with more actors, and you get bonus points for particular combinations, such as ‘Orgy’ which is at least 3 men and 3 women and gives you 4 bonus points. [And it is also noteworthy that if your film is so bad that it finishes with a score of minus 10 or more, it becomes a ‘Porn Classic’ and the score reverts to a positive one!]

Action Cards can be very valuable to you – for example, a Promotional Tour card adds 2 points, the Distribution card can multiply your movie’s net score, the Casting card allows you to pinch one of the other players’ actors, the Theft card allows you to steal a Hardware item, and the Pornstar Deluxe card represents an award one of your actors has won, adding 3 more points.

But there are also negative cards that you can play on another player – such as the Hacker Download card which is minus 2 points due to uncut material being freely available on the Internet, the Director card which is a negative because the Director tries to turn the movie into an art film, and the AIDS card, a nuclear-strike equivalent which (unless countered) causes the complete cancellation of the film that actor is in. A player can counter an action card played on them by having and playing an XXX-Rated card, except for the AIDS card which can only be countered with a Condom card. [Apart from this, Condom cards count as a negative.] You're probably starting to get a bit of an idea of what PP is like by now ...

Rules, Time and Number of Players

At first glance, the rules look a bit long for a card game of this sort, but they’re not too difficult to get into, and are thorough. It is really only the scoring of a finished movie that is a little involved.

Papergames suggest that the game length is around 45 minutes, but in my opinion (and experience), players familiar with the rules will often get through in a bit less than that.

The box says it can be played by 2 to 5 players, which is clearly right. Like all such games, a two-player game just results in a ‘tennis match’ with cards, and my preference is 3 or 4 players for greater interest and unpredictability.

So, is it any good?

As others have observed (in the user ratings), Project Pornstar is really just a reasonably simple ‘Take That’ type card game, with an X-rated movie theme. The whole concept will offend many, and reeks of bad taste, but there are some genuinely funny aspects to the rules and the cards.

And, even putting aside the somewhat outrageous content and sometimes humorous elements, there is also actually enough going on to make for an interesting game. There are always decisions to be made. When do you decide to stop making your film, and bank your money? – balancing the desire to add even more points against the further opportunities for the other players to try to sabotage your ‘masterpiece’. And should you try to build this combination of actors and actresses, or a different one (in practice, often you are just forced to change your plan anyway). Are you running out of money to play Action Cards? Which of the other players should you give the bad actor to? Will the other player have an XXX-Rated card that will cancel out your play anyway?

Play is generally fast and furious – and very unpredictable. Obviously, the luck of the cards drawn is paramount, but there are quite a few card use variations, and therefore possible 'strategies'. Just not reliable long-term ones!

As I've said, we found the game itself to be quite fun, and amusing – but this would only be so if you have a group that is sufficiently open-minded and gets into the spirit of it. Hans’ ‘review’ says it is “an erotic game without getting squeazy” (not sure what that means – maybe not sleazy?), and “not dirty or implying anything immoral". These are terms that are both relative and subject to interpretation, though, and some of the more risqué (and humorous) aspects are not totally suitable for inclusion in a review on this site and may offend some people. I would have said that the game is unapologetically sleazy - how could it be otherwise? - but in a good-natured sort of way. There is nothing that is gratuitously vulgar, or that smacks of violence or non-consensual activity. The content is just consistent with the industry that is being portrayed and what it produces, in a very light-hearted vein.

Conclusion

The theme and content – and even the name - of ‘Project Pornstar’ mean that it’s not likely to win any mainstream gaming awards, and it wouldn’t be likely to do so in any event. It can be a fun little game, for the right people, but it’s not a 'great' game by any stretch of the imagination. Unbiased Hans gives it a 9 - but I've gone from an initial 6 to a 6.75.

With the inevitably limited audience of potential customers ‘Project Pornstar’ has, it feels like a game that probably “seemed like a good idea at the time”, and Papergames is in a sense brave to have published it. But it’s a country mile ahead of Kheper Games’ ‘Porn!’, for example, and I would certainly be willing to play it again.

And if you liked “Boogie Nights” or ‘Orgazmo” [movies, not games, this time], or if your spouse/friends/gaming group wouldn’t mind a bit of tongue-in-cheek raunchiness in a quick filler card game of sometimes dubious taste every now and then, you might want to check out “Project Pornstar” too. But tell them Hans sent you (not me) …
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Evolution isn't over
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smithnewz wrote:
if your spouse/friends/gaming group wouldn’t mind[...] a quick filler

I thought I'd tuned in to 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue' for a minute there.
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Scott Everts
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Diamat wrote:
smithnewz wrote:
if your spouse/friends/gaming group wouldn’t mind[...] a quick filler

I thought I'd tuned in to 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue' for a minute there.


Awesome, almost blew coffee all over the screen on that one. laugh
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