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Michael Fox
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This review is taken from the UK's loveliest board games site, The Little Metal Dog Show. It's over at http://littlemetaldog.com if you fancy checking it out. You'll find more reviews, interviews and even a rather splendid podcast too. Thank you for reading!

I’m sitting here thinking about theme. Looking through my collection I see plenty of science-fiction stuff, lots of fantasy games and – Tom from The Dice Tower will kill me for this – even a couple of trading in the Mediterranean affairs. Us gamers like to stick with what we know and designers are often happy to give us what we like. Sometimes though? They love to surprise us.

Ignacy Trzewiczek is one such chap. You may recall the interview we did with him on the Little Metal Dog site ( http://bit.ly/LMDS_Ignacy ) recently where he mentioned a game that he developed in conjunction with the National Bank of Poland that would hopefully give players an insight into how finance works. And the setting for this game? Why, the high-flying world of fashion, of course!

Theme, as we all know, is important. A game may be as solid as anything but if the theme doesn’t grab players a game may well flounder. With Prêt-à-Porter proudly fashion based it may well lose a few players from the start – but if you disregard this game just because you think it’s about making clothes? More fool you because Prêt-à-Porter is pretty damn good.

You’re actually running fashion houses over the course of a year in this cut-throat industry. The game is divided into four phases, each one representing a three month period that culminates in one or more fashion shows. By opening new offices, taking on better staff and establishing new brands and outlets, you’re able to take on contracts to bump up your short term profits to keep you going.

During the first two months of each phase, you need to concentrate on a two pronged attack. Yes, improving the status of your company is important, but so is developing your staff and buildings. The down side is that these will cost you more and as you have to pay wages and bills at the end of each month it can become quite the battle to balance your books. Thankfully you have the option to take out a loan as an action during your turn – if you screw up though, you’ll be forced to take one at a higher rate.


The Polish edition of Prêt-à-Porter - very stylish, of course.

The fashions shows are what you’re really aiming for, though. The choices from your collection that you decide to show at the end of each of the four phases will be graded and hopefully awarded stars – and these are what you’ll fight your opponents for. Stars will gain you more money than the opposition, allowing you to improve your company and leave the others in your wake. As the year moves on, your company grows, hopefully earning more money and expanding your staff and holdings. At the end of the game the stars you’ve gained are converted into points and added to any special features that you’re able to score – and whoever has the most is the winner. Nice and simple.

Well… I say it’s simple, but Prêt-à-Porter isn’t. Though it’s relatively straightforward, there’s a wealth of options for you to choose from on your turns. As there are so many different ways in which you can expand your company, each one granting bonuses but also causing issues that you’ll need to cope with. It’s very easy to overstretch yourself and spread yourself thin, so you’ll need to give it a couple of plays before you work out the strategies that really work for you.

Prêt-à-Porter may well be set in an industry that some will claim isn’t interesting to them but do not be deceived – this game is hard as nails and will punish anyone who treats it lightly. This is the kind of eurogame that will require concentration from the off and lots of forward planning. You’ll need to have a solid idea of what you want to do for each of the seasons and just go for it – however, on the flip side you’ll have to be adaptable in case your opposition scuppers your plans… and they will. What happens when the other guy gets the building or materials that you wanted? You’ve always got to be ready to change your plans but thankfully the game offers you alternative routes to your ultimate goal – it’s not always easy, but hey! That’s business.

You’ll notice I’ve not talked about the production quality… well, I can’t really. My copy of the game is an English language prototype – the full version will be released at Essen 2011. However, this is 90% of the way there and I can safely say that graphically everything is nice and clear. The board in particular is very well laid out and the whole game has a clean, modern look that really conveys the sense of style. Iconography is clear and crisp throughout which really helps in a game that has a lot going on.


Polish Prêt-à-Porter is ready to roll. It's not as complicated as it looks. Well, perhaps it's a little complicated. Photo by surmik.

It’s not an easy game to win. In fact, it’s not an easy game at all, but there’s an incredible level of satisfaction when you just manage to plan everything well, hold it together and break even from month to month. Actually winning the game? It’s like being visited by unicorns delivering platinum cupcakes filled with cash.

The unicorns have never come to my house. They will one day, but until then there’s this incredibly challenging game that rewards players who throw themselves headlong into it. Here’s hoping that Portal get the success it deserves from this fantastic game.

Prêt-à-Porter was originally published in Poland in 2010 by Portal. Designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek in conjunction with the National Bank of Poland, the English language version of the game will be available from October 2011 following its official launch at Essen – pre-orders can be placed right now at http://www.portalpublishing.eu. Now work it!
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John Brownsill
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Thanks Michael.

I'm waiting on the rules first before deciding on a pre-order. But your review has nudged me another step closer to doing so
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Michael Fox
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It's really very good indeed. Hard as nails, but very good. If I get back from London in time tomorrow, I'll bring it on over! If not... well, you'll have to wait until next week
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Jack Francisco
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First class review. I'm on the bubble about ordering it or waiting for USA release.
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Joe Saul-Sehy
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Quote:
It’s like being visited by unicorns delivering platinum cupcakes filled with cash.


The couple of times this happened to me it wasn't that special.

Seriously, thanks for a great review.
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Mike V
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No reason to be so defensive about the theme. I'm sure a fashion theme will *attract* as many as it supposedly turns off. Theme is the only reason this game is on my radar.

Project Runway fans unite!
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Holger Hannemann
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Thanks Michael,

that was a great preview. I very much look forward to this game. I start to become quite a Trzewicek fanboy.
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John Hilla
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arcweldx wrote:

No reason to be so defensive about the theme. I'm sure a fashion theme will *attract* as many as it supposedly turns off. Theme is the only reason this game is on my radar.

Project Runway fans unite!


Right on. The title of the game was the reason I clicked on this review from the BGG main page. Very interested in this one now. Nice review!
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Jack Francisco
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arcweldx wrote:
Project Runway fans unite!


The wheels of my mind are already turning for a Project Runway re-theme.
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Tyler DeWaal
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I "pre-ordered"/reserved this along with K2:Broadpeak from rebel games (and got the 5 euro discount! Woot!) and am looking forward to playing it. Solid review Michael, thank you much. The theme actually got me to look into the game in the first place cause it just seems quite different, and my playing partner is my wife, so...kiss

With many choices, I wonder about analysis paralysis. Also, one other question is if you happen to fall behind in the first season's fashion show, are you basically screwed the rest of the game trying to play catch-up?

Thanks!
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Jack Francisco
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Tibetgeek wrote:
my playing partner is my wife


Jealous.
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Alex Wilson
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Generally speaking, things have gone about as far as they can possibly go, when things have gotten about as bad as they can reasonably get.
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Thanks for the review. I'm keeping my eye on this one -- I think it might be a bit heavy for my wife to like, but the theme is one that might be able to stretch her beyond her usual boundaries.
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Michael Fox
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I am LOVING the fact that so many people are coming in here and declaring their love of Project Runway. It's a highlight of my TV week (along with America's Next Top Model).

Thank you all for your kind words about the review - the game is really quite ace and deserves to do well
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Jack Francisco
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The wife and I used to watch ANTM...til Tyra started going a little cuckoo.

Project Runway is excellent. Heidi is still smoking hot.
Tim Gunn story: My sister-in-law was at an event where Tim Gunn was a guest. She said he is just as nice in person as he is on TV. I want to meet Tim just to have him hug me and tell me, "Jack, it's been nice having you here. So sad to see you go."
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Michael Fox
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There are two people I'd love to have in my family: one is Stephen Fry and one is Tim Gunn. If only so I could do the whole Santino "Andre! Why did you have to embarrass me in front of the whole of Red Lobster?" shtick
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Jason Hinchliffe
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Nice review. I think this just made my shortlist. Sounds like a game I would like, and my "America's Next Top Model" addicted wife and daughter will probably love the theme.
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the difference between a "crowd" and a "mob" is one push
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Thanks for the review. Agree with most of your points. Just got to play this on Saturday. Truth be told, one of the KEY reasons I want to try it WAS the theme. I mean, how many more freakin' pyramids or cathedrals can you build?

I was glad that there was a game here too, and one that hit my sweet spot: the hard-edged, (mostly) unforgiving economic game. Love the limited decisions and trying to get actions outside your three actions, a la Automobile & Planet Steam, as well as the building up of your little, resource-poor House into something potent (again, a la Automobile & Planet Steam and a little Power Grid). This game quickly went from a MUST TRY to a MUST BUY.
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