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Subject: Just for fun - Parenthood: The Review rss

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Jason Sample
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Parenthood (AKA Parenting, Motherhood, Fatherhood, et. al.): The Review

In the spirit of Landstander's recent Geeklist about how certain life events are rated on the 10 point BGG scale (What would YOU rate it?, www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listid=11863 ). I thought I would try to review Parenthood.

General Overview:

Parenthood is THE oldest known game. It predates the appearance of Hominids on the Earth even and their have been generations of species playing this for thousands upon thousands of years. Evidence of its early existence has been seen in cave paintings, found on scrimshaw, & mentioned in the holy books of several major religions. The general idea is that a Parent (or Parents) attempt to rear another member of their species (though interspecies play has been well reported and "Animal Husbandry" is well documented and still practiced by millions) over a variable span. Given that I know the most about Parenthood for Humans, I am going to focus on that (all in keeping with the rule that you should never review a game you haven't played ).

Components:

The components for Parenthood are top notch. They are well constructed and durable. The best thing about the components is that they are completely customizable and their appearance changes over the years. My wife and I have the misfortune of having a pair of Children (that is what the components are called, perhaps Cheeples would be better) that look very much like me and not my wife. Given that she is an auburn haired Goddess, it would have been better if they looked like her. That is life I suppose. Don't let all that amniotic fluid, the placenta, and the initially smushed face fool you, these Children will soon become the most beautiful components you have ever seen. The number of expansions available for these Children is also mind blowing. There are expansions that are for warmth and to enhance their cuteness (the so-called "clothing" expansions), the expansions for travel ("car seats" and "booster seats" that fit into "mini-vans" and "family sedans"), educational expansions ("grade school", "middle school, "high school", "college", etc.), and other expansions.

The down side is that the components themselves can be tough to find. The options include: (1) procreation, (2) adoption, (3) Foster Parenthood (dealt with in another review), (4) Step-Parenthood, (5) and others. There are other ways to obtain children; these are some of the accepted methods. The biggest downside I can see to the game, with respect to the components anyhow, is the cost. If you decide to use option (1) procreation, the initial phases of the set-up can either be brief or extended over many months. Ultimately, some poor woman (be it the Mother of the children or a Surrogate) has to carry the Child around for approximately 40 weeks. This can be an expensive process. You will find that your excitement, and angst, for the upcoming gaming session grow during this 40ish week waiting period. Option (2) (adoption) can also be very time and money intensive. Without revealing the rest of this review, the cost is worth it... though you will find some of the expansions to be rather pricey.

Setup:
As mentioned above in the components section, setup time can be rather lengthy. That being said, once the game has begun, setup becomes but a memory and is frequently eclipsed by the game play time.

Flexibility/Ideal number of players:
The game is VERY flexible with respect to the "board" and the number of players. There are several excellent solitaire variants that require an exceptional amount of intestinal fortitude. Many people prefer to play with two. The genders of the two players has come under debate over the decades, but the simple truth is that it really does not matter what genders the players (called Parents from here on) are. Personally, my wife and I are currently involved in the "One-Man-One-Woman" variant and it is going pretty well. There is even a variant where many people act as Parents, the so-called "It Takes a Village" variant. There is another variant popular in Hollywood known as the "David Crosby is My Father" variant. Apparently, he makes good Children. The trick is to find a willing player, or willing players, to play with and go with that number.

Game Length:
My understanding is that this game never ends. My mother continues to inform me that she is still my mother, and that she always will be. This is usually mentioned with a fair amount of finger pointing and head tilting...

Goal:
The goals of the game are to raise your children to be functional and successful members of society. Luckily, there are many different definitions of "functional and successful" so there are myriad victory conditions. Ultimately, you want to make sure that your Children do not complain about you on their therapists' couch at any time during the game.

Game Stages:
(1) Early Game: (AKA "The First Age" or infancy)]
Some folks feel that the Early Game portion is where the game is at its hardest (these are usually the players who have not yet borne witness to the later stages of the game). It involves a lot of sleepless nights, crying, dirty diapers, spitting up, and the like, not to mention what the Children will be going through. Players in this stage are easily spotted on the street because they are obviously exhausted but beam a great smile whenever anyone asks how the game is going. You will also find that people in this stage of the game gravitate towards others in this stage of the game and they usually travel in sleep deprived packs. They can also be identified by their relative dishevelledness.

Feeding and growing are the foci of this early stage. The rewards in this stage are frequent and large (smiles/laughter/rolling over/first words/sounds/wide eyed excitement at exploration and discovery of new things/etc.). This stage is also expensive (but it becomes cheaper with successive plays as expansions purchased for prior Children can be re-used [so-called "hand-me-downs"]).

Strategies for this "First Age" are varied. Many of the good ones involve including family members. The frustrating thing about this age is that the rules of the game are amorphous and you pretty make them up as you go. There are lots of books that provide "guidelines" but none with any clear rules. You will also find endless kibbitzing from family, friends, and complete strangers. Do not let the "First Age" get to you. It gets better.

(2) Early Mid Game: (AKA Toddlerhood and Pre-school)
A lot of folks feel that the mid-game tends to be the part of Parenthood that bogs down a little. It is fairly repetitive on a day-to-day basis with the emphasis being on keeping the Children clean and fed as well as making sure they get to school each day and do their homework. Did we mention that the game comes with a free set of expansions once they start school: Viruses, Bacteria, Social Stress, Peer Pressure, et. al? These are the expansions that make the basic game so much harder. Sometimes those Viruses and Bacteria can just cause runny noses and fevers, but they can lead to a trip to the Emergency Department and/or pediatrician. Which reminds me, you should probably buy Health Insurance before you even think about playing this one.

...to be continued, I must attend to one of my children. We are in the "First Age" with that one.

Part II to follow...
(3) Late Mid Game: (AKA This is where it can get Really Expensive!)
(4) Early Late Game: (AKA Move out and get a job, would ya!)
(5) Mid Late Game: (AKA How come you never visit or call?)
(6) Late Late Game: (AKA When are you gonna give us grandkids?)
(7) End Game: (AKA Living Wills/Wills/Picking the right proxy)

...and with full Props given to Fawkes...The Reviewer's Tilt...


Please forgive me if you feel this does not belong on this site, or in this forum...shake
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Ben .
United Kingdom
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Got my copy on order for June
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Denise Lavely
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Carmel
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I can attest this is a great game, I've got my second copy due to arrive any day now and can hardly wait!!
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Dustin Martin
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Delafield
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We had placed an order for one of these, but as it was being shipped, the tracking information told us that we were actually going to receive two copies of this! surprise
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Sue Hemberger

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My only copy has aged well even without card sleeves. Eight years of daily play and it's looking even better than it did new.
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Chris Hawks
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Today marks the 2-month anniversary of the arrival of my second edition. I have to admit that I still find the first edition to be more fun, but the second is growing on me. laugh
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Gerald McDaniel
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We're into the end game, and it's more fun than you might think.

You just have to survive all the previous stages! You must plan ahead, keep cool, collect resources, spend resources wisely (if possible), adjust your strategy, devise tactics on the fly, and hope some random disasters don't ruin your gameplan, while wishing for some random luck along the way. We've reached the end game with extra bits (two children, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren), so it is possible to WIN this game!!!

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MK
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Okay, but is it a wargame or a euro-game? laugh
 
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JessA
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I often can't tell if it's a dexterity game or abstract strategy.
 
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MK
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All I know is that with four players you go with the "man-to-man" coverage, but with five or more players you pretty much have to go "zone" defense.
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Mike Adams
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I find that the first edition is just as expected - good, solid, brain-burning.

The second edition has beautiful components but is much more chaotic - there's not as much control as with the first.

The third edition, though, is where things really clicked into place. It has returned to its roots in the first edition and at first glance appears almost identical, but the overall experience is very pleasant and satisfying.
 
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JEREMY PAQUETTE
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I'm still hoping the price will go down, myself. For now I am content with borrowing my sister's copy from time to time.
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Jason Sample
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Type of Game:
I look at it as an area control game in some respects (While you're under my roof, you follow my rules.), resource management, trading (If you do not stop hitting your sister, we WILL take away your bicycle), & civilization (on a micro type of scale).

The Reviewer's Tilt:
The beauty of the components aside, this is an awesome game. The theme feels a little, how shall I say, "pasted on", sometimes, but the total immersion in this "theme" is what sells this game. The fact that you get to watch these Children grow up and thrive is just terrific.

Highly recommended to anyone even remotely interested. I give it a 10. Plus, we need other Parents to commisserate with so we Parents are always trying to find another victim...er...co-Player.
 
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Brian Robson
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I'm 15 weeks into the game and can definitively state this is the greatest game ever. Thankfully my Cheeple has settled down into fairly laid back, smiley mode. Friends and family have bought us loads of expansions which will see us over the next few months. We have, however, had to purchase the bigger washing machine expansion to cope with the unwanted bacterial expansions and the spitting/puking up subsystem shake
 
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MK
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queequeg wrote:
Type of Game:
I look at it as an area control game in some respects (While you're under my roof, you follow my rules.), resource management, trading (If you do not stop hitting your sister, we WILL take away your bicycle), & civilization (on a micro type of scale).

The Reviewer's Tilt:
The beauty of the components aside, this is an awesome game. The theme feels a little, how shall I say, "pasted on", sometimes, but the total immersion in this "theme" is what sells this game. The fact that you get to watch these Children grow up and thrive is just terrific.

Highly recommended to anyone even remotely interested. I give it a 10. Plus, we need other Parents to commisserate with so we Parents are always trying to find another victim...er...co-Player.


I agree with most of your review here. You simply neglected to mention the 166554 hour minimum playing time (significantly longer if you add on the expansion children).
 
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Jason Sample
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Brian,

That is an excellent observation on the washing machine expansion. My wife and I used to ask each other, "How could anything so small be responsible for generating so much more laundry?" At the time, we were living in an apartment in New York City without our own washer and dryer. The ladies at the bank across the street used to call me by my first name when I went in to buy rolls of quarters.

Drew,

Those are two tough questions. I have to say that I get those a lot. Here is my take on them.

1) Regarding the Action Card: "Explosive Diarrhea" (AKA There is S@#$ everywhere!!), given that this action card must be played immediately, you really CANNOT move the infant into another Parent's AoC (area of control). It is just not fair to your co-Player. It is akin to "cleaning up your own mess." Repeat offenses of this rule may also lead to serious repercussions. Don't think that nobody notices, because they do. The upside of taking Immediate Action on this action card is that there is a certain amount of satisfaction from changing those really bad diapers, plus this Action Card is then taken into your hand so that it can be played in the later stages of the game, usually in conjunction with a "I Remember When You.." Action Card. It is good for taking your Cheeple "Down a Peg" in the mid game.

2) The "Up in the Middle of the Night" Event Card is also something that requires Immediate Action. Remember, this is a co-operative game. I find that my children can be very sweet in the middle of the night. There is a certain amount of, "Thank goodness you are here," that passes over the child's face when you first appear. Plus, there are certain occasions when you can play an "Easy Fix" Action Card and the crying stops abruptly. The ability to calm a crying Cheeple in the "First Age" is VERY valuable and is a skill that must be cultivated.

Cheers,
Jasoncry
 
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Boo
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Like Jeremy I too find this game a little on the expensive side, especially since I know I would be unable to resist getting all the expansions.

Most of my friends, my sister, and husband's brother have this game and always bring it out whenever I go over to thier places. They also bring at least one copy when they come over as well so I have found no need to get a copy for myself. Besides, they all fall over themselves trying to lend me thier copies whenever I want to play. laugh
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Massa Abé
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you guys are so funny!

I got my copy 3 months and 3 days ago.
I found the rule's booklet was unreadable, but I have been playing my game sacrificing my sleep every night. Great game! snoresnoresnore
 
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Paul Kidd
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Before getting my first copy I read through the rules. The trouble was there were thousands of copies and none of them agreed with each other. We ended up using bits and pieces of all of them and adding plenty of house rules.

Another cool thing about this game is that it starts out as a lightweight game and gets heavier as time goes on.

I do get a bit tired of all the expansions that are available. My wife is currently looking at both the "seven seater car" and the "swimming pool" expansion, which are both outrageously priced when compared to, say, the War of the Ring expansion. You'd think they'd be more competitive...
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Jason Sample
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OzGamer,

You are absolutely right about all the house rules. I think I once read that "Parenting is all about making spur of the moment decisions...in retrospect, some are right, some are wrong, but now they are law..." There are more house rules than "published" rules.

Cheers,
Jason
 
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Matthew M
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I'm looking forward to playing this myself

I hear that the setup for the game is actually pretty fun itself


-MMM
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Paul Boos
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One part of the mechanic that wasn't explained is that it is truly real time in all of the complexity of the decisions. You also make lots of strategic, long-term decisions (investments for college) as well as tactical decisions (what to make for dinner).

What's also is taht is really great as a meta game, where many sub games can be played along the life of the metagame. It is the one true game that has the potential to outlast you as the player.

I got my one and only edition a little over three years ago as a toddling cheeple, but i had to travel to Russia to acquire my copy.


Cheers!
Paul
 
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Andrew Brannan
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Snooze_uk wrote:
Got my copy on order for June



Funny, mine's due to arrive at the end of June. We didn't order from the same supplier, did we?
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Joe Grundy
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abrannan wrote:
Snooze_uk wrote:
Got my copy on order for June

Funny, mine's due to arrive at the end of June. We didn't order from the same supplier, did we?

Ours too!

For us, if the delivery is a few days late (into July) we get a $1000 bonus. The missus is crossing her legs.

If you ask me, this game is all about expansion and growth. I'm confused though. I understand it's a co-operative game, but are the Cheeples the in-game opposition or are they the score track?
 
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Dean Conrad
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My advice to all participants:

Put it back in the box, and take it to the charity shop.
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