Game: The Networks
Developer: Formal Ferret Games
Players: 1- 5
I like to consider myself a relatively busy person, but television will always be my guilty pleasure. Some of my favorite shows include Mad Men, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, and I am completely ashamed to admit: reality television shows. Although I consider reality television my little secret (that I am now sharing to all of you), there’s something rather charming about the slew of drama that occurs on each episode. Every episode will have a progression of character development (most of the time for the worst) and will give you an idea of how the season finale will turn out. You watch one episode, and you are hooked for the rest of the season because you really want to find out what’s going to happen (sad, I know). Then a new reality show comes on, and the saga continues. You find this sequence of events happening in every single show that you watch. I can’t say that I watch every type of reality TV show, but I sure have a preference for them. These preferences can be fulfilled by sticking to the one network that suits my reality TV needs (in my case, it’s the old housewives on Bravo that just can’t seem to get it together).
I was given the opportunity to live vicariously as an owner of a new television network in The Networks by Gil Hova. I played against one other TV network owner in a race to earn the most viewers through ads, stars, and having shows of the same genre in my network. The game plays through very similar to what you would expect as a network owner. You search for ads that will reel in the most money for you at the end of your season, and you find stars that will most benefit you for that season. As your show ages (seasons progress), the amount of viewers could decrease or increase as a response.
You will receive a set number of coins at the beginning of your journey as a TV network owner depending on the player order, and you will use these coins to strategically purchase these shows, ads, and stars. Developing your show with the addition of ads and stars is probably my favorite component of the game play itself. Each show has a time preference, a rerun value, cost, and prerequisite (ad, star, neither, or both) that will determine the amount of viewers (which translates into points) that you can earn throughout the life of your show. The turn phase of the game consists of a number of possible actions you can take for the course of the season. When you decide that you have no more actions, you can choose to drop and budget (collect either money or viewers immediately depending on the season) that season, and remaining players will continue their actions until they drop and budget. If choose to be the first to drop and budget, then you will have a slight advantage for the next season because you will be the first to pick from the goods. If you are familiar with Tokaido, this action is very similar to bringing your player to the restaurant first where you will have the first pick for the food. Probably the most interesting part about the season progression is that if and when you decide to replace one of your shows to develop a new show, you place your old show into the rerun, which will accrue a small number of viewers at the end of that season. Once the season is over and you have tallied up your viewers for that season, you will put your old show into archives where you will no longer earn viewers.
Although the artwork of the game was not fully complete in the prototype version, every single component of the game made sense. Each season (that you are playing the game, not the season for the show), you are given a better lot of shows to choose from. As your network ages by season, the amount of viewers you could potentially accrue from the shows you select will increase. More often, you will find that shows with more viewers will have more demanding prerequisites. Stars and Ads have their own set of conditions, where if you don’t meet the conditions, you will rotate the card to the bad side, where you will earn less viewers, money, or both. The artwork available on the box was really reminiscent of Cartoon Network–a childhood favorite of mine. If the artwork in the final product is consistent with the artwork shown on the prototype box, I would argue that this will be one of every tabletopping Cartoon Network fan’s dream game.
The play through of the game is done with little flaw. Although there are a lot of components to the game, understanding the game is not difficult after the first play through, much like any other tabletop game. Since I still consider myself a novice, I find it’s easier to play games if I could somehow make the game relevant or relatable to everyday life. The Networks allows you to be that TV network owner that you always wanted to be, and forces you to really think about why a particular action makes sense. The components, player actions, and turn sequences are completely cohesive with one another, making the game complex; however I would argue that the interrelatedness of the actions you take in this game will make you a more confident and strategic tabletop player in heavier games. Overall, The Networks was done beautifully and kept me wanting more…kinda like my yearn for reality television, but much less guilty this time around.