Congratulations! You’re the owner of a brand new television network that is developing a prime time lineup of programming. In order to do this, you’ll need TV shows, famous (or not so famous) stars, and advertisements. Get ready to make your network the most successful and gain the most viewers with this new card drafting game, The Networks.
Designer: Gil Hova
Publisher: Formal Ferret Games
Genre: Card Drafting
Play time: 90 minutes
Number of Logged Plays: 4
In The Networks, each player starts with three awful public access shows, one star, one ad, and some money. Throughout five seasons (season=round), you will cancel these shows and develop new shows that will bring more viewers to your network. You’ll hire stars to bring in more viewers and land advertisements to help your network make some money that you can use to purchase better shows and stars.
Each player will receive a player board representing their network. The player boards have three time slots for your shows, and as players acquire newer shows, old shows will move to rerun. Shows in the rerun slot will gain viewers at the end of the current round and then moved to the archive. The boards also feature a green room, where unassigned stars and ads will remain until assigned to a show.
Each season will bring out new shows, stars, advertisements, and network cards to choose from. You’ll have a small amount of resources and time, and you must grab the latest hot show before your opponents. The player with the most viewers after five seasons is the winner!
On a player’s turn they can do one of the following actions:
- Develop a Show – This action allows the player to purchase a show from the current season and add them to their network lineup or send it straight to reruns. The cost to purchase show is shown just to the left of the show’s name. Sometimes shows require a star and/or ad for it to be added to the network’s lineup. This is indicated at the bottom of the show card. Players who develop three or five shows of the same genre will receive a one time bonus.
- Sign a Star – This action allows the player to hire a star to come to their network to potentially become the star of a hit show. The cost to hire a star is located to the left of their name. Stars acquired through this action will immediately be placed in the green room and can be added to shows using the “Attach a Star/Ad to a Show” action. Like shows, some stars require an end of season maintenance cost indicated in the upper right hand corner of the card. This cost only needs to be paid if the star is currently attached to a show.
- Land an Ad – This action allows the player to acquire an advertisement to use on one of their shows. Advertisement cards will give players money right away when they land the ad and also produce income once attached to a show.
- Take a Network Card – This action allows the player to select a network card. Network cards are special cards that give players additional abilities that can be used at certain times of the game. There are four types of network cards – immediate use, one time use, end game scoring, or permanent effect.
- Attach a Star/Ad to a Show – Using this action allows the player to attach a star/ad located in their green room to a show. If the show’s star/ad slots are full, then one of the existing stars/ads will be replaced with the new one being attached to the show.
- Drop and Budget – When a player takes this action, they are dropping out of the current round. They will take their turn order disc and place it on the highest available space on the Drop & Budget track. The player can select if they would like to gain the money indicated on the space or the viewers shown on the space. Once all players take this action, the current season is over.
At the end of each season, players will gain income from ads and pay maintenance expenses for the network’s lineup. If a player is unable to pay for the expenses with money then payment is made with viewers. Players then score the viewers for the shows in the network lineup and reruns. Any stars attached to the shows will add to the total based on the show’s current season.
Each show will then complete its current season and age to the next season. This is indicated by the four rows on the show card. Shows will fluctuate in viewers depending on the type of show and its current season.
The last step is to clear out any cards that weren’t taken in the current season and setup the board for the next season. The player will the least viewers will be the new starting player.
Have you ever imagined what one perfect night of prime time TV would be like? Being able to be captivated by three consecutive hour of shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad? In The Networks you’ll have that opportunity to create a dream lineup of shows that will bring viewers in like a lure module at a PokeStop.
Like Mandee said, one of the best parts of the game is seeing all the references to popular shows, stars, and ads. One of my favorite ones is “Criminal Mindfulness” which is a reference to one of our favorite shows Criminal Minds. Every card will make you smile as you realize what show it’s referencing and you’ll laugh at the different combinations of stars and ads you can put on shows. You’ll also notice that more family friendly shows like the “Cubicle” or “Old Folks Complaining” prefer the earlier time slots, while more risque shows like “Chainmail Bikini Warrior” wants to be on later at night. It’s these little touches that make this game so great and fun to play.
One of the best things about the game is the unique theme and how easily the actions are tied back to it. This makes explaining the game a lot easier since players can more easily understand what they can or cannot do each turn.
The most fun part of the game is seeing the shows for the first time and trying to figure out what show it’s referencing. Seeing the stars for the first time will make you realize how common these types of stars are in shows like the retired athlete who will end up making cameo appearances in a wide variety of shows.
With that said, once you’ve seen the cards a couple times, the novelty may wear off and make you wish there were more shows, stars, and ads. This doesn’t take away from the original set of cards with it’s great artwork and clever names, but maybe some expansions in the future will help keep the shows fresh.
Since we did preorder the game through the Formal Ferret Games website, we received a mini expansion that adds more variety to the shows, stars, ads, and network cards. These cards are represented by the small OtA logo on the upper right hand corner of the picture of the cards. I think little expansion packs like this in the future will keep the game fresh.
So Many Shows So Little Time
The game is about getting the right shows on at the right time while having the best stars/ads to bring in as many viewers as you can. Each game only lasts for five seasons and each season gives the players a set amount of cards that they can bring onto their network. Since no information is hidden in this game, players around you will have a rough idea of your strategy. This creates a good amount of tension as you’re holding your breath that the person ahead of you doesn’t take the show that would fit perfectly into your 10 pm time slot.
There are a lot of different types of shows that you can choose from and the game gives you a genre bonus for focusing on one type of show. You’ll have to figure out if it’s worth it to grab a show just for the bonus even if it doesn’t fit very well into a time slot. There were a couple of moments that had me pondering this as I tried to figure out the best way to maximize my viewers with the combination of stars and shows I had.
As you can probably tell, the interaction in this game is indirect, unless you’re playing with the Interactive Network Cards. We haven’t gotten a chance to play with more than two players yet, but I look forward to see what kind of things you can do with those cards.
We’ve only gotten a chance to play the game with two players, but this game plays really well with two. Drawing a burn card after every third turn is a great mechanic that makes you weigh your options between taking something before it’s too late or if you can afford to do a different action instead. Both games we played were fairly close and came down to the final end game scoring to determine who the winner was.
The first time we had played, we had taken out the advanced Network Cards since it was our first game. The basic network cards are good, but once we played our second game with the advanced network cards it was a whole new ball game.
The abilities on the advanced cards can set up some really strong combos like being able to add two more stars to a show past shown capacity. The Network Cards add a nice twist to the game, allowing players to buy more viewers, earn more money, or even prevent a show from aging at the end of the season. If only we could do this in real life because who wouldn’t want to go back and relive the greatness that was season two of Arrow.
Overall I really enjoyed this game because of it’s theme and fun game play. The only negative I have is that the component quality could use some work. The cards feel kind of thin and the player boards and score track boards were starting to fray along the edges after only two plays. This didn’t detract from the game, but could be a problem after a lot of plays.
I felt like the playtime of the game was pretty spot on and is the perfect length for me. I’d like to try the game with more than two players to see how it changes things, but overall I’d definitely recommend trying out this game.
Ever have that moment when there is just nothing on TV and you wish that you could control the nightly lineup? No? Maybe that’s just me…
In the game, The Networks, you are a TV network executive that is choosing your lineup from a set of shows that mimic existing shows on TV. Half the fun is trying to guess what show the game is referencing (Paisley is the New Burnt Umber, anyone?). You also assign stars to shows, if needed, and land ads to make you some money.
Seeing as how I’m very much a TV person, I find this game to be amusing, even if it takes me a few minutes to figure out what some of the shows are referencing. The artwork on these cards is fantastic as well. One of my personal favorites is “The Cubicle.”
Balance is Key
Now, keep in mind that we’ve only played this game twice, but from what I found, this game is incredibly well balanced, and allows for players to catch up when needed. Both games we played were fairly close and we each chose different strategies.
In a two player game, every three turns a random amount of cards are burned to mimic having more players. This also adds an interesting element to the game because you never know what will go when (much like a game with more players). Usually we are not a fan of 2 player variants of games because they don’t play quite the same way. The Networks manages to play with just two players pretty effectively and we both enjoyed the game quite a bit.
However, because this game goes by so quickly, it can be a bit challenging to balance gaining income from your shows with gaining enough viewers to get ahead in the game. It’s tough to do both at once, but it is definitely possible if you’re able to match up the right shows in your lineup.
Variety is the Spice of Life
The game has a few interesting mechanics that make the game run smoothly like the genre bonus you get or the benefits you get from network cards. Like an actual TV network, developing many of the same types of shows is beneficial in this game.
Each type of show provides some benefit at one point in the game. Sport shows tend to provide you more money, so those are often better to have at the beginning of the game since money is not useful toward the end. Reality shows are cheap to produce and, if they require a star to be attached, can provide quite a few viewers.
The genre bonus is also great in this game, especially if all the ads or stars have been taken. It gives you another opportunity to obtain cards, and they’re ones that no one else has the chance to get. I do wish that developing the same types of shows also factored into end-game scoring though.
In addition to the variety of shows, it’s nice how there are so many different stars, ads, and network cards to provide more variety to the game. There are a limited number of shows in the game, and you’ll see the same ones every game. But you may not see the same stars or ads every game, which makes future replayability more likely.
Overall, I really liked this game. The theme is very strong and is one that I haven’t seen in other games before. If it could be improved at all, I wonder how much better it would be if you could control more than one night of TV. I can see how it’d make the game way more challenging (and long), but I think it could make it really interesting. You could potentially make your own variant by taking two player boards to add another night of TV to develop.
– Great theme
– Well balanced
– Large variety of stars and ads increases potential replayability
– Great catch-up mechanics
– Artwork on cards
– Short playtime
– Easy to teach
– Component quality could use some work
– Wish there were more shows
– Genre bonus should factor into end-game scoring
He gives this game 8 Seasons of Criminal Mindfulness out of 10
She gives this game 8 Seasons of Communist-y out of 10.