Thursday, July 13, 2017


I love board games. I love television. How about putting those two things together?

That's the apparent inspiration behind The Networks, a game in which every player controls a TV network trying to program three time slots over the course of five seasons (rounds). You have to acquire the shows you want to schedule, the ads you'll run during their broadcast, and the stars that will appear on them. You have to balance your expenses and your profits, all while trying to maximize the viewership that is your actual score in the game.

Up front (ha! that's TV executive lingo!) I'll say that the idea of this game is better than the game itself. It's a clever concept, and this game has abstracted the details to just the right level to convey that flavor without getting bogged down in uninteresting minutia. The best part of the flavor is the names of all the program cards, parodies of popular TV series (or of the ideas of the garbage that somehow makes it on the air).

As for the gameplay itself? It's hard to imagine it being that enduring. It does incorporate a lot of the Eurogame staples -- picking from available actions before your opponents can take them, resource management, incentives to focus on certain options and exclude others. It's not mindless. But there's also something about it that just doesn't feel that sophisticated. Or rather, it's more that it doesn't feel like it's putting any of its established mechanisms together in a novel way.

Still, I do feel there's a chance my perceptions are off here. I'm just not sure which way it goes. Does the humor element make me perceive less in this game than is actually there -- would I appreciate it more as the laughs wore off over time? Or is the humor so central to the appeal here that I'd lose interest in the game entirely as the jokes became worn and familiar? I suspect the latter, though I can't completely discount the possibility of the former.

I'll probably never find out. My group doesn't get together to game as often as we once did, and only the true favorites get a lot of replays now. Most new games get a couple plays before some new hotness arrives on the scene. The Networks has been fun enough for a few game nights so far, but it doesn't seem like it will be around for the long haul. I think I'd grade it a B-, maybe a B. You could do worse, but you could certainly do better too.

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