Ever had a favourite show cancelled on you? Or a main character removed or recast between seasons? When you play The Networks you’ll be the one doing all that over five seasons, to gain and maintain viewers to make your new TV network the most popular of the new channels.
Every player runs a different network and you all start with shows like “Let’s Pickle” and “Emergency Broadcast Test Hour” that are so bad they have literally no viewers. You play the game by hiring stars to feature in your shows (gaining more viewers, but often needing salaries), landing ads (which give you cash to develop shows or pay stars), developing shows by adding them to your network (and attaching stars and ads to them).
Importantly, the number of viewers a show will have depends on which time slot you air it in, which stars are on the show and which season it’s in. Some shows start off strong and lose viewers the longer they stay on the air, but others get better with age.
After a few seasons, you’ll find yourself callously (or regretfully) cancelling your sci-fi blockbuster for a more lucrative, ad-ridden sportscast. Or you’ll get some lucky Network Cards that give you bonuses and special abilities.
I ran the U62 network and one of our launch shows was Chainmail Bikini Warrior, laughably staring a xylophone talent contest winner. It gets better in season 2, then really goes downhill. But I got the “Showrunner” Network Card two seasons in a row, which let me prevent the viewership from degrading, giving Chainmail Bikini Warrior a healthy 4 seasons before it was replaced when viewers finally jumped ship.
Quirky art and funny shows, often plays on real favourites – like Person of Disinterest, Dextrous, Cringe and Communist-y – give the game a great sense of humour. Players inject funny moments into the game, too, through strange pairings of stars and shows, like a Celebrity Chef in an action series.
There’s real strategy involved, in deciding when to go for stars, when to focus on ads, and which shows you should be aiming to air. If you’ve ever aired 3 shows of the same genre you get a viewer boost and some other immediate bonuses (and again with 5 same genre shows). So, it’s great to focus on similar genres, but sometimes you can’t, and just need to cast that sports show on your otherwise dedicated sci-fi network.
Because shows do better in their first season when aired in the appropriate time slot, there are also decisions to make about whether to cancel a show while it’s still doing well to open it’s time slot up to a show with an even higher viewership, or air that new show in a different time slot for a few less viewers.
Even when to stop playing in a season is a decision you’ll need to consider. Once you feel you’ve done all you can do, you can choose to drop out of getting new cards this season, and instead take a bigger cash or viewer bonus. The later you do this, the smaller the bonus, but the more cards you can acquire now.
Then you start the next season, with new stars, ads, shows and network cards.
Some may find all the decisions a bit tricky to weigh up, but for others that’s half the fun – deciding how you want to tackle the challenge of increasing those precious viewer numbers.
With a great theme I haven’t seen in board games, interesting decisions, great art, lots of nods to real television in the art and certain rules, and the 1-5 player count, The Networks is sure to find a loyal audience.