The Networks Review
Have you ever considered how hard it would be to run your own TV network? Signing actors, attracting advertisers and nurturing your top shows. All for that sweet, sweet viewer rating. That is the scenario that Gil Hova’s The Networks replicates.
Networks is a combination of card drafting and engine building mechanics. You are running your TV network and trying to put on the best shows you can. All while managing your budget.
Each player is trying to fill three time slots with shows. And each show can have a combination of actors and ads associated with it. Over the course of a season players will be drafting actors, ads and shows in from the communal pool into your ‘Green Room’ awaiting assignment. To set up a show, players first need to have the actors and ads you want to use in your green room. This means there is a nice risk/reward mechanic in the game, as another player may snap the show you want, while you are still looking for its star!
The game is also played over a number of seasons. After each season your shows will mature. This means they will likely produce a different viewer rating come the end of the next season. So while you might have the hottest show on earth, its viewer rating may take a nose dive after just two seasons and you will need to replace it.
The artwork of Networks may not be to everyone’s taste, but it gets the idea across. Every show, actor and advertisement is a parody. Not only are the names a parody, but the value of the cards fit in with it too. For example, you can choose whether That guy who dies in everything gives you one really good season and then nothing, or a steady build up of viewers (as assumably they wait in anticipation for his inevitable undoing). North Square (totally not South Park) gets increasingly higher view counts, but bombs in the final season. You are bound to find some of the shows and stars that you love in amongst those in Networks.
There is a lot to Networks. A lot of card drafting, moving, and stacking. Then some money checking and point counting at the end of each season. There are also bonuses available when your network focuses on a particular type of show. What works really well though, is that the game is very well-balanced. In all our games, no player managed to run away with.
Further to this is the fact that Networks plays from one to five players. The scoring board of the game is made up of three pieces. The first piece flips over for a solo game. The second flips for a two player game. For the final piece there are 5 variations, one for each player amount. Again this one is double-sided, and you flip it over after the first season. The different set ups work for each player number. For a two player game, the turn order introduces automatic ‘burning’ of cards in the communal pool. This increases the pressure to get the cards you need, before the cards you want disappear. For the solo variant, you burn cards after every turn. Cards always burn left to right, but the special Networks cards show which types of cards will get burned. Finally, for the solo variant you are trying to reach a certain score by the end of the fifth season to win.
There is a lot to Networks. Not just a lot of card drafting, but a lot to track with the scoring and ageing of shows. But it all makes sense and all fits extremely well with the theme. Gil Hova has created an experience that will have you and your friends chuckling over the great shows that you can put on with your Network.
8 prime time shows out of 10