The Networks Board Game Review (Formal Ferret Games)

8

Have you ever wanted the power and control that comes with developing your own television network? Compete against four other players in The Networks, the game all about scheduled programming. In The Networks, you'll collect episodes of shows, ads, and television personalities, all with the goal of devleoping out your station and making it the best in the business. You start with "three terrible public access TV shows" and are able to build your viewership over time, but you also need to worry about potentially losing your budget. 

Game Details

Players: 1 to 5

Game Time: 90 Minutes

Age: 13+

Genre: Strategy / Factory

How is The Networks Played?

The Networks has a rolling turn order that is organized by victory points, so whoever is behind is always going to be going first. On your turn, you will complete an action. That action could be purchasing something (such as a show, ad, or personality) or assigning something (such as putting a personality or an ad on a show). Actions will progress by turn order until you decide to pass and the round continues until everyone has passed. Passing early on gives you a bonus to either your money or your viewership. 

At the end of the round, your viewer points are scored based on the shows that you've collected. Shows age over time, with some of them getting better and some of them getting worse. Personalities bring in addition viewers, but they can cost money -- while ads can bring in money, but often have to be matched to the type of show you have. 

A Game of Balance and Synergy

The Networks is a sort of brilliant game, in that there are a ton of different aspects that are balanced. Do you want to try to get a set of shows, so you can look through ads or personalities and select one? Do you want to try to take another action, or pass early on so you can claim more money for the next round? One strategy that seemed to work was simply making a lot of money early on, and then passing last each turn. Passing last afforded the player the ability to essentially go through one by one, making adjustments and purchasing cards as needed.

But it also matters what other players are doing. Are they trying to go after a similar type of card? Are they likely to pass soon, or do they have a lot of money to spend? Do you want to focus on making money (which is useless towards the end of the game) or simply try for viewership? And as you've built your channel up, the game ends; it goes for a set amount of rounds, and as such, doesn't overstay its welcome. 

How Does The Networks Look?

This is probably one of the best things about this game. The Networks has this friendly, bright art style that manages to be surreal and ridiculous, and looking at the cards is really fun. This is a perfect example of a game in which the art style manages to augment already existing, solid game mechanics. But the box -- I have questions about the box. The box doesn't make the game look appealing; it has a sort of old-timey, oddly unbalanced vibe, with the text pushed to the very top and bottom. 

What's in the Box?
55 show cards * 7 scoring track boards * 49 star cards * 45 ad cards * 62 network cards * 5 player boards * 20 wooden cubes * 10 wooden discs * 1 season marker * money chips

The Negatives About the Networks

This has all been very positive about The Networks, but there are some negatives to it. The game does feel rough and unbalanced at times. There are some strange design decisions that appear to have been made purely to balance the game out -- at the end of the game, you go through the scoring round twice, but you don't do anything else -- you just score, age your shows, then score. It throws off new players because it's such an unexpected design element, and it can essentially decide who wins. It's still very strategic, as you need to be thinking about how your shows age, but changing established strategy can be confusing.

It can almost feel too balanced as well; players that fall behind get first choice later on, which can give a "rubberbanded" feel. 

Ultimately, The Networks is a great game for those who enjoy fast-paced, casual strategy games with good humor. It doesn't take itself seriously, but there is enough meat on it to develop an actual strategy -- even if it sometimes can feel like climbing up hill.

The Networks Board Game Review
  • PRO: A delightfully themed, strategic set collection / light factory game that's open enough for all players.
  • PRO: A solid price point for what's included in the game; originally kickstarted and still sold at $35. 
  • CON: A couple of strange design decisions that can make the game a little rough the first time around.