- Designer: Nikolay Pegasov
- Publisher: Hobby World
- Players: 2-6
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 30-45 min
- Times played: 4 with review copy provided by Hobby World
Hobby World is a newer publisher that is bringing Russian designed games to the American market. Previously, the Opinionated Gamers have looked at a few of their other games including Desktopia and Septikon. Thus far, while some of these games haven’t been particularly my style – I have found them to be well produced and professionally done.
When approached by Hobby World to preview their new game, Hollywood – I initially thought that it sounded a lot like Traumfabrik. The game is about making movies, using card drafting (and some auctions) as the main mechanics used in the process. Thankfully, it is quite different in feel that Traumfabrik, as it is the card drafting that takes precedence amongst these mechanics.
In the game, each player controls his movie studio, making one, two or three films each year – the choice is up to the player. At a minimum, a movie must contain 1) a script, 2) a director, and 3) an actor or actress. Films can be more complex with additional actors/actresses added to the film as well as having one or more film crew cards. The game is played over three years (rounds), with some scoring at the end of each year.
To start each round, players are dealt 7 basic cards. These cards are of a number of different types: directors, scripts, actors/actresses, film crew. The bottom of each of these cards also shows the genre(s) of movies that this card specializes in – though it is the script which determines the overall genre of the movie. Let’s face it, no matter who you have acting in the movie, you still can’t change the story outlined in the script! Some of the cards have multiple, and sometimes all, of the genres represented on their card. Cards also have coins in the corner that show how much extra money they produce. Finally, certain cards have award figurines that are used to determine award winners.
Additionally, a supply of Star Cards is dealt to the table, one card per player in the game. These cards tend to be better than the Basic Cards… The supply is on the table to be seen during the round as the cards available there could determine how you choose cards in the earlier portion. Also available would be the top of the Star Card deck…
Going back to the start of the round, the first thing that happens is that each player is dealt a Star card at random as well as 7 Basic Cards. The Star Card immediately goes into the player’s pile of cards for the round. Then, taking the 7 basic cards dealt to him, the player examines these and chooses one to put in his pile. The rest of the hand (6 cards) is then passed to the next player to the right. Taking this new hand of cards, one is chosen and added to the pile, and the remainders are passed on. This goes on until all players have a total of 8 cards in their stack – 1 Star Card dealt at random and 7 Basic cards from the drafting process.
To complete the set of cards for this year, there is an auction for the right to choose Star Cards from the center of the table – the face up one as well as the top card from the deck. Each player has a set of bidding chits, one set is numbered 1-7 (for the 7 slots on the board) and one set of cards that represent the actual bid, ranging from 1 to 12 million dollars. Players make a bid on a specific card using a numbered chit to say which card they want and then a money card saying how much they will pay for it. Once all players have decided, the cards are flipped over. If a player is the only person to want a particular card, he simply pays the amount on his bid card and takes that requested card. If there are multiple players who want the same card, things get more complicated. All players still lose the amount on their bid card, but ONLY the player who bid the most actually gets the card. If there is a tie for the high bid, no one wins the card (though everyone still has to pay!).
All players who have successfully won a Star Card in the auction are finished and can concentrate on their full set of 9 cards to build their movies. Everyone else takes back their bidding cards/chits and plans for another round of bidding. Bidding continues until every player has managed to win a card. You cannot pass on the auction unless you have no money left whatsoever.
Once all players have purchased a Star Card (or are completely broke and unable to get one), we move to the Agent Phase. Here, any players who have collected an Agent card MUST play them. The Agent card is played against another player. The target player must give you a director, actor or actress card (of their choice). Thus, the target player will end up being one card short of the full complement of 9 as they have given one to you.
Now it’s time for movie production – using the cards that they have acquired this round, they assemble the best movies that they can. Again, remember that at a minimum, movies must have a script, director and an actor/actress. Furthermore, movies can only have one script or director involved and the cast is limited to at most 2 actor or actress cards (in any combination). If you need a script, you can discard any card and pick up a “worthless script” card from the supply. This worthless script has no money production and also has NO genre associated with it. You are not obligated to use all the cards that you have collected – and there are plenty of times when you end up with an extra director or script that simply cannot by used.
Each player then scores points based on the amount of money that their films produce. Film scoring is as follows
- 1 VP per card used in the film
- VPs added up on the coin icons in the upper right of the cards used
- Genre bonus – count up the number of matching icons to the script genre and square it (i.e. 4 action icons = 16 VPs)
- Lead Duo bonus – if you have an actor and actress, you get a bonus 2VP
- Extra VPs based on special abilities on certain Crew cards
After all the films are scored, then players look to see who made the Film of the Year. The winner of this is the film that has the most golden figurine icons on the cards used in the movie. Ties go to the player who has not yet won a Film of the year, and if still tied, then it goes to the poorest player (lowest VPs at that moment). The player who won takes a Golden Figurine piece and keeps it in front of him for end game scoring.
The round is now almost over, but there is a little bit of cleanup to be done. Any cards left in the Star card market as well as any cards discarded for worthless scripts are put into a general discard pile. Any cards collected by players this round are placed in a personal discard pile (whether you used the card in a movie or not). It is important to keep your own cards as you may need them for endgame scoring.
The second and third rounds are mostly the same as the first. Each player is dealt 7 Basic cards from the deck. There is a difference in the distribution of the initial Star Card though. An auction is held to determine who gets the right to distribute the Star Cards. Players use their money cards to bid, and the winner will be whoever has the single highest bid. You may not pass on the bid unless you are completely broke, and all players will pay their bid. If there is a tie for the highest bid, only these tied players move on to a second round of auction to determine the winner. Of course, all bids are paid for at each step! Whichever player wins the auction takes one card from the Star Card deck for each player, looks at them, and then distributes them facedown, one to a player.
The game ends after the third round. At this point, there is a endgame scoring round, but only players that have won a Film of the Year golden figurine get to participate. Those players go through their personal discard pile and count up the total number of golden figurine icons on ALL of their cards collected in the game. They take this number and multiply it by the number of golden figurines that they have. That number is added to their VP total.
Whoever has the most VP at the end of the game is the winner!
My thoughts on the game
Again, when I first heard about this game, I was fearful that it would be a clone of Traumfabrik. I’m glad to say that it isn’t, and it is a game that can stand on its own merit. While it shares a theme of movie making, it feels and plays much differently.
The card drafting is a nice mechanic here – knowing what cards may or may not be available in a certain round can definitely shape your strategy. Of course, the number of players in a game also affects this. When played with only 3 players, you can try to plan ahead as you will see many of the cards you pass on in the initial rounds again. When played with 6 players, you really have to be more reactive, as you will basically only see each card once when you choose whether or not to take it. The feel of the game is quite different as a result, but both ways make for an interesting game.
I like the way the game allows you to approach movie making in a few different ways. Based on the cards you can choose from, you may try to make three smaller films of 3 cards each or try to make a huge blockbuster film using as many cards as possible. The bonus scoring is pretty crucial, especially in a 5 or 6 player game, and this definitely pushes you to try for the blockbuster at least once in the game to vie for the Film of the Year.
While there are only 5 auctions in the game, they are crucial to the overall outcome of the scores. Given the methodology of the auctions, they can be particularly brutal you could end up spending a lot of money for a card you can’t really use… After playing a few games, we have chosen to only place the top card of the Star Card deck on the last open space in the market. This way, people don’t get confused when one is already purchased. Only one face down card can be bought in each round!
Getting to decide who gets what Star Card at the start of the round can also be pretty important as it usually allows the auction winner to get the card with the most figurines on it while shorting their closest rivals. Again, this can get really expensive though if you tie on the initial (or god forbid, the second) bid.
The vagaries of card luck are clearly in play here – but this is true of all card drafting games. Sometimes you’ll just get lucky (or unlucky). It could work out that you have a round where you simply do not get a director card… And if this happens, you’re royally screwed because there is no way to make a movie. You can always pick up a worthless script from the table, and I’m not entirely sure why there isn’t a worthless director card as well. (There seem to be more than enough actors and actresses to go around that it seems unlikely to not encounter at least ONE of those cards). I’ve only seen it happen once, but it essentially ruins the game for the player who has to skip one of the three rounds of scoring. Were I the developer of this game, I would have allowed some method of compensation for a player who did not get a director card. I will admit that the potential of this situation even occurring keeps me from loving the game.
The graphic design is well done, and the components are well produced. I am not sure where the production for the game was done, but it matches the quality that I have come to expect from the major European publishers. The chits are well punched and are easily removed from the sprues. The cards are a little thin and glossy (and do not have a linen finish), but they have held up well through the 8+ games that my set has been played. The edges of the card only show minimal wear and there is no noticeable bending/creasing from shuffling in that time.
Hollywood is a solid moderate weight game. I am impressed at how it scales well from 3 to 6 players – though again I must say that it feels quite different based on the number of players and how that affects the cards that you see in the card draft. (The rules say the game also can play with only two, but I have not yet had a chance to play it with 2, so I cannot talk about how it plays with that number). It is a quick game, usually coming in around 30-40 minutes.
One addition that I plan to make for my game – but have not yet done so – is to make a small reminder card of how a film is scored. For players that are new to the game, the somewhat complex scoring rules can often be forgotten or misremembered. A small reference card would be helpful. The back side of this might even have a short one sentence synopsis of what all the different Film Crew cards do (though the iconography on the cards is pretty good IMHO).
My rating after 5 games: I like it.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it. Dale Y, Karen Miller
Not for me.