Second German edition of Hollywood Blockbuster
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Players enter the world of Hollywood film making, putting together all the components needed for an Oscar-winning production. Who will make the best film? As with Rheinlander, this is a Reiner Knizia game produced exclusively for the German market.
Average Rating: 4 in 8 reviews
Traumfabrik is a great bidding game that looks simple but has much depth in strategy. I waited until Id played the game a few times (7) before writing this just to make sure I understood Stuart Daggerss concerns (as stated in Counter magazine 3/01). Ill dispense with describing the game mechanics & dive straight into Mr. Daggers concerns.
1) Picking first at the party sticks with one player most of the game.
This is only partially true. And its also part of the strategy. Do you blow your wad of contracts gaining stars to secure first pick of unknown Party tiles? Or, do you spend your contracts trying to complete films? In all but one of my games, the Party pick switched throughout the game. I can also state that I have won the game by choosing last most of the time and also by choosing first most of the time. In my opinion, the Party works great.
2) Need for more extra films. I disagree here. I think the limited number of extra films is intentional. Most of the scoring is biased towards completing films quickly (the one exception is worst film..which you should wait as long as possible to complete). The reward for completing a film early in the game is getting a new film. If you snooze, you lose!
Once again Reiner Knizia has created a fun and addictive game!
For one who does not really appreciate a lot of Auction Type games, I loved Traumfabrik. It was one of the most enjoyable games that I have participated in, in a long time. This game is complete in almost every way except one: it was too short--meaning that you got into the game and you kept wishing that it would keep on going. Knizia even manages to give himself a cameo role as the worst actor in the game. If you liked Showmanager you'll love Traumfabrik.
From Reiner Knizia, this may be the most surprising of the current Essen crop. Surprising because there just doesn't seem to be much discussion about it, and because there are apparently no plans to bring out an English version. This is a shame given how fun and involving a game experience it is. The theme of the game is film-making; You're the head of a studio, and you're trying to bid for the best stars, directors, effects, and music in order to get your films made. You do so by bidding against the other studio heads in a round robin fashion, moving from group to group of random tiles, each respresenting different known actors and directors, and better and worse music and effects. The mechanisms that meet to make it all nail biting auction fun? Limited resources, exposed tiles for bidding, two sets of hidden tiles that are chosen in order of how many stars your studio has signed on, and the fact that all successful bids are distributed evenly to the other players. Very fun, with a slight luck element regarding the hidden tiles and the distribution of movies you're trying to get made (different movies have different requirements); nevertheless, the combination works extremely well. And who couldn't love a game where you can cast the author himself (who carries a negative value) in Casablanca to try and get the 'worst movie of the game' bonus?
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This wacky jaunt around Hollywood has you bidding with Contracts for the talents and props--represented by Chips--needed to make movies. The Contracts you bid to win coveted Chips are divided equally among competitors, and the Chips placed on your screenplays. A completed screenplay earns the total value of its Chips. There are instant bonuses for the first movie completed in each genre, and handsome rewards at the end for films with the highest values. You'll be the star of this show by having most points at the end. An Oscar-winning Knizia touch is the point awarded for each unspent Contract!
Traumfabrik; Dream Factory; Hollywood. This game is about putting together films by hiring stars, directors, cameramen and so on and no small part of the fun comes from the fact that you are getting to operate with real films and real stars from Hollywood's golden age.
Apart from the main board, the equipment consists of a collection of tiles and some mini-boards representing the films. The tiles come in three groups: the first is a set of victory point markers; the second consists of "contracts'' (which function as money); the third and largest contains the personnel--actors, musicians and the rest. In the case of the actors and four big name directors, these carry the names of real stars from the forties and fifties. The others (cameramen, musicians, special effects people, agents and lesser directors) are generic, but all of them--named and unnamed--carry a 'star rating'. With one exception (a particularly bad actor named Reiner Knizia) these ratings are in the range 0 to 4. Reiner's rating is -1.
Each mini-board has the name of the film, an intrinsic star rating (which represents the strength of the script) and spaces for the personnel who need to be hired in order to complete the film. These spaces will always be headed by one for a director, but the mix for the others will vary according to the nature of the film. For example, Citizen Kane has spaces for a director and two actors, while King Kong calls for a director and two people in special effects. Each film also has space for a guest star, the filling of which is optional. A film is completed when you have managed to place appropriate tiles in each of the spaces, with the possible exception of the guest star slot. At that point you compute the film's rating by adding up the stars for the script and the tiles.
The films come in three categories--entertainment, adventure and drama--and at the beginning each player is assigned one of each. These are in pre-determined sets in order to ensure that everybody starts off level. A further mixture of film boards is placed in a face down stack and when you complete a film, you draw a replacement. So, at least until the stack runs out, you will always be working on three films.
The board has eight large spaces, six for auctions and two for parties, and these are arranged in a track. At the start of each round (of which there are four in all) tiles are distributed into the spaces. The first space contains a single tile, which will be that of one of the big name directors (Cukor, Curtiz, Ford and Hitchcock). The other auction spaces each contain either 2 or 3 tiles and the party spaces each contain as many tiles as there are players. The tiles in the auction spaces are face up; those in the party spaces face down.
You then move round the track holding auctions and parties as you go. Auctions are conducted using the contract tiles and each is for all the personnel tiles in the current space. The winner of the auction puts the price paid into the pool in the centre of the table and then assigns the tiles they have bought to their film boards. If there is something in the collection that you really don't want, you can discard it, but you can't put tiles to one side and then assign them later. (However, you can sack someone from an uncompleted film by replacing them with someone who suits your plans better.). The money in the pool is then divided equally among all the other players, with any odd amount left over remaining in the pool to await the next division. For example, at the start of a four player game everybody begins with 12 contracts. Suppose that I win the first auction, paying 5 for the services of Alfred Hitchcock. After the distribution I'll have 12-5=7 contracts and my three opponents will each have 12+1=13. There will also be 2 sitting in the pool. If the next auction is won by someone paying 7, those 7 will join the 2 already in the pool to make 9 and there will be a payout in which each recipient receives 3. So what is happening is that there is a fixed total amount of money which is eddying to and fro among the players.
At the parties everybody will acquire a tile and it will cost them nothing. The tiles at the party will be turned up and a pecking order determined to decide who has first pick. What matters here is how many famous actors you already have signed up for your films and this is a game in which all actors are famous, even Reiner. Ties are broken by counting round clockwise from whoever won the most recent auction.
After the four rounds, Oscars are given out and everyone counts up their victory points. Each completed film will (usually) be worth victory points equal to its total star rating; contracts and uncompleted films are worth nothing; and there are bonus points that will have been picked up during and at the end of the game. During the game these come for the first film completed in each category and for "the best completed film so far'' at the end of each of rounds 1 to 3. At the end there are bonuses for the best film in each category, a best director prize (add up the director ratings for all the films you have completed and see whose score is highest) and a prize for the worst film (this is where Reiner comes into his own).
The game is not without its faults, but these are far outweighed by its virtues. The faults, to my mind, are two in number. One of them is structural; the other probably just a matter of penny pinching by whoever was in charge of the production side. The structural one concerns the parties. Having the first pick is clearly a big advantage and it is one that tends to stick with one player for most of the game. Recall that first place in the queue goes to the player with most stars on his payroll. Having first choice at the party is a big help when it comes to remaining the player with the most stars. Even more certain is that if you find yourself bottom of this social heap early on, you will find it very difficult to improve your position and if you are always picking up the dross at the parties, your film scores are going to suffer. The other problem is that there aren't enough films. The stack will almost certainly exhaust itself before the game has finished and sometimes well before. I have tried to think of a good game design reason for this, I haven't succeeded. The shortage doesn't make the game suffer too much, but having a few more films would be an improvement.
On the good side, the auction, with the money moving round between the players, works very well. Each player's cash is kept concealed, but the relatively small total amount in the game means that you have a fair idea of who has what, even if you haven't been counting, and of course you always know how you stand relative to average. The tensions set up by the scoring system have also been cleverly contrived. Do you delay completing a film in the hope of improving its score and picking up one of the 10 point bonuses at the end or do you go for the 5 point bonuses for first film in a category and "best so far'' at the end of rounds 1 to 3? If you do delay, how long dare you do so, bearing in mind that uncompleted films score nothing? And do you try for the worst film? The 10 points for it constitute a big prize, but being the second worst leaves you just with a poorly scoring film. On the other hand, you don't want to let a rival pick up the big bonus too easily and this could well happen if you don't make some sort of play.
But more important than either of these are that the topic is appealing and the game both interesting and fun. English speaking Hasbro seem to have passed on it, which surprises me. The subject matter and the use of real films and real actors would seem to give the game an obvious appeal outside the usual gamer ranks and the length, complexity and level of competitiveness all make it a good choice for a game you can play with relatives and other semi-gamers as well as with your usual opponents. One of my group borrowed it when his in-laws were coming on a visit and it was a definite hit. The game gives you plenty to think about without being complicated; there is competition, but not of a sort that leaves anybody feeling picked on; and it is a game that encourages chat. Even when it is clear that one player is running away with it and you are getting beaten out of sight, you are still having fun with the casting of the films. The Ten Commandments? Don't give the lead to Charlton Heston: you know it will only go to his head in later life. Give it instead to Marilyn Monroe or Betty Grable. The walk back down Mount Sinai will be much better viewing AND it will remind the men in the audience of one of the things they are about to be told to give up.
This is one of my favourite games from Essen. I admire Lord of the Rings and I enjoy playing it, honestly I do, but this is more fun.