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This is a new edition of Showmanager, but gameplay now takes place on the seas rather than on Broadway. Experience the era of the great steam ships. Charter suitable luxury liners in the agency so your shipping lines are more attractive. The most successful cruise trips on the seven seas will be rewarded with the most winning points.
Those of you newer to German games may have heard of a recent classic called Showmanager. Ostensibly about casting actors for productions of plays, it is a really interesting game revolving around very careful hand management and purchasing. It was a great game, published by a smaller publisher in Germany, and was very hard to get (since it is out of print.) I looked high and low trying to track down a copy for myself for a reasonable price, but to no avail. Then I heard about Atlantic Star, a re-release of the classic. I was excited until I heard that instead casting actors in plays as the theme, now it was about cruise ship operators. Well, I am very happy to tell you that fans of the old game, and those new to the game, will find this edition to be well worth purchasing. Read on
This game is not at all hard to play, but the rules sound tricky, so I wont explain them here. Lets focus on gameplay! The idea is that you are a cruise ship operator trying to put together cruise ship packages made up of ships for different legs of the cruises. You are trying to collect high value sets of cards in each color. Leg values run from 2-9. Ill give you an example: the Baltic (yellow) cruise is made up of 3 legs, so ideally you will try to get 3 cards that have one of the following on one each of the cards: Yellow A-9, B-9, C-9. But good luck. More realistic would be Yellow A-7, B-2, C-5. Your card score is the sum of your numbers with a bonus if you get all of the right legs of the cruise. (There needs to be a bonus, because getting all the right legs is a lot harder than youd think.) Now you place that cruise in the column that has the other cruises of the same color. You get Victory Points for how you place against other same-color cruises (and not your cruise score), so instead of trying to get perfect cards, you are just trying to get better than all the others.
Thats where the game gets tricky. You start off with no cards, and get them by drafting them off a board. The board holds 4 cards with a purchase price under each slot (0, 1000, 2000, 3000), and when a card is purchased, all the other cards behind that one get $1000 cheaper. So you may see the perfect card for your cruise, but someone else could buy it, or you may not even have the money yourself to buy it! Or you may not be able to take it. You see, you need to lay down your cards to score for a cruise, but when you lay down, you may only have 2 cards left in your hand. What that means is that you can only hold two cards in your hand that you want to save for other cruises. That is not much of a cushion and requires the players to exercise careful hand management, trying to get good cards for the next cruise without killing their current cruise in the hand. You may see a Blue A-9, and want to grab it, but you might already have a card showing Blue A-5 / Yellow A-4 and another card with Blue F-9, and you currently have been working on a Red cruise. If you take the Blue A-9, youll have to use the Blue A-5 / Yellow A-4 in your Red cruise, which will use up one of the legs of the Red cruise. Is it worth it?
Players are constantly juggling their hands and reprioritizing different cruises trying to manipulate their scores on the scoreboard, borrowing money by mortgaging some of their cruises, trying to outwait an opponent to make them settle on a score first so you can try and beat it, and even clearing the board to get rid of bad cards and hoping for better ones upon resupplying the ship board. The scoreboard has set scores for each position, so regardless of how much your cruise was worth by card value, it now scores a set number of points depending on how well it matches up against other cruises in the same color.
Sound confusing? Its not when you have the visuals in front of you, and suffice it to say it makes for a very tense but uncomplicated game. In fact, this game has been a hit with my family. It requires careful card management and some one-upmanship, but it is not at all a vicious game, and has a dose of luck to keep it from becoming too tight. Not that youll notice, since this game will keep you on your toes from start to finish. This game plays surprisingly well from 2-6 players, and has only about a 60 minute duration. This game has consistently gone over well with gamers, and should be a hit with families it was with mine. Highly recommended.
Usually when I see a German game that is listed for 2-6 players, I typically conclude that 2-person play is probably not worth the time and effort. Atlantic Star is an exception, though, offering a tense, fast-paced and enjoyable 2-player game. This may be one of the rare German games listed for 2-6 that actually plays better with 2 or 3. The rule translation I used was not formatted too clearly, but once learned, the rules are clear and logical. I knew Atlantic Star was a good game. What I didn't know is that it is a great 2-person game.
A previous reviewer complained mildly about the game parts. The card deck consists of a large number of cards and makes a fairly large stack. The current card stock is very good. A thicker stock would make the large number of cards unwieldy. Other game pieces are thick and colorful. The one thin item is a game aid not directly used in play.
When this game emerged, we played it to death. The first day I was exposed to it, we played it four times, and that's rare with my game group, as we choose to play many games, rather than one game many times.
As can be read in the other reviews, the mechanics are streamlined, as seems to be the case with every db Spiele game. And like their other games, there are never enough resources to do everything you'd like to do and you will find yourself selling your soul for just one more dollar.
This game has wonderful replayability--in the first week I had the game, I played it at least 4 times with my gaming friends. The game play is fast and simple with a little strategizing necessary for managing your money and deciding where to premiere your masterpiece. The random order in which the actors become available makes every game different and makes planning too far ahead hard to do.
When playing I feel like a real showmanager must feel: I have no more money so I have to accept a mediocre actor or maybe an actor that isn't even suitable for a role, but I will make up for it on the next musical I put on and just use this one as a cash cow. And when money is burning a hole in my pocket and I throw away all the available actors for new ones, I feel like saying in a silly french accent 'I am an artiste, I can not work with these people! get rid of them all!'
This is a truly delightful game with simple enough mechanics to be considered a family game, yet with enough depth to be appealing to the more 'hard core' types.
You hire actors to fill roles in musicals. Some actors are better than others, some can fit into several roles, others are specialists. When you've got all the roles filled you debut your musical in one of 5 cities. The cities vary in victory point value and your production will be ranked against others so you've got to be careful. The victory point difference between the best production and the worst production of a musical in a city like New York is very steep!
The fun of the game is the resource (money) and card (actors) management. You spend money hiring actors, and sooner or later you'll be faced with financial hardship. Which show can you afford to take a loan from without hurting its rankings too badly?
Also you need to manage your hand very carefully, you can only have 2 cards left in your hand after a production (1 card in the case of your last production). So you can't hoard good actors for later.
When it isn't your turn pay attention to your fellow producer/player's actor hirings and be sure to chant 'Clear the board!' when you don't like the current selection of available actors.
After everyone has put on all 4 of their musicals the game ends and victory points are tallied.
I find the artwork to be very appealing, fitting well with the lighter mood of the game. The rest of the production quality is also very good. A very minor concern is the repeated use of the grease pencil on the musical chits. I suppose it's possible that the chits could get a bit worn after much repeated use.
All around a very fun game which I highly recommend!
On web recommendations I picked up this reworking of Showmanager and I'm very pleased that I did. A simple mechanism of card collecting and hierarchies of created 'trips' on cruise ships the game moves fast and scales quite well for 2-6 players.
Some have said that Atlantic Star's theme doesn't work as well as Showmanager, but since I haven't played Showmanager, I find that the theme works quite well, though cruising on different boats for each segment of a journey in a particular ocean seems a bit much.
Though not flashy, the bits work well and I actually LIKE the crayon mechanism for keeping track of scoring in a particular cruise.
Atlantic Star is the third incarnation of Dirk Henn's self-published Premiere. The original and second incarnation, Showmanager, were based on hiring actors for plays. Atlantic Star changes the theme to setting up cruise lines around the world and surprisingly, the theme works quite well.
The game itself is a rather abstract one of buying cards to complete various sets, and deciding how much to risk one's score on the set's value. This only scratches the surface of this game's fun factor.
Each turn a player can take out a loan against a previously completed cruise, necessary in order to complete later cruises. This requires lowering one's score in exchange for cash, a harrowing experience.
A player can also discard the four cards that are on display for purchase, but this requires some expense and there is no guarantee that the replacements will be any better.
Finally, the player must either draft a cruise ship from the four offerees, or lay down a set and score its cruise. This step is perhaps the most difficult, since there are limits on how many cards a player can hold and could force a player to play a less-than-sterling round trip.
Playing a completed round trip allows the first player for each ocean area to decide which column to use to score it, with future players having to use the same column. Hard choices exist here, too, as players must decide whether to play to a column in which high scorers win a lot and lower scores get very little, or to one with a smaller spread of values.
The only complaint I have with this elegant game is with the compoonents, which resultes in the one star missing from a perfect five. The cards are not as thick as one would like, and the minor boards for the game are on very thin cardboard, but the main board is a nice, thick board of usual German quality.
Atlantic Star is sure to become a standard in your game collection. This is really a five star game that deserves five star components. Highly recommended.
My friend Mark (who taught me this game) has commented below on the mechanics of the game and provided some good comments. It's rather simple but I'm amazed how I really felt confused on my first play of this. Several others have commented on this as well. But it's so simple! Basically, you are hiring actors (or actresses) to put on four different shows (in any desired order) over the course of the game. Each show has actors that will fill the role perfectly. Since you are unlikely to get all perfect fills for your roles, you must settle for less skilled actors and produce the best shows you can. Four cards which represent actors are available for the players on their turn--the first is free, the rest cost increasingly more. You can always spend money to 'WIPE THE BOARD' (usually to the cheers/pleas of your fellow players). Once you put on a show, you can never revisit it except to take a loan out (which gives you more money to buy future actors but reduces the value of the show). To make matters worse, you can't hold too many cards in excess of the show you are producing--so you can often get stuck putting on a show which is less than star quality (for example, my horrible production of King Lear staring a certain nameless body-builder actor whose line I like to shout: 'HORATIO, GET TO THE CHOPPER!'). In the end, every player will produce the same four shows and their relative positions will give victory points (the best Wolf production earns more than the 2nd best Wolf production, etc). Money, in the end, counts for nothing except to break ties. The cities which host the shows change from game to game so sometimes Wolf will be in New York and other times in Hamburg and each city has a different set of victory points for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.
Enough mechanics. My first play of this game left me cold, but I tried it again. I quickly warmed to the theme and to the fast and fun play. There is some nice card management which I always like in a game--and some money management as well. Turns come around lightning quick--sometimes hardly enough time to sort your new actor into your hand when you must play again. The theme holds up rather well for a German/Euro game.
Showmanager plays fairly well with any number of players from 2 to 6. I've played with 3, 4 and 5 players and find the game to be excellent for those numbers. I've been told it works well with 2 also and will try that soon. I've played 4 or 5 times now and have never managed anything but last place. And yet it draws me in and I want to play again. For a game that I thought might hit my trade pile, this one has really grown on me. It's going/gone out of print, so copies that are left will not be around forever. Recommended.
Four possible voyages require from three to six ships, and it's your job to charter them. Four ship cards, costing 0, 1,000, 2,000, and 3,000 marks, are drawn and placed on the charter agency board. On your turn, purchase a ship or complete a voyage. When you buy a ship, charter costs for the other ships decrease by 1,000 marks if possible, and a new ship is placed in the 3,000-mark space. Ship cards show the value of that ship in particular voyages. After completing a voyage, write the total value of its ships on its associated emblem marker, and place it on the round-trip rank chart. Emblems, each representing a player, are ranked by value for each route. Determine the winner by adding the values associated with the chart positions of your emblems. Bon voyage!