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It's the big screen, and you're playing in the big league. Well, nearly. Maybe this year you'll make it big Nominations are due to be published any day now, and hey, who knows, maybe you will finally get that Oscar or Palme d'Or you so deserve.
Or will you? They say girlie movies like you've been making lately are going out of fashion, that the modern public has a yearning for plotless action titles. Maybe it is time to invite that rotten art critic over for drinks, and convince her of the value of your masterpieces or tune into the old boys network and really get the show on the road.
In Cannes - Stars, Scripts and Screens, each player takes the role of a small-time movie producer, trying to produce as many movies as possible. The game can be played by 2 to 4 people and takes 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the number of players and their gaming experience.
Splotter Spellen have established themselves as a team that can deliver new games each year and their latest batch includes another game featuring hex tiles. Perhaps because of this, it came with a label of "Roads and Boats light". Although the similarities also extend to resources being used to produce new outputs, this game has a completely different feel and takes much less time to play.
The aim of the game is to create films and then put them on show at a cinema, where their measure in audience figures is the ultimate gauge of success.
The main components are 45 hexes, which depict a variety of film related events. They are coloured in pastel shades and form a pleasant board environment. Players place a number of these each turn to create the game playing area and reject one tile to a face down discard pile. While all hexes must be in touch with one another, the shape of the area will be different for each game.
Learning the rules was very easy, as they are provided in English by the publishers and with clear examples of play, in colour and with an excellent chart detailing what resources are required for each tile, there is no excuse for misinterpreting them.
The game begins with the placing of one or both of the Cannes tiles in the middle of the table -- one if only 2 or 3 of you are playing and both if there are 4 of you. The Cannes tile(s) are double hexagons and represent the place where completed films are screened.
Players begin their turn by drawing three tiles. They then play either one or two of them, placing them next to tiles already on the table. If they play two tiles, their turn ends there. However, if a player only plays one hex tile, they can use their 'second action' to develop their network. This is the clever aspect of the game and also the most enjoyable. A player can:
Networks consist of tiles that are linked by the connectors, which are thin wooden sticks in a player's colour. A network can also be extended by certain tiles. The different ways are:
Party tiles: These do not provide any resources, but allow you to link to tiles that are also connected to the party. The definition of a party is any linked set of party tiles, effectively making a set of party tiles one large tile. This provides enormous scope for reaching different tiles as a connector can be moved from the edge of party to another.
Through the telephone: A few tiles show a phone symbol on them, and any connector going into a tile with a phone symbol may then link to another tile with a phone symbol, wherever it is on the board. Again, this can be a good way to change your network quickly and reach distant tiles.
The final way is the most important as it also generates resources. This is through the old boy's network and is marked by a special set of network connectors. These are shaped in the form of cigars and are placed by players. Once placed they do not move, but any player may link into this network and use the resources generated by those tiles. This is incredibly useful and it is then possible to make great strides in making films far more quickly.
Unlike many games, the resources you receive can be used immediately. An example of play may help.
A player has one computer stored in their storage area from a previous turn. During this turn the network is developed so that the player earns a further computer chip. This is now converted into a second computer. This, together with the one in storage is used to create a special effect. Now the player only needs a script to make a Science Fiction film. It isn't possible to link into that tile this turn, so the player will see how to move network connectors to do so in a future turn.
When films are screened in Cannes, the players receive victory points in the form of audience figures. When a film is screened the value of that type of film reduces by one for each one shown. So it is important to get your films screened early. Fortunately there is a solution to this. One tile -- the film critic -- will generate a positive review if he gets the right resource (a beer) and the film type will increase in value by one level. [Note that this distinguishes screen reviewers from board game reviewers, who have higher ethical standards!]. As another use for beers is to create a script, you have to decide on what and when to use your resources.
The game has an intriguing feel to it. The creation of the game board will ensure a different pattern and shape each game, but the really good system is how the network connectors move to earn resources. From the 2 and 3 player games that I have played, it is a good idea to get the old boy's network tile placed early. Otherwise the volume of resources earned will not allow many films to be made and the scoring will be low. In 4 player games there are more tiles, including another old boy's network tile, so this is less of a problem.
There is not much downtime, as each player's turn is not long even though you cannot be sure of what you will do until the player before you finishes their turn. The end of the game occurs when the last tile is added to the board or when a number of cigars have been laid. My experience so far has been that the tiles cause a conclusion more often than the cigars. The game lasts only a short while, 45 minutes to an hour, and while this is under your control to a degree, it does finish quickly and maybe too quickly. In resource building and gathering games, you want to see the outcome through to a conclusion, and this means creating films and showing them at Cannes. The scores that I have had in my games have been close between first and last, and there is a feeling that you would like to have them more distant. Nonetheless the game has some clever aspects to it, particularly the network building and recreation, and there is plenty of scope for tactical building of your network and intelligent placing of your tiles. A solid purchase at Essen, and one that easily fits into the lunch hour, if you want to involve friends at work.