TV Networks, a Russian cultural center, and Venus in this Tabletop Gaming Weekly

This week I try to manage my own TV company in The Networks, head back to Saint Petersburg with five players and get to try Venus Next for Terraforming Mars.

That’s right, I got to play some actual physical board games this past week. Which was a nice change after last week’s BGAfest.

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Do you remember back when we were talking about Queen City Conquest, we mentioned that Sean and D had played a bunch of games from the Play to Win table. One of the games they played and won was The Networks. I knew Sean and D enjoyed it but up until last Monday, I hadn’t gotten a chance to play.

Monday I played my first game of The Networks with a full five players. Two of the players had played before but it was new to the rest of us.

The Networks a very cool board game about running a Television Studio.In The Networks, you are running your own TV network deciding what shows, what actors and what ads to run during primetime. Most of the game involves drafting these three things. Shows, stars and actors. Ads and actors go in your green room whereas shows need to be slotted to one of your three-time slots (8, 9 or 10pm). When slotting shows many of them require actors or ads and those come from your green room. Some shows can have actors and/or ads added later as well. Actors and shows cost money whereas ads generate revenue.

Overall it’s a rather simple system that fits the theme well. Shows work better in different time slots, ads work best when paired with certain shows and many of the actors are fickle and will only work on certain shows or with (or without) certain types of ads. Each season shows age and the number of viewers usually goes down (actually there are some shows where they go up over time or have a spike in the third year). Viewers is what it’s all about. You play through five seasons and whoever has the most viewers then, wins the game.

As usual, there’s a bit more to it than I’m going to get into now. Overall it’s surprisingly easy to learn and not bad to teach. The mechanics tie well to the theme which is something I always appreciate. The humor in this game is fantastic, with all of the shows and actors being puns on real people and programs.

I’ve only played the game once so far so can’t say too much about it. I did really enjoy that one play and look forward to playing again.

After we finished our game of The Networks I broke out Saint Petersburg. I’ve been playing this one quite a bit since getting the new second printing but this was our first time playing with a full five players.

Saint Petersburg Second Edition a great improvement over the original board game. The ability to play five players is something new added to this new(er) second printing of Saint Petersburg. The old version only had four phases and four players. This new version adds the Market Phase and with that the ability to add another player.

I have mixed feelings on our five player game. For one it was very quick, perhaps too quick. With five people buying cards we ate through the decks very quickly. I think the game only went a total of five rounds. We didn’t even get to see all of the market tiles. That said there were no AP problems and the game didn’t end up any longer playing with more players. I think I would have been happy if it had gone one more round though.

What I think will fix this is adding some of the expansions that come in this new printing. At least two of them add more cards to the various decks and as the game ends when one deck runs out adding cards will make the game longer.  So my plan is to try out the new “purple card” expansion the next time I have a group of five ready to play Saint Petersburg.

Right in the middle of our Extra Life event a couple weeks back I bought a copy of Terraforming: Mars Venus Next, an expansion for Terraforming Mars. I’ve been looking forward to trying this expansion for some time, but I got so busy at Extra Life that I never actually got to play it. Saturday I fixed this problem and got Venus Next to the table.

I liked the new expansion. You get 59 new cards in this expansion (5 new corps and 49 new projects) as well as a new board and some additions for the original board. These additions are a new milestone and a new award to be used whenever you use the new Venus expansion.

It’s worth noting that this expansion is all or nothing. You either use all of it or none of it. Which can be a problem if you decide to play without it as you need to find those 59 cards and pull them out of your existing decks.

Terraforming Mars with the Venus Next Expansion.

Venus Next doesn’t take anything away from the original game, it only adds to it. The big thing it adds is the ability to Terraform Venus. You do this on a new terraforming track on a separate Venus board. Most if not all of the new projects and corporations are centered around terraforming Venus. The neat bit to me was the fact that you don’t have to terraform Venus at all. The new track has nothing to do with the end game conditions. The game ends when Mars is Terraformed no matter how far along Venus is.

So what Venus adds are more ways to increase your Terraforming Rating (and thus your score) and more ways to combo cards. I noticed that the Venus cards had a lot of plant, animal, and microbes on them as well as a new resource: Floaters. It seems like many of the cards would sync well with existing core game strategies. I personally decided to try to ignore the main board as much as possible and focus on Venus. Without having a single forest or city on Mars I managed to come in second place, so it seems a Venusian strategy is a legitimate strategy.

Now I do need to point out that AndSheGames felt that the new cards watered down the main deck. That if you were working on a strategy that focused on the original board that the Venus cards just get in the way and dilute your choices. Now I didn’t see that, but I was focusing solely on Venus. I do know another local gamer really didn’t enjoy this expansion either.

So far, for me at least it’s a win. I dig it. But that’s only after one play. I will keep you posted if my feelings change.

That’s it for me for today’s #WhatDidYouPlayMondays? How did your week go?

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