Thursday, September 25, 2008

Review: Reels and Deals

I received the game free from Agman Games to review.

Reels and Deals is a light card game with a movie making theme. The core mechanic of taking scripts and adding directors, actors, and effects to them before releasing them for points is like Traumfabrik. Like Traumfabrik, people come in star and non-star versions.

There are six types of cards: Scripts, Directors, Actors, Actresses, Producers, and Enhancements. In M:tG parlance, Producers are Instants, while Enhancements are Enchantments.

Each player starts with $12.

Each round you have three actions, which can be any of: draw and play a script (once per turn), draw another type of card, play a person (costs $2-$8), toss a person into the common talent pool (gains $2-$6), auction a person in the common talent pool (blind bids), play a Producer or Enhancement, or toss a card for $1.

Unlike Traumfabrik, you don't play people directly onto scripts. You accumulate them in your private pool. Only when you cash in a script do you decide which people to use to fill its requirements. You must spend all three action points to cash in a script, which nets you usually between 20 and 60 points, as well as $0 to $15.

Producers gain you points, money, steal money or points, draw extra cards, interfere with other player's actions, and so on. Enhancements must be played either on a specific type of person or on a script, and generally add points to the value of the item on which they are played. Each person added to a completed script adds points to the net value of the completed script.

The people and scripts are all thinly-veiled parodies of real people and movies, which some people might enjoy. Nadine found some of the illustrations and captions sexist, stereotypical, and mildly offensive.

The game is played until one person completes his second script, at least one of which is a "feature" script. Each other player then gets one bonus turn to play.

Reactions: While seemingly insubstantial, RaD is actually a fairly nice game, a solid filler. The core mechanics are fun. The decisions you need to make are not terribly difficult, but they are meaningful. You have to keep track of a lot of interacting parts and things change quickly. It's a card game: luck plays a hefty role. This keeps the game moving. All in all it should take about 30 minutes to play for three players.

We only played once, so it may be that we don't know exactly what we are doing. But there were a few problems.

The biggest one was that the vast majority of points will be scored from your two scripts. And the game ends one round after someone plays his second script. And you have to use your entire turn to cash in a script. So if your second script isn't ready to go the moment someone else cashes in his, you've lost. That's not really an enjoyable way to end the game. It may be that we undervalued playing even bad cards to our private pools, just so that we could be ready for such an event.

A few of the cards were not well balanced. One card stole 3 points from every other player and added it to your score. In a five player game, that's a 15 point swing on a random card. Another card let you draw two cards. Since you paid an action to draw that card to begin with, it seemed like a waste of a card. I would have made it draw three cards.

A few of the rules also needed clarification. For instance, some scripts included "an enhancement" as a minimum requirement for release, but we weren't sure if that meant an enhancement played directly on the script (probably) or if you could count an enhancement played on one of the people used in the script.

The game would also be more challenging if, when playing a person, you had to immediately choose to which script to play him. A private pool didn't seem to be as interesting.

Lastly, I don't mind keeping score on paper, but to keep track of money I brought in some generic coins I have lying around, since you can't really do blind bidding without holding out the coins in your hand.

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