Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Nikolay Pegasov


No. of Players:
2 - 6



Looking at the database at Boardgamegeek, several dozens of boardgames featured "Hollywood" as part of their name, with some of these games fating back as far as the 1950'ies. Most of these games focused in the one or other way on the filmmaking industry, but over the last few years this theme has dropped a bit from the general gaming focus and so it comes somewhat surprisingly that Russian publisher HOBBY WOLRD released their new movie-themed game Hollywood at the SPIEL '13 convention. Author Nikolay Pegasov challenges the players to a movie making contest, and the player whose movies had performed best at the box office after three seasons will have won the game.

In terms of the game each "movie" is a set of cards which consists of at least one Script, one Director and one male or female Actor, but it may also contain one additional actor and an unlimited number of Film Crew cards. At the end of each of the game's three seasons a player will reveal all cards on his hand and arrange them into one or more movies , and then a box office score for each movie will be calculated and added to the player's wealth. However, before turning to the calculation of a film's box office performance, let's first have a look how the players do collect the necessary movie cards.

The majority of cards in the game is included in a big deck of ordinary cards which includes Scripts, Directors, Actors and Actresses and a multitude of different Film Crew cards like Stage Managers, Editors, Sound Engineers or Producers. At the beginning of a season each player receives a random hand of seven cards from the deck, and using a drafting mechanism akin to 7 Wonders the players chose one card and hand the rest of their cards to their neighbours. Then each player once again choses one card and hands the remaining cards to the next player, and this process is continued until each player finally receives a single card from their neighbour which then is added to the player's hand.


Nowadays this drafting procedure is quite common, but even though the players get most of their movie cards by this process, there are still two additional cards which they will get by another procedure. So, the game does not just contain the already mentioned deck of ordinary movie cards, but also a deck of "Star"-cards which features cards of the same types (Scripts, Directors, Actors etc.) but with additional benefits. These benefits either generate additional income if the card is part in a film, or they will provide Academy Awards symbols which will aid their film to possibly become the best movie of the year. Each player will receive one of these "Star"-cards before the drafting process for the ordinary cards begins, and in addition a number of openly revealed "Star"-cards is available during an auction which will take place right after the drafting. Thus, during drafting the players know which "Star"-cards they have on their hand and which "Star"-cards are available at the following auction, and they may use this information to collect cards during drafting which best match their available "Star"-card and their purchase interest for the upcoming auction.

The auction itself turns out to be quite tricky, because each player only is allowed to purchase a single card during the auction, and all players will secretly chose tokens and bidding cards which show which amount is offered for which card. All bets are revealed simultaneously and must be paid instantly by all players, but a "Star"-card only is won if it was chosen by just a single bidder or if there was a highest bidder. If the bids of two or more players amount to a draw, nobody wins the card, and all players who have not won a "Star" during the first round of the auction will go into yet another round, once again secretly choosing a still available card and a bidding amount. If players draw in this fashion several times, the whole matter can become quite costly!

When all players have won a "Star"-card during the auction everybody will start to reveal their hand cards and arrange them into one or several movies. As indicated, a movie must contain at least one Script, one Director and one Actor or Actress, and these three cards may be accompanied by an additional Actor/Actress plus any number of Film Crew cards. The basic box office score of each movie then is calculated by adding the number of cards in the movie and additional coin symbols which may be displayed on some cards, but there are some possibilities for a player to score even higher. Thus, a "Lead Duo" consisting of an Actor and an Actress will increase box office performance, and in addition the movie also may profit from genre-specialists. A movie's genre (romance, comedy, action, thriller) is determined by its the script card, and the more other cards match the genre of the movie the better it will perform at the box office. Finally, a movie may benefit in various ways from the different available film crew cards. Some cards like the Producer or the Casting Specialist have a direct influence on box office performance, whereas other cards like the Script Rewriter (change the genre of the film!) or the Editor (replaces a missing Director or Actor/Actress!) help arranging the whole movie in a more profitable way.

The box office scores of each players'movie(s) are added to their personal wealth, and the player with most wealth after the game's third season will have won the game. However, the end of each season also is the time when the Acadamy Awards are assigned, and an awards will be won by the player who has created the movie which features most Academy Awards symbols on its cards. Winning an Academy Awards means that the player will be allowed to distribute the "Star"-cards between the players at the beginning of the next season, and in addition each player will count the Academy Awards symbols on all cards which he has used during the game at the end of each season and multiply them with the number of Academy Awards he has won. The result is also added to his personal wealth.

The drafting and the auctioning of the "Star"-cards is harmonizing quite well, and in addition the game is decently balanced considering the calculation of a movie's box office performance. However, the effects associated with the winning of an Academy Awards do not stand in balance with the rest of the game, since the player who has won the awards profits too much from it. For one, the player gets to choose which player will receive which "Star"-card at the beginning of the next year, and this gives him the power to assign a card with two or three Academy Awards symbols to himself while his most successful competitor probably will receive a "Star"-card with less or none Academy Awards symbols. Considering the fact that it is quite difficult to create a movie with six or more awards symbols, this right of distribution gives an award-winning player a considerable headstart towards next season's Academy Awards, and so it happens quite often that a player will win multiple awards in a row. This is difficult to prevent by the other players.

In succession to this, a player who has won one or more Academy Awards will greatly profit from all his awards symbols by the multiplication of symbols and awards which is made at the end of each season, and this stands in stark contrast to the fact that other players who have (unsuccessfully) tried to collect awards symbols remain empty-handed. Taken together, these two effects associated with the Academy Awards threaten the balance of an otherwise cool and well-balanced game, and so Hollywood is one of the rare occasions where a house ruling seems to be necessary. However, the problem can be tackled in a number of ways without actually needing a change of the playing materials, because the rules can simply be amended to give an Academy Awards a fixed value or to give the right of "Star"-distribution not to the player who won last season's awards but to the player with fewest wealth. As another alternative, the "Star" cards even could be auctioned by the beginning of a season, and even though a player with much money still would stand a better chance to gain an attractive card, he would at least have to spend some of his wealth in order to secure the card for himself. All this would effectively reduce the strength of the Academy Awards.

If you leave this minor flaw aside, Hollywood plays astonishingly well and offers an interesting combination between drafting and auction mechanisms. The players can draft strategically because they know their "Star"-card plus the "Star"-cards available for auction before the drafting starts, and in contrast to 7 Wonders where it sometimes difficult to turn the table in Age 3 the fact that each player starts freshly into each season helps to give all players somewhat equal chances. The theme of movie making fits excellently to the game's general mechanisms, and so I would recommend to give the game a try. I am sure a solution for the balancing of the Academy Awards can be found …

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright & copy; 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany