Board Game Review: The Networks

Who hasn’t had a moan about the TV listings at some point? There’s only so many repeats of Top Gear you can watch on Dave before switching off and reducing yourself to watching the X Factor for the 49th year running. It’d be much better if you could set up your own TV network and fill it with cool shows like Very Charismatic Explosions or Babylonian Idol, interspersed with adverts for Sassy Salad Dressings and McTaco’s. Who wouldn’t watch that?

The Networks is, as it sounds, a game all about setting up your own TV network, developing your schedule, hiring big stars and trying to do it all while keeping a moderate stash of money tucked away for when bigger shows turn up later on. It’s entirely possible to play on your own and makes for a very enjoyable solo game, but as with most things it’s better if there are a couple of you at the table to make the most of what’s going on.

You’ll fit your shows into one of three time slots on your channel, with better viewing figures if you place a show on at its ideal time. Some shows will also need a star to be part of it, or allow you to have an advert to make a bit more money. Money’s an important commodity too, and striking a good balance between having some cash in the bank and spending it on great new shows to bring in the viewers is a tricky thing to master. Do you try and play the long game and plan ahead for some bigger, expensive shows, or splash out early in the hope that an increase in early viewing figures will reap its own reward with an earlier return for your investment? When a season ends (of which there are five across the game) the bigger shows will need a fair bit of money to keep them fresh, at which point there are more decisions to make – keep throwing money at it, or bin the show all together (along with any associated stars and adverts) and hope you can pick up something new to fill the void? Tricky.

One of the most immediately obvious things to like about The Networks though is how great everything looks. The artwork on the cards is absolutely spot on, and for those looking for a game with a strong theme this has it by the bucket load. It’s genuinely funny too, and between the show titles and the various adverts available there a lot of laughs to be had while playing, especially when you end up with some truly bizarre combinations of shows, adverts and stars all working together.

If I wanted to pick holes (and I really don’t) there could maybe be a few more show cards on offer; it seems an odd thing to say when there are a decent number in the box, but after a few games you’ll start to see the same shows coming up. An expansion of some kind would work wonders at some point in the future and would definitely help to keep the game fresh, but as things stand it’s still great fun, and as mentioned before there are plenty of laughs to be had when setting up your shows. There are also some Network cards designed to screw things up for other players, and these can be pretty brutal. Depending on your point of view this might be ok – fans of Unfair will love it – but you might find it a bit over the top. The cards are easy to remove though, and the instructions even mention the possibility, but it’s something to look out for.

Generally though The Networks is everything I hoped it would be. Having seen it at the UKGE in 2016 I’ve waited a long time to get my hands on a copy of this to review, and I’m delighted to see that it’s lived up to my expectations. It’s a good solid game you can play in a bit over an hour, it’s easy to learn and easy to enjoy. What more could you want?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Chainmail Bikini Warrior.


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