Friday, January 6, 2012

Ready to Wear, and a Classic Blunder

The New Year is a time of new beginnings! Since today is New Year's Day on Phobos, where my clock is currently set to, I thought I would take this time to make a new post!

My, my, my, things have been busy! Hmmmm…

Okay. Here is what happened. Some people might consider me excentric. I recently bought a new game. That game was Prêt-à-Porter, by Portal games over in Poland. The game is an economic simulation, involving the high fashion industry.

Wow. What a wild ride.

There are so many things I should have done differently. But I want to write first and foremost about the classic blunder I committed. This is a blunder on par with the infamous one about starting a land war in Asia. It is a blunder that many board game fans have committed, and definitely one I should have known enough to avoid at this stage of my life.

Targeting my earthly New Year's Eve party as the likely time I could bring this game out, I ordered it shortly after Christmas so it would get to my house on time. It arrived at the Minotaur Lair with about 2 days to spare.

Fast forward to New Year's Eve and my guests begin to arrive. The food is all laid out. The table is all cleared off. Prêt-à-Porter is sitting on the table, packed to the gills with game-playing potential and practically glowing. But there are a couple issues.

1) I have not looked at the rules

2) I have not punched out the chits

3) I have not opened the box

4) The shrink-wrap is still on the box

What follows was a slow slog through a deep quagmire. I will try to describe it as best I can.

The first thing I learned about Prêt-à-Porter was that it is a very complex game. The second thing I learned was that the rules were not translated perfectly from the original Polish and understanding the meaning of each sentence sometimes wasn't instantaneous.

Regardless, the ultimate fault lies NOT with the game, but with the purchaser and executor of the game, ME.

I should have opened it the day before. Punched out the parts. Read the rule book. SLEPT on the rules over night. Looked up anything I had questions about online, since we have this wonderful thing called the Internet now. Then introduced people to the game with my head full of knowledge, instead of the wiffling noggin of confusion I ended up with as I quickly scanned and re-scanned page after page.

It probably took 5 hours to play that game, and we only made it a quarter of the way through. The first turn took 31/2 hours. The 2nd turn took 1 hour. The 3rd took about 30 minutes.

As an experienced gamer, I should have thought more about The Learning Curve, the enemy of all first gaming sessions.

There is a lot going on in Prêt-à-Porter.

1) There is money to keep track of. The goal of the game is to have the most money at the end. Everyone starts with money to buy things. Hopefully you will earn more money as the game continues. You can also earn golden money. Golden money counts towards the end game but you can't spend it, think of it as brand recognition.

2) The first two turns are preparation months preparing for your first big fashion show. You have to spend your money extremely wisely on a selection of contracts, buildings, new employees and fashion designs. You also have to collect materials. You also have to spent time hyping up your brand so people will actually be interested in your line when it comes out.

3) You must collect materials to finish your designs, in a manner similar to other games with different bright multi-colored blocks that represent different types of fabric.

4) But there is also a set collection mechanism. You can only show one collection of clothes at each Fashion Show, so your designs must all be of similar type…sports, vintage, children, that sort of thing. Some of the buildings and employees can actually convert one type of clothes into another and I really wish looking back I had invested in some of them because this set collection is essential to victory.

5) Finally, you have to always be bringing back your mind to the final objective…the money. The clothes you sell have to earn you enough money to make all the build up worth it at the end of the show. I ended up spending about an equal amount of money as I earned. You probably want to do better than this.

6) Your performance in the show will earn you "stars" which eventually will be turned into the golden money you need to beat all your rivals in the end game. Only the best line at each show gets the stars, so the skill of your opponents will directly impact your own success.

In the first game we played, I was completely totally overwhelmed. Midway through the grueling session, I decided the purchase of this game was a terrible, horrible mistake.

But towards the end, things started looking up. Talking to many of my poor victims (who thought there would be a fun game at the party) I was surprised to find many of them would actually give this game another try. Somehow, we had made it over the hump of the dreaded learning curve.

If you would like to see a video of Prêt-à-Porter in action, tough luck! I took no photography, let alone full-motion video of that ill-fated day. Well actually, you can see something.

Scott Nicolson is a game reviewer I greatly admire. He managed to get a little footage of this game together for one of his "In-Play Reviews". You can check it out here:

His observations are pretty close to my own…that first game is a terrible slog. But I have faith now we will play again. And I promise, I will post the results.

You can see more of Scott's videos at his YouTube channel. From his formal game reviews to his more in-formal In-Play "Slice of Life" videos, most of them are pretty insightful.

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