A board game for 2-6 players from Queen Games, Germany
Originally published as Premiere by DB Spiele
This review copyright 1999 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated June 2, 1999

Showmanager (or Premiere) is a game of producing Broadway and off-Broadway shows. I've played both games, and I believe the mechanics are identical - only the names of the shows and possibly show towns have been changed. Since I only own Showmanager, I'll write about that one.

The game comes with 120 performer cards, each showing a different actor/singer and his/her rating at various roles. Each player has four different show cards to record your score for each on, and a summary card detailing the roles for each of the four shows. There is some play money to hire actors with. Finally, there are two boards: one shows the performers available for hire, and the other shows the cities the shows will be performed at. Oh - there's a grease pencil, too, for writing your score on the show cards.

The four shows are Wolf (which has three roles available), Queenie (four roles), King Lear (five roles), and Ballet (six roles). Each player is going to put on each of these shows, and score points depending on how much better or worse your version is than the other players' versions.

The actors are largely unique, with provincial actors being the exception - they're all worth 1 point no matter what role they play in any show. Otherwise, you get such performers as Trixi who is a Star (9 points) in the role of Bella in Wolf, but is worthless in any other role or show. Or there's Sabrina, who is quite good as Queenie (7 points), and poor (2 points) as Suzette in Ballet, but is otherwise worthless. Or Hans is mediocre in three different roles (3 points each), but otherwise worthless. And so on. Except for the provincial actors, each performer is worth nine points total, but this can be spread over anywhere from one to three different roles, returning point values of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 9.

The object is to fill each play with the best cast you can. An optimum cast, then, is hiring the star performer for each role. This would give you a point value of 9 times (number of roles) for each show. While theoretically possible, I doubt this will ever happen. That's because other players will obviously want the star players, too, and there is only one per role available.

You start the game with four shows to put on a sum of money to hire performers with. Four actors are turned face up onto the performers-for-hire board - the rightmost one is desperate for work and you can have him/her for free. The next one to the left costs 1,000 DM to hire, the next one 2,000 DM, and the left-most one 3,000 DM. On your turn you may hire any one performer you wish - or spend 2,000 DM to clear the board and bring out four new actors. Once you select one, those to the left of that empty space all move one space to the right, and a new actor is placed in the 3,000 DM slot.

Play continues around the board - on your turn you can either hire an actor or put on a show. You may not simply grab all the best actors for every show and save them all to the end, however. The game forces you to focus on one show by a simple rule: when you open a show, you may not carry more than two actors in your hand after playing the cast for the opened show. Thus, if you want to open Wolf, you'll have to do it with five or fewer cards in your hand. Once you've hired that sixth performer, you'll have to wait to do Wolf until you've opened something else first ...

Once you open a show, you write your total value (points of all the actors) on the card, and place it on the show board. If you are the first to open a show, you pick which city it opens in. If someone else has opened the same show earlier, you must put your musical on in the same city. There are five different cities (so one won't get a show) with different scoring values. If you think your show is very good, open in New York or Hamburg. If you think you have a poor show, open in Troisdorf or Bochum. (You could have a very poor show if you have to use an actor not suited to a role, by the way: zero points for someone not rated in a role, unless it's a provincial actor, who gives 1 point for any role at all.)

The six slots in New York are rated from 0 to 22 Victory Points. As a show is opened in New York, it gets placed in order by its value (with an earlier show winning ties). Thus, if my show is worth 18 points and I open New York, I put it in the top spot: 22 Victory Points. If you then open the same show with 19 points, you take my 22 VP slot and slide me down to the 16 VP slot. If a third person opens the show with 15 points, we both retain our top slots, and the third show goes in the third slot for 10 VP. And so on. The six slots in Troisdorf are rated from 4 to 14 VPs, by the way - I guess they're so starved for theater there they're not so fussy, but nor do they pay as much as New Yorkers.

There is also a rule about borrowing money against a specific show, reducing its value and possibly place. Sometimes you have to do this, though, and I've seen players open a show at a low value just to borrow money against it.

The game plays very well, though I've found it's better with more players than fewer. It moves at a good pace, so even with six players you're never waiting for your turn too long. It's a resource management game with lots of interesting choices - do you spend your money to get those expensive actors, or go for the cheaper ones, saving money for special occasions? You can hold two actors between shows - do you grab a 9-point star for a show you're not working on now, hoping to use him later, or are you wasting your time and money doing that? Someone else is going head-to-head with you to open the same show, and seems to be grabbing the best actors - do you just open it quickly with a low score in order to place it in Troisdorf or do you fight to the last? And so on - the game has lots of interesting choices with a good pace, and takes just over an hour. The theme is one that appeals to women, I've noticed, so if you have female gamers, they might like it.

All in all, a very fine game - recommended.

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