What is it?
BasketBoss is a game of managing a basketball team. Players juggle their team roster - recruiting promising new members, retiring old and failing ones - while trying to maximize team victories and profits. At the end, the best team (as measured by the summing up of skill, trophies and money) wins.
It's also from Cwali, makers of the slightly crazy and totally fun Powerboats. When I picked up BasketBoss, I was hoping for the same sort of light but involving, social gaming experience.
What does it look like?
There's a central board which contains the players transfer market, and slots for various trophies and specialists for hire. Team members are represented by long tiles that give their skill across a series of seasons, some starting strong and then fading, others building in strength, some oscillating. (They each also have a unique "height" - which is used for turn order and tie-breaking - and an income.) Each player has a board that depicts their (decidedly mediocre) initial team, and as new members are recruited, these will be lain over the member they replace. There's a useful, if fiddly, slide to place over the team and move down gradually, making it easy to highlight what each members strength is in the current season. A small amount of stickering and assembly is required before your first game.
How does it play?
The game consist of six seasons. Each starts with a number of new members being dealt onto the market and auctioned off for money. These come in five different "colors" (think of it as the position or style they play in) and the the overall value of a team is calculated by adding together the individual strengths and the total number of colors.
After the auction, trophies are given out to the strongest teams. Then money is earned, based on the cumulative income of each team. After a bit of administration, players get a chance to hire a specialist for the next season, who will give different small bonuses. (For example the referee boosts your team strength by one, the agent gives you a discount at the auction and so on. ) The winner is calculated from a combination of current team strength, trophies and money.
What's good about it?
Juggling your team is the central problem of the game, and it's a fairly interesting one. Obviously you're going to want recruit members that shore up their teams weakness, while at the same time keeping an eye for the future. Is it worth paying for a new talent if they're not much good now but will improve in future seasons? What if they're mediocre but reliable and in a color you need? Should you grab a suitable replacement now or wait until next season for something better? The victory conditions add another layer to this. You could win by fielding a strong team and getting a lot of trophies. Alternatively you could settle for a weaker team that makes a lot of money. And all the while, other players will be making the same calculations and interfering with your plans. The turn sequence flows very easily, it's taught easily and the game completes in a handy, predictable period of time.
What's bad about it?
There's no glaring errors. Arguably some specialists are distinctly more useful than others, but competing for them is part of the game. Presentation-wise, for such a frequently referenced piece of information, the text giving a team members height is printed far too small. BasketBoss is a trim, ordered game.
However, replay value may be a distinct problem (see below).
Should I play it?
Why not? If that seems like a lukewarm reason, then yes. It's a novel theme, the game works, it has no gaping flaws, there's a fair amount of interaction and strategy, and plays in a predictable amount of time and will give you several pleasant, reasonably challenging games. You might not like it if you were looking for deep complex play or more tangled, confusing problems to solve, but that could be said of a lot of other games.
Should I buy it?
As someone who has bought this game, I'm going to say no.
This is not to say that BasketBoss is a bad game or even a mediocre game. Far from it: it's good and fun. But it's quickly obvious that every game is more or less the same. Sure the teams are slightly different and the order that players come available will vary. But these are minor perturbations in the course of the game, which is essentially the same every time. The gameplay and strategy, while not shallow, isn't sufficiently complex that you can spend game-after-game tweaking tactics and trying new things. What you see in game 1, is what you get for games 2 and onwards.
This isn't a bad thing per se, but every game you buy takes money and occupies space on your shelves. Of course, there may be those of us with large cash reserves and a warehouse to store their games in, or those who are gifted the game. But in most cases, BasketBoss may not get played enough longterm to warrant a purchase.
Should I convince someone else to buy it?
I wouldn't dissuade anyone. It's a decent game and I can see it finding a niche as a family or as an occasional change of pace. However, more serious or intense play within a small group of players will burn through the game possibilities fairly fast, before it gets sent to the trade heap.
In conclusion, Powerboats.
(Images by Corné van Moorsel.)
Edit: corrected identification of BasketBoss as the "latest" game from Cwali.
- Last edited Wed Nov 3, 2010 3:31 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Wed Nov 3, 2010 11:41 am
This too shall pass.
Good intentions are no substitute for a good education.
It is also the latest game from Cwali
No, it's last year's game. This year Cwali produced three new games, of which I definitely recommend Sun, Sea & Sand.
Doh. I stand corrected (as does the original post).