Review: War of the Networks
Publisher: Hasbro
Year: 1979
Tagline: Where you sign big name stars… buy and schedule hit TV shows like the GODMOTHER and win Big Bucks!

Cover of War of the Networks showing a cartoon grandma with a gun

how we met

I had heard of War of the Networks quite a long time ago and it has been on my wish list. I never thought I’d find it, though. Bill found it at an estate sale somewhere in SE Wisconsin. I was pretty excited when he brought it home after paying only a couple of bucks, and even more happy when it was complete!

FUN FACT: I have a homemade game called Movie Mogul created by a friend of mine in probably 2004/2005 or so. The premise of Movie Mogul is somewhat similar to War of the Networks, and I think that is one reason I had always wanted to try this one. Movie Mogul is amazing but relies on too much IP to ever be made.

how it plays

In War of the Networks players take on the roles of competing television networks that are fighting to create the best shows with the best stars in order to get the best ratings during a given time slot.

The middle of the board shows three separate nights Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Players travel around the board three times: once for Friday, once for Saturday and once for Sunday. These nights each contain half hour segments from 8:00pm to 11:00pm, with columns for each network.

Overhead of the board showing Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Overhead of the board showing Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Players begin the game with $20 million. The network pawns roll and move around the board landing on various spaces that may allow them to purchase a specific show, purchase a star (sight unseen, always $2 million each) or draw a FLASH card. The corner spaces do different things like move your pawn or allow you to steal a star. If a player rolls doubles, they may move ahead the entire roll or backward one die.

Paper money with black backgrounds and light detail showing 200k, 1 million and 5 million

I no longer believe in more than 3 denominations

FLASH cards are chance cards. They can be good, bad or neutral.

Example FLASH cards showing that your show is canceled or you get $2 million from each player or reshuffle all the lineups

Example FLASH cards

The shows are of different physical lengths depending on whether they are half hour, one hour or one and a half hour. The shows also contain numbers that indicate their ratings. When a show is purchased, it is placed onto that network’s column for the current night in whatever time slot(s) they choose. If you have purchased enough shows to overfill your night then one show gets bumped to the next night.

Half hour shows are short, hour shows are medium and 90 minute shows are 3x longer than 30 minute shows

Note the visual difference in show length. Note also the rating number showing that show’s draw

If you land on one of the BUY A STAR spaces, you can pay $2 million to purchase a star. If you have any show in the current evening you must place your star in one of your shows, and the star rating is added to the show ratings for a new total rating. Stars can’t leave shows once they are cast unless they are stolen.

Example stars showing Harry Hotrock worth 3, Lena Bluejeana worth 4 and Sally Halterpack worth 3

Example stars

When you purchase a TV show, you place a chip in your network’s color on that space. Then if another network lands on that space in future they owe you the fee amount listed on the space. If you purchase a star and place it in one of your TV shows then you add a second chip of your network’s color on that show’s space. If your TV show has two chips on it and another player lands there, they owe you the cost amount instead of fees, which is higher. If you can’t afford to pay any money you owe then you auction off any show or star you own to the highest bidder.

Green chips

My chips

When players make it around the board they stop at the START space. Once all players have landed at START, that is the end of that particular night. Players look at that night’s shows, time slot by time slot, and each winner of the time slot with the most ratings gets $4 million. Two-way ties each get $2 million, three-way ties each get $1 million. Four-way ties get nothing.

Play continues in this way until all players land on START for the third time, indicating the end of Sunday night. At this point the Sunday night time slots pay out like any other night. But then, an additional scoring event happens across all three nights for each time slot, awarding an additional $4 million per time slot. Why would you buy an hour and a half show worth only 8 rating? This is why.

The network with the most money wins!

how it went

War of the Networks was the first game we played during an all-day fourth of July gaming extravaganza. The game looks interesting and the humor is evident, and when I told my fellow game group that we only had to circle the board three times their eyes lit up.

Instructions showing paragraphs broken out into time slots

They even made the instructions look like a TV guide

Unfortunately those three revolutions around the board took much longer than I anticipated. But it was definitely not all bad.

I love the look of this game. The star names were pretty great. The shows are a lot of fun too. We had a good time, and a challenge, trying to figure out which TV shows the fake ones were based on. Many of them are easy, but a few we puzzled over. A game within a game.

A lot of people complain about paper money in board games. I agree that it’s often a bad sign, but I play a lot of these vintage games so paper money doesn’t bother me like it bothers many gamers. But I do give props to War of the Networks for using only three different denominations. It was so much simpler than getting tangled up in small bills.

Another interesting thing about War of the Networks is that they seem to have attached a piece of paper to the back of the box instead of printing directly onto the box, something I had not encountered before and – as you can well imagine – does not age well. I wonder what the reasoning behind that was.

Back of the box showing peeling paper that was glued on

My box is not in great shape, but this is on you Hasbro

Our play varied wildly. Towards the end of the game I was down to $400,000. I could not afford a show or a star, so I was just delicately making my way around the board. Fortunately I did not land on anyone else’s shows in that period, so I was not forced to auction off my stuff to continue. Keri was rolling in money the entire time, and John mostly was too. But Keri was rich because she was building a network empire while John was rich because he did not happen to land on anything that cost him money, but he also didn’t land on spaces to help him too often. Bill was doing decently, but none of us were competing well with Keri in our shows.

Overview of our game play

Our play showing TV shows facing both directions. You know by now that we aren’t that considerate

In the end Keri won with $37.8 million, John had $35 million, Bill had around $20 million and I had $4.4 million. When we play, our group is always competitive. But none of us really care whether we win. Good thing too because this one was a bloodbath for me.

FUN FACT: The rules seem unclear on whether a network can reshuffle their programs on their turn for the night in play. We played like that was an action they can do on their turn. I asked someone on FB Board Game Geek that posted an image of the game how he plays, 3 generations in (which is awesome!). He played that a network can only change their lineup if they buy something that doesn’t fit as is. I don’t think it’s clear so I am bringing it up.

The rule saying if you are on START waiting for your fellow players you can reshuffle your programming on your turn

This is one reason we played the way we did. This implies it is an action on their turn OR that it is a benefit of being stuck there

None of the rules actually note actions possible on a turn. So idk.

FUN FACT: I get rules wrong quite often. I rarely prepare in advance for play so I am reading for 5 minutes before we start. My game group lovingly calls this erring “Burking it up” based on my name. Aren’t we adorable?

play or pass

Pass. It’s fun to schedule your shows, the stars in particular have some great names, and the play is simple without being too dumb. It’s possible my disappointment was due to my high hopes of obtaining and enjoying War of the Networks. But at the end of the day, this is a very thematic Monopoly. I don’t hate Monopoly, but I’m not going to recommend you go and hunt one down.

It is worth noting that the rest of my game group was surprised I assigned War of the Networks a pass rating as they thought it should be play. It is also worth noting we didn’t play a single good game that day. I am probably ruining them, the poor dears.