Full disclosure: A review copy of Cinecitta 1937 was provided by Big Cat Games.
I’d say this is the last of the doujin games, but I’m certainly hoping that’s not the case. Likely will have a few more coming down the line, so, get hyped for that and let’s dig into more indie Japanese games. This title is another one from Kichikichian, the same publisher as last week’s Fruitale. While it’s not a flip-and-fill, I think you’ll find that it’s also taking an ambitious stance on some commoner mechanics. Either way, let’s dig into it.
In Cinecitta 1937, it’s … 1937, and you’re in Cinecitta. I’m not sure why I thought that was a good sentence, but I’ve already committed. This is a pre-war studio in Italy built to keep costs low and quality high, and you’re in charge. You need to get your perfect move made based on what you have, but everyone’s always trying to hustle each other to steal staff or undercut you. Do you have what it takes to get that lights, camera, action going? Or will it just be curtains for you?
This one’s pretty easy to set up, which I appreciate. Based on your player count, remove the cards that have that player count crossed out:
Give every player 10 Money:
Give every player a Folder and a Wallet:
The players should put the money in their Wallets (the smaller of the two). Shuffle and deal Staff Cards to each player:
- 3 players: 8 cards each
- 4 / 5 players: 7 cards each
If you’d like to play a variant, you can use the Headhunting Variant by using one of the sides of the bonus coaster:
And / or you can add in the movie awards for players with particularly great or terrible films. Either way, you should be ready to start!
Alright, so, over the course of Cinecitta 1937 you’re aiming to build up cards in two areas: your three-card Studio and your Office. Your Office can hold as many cards as you want, but those will determine the quality of your movie and, subsequently, how much money you make off of your movie. And that’s what matters. Once you’ve prepared your staff, you’ll calculate your box office return and your movie quality, and the player with the highest total wins!
The game is organized into rounds based on how many cards you have in your hand. Every player will prepare a portfolio for one staff card in their hand by placing it and some money into your folder. Place as much money as you think the staff card is “worth” (you may put 0), and here’s why. When you pass it to another player, they may keep the card if they put the same amount of money into the folder, or they may keep the money. One or the other. They then pass the folder back to you, and you place whatever’s in the folder in your wallet.
Once every player has their folders back, you may add any cards collected to your Studio. Note that your Studio can only hold three cards at once, and no two Staff Cards of the same type may be in your Studio at the same time. If you are trying to place a card that would violate either of these rules, you must take a card currently in your Studio and move it into your Office. Note that if you’re adding two cards to your Studio, you may add them in any order (and that order can be important!). Once that’s resolved, load up your folders and pass again!
After all cards have been played, the game is over! Here’s what you do. If you don’t have three cards in your Studio, you lose. You didn’t make a movie, and that was … kind of the point. Sort the three cards in your studio so that they’re in numerical order; that’s now the quality of your movie. Next, pay your staff; for each Staff Card in your Studio and Office, return 1 money to the supply. If you don’t have enough money to pay your Staff, you lose. Nice job. If you have a Director or a Producer in your Office, you may ignore this; you don’t have to pay your staff.
Now, check the money icons on your staff in your Studio and your Office; for each one, take 1 money from the supply.
Count your total money and multiply that number by your film reel icons on Staff Cards in your Office only. That’s your box office return. Note that means if you have 0 money or 0 film reel icons, you will score 0 on your box office return. Add that number to your movie’s quality, and the player with the highest score wins!
One variant included in the box are the Golden and Gray Doggy Awards. These are given to the player with the highest and lowest quality movies. They earn you +200 and -100 points each.
Another variant allows you to pass to more players than just the person to your left. Use that coaster I mentioned, and have it start such that each color faces its player. Shift it counterclockwise by one space, and then for that round, pass to that player. Then shift it again, and so on. If it would force you to pass to yourself, simply rotate the coaster counterclockwise one more space.
Player Count Differences
The major difference is just how many cards you use. At higher player counts, you can also use the headhunting variant, where you use that coaster to change who you’re passing to. That requires a lot more effort when you need to figure out what everyone’s going for and what the optimal strategy is for passing which cards to which people. At lower player counts, you don’t have to track nearly as many people. That might be for you! Beyond that, the cards are dealt such that every player has about the same number of cards at each player count, and turns are simultaneous, so, it’s not like the game slows down either. As a result, I don’t really have a strong preference on player count, though I do appreciate that this happily seats five. Yeah, in my opinion, the player count isn’t going to affect the game a ton; you generally deal with very few players over the course of the game.
- Remind new players that anchoring is a real psychological effect and it’s very bad, especially in this game. This is how I go about winning a few games; just overpay for your first person to establish to that player how much certain cards are “worth” and ride the wave of that person putting bad information into the zero-sum economy for the rest of the game. I wouldn’t recommend doing this with inexperienced players, as it’s a bit rude; instead, remind them that even though you’ve played before, they shouldn’t trust what they get from you as necessarily a card’s absolute value.
- If you have a lot of staff, you need to get that Producer or Director into your office. You can’t afford to pay everyone; get the Producer or the Director back behind so that you can avoid that massive financial penalty. If you have a smaller staff, this might not be as urgent, especially if you’d be paying more money to get the Producer or Director than you’d be paying out to your staff. In that case, just pay the folks.
- Don’t … forget to finish a movie. This is pretty much the worst thing you can do in this game, since you instantly lose. Make sure you get at least three cards into your studio so that you can ultimately score points at the end of the game, otherwise, what was the point?
- Saving low cards until the end of the game virtually guarantees you get them back, which may be good if you can afford to buy your opponent’s other card (and it’s not also low). If you get two cards, you can determine the order in which they enter your studio; this can allow you to push out a low card that you receive by placing it in first and then pushing it out via another card. Then, you get the bonuses from another card in your office without the penalties to your movie’s quality.
- Giving opponents cards they don’t want and offering 0 money for them is a flex, but it’s fun. This works the best if you know that they won’t want your card under any circumstances. Usually if it would drop the value of their movie by several hundred points; they tend to turn down those cards. But it might be useful for you if you can get it for free, so, do that.
- Don’t fill your studio with high-value staff too early in the game. You’re likely going to push them out, so start a bit lower so that you can afford to push them into your studio.
- If you receive two cards, you can choose the order; use that to your advantage, especially if you have to take a suboptimal card. Like I said earlier, that allows you to avoid being forced to place a low-value card into your studio (for very long) and dropping your movie quality.
- Don’t ever let other players know how much money you have. If they know, they’re going to lowball you for staff for the rest of the game. That’s a really bad time, so, naturally, don’t let that happen.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the theme. I think old movies are such a cool theme to shoot for, and the idea of filming them in old-time Italy is a lot of fun. It’s historic, interesting, and just a solid theme choice.
- Pretty portable. It can mostly fit in a smallish box. It’ll fit in a lot of bags and such. You kind of need the whole box to track the cards and money, but you could likely play it with a smaller wallet if you were committed to figuring out how to make that work.
- Plays relatively quickly. It’s not the shortest and not the longest, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it overstays its welcome, which I appreciate. It’s just a solid length for what it is.
- I like the mix of bidding and drafting. It’s an interesting conceit since you’re kind of bidding on cards without much context for the economy. This also shows you quickly a difference between inexperienced and experienced players: inexperienced players will price the cards for what they’re worth to them; experienced players price the cards for what they’re worth to their opponents.
- The money (and awards) are very cute. I really like the dog being on everything; it’s very sweet and fun. Just an overall good look for a game, albeit a smidge anachronistic.
- I think I’m generally intrigued by zero-sum economy games. Castello Methoni also does this, sort of. It’s not something I experience a lot in lighter games; usually there’s a ton of money, but tightening it makes the experience so interesting! How does it affect your bids? How does it change what you’re willing to pay for a card? I’m not quite sure yet.
- Don’t love that there are ways you can just lose. Granted, if you miss those conditions (not enough money for your staff / didn’t finish the movie), it’s likely impossible for you to win, so, it’s not bad enough to warrant a con. It just doesn’t feel great to play a whole and and still end up eliminated at the end of the game, I think.
- Could use an insert of some kind. The cards all can fit in an envelope, but having places for things would go a long way toward making them usable, and I’d appreciate that.
- The icons’ mixed activation conditions can be pretty confusing for new players. Some activate regardless of where they’re placed, some only activate if they’re in the office; it can be a bit confusing for players, as they tend to mix up the effect of money and reels (which can be a bummer, if they didn’t optimize for getting reels into their studios).
- Always passing to and receiving from the same player is a bit weird. This is corrected a bit by one of the variants, that ensures that you pass to a different player each round, but then you also don’t get the reinforcement of knowing what you can and can’t pass to that player multiple times. I still prefer it to the base game’s drafting, though.
- The component quality is so-so. Everything is a bit flimsy; it would be nicer to have thicker cards and thicker money.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I’d say that I really liked Cinecitta 1937! I’ve played a bunch of fairly simple drafting games, and I think this does two things differently that I really like. The first is the bidding. I thought I generally didn’t enjoy bidding games, but this one’s different, in my opinion. I think it’s a bit easier to assign value to the cards, perhaps? That’s nice for me; less stressful. The second is the zero-sum economy around bidding, which I really enjoy. I think I just … like zero-sum economies. Castello Methoni, as I mentioned earlier, also does this, and I’ll get my review of it done later. Plus, it’s a fun theme. Old-timey film studios are just … a fun conceit, for me, I think? I’m not really sure why, but I’m into them as a theme and this one’s fun. I do wish the components were a bit weighter, but what can you do. My main complaint is that it’s weird to consistently pass to the same person, but the variant play allows you to move your drafting target around, so, I’m not as opposed to that particular thing. I’d normally complain a bit about the iconography, but I’m decently sure the player aid is the wallet. Unfortunately, it’s all in Japanese, so, I can’t particularly tell one way or the other. So it goes. Either way, I think it’s a pretty solid drafting game; a lot of drafting games end up being a bit more casual or a bit more heavy, and I think this one’s got a pretty nice weight, overall. If that sort of thing appeals to you, or you see your fortune on the silver screen, or you just … like the idea of instant-lose conditions, Cinecitta 1937 might be worth checking out! It’s definitely a game that I’ve enjoyed.