Sunday, January 17, 2010

Retro Game Night- Careers

Part two of retro game night (part one here) found us playing Careers, a 1955 Milton Bradley game about finding the right path in life. Now, I don’t know a ton about board games from the 1950’s but I think that this one had to be way ahead of all the others. It’s fun, engaging, interesting, and has a nice mix of luck and strategy. Really, there is a lot going on here.

The game begins with each player creating their own formula for success in life. By choosing a combination of money, fame, and happiness it is up to each player to dictate the terms of their success. I love it. Not only does it give the player the chance to do some strategizing from the get go, but the sentiment is awesome. Life is what you make of it. Of course, in this game there are also winners and losers so take from that what you will. The formula has to add up to 60 points and each player secretly writes it on their player sheet, keeping it hidden from the other players. The player sheet is also a nice part of the game. There are a couple of elements that need to be tracked during the game (salary, number of times you’ve completed a career, and fame and happiness) and it is really nice to have a sheet made to do this, rather than just a piece of paper.

Throughout the course of the game numerous career choices will arise and decisions will have to be made as to which to pursue. Some offer lucrative salaries and the chance to make a lot of money (like Big Business), others a chance for fame (Movie Star), and yet others provide a chance for happiness and personal satisfaction (like Farming). The two most outrageous careers are the Expedition to the Moon and Uranium Prospecting. Both of these offer a ton in the way of money, fame, and happiness but are much harder to get into. Yes, there are entry requirements for each career, which makes a lot of sense. Farming may be easy to get into, but not just anyone off the street is going to go to the moon. (Interestingly this game was created way before anyone ever went to the moon, really before the space race was all that heated up actually.) The requirements are usually money, though a specific college degree can sometimes help out as well. Once you’ve already been through a career you can always go back into it for free.

The game play is simple enough that even little kids should be okay with it but with enough options to keep it from being mundane and still appeal to all types of gamers. It is certainly more than just roll the dice, move your mice. Like most games, the board is a giant square and players move around the perimeter and encounter the spaces that they land on. However, spaced throughout the board are all the career tracks that a player can enter. Each one is a slight detour from the main board but it is on the career tracks that the game is really played; it’s where the money, fame, and happiness are most found. Normally two dice are rolled for movement around the perimeter but only one is rolled when you are moving through a career, which is good because the career tracks are only about ten spaces. Choosing what career tracks to enter is probably the most important decision that you will make (I sound like your mother, don’t I?) as you try to complete your secret success formula. A player can only go through a given career a maximum of three times, though that seems like enough to most likely win the game.

Over the course of the game players accumulate experience cards, which allow you to move a certain number of spaces in lieu of rolling the dice. This is really nice when on a career track because it allows you to land on a space that has a benefit that you really want or need. I assume the benefit of real world experience is that you have a better chance of making good things happen for you in the working world. There are also opportunity cards that let a player move to different career entry points on the board, some also waive the requirement to get into the career. This can give a player a huge advantage, especially if they can get into a strong career early on and then just keep going back to it. The rules also suggest that players are free to trade cards with each other, which is another nice feature of the game.

I have to say that I was delighted with Careers. I sort of expected it to be nothing special, it’s sole appeal being in the cool looking retro board and some of the outdated language, which is funny in hindsight. But in actuality this is a really fun game. The rules are easy to learn, the game takes about a half hour, and it’s a nice break from some of the more intense games out there.

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