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Scream Machine

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Scurra's picture
Joined: 09/11/2008

Now this one has been sitting on a shelf at my local games store for a little while. I'd looked at it a couple of times but other, bigger boxes were jostling for my attention. Yes, I know this is a terrible indictment of my susceptibility to marketing, but it's true.

Anyway, after seeing its name come up a couple of times in chats recently (no idea why ;)), I thought I'd take a look. And I'm so glad I did. This is a game that will be visiting our games tables often. Not perhaps every week, but it certainly won't go to the back of the shelf.

The premise of Scream Machine is simple. Each player is running a theme park with a variety of different rides. Customers only want to visit the most exciting parks, but they have different tastes - some want water rides, some roller coasters, some just want to eat. Oh, and the cheapskates aren't interested in the flashy stuff.

Players build rides either from a central pool (available to everyone) or from their hand (secret, but it takes longer to do.) Rides are valued at 5,3 or 1 and they cost actions to build (with larger rides costing more actions.) Players can also do other things, including advertising for customers (basically scoring a free point), tearing down a ride (which can be important, strange as that sounds), and researching local tastes.

Which brings me to one of the neatest mechanics in the game - the customers. When I first read the rules, I thought that it bore certain similarities to a Reiner Knizia's childrens' game (called Fire-eater or something) in which the crowds rush to the largest show.
That's true of this, but what Scream Machine does is to have two sorts of customers: national and local.

The National customers look at all the parks before deciding where to go. The Local customers however are placed between each player and only look at the parks on either side of them. Thus each player has four potential "local" customers, two shared with their left-hand and two with their right-hand neighbours. This allows a park to win customers even if it only has a 1 point attraction of a particular type...
And, to add a nice twist, some of the local customers are placed face-down so you don't necessarily know what they want to see - unless you do the research, by spending an action and secretly looking at them. This means that you can then build a ride that they will want to come to.
And there's a little bit of "screw-your-neighbour" too, as in the event of a tie, the customer won't be able to choose where to go and remains up-for-grabs during the next round.

We all loved this game. The theme was terrific; there was a real feeling of building a park and trying to balance the specialisation (which ensures that you will always win certain sorts of customers) with diversification (to win the odd local customer). There's a bit of luck involved (will the right new ride be turned up to allow you to surpass your neighbour in scoring for a certain type of attraction) and some calculation (if I scrap this ride, my neighbour could win the cheapskates but they would have to scrap a really expensive one.)

For a filler game, Scream Machine does an admirable job. It's quick to pick up and fairly speedy to play (although there are some moments of AP when a player tries to work out if they should do X or not) and has a good share of fun moments. The art is great (especially all the different customers), even if we can't work out why the Turbo Bungee is only a 3-star attraction :)


Joined: 12/31/1969
Scream Machine

I concur. It's a great lightweight game that we've played many times as a filler. It will be perfect as a full game (non-filler) for a certain non-gamer group I sometimes play with, too.

-- Matthew

Joined: 12/31/1969
good post-game analysis

As one of the players in Scurra's game last Tuesday, I can certainly appraise the value of the post-game analysis for the group (and several hours later by oneself trying to analyse the combinations of cards and payoffs).

The most enjoyable part for me was the hidden local customers as by revealing them is a nice joint surprise (unless one peeked at them earlier in which case surprise is replaced by smug value) :)

I am already thinking of variations (which is another sign of a good game)e.g. the addition of a hidden global customer for extra peek-value and surprise/smugness :)

Dave W.

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