When it comes to auction games, there are few designers as well-known in this genre as Reiner Knizia. I’ve lost count of how many auction games he’s created (a dozen maybe?), but many of them are beyond excellent. Today, we are going to take a look at Nightmare Productions. This is actually a retheme of the long out-of-print Dream Factory. So if you’ve ever had your eye on this movie-making game, you now have a much easier path to trying it out.
In Nightmare Productions, you are competing against your fellow players to make the best (and worst) movies. Unlike prevision editions of the game, this time instead of making blockbusters, you are heading to the horror genre. The game takes place over 4 rounds, each featuring a series of auctions and drafts.
Each round, the board will be seeded with tiles to 6 auction spaces (face up) and 2 draft spaces (face down). Starting with the first auction space, players can bid on the tiles in the auction. Bidding is handled like a standard auction, and once someone drops out of the bidding, they may not reenter for that auction. After a player wins an auction, they pay their bid, split evenly, to the other players. Then the next auction takes place.
Twice per round, there is a tile draft called Horror Con. The player with the most monsters in their movies gets the first pick of the tiles here, trickling down to the other players.
The goal is to create movies. Each player starts with 3 movie scripts. They have specific slots for tiles: directors, locations, creatures, props, etc… Once a player has filled up all the spaces on the movie, it’s finished and scored. Moves score points based on their total stats (provided by the script and the tiles). The first to create a movie in each of the 3 sub-genres earns bonus points.
At the end of each round, the highest-rated movie gets a bonus trophy. After four rounds, the best movies in each sub-genre earns an award, as does the worst movie in the game. The player with the most points wins.
While I don’t play them often, I generally enjoy auction games. The hardest part about them is helping new players understand the value of what they are bidding on. I remember playing a game of Fleet where someone spent a ton of money in the first round for a boat they couldn’t even use because they really didn’t understand all that was involved.
Fortunately, Nightmare Productions passes by this trap in a couple of ways. First, it’s light enough that it’s pretty easy to understand what you need. You have a script with spaces that need to be filled. Tiles will more stars are more valuable. Easy peasy. This allows new players to jump into the game and easily be able to evaluate what a tile is worth to them.
The other thing I really liked was the closed money system. Any money you spent gets passed to your opponents. So even if you lose an auction, you are really just biding your time. One player can go on a spending spree, but eventually, they will run out of money. And since they are handing that money to you, they are pricing themselves out of future auctions. It’s a nice balancing system that ensures you all always win some auctions, and one bad decision won’t derail the game for you.
I also liked the new theme of the game better than the old one. While Dream Factory was neat, with its pop culture references and classic actors and movies. If you weren’t already a film buff, the game loses a bit of its charm. With the new horror genre, things have become a bit more general, so you don’t have to care if you are getting a specific actor or director. That being said, I feel like they could have pushed the theme a bit farther than they did. While the monsters, locations, and items all have cool names: Toy Factory, Spear Gun, Haunted Hotel, Hyde… The directors and composers are just called “director” and “music composer”. This feels like a missed opportunity where, while they don’t need specific names, could have at least had some fun with like “budget director” “failed blockbuster director” or “film school dropout”.
The other thing to note about Nightmare Productions is that you really want as many people as possible to play. The game says it plays 2-5, but I’d say 3 is the absolute minimum you want. Like most auction games, it just doesn’t work that well at 2. This is especially true since it’s a closed system. All the money you spend gets sent directly to your opponent, and if one player spends most of their money, the other one can control the game for a while.
Even after all these years, the gameplay of Nightmare Productions still holds up. I never played the original Dream Factory, but I’m glad I got a chance to try it now. I love the new theme (even if they didn’t push it far enough) and it’s easily one of my favorite auction games I’ve played in a while. While they definitely could have given the game a bit more TLC (some more legendary monsters and scripts would have been nice), the gameplay is rock solid. And the Art from Dug Nation really brings home the schlocky horror movie feel.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A great auction game that’s easy to get to the table and engaging throughout its play.
• Needs at least 3p, if not more
• Theme could have been pushed a little farther