Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game.
When modern eurogames took off, most of them were themed around agriculture, colonization, or city building of some sort. It makes for a natural pairing with mechanisms of gathering resources and claiming areas. Recently we’ve been blessed with games that push the thematic envelope, giving us much more interesting worlds to play in during our game nights.
One of the earliest examples of a game pushing this thematic boundary is Prêt-à-Porter, which was originally published in 2011. Rather than collecting wood, stone, and bricks, you are trying to gather the resources and materials to put on a fashion show and become a successful clothing designer. Long out of print and difficult to acquire—and highly sought after because of both it’s theme and gameplay—Prêt-à-Porter is back and available on Kickstarter today.
At its heart, Prêt-à-Porter is a fairly simple to understand worker placement game. There are nine different areas to place workers. After all workers are placed, the locations resolve in order. The goal, generally, is to acquire clothing designs and the materials to complete them. After two action rounds you’ll have an exhibition where you can present a collection to earn prestige and money. After the fourth exhibition the game ends, players total their prestige and money and the one with the highest total is the winner.
That isn’t to say Prêt-à-Porter is simple. Three of the worker placement areas give you rule-breaking cards—contracts, buildings, or employees. Each have their own drawbacks and benefits. Contracts are free, but get progressively less powerful. Buildings are expensive but can be upgraded and have very powerful effects. And employees lie somewhere in the middle, they have no upfront cost but increase your upkeep cost every round.
When you acquire designs and materials you also have more than one thing to consider. Designs will be one of five styles and one type (dress, pants, jackets, etc.) You will have one clothing type you specialize in that will be more attractive to you than the others, but you’ll only be able to present a single style each round.
Materials can be bought from any of three different markets. The local market is the least expensive, but you can only buy a single color of material with each worker and gives you a measly single quality token toward your collection. The other markets increase in cost, but also quality, giving you the potential to import the finest threads but may ruin your bank account in the process.
Keeping an eye on that bank account is vital. After every round, you’ll have to pay an upkeep cost based on the number of buildings and employees you’ve acquired throughout the game. If at any time you can’t pay the upkeep cost you have to take a forced loan that is extremely expensive to pay back.
When an exhibition starts, you’ll choose a single style of designs you’ve acquired and present those as a collection. Based on the number of cards, the quality of the materials you’ve purchased, and if they match the latest trends, you’ll potentially earn additional prestige from the fashion show to go along with the cash you get from selling your collection.
When people talk about Prêt-à-Porter, the theme dominates most of the discussion. Fashion design is definitely not typical territory for eurogames to jump into. And the new edition brings that to life with wonderful art from Kwanchai Moriya (and a number of other great artists via some stretch goals).
But the theme isn’t the end of the story here. The game itself is a fantastic worker placement game. The nine areas you can place a worker are easy to explain. Prêt-à-Porter’s depth isn’t from lots of finicky rules but rather from interactions between cards and getting the right mix of abilities to be successful. Many of the cards give you the ability to take additional actions without having to place a worker, which gives the game generally a bit of an engine-builder vibe.
It also gives each player different incentives making the race for the first pick of a various card not as vital as it might be in other worker placement games. There are lots of strategies to be explored. While each exhibition will judge players’ collections on different attributes and give awards to those who perform the best, it isn’t the only way to be successful. Perhaps you will forego trying to be the most trendy or highest quality and instead just put out as many pieces in a collection as possible to sell for boatloads of cash. Or your fashion studio can open a couple of retail outlets and just sell outside of the exhibition.
Since the winner is determined by the sum of your money and the points you’ve earned through awards both become possible routes to victory. Everyone at the table in a four player game who may be doing things completely different will still all achieve some level of success.
Prêt-à-Porter is more than just a pretty box. I’m very much looking forward to it being widely available so I can continue to explore the different strategies available. And the theme and artwork will go a long way in being able to get it to the table repeatedly rather than trying out the newest city-building or farming simulation games on the market.
Prêt-à-Porter is available on Kickstarter through the end of this week with lots of upgrades and new art cards already unlocked via stretch goals. So head over to the campaign page if you’d like to become a backer or for more information.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review.