- For ages 12 and up
- For 2 to 5 players
- Approximately 90 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Worker Placement & Area Control
- Child – Moderate
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Build a winning team and a successful football franchise
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek mixed!
- Child Geek rejected!
American former competitive swimmer and the most successful and decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, said, “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.” If your dream is to own a football franchise, complete with merchandise, the proper staff to support your empire, and the players to win games, then look no further. This game will take everything you know about sports and make it a business, right down to drafting the best players to play and hiring the best PR firm to push your agenda. Get ready to own a football team and create a dynasty!
Stadium, designed by Mark Hanny and published by Joe Magic Games, is comprised of one Action board, one Stadium board, one Commissioner pawn, 24 Player cards, 24 Employee cards, two Bonus tiles, 35 Player blocks (in various colors), 20 Vice President meeples (in various colors), and some 200 additional tokens that represent different aspects of managing a professional football team. The cards in the game are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card, the meeples, pawns, and cubes are made of plastic, and the tokens and boards are made of solid cardboard. The artwork is very minimal. Overall the game – just looking at the components – appears very utilitarian in its approach, replacing flair with structure.
Getting Ready for the Big Board Meeting
Note: The term “player” is used a great deal in this game to represent the various athletes in the game. To help remove any confusion, the rules refer to the game players (at the table, not in the field) as the “owners.” This review will continue to use these terms in the same way as the rule book intended during the overview.
To set up the game, first give each owner three “Million Dollar” tokens, seven cubes of the same color, and two Vice President meeples that match the cube color. Put any cubes and meeples not used back in the game box.
Second, place the Action board in the middle of the playing area and add one white bonus chip on each of the spaces indicated with a red arrow.
Third, assemble the Stadium board. This is done by layering three boards on top of each other using a spacer that keeps the boards together and separated. The result is a game board that looks like a sunken stadium. Really clever.
Fourth, shuffle the Employee and Player cards separately, placing each pile of cards face-down next to the Action board. These are the Employee and Player draw decks for the duration of the game.
Fifth, place the remaining tokens by the Stadium and Action board into pools. This is referred to as the “draft area” for the duration of the game.
That’s it for the game set up. Determine which owner will go first and give them the Commissioner pawn.
Game Time (Sort Of)
Stadium is played in turns and rounds with no set number of rounds per game. Each round comprises five steps where all the owners take action during each step, starting with the owner who has the Commissioner pawn. These rounds and actions are summarized here.
Step One: Assign Vice Presidents
Starting with the Commissioner pawn and continuing in turn order sequence, each owner takes and places one of their Vice President pawns to the Action board. Once all the owners have placed their initial Vice President pawn, they place their second, and possibly third or fourth.
There are nine action spaces in total. Each action space will have three or four Bonus spaces indicated by different colors and icons. Owners may place their Vice President meeple in any of these Bonus spaces, but only one Vice President can occupy each Bonus space. For example, looking at the upper left Action space of the Action board, there are four Bonus spaces. If playing in a four-owner game, a total of four Vice President meeples could be assigned to that particular Action space, but only if each of the Vice President meeples were assigned different Bonus spaces.
Once all the Vice President pawns are placed, owners get the bonus they placed their Vice President meeple to. The bonuses are as follows:
- Collect and place one money token to the owner’s supply
- Collect and place one equipment token to the owner’s supply
- Collect and place one victory token to the owner’s supply
- Collect and place one win token to the owner’s supply
- Collect and place one building token to the owner’s supply
- Earn the first draft pick
- Draw one Employee card and place it face-down in front of the owner (will remain face-down until “hired”), followed by drawing of one Player card, which is placed face-up next to the Action board for future drafting
- Activate a one “hired” (face-up) Employee card, immediately resolving the action noted on the Employee card (only one Employee card may be activated per turn)
Step Two: Add Bonus Tokens
Any Action space that does not have at least one Vice President meeple now receives a Bonus token. Likewise, any Action space with a Bonus token and a Vice President meeple has the Bonus token removed.
If the Action space had a Bonus token from the previous round and still does not have a Vice President meeple, the Bonus token is flipped over, indicating that the bonus will be doubled during the next round.
If the Action space had a doubled Bonus token already and still doesn’t have a Vice President meeple, another Bonus token is added (to its doubled bonus side) and “stacked” with the previous Bonus token. Double-double bonus! However, any Action space with such a huge bonus will cost the owners a token or a card during the next round if the Action space doesn’t have a Vice President meeples assigned to it.
Any Action space that already had a double-double bonus and still was not assigned a Vice President meeple, the owners 2ill calculate the loss of opportunity at the end of the round. This is done for each stacked token on the Action board. What is lost depends on the Action space in which the stacked – and unclaimed – bonus tokens occupy. Possible losses include:
- Losing one equipment token
- Losing one hired employee
- Losing one win token
- Losing one building token
- Losing one money token
- Losing one player to injury
If the owner doesn’t have the token or card indicated by the loss, they are not impacted.
Step Three: Resolve Action
Starting with the owner with the Commissioner pawn, each player now resolves the action indicated by the Action space their Vice President pawn is on. This is done starting at the top-left Action space and moving across the rows and columns from left to right and bottom. Once the action is resolved, the player removes their Vice President pawn from the Action board. Actions include the following:
- Upgrade equipment by gaining two equipment tokens
- Train the players by trading in two equipment tokens for one win token (this can be done multiple times as long as the owner has equipment tokens to trade)
- Hire staff by paying for the Employee card (pay the appropriate amount of money tokens and flip the Employee card over, face-up) or if the owner is on a Hire VP Action space, they can take another Vice President meeple (a maximum of four Vice President meeples per player)
- Gain a win token or spend win tokens to place a cube in the Bowl Game, Championship, Playoffs, or Season columns on the Stadium board
- Gain a building token or spend money and building tokens to place a cube on the Stadium board
- Sell tickets (which gives win tokens and money)
- Draft from the face-up Player cards (Player cards can earn the owner win and entertainment tokens) by paying for it cost or trade by taking an already owned Player card and swapping it with a Player card currently in draft
- Earn money tokens due to various sponsorships
- Earn entertainment and money tokens from merchandising sales
Step Four: Game Time, Pay Salaries, and Losses
Starting with the Commissioner, each owner collects the reward for any “Game Time” icons (indicated by a football) on the board or cards the owner has access to.
Then each owner must pay the salaries owned to their Employee and Player cards and their Vice Presidents. Any Employee or Player card that cannot be paid for is discarded. Any Vice President who cannot be played for “goes on vacation” and is not available for the next round.
Finally, the players resolve any losses, as explained in step two.
Step Five: Pass the Commish
The last step in the round is passing the Commissioner pawn to the next owner in the turn order sequence. The next round then begins starting with step one noted above.
Counting Wins and Losses
The game comes to an end when any owner uses their last cube to buy buildings or win the season, playoff, championship, or bowl games. The round is then finished with all owners completing their turn.
All owners now calculate their total score by counting the number values in the diamond shapes found on their Employee cards, Player cards, Stadium board, Bonus tile, and Victory Point Trade tokens. Owners also score 1 point for every Entertainment token they collected during the game.
The player with the highest number of points wins the game and is the most successful franchise owner!
If playing with only two players, give each player three Vice President meeples during game set up instead of two.
To learn more about Stadium, visit the publisher’s website.
The Child Geeks didn’t enjoy the game, finding it to be a lot of work with not much in the way of “fun.” According to one Child Geek, “I like the idea of managing a football team, but this feels like work. I didn’t like how I had to be in charge of every detail.” Another Child Geek said, “I don’t think I ever want to own a football team. I’d rather play the game and watch it on TV with my family.” Stadium is a worker placement game with an emphasis on “work,” according to the Child Geeks. The level of detail that the game designer goes into, highlighting every aspect of the franchise, is commendable but felt too heavy and “busy” for our youngest geeks. This resulted in Stadium getting two thumbs down.
On the other hand, the Parent Geeks enjoyed the challenge of building a team from scratch, the support to maintain it, and the various activities that bring in revenue. According to one Parent Geek, “A good deal of fun. Lots to consider and manage, which makes each round a real brain burner. It can feel overwhelming at first, as you start to build your team up, and there is just so much to consider. They need good players, but also really great staff. You also need to think about how you are going to sell tickets and all that merch! I really enjoyed it and the challenge of winning!” But it was this challenge that also turned off some of the Parent Geeks. According to one such Parent Geek, “Good lord, no. The game is way too involved for me, feeling more like work with little in the way of entertainment. I like a game that challenges me, but this felt like I was really putting together a football team from scratch. The designer did a great job, but for those of us who never wanted to own a team, this game falls flat.” When all the games were over, the Parent Geeks gave Stadium a mixed endorsement.
The Gamer Geeks, who love a good worker placement game, found Stadium to be a great challenge, but also very “fiddly.” According to one Gamer Geek, “This game is an excellent example of how you can break down the most complicated of tasks and assign them to specific actions. I love games like this because it gives me a chance – at my gaming table – to take on some really awesome opportunities to think through difficult challenges. A case in point is this game. I will never own a football franchise, but I love the idea. This game showed me all the many little things I have to consider to keep my doors open, let alone build a team! Love it!” But, again, this sentiment was not shared by all. According to another Gamer Geek, “Way too much going on here. The game feels uphill from the start, and not once did I ever think I would win. So many little intricate details make each turn really difficult – which isn’t bad – but if a player is overwhelmed by the minutia, I don’t think you have a game so much as a cardboard console with buttons and knobs. The game needs to pull back and focus on the football game from time to time. It never does. I felt more like an accountant than a football franchise owner.” When the season was over, and the last lockerroom closed, the Gamer Geeks voted and were split, giving Stadium a mixed endorsement.
Stadium will be a game you either really enjoy or really, really, really don’t. And I know that sounds like a copout. “Well, of course, Cyrus, I’m either going to love or a hate game! Boy, you are a horrible reviewer!” But hear me out…
What Stadium does really well is why it will either engross your brain or gross you out. The details you have to track can feel really small, but the impact of each can also feel overwhelmingly huge. There is no “bad decision” in this game, but you are leaving other choices unexplored and opportunities lost every time you make a choice. Everything counts, everything matters, and everything – as a result – feels good and feels bad. This is a game that will take your brain, put it over the fire, and burn the bejesus out of it. It’s not casual, but nor is it overly competitive. It’s a strange mix of the two that makes the game first feel approachable, but then each player will start to feel the game’s weight increasing at a rapid rate.
Which is great for some and not so great for others.
Let me put it another way. Stadium gives players all the tools they need to be successful and none of the instructions. In fact, the game rules are a bit light on details at times, which doesn’t make the game difficult to learn but provides nothing to show any player the direction to take the game. Each aspect of the game feels a little too detailed, but without the supporting structure to make it stick. And yet, there it is. Large as life and impactful during the game. It makes it downright difficult to see the “big picture” when you have to focus on the smallest of details. You lose perspective easily and start to manage your game turns instead of your game objective, shuffling to the finish line.
As a result, when the game is over, you will either find that you did everything right (but not really clear how) or have done everything wrong (with no indication of when you should have changed your strategy). Frustrating, to say the least, and also exhilarating to those who like a game that is up in the air until the last possible moment.
Is Stadium for you? If you like playing football, watching the game, talking about the players, and reminiscing great sports moments, then no. No. No. No.
If, however, you enjoy the challenge of building something from the ground up, taking on the awesome responsibility of EVERYTHING, look at sports as a business, and get a real kick out of worker placement games, then yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.