Ignacy Trezewiczek


No. of Players:
2 - 4



With a flood of games released for the hungry hobbyists each year, it gets ever harder for the authors to find fresh themes which have not been used on dozens of other games. As it seems, Ignacy did feel a flash of inspiration this year, because the world of fashion and models has not been used for a theme of any game I can remember. A refreshing new topic, and as my curiosity was also fired by some good looking images of the game's components I was more than eager to have a go at Pret-A-Porter!

The main gameboard is used for the players actions during the game, and here the game follows the modern trend by basing the players actions on a worker-placement-mechanism, even though the three playing pieces available to each player are not meeples but simple wooden tokens. Thus, in the course of a round, the players in playing order place their tokens at the different locations of the main gameboard, and once all tokens have been placed the locations are dealt with in a fixed order. Each of the locations actually can receive two or three player tokens (depending on the number of players), and it is even possible for a player to send more than one of his tokens to the same location - provided there is still room for the additional token.

The order in which the players have placed their tokens at a location determines the order for performing an action at the location, and so an early placement in some locations means that this player can choose from a broader range of available cards. This mechanism is followed at the locations where new employees, buildings, contracts and fashion designs can be obtained, and so a player needs to decide carefully where to place his initial token because the "pole position" in the other locations possibly will be taken by other players once the player gets around to place his second token.

Some other locations are more or less independent of the player order, since all players may perform the same action there if they were able to place one of their tokens at a free slot. An example for this are the three different locations where materials for the sewing of new fashion designs can be purchased, and at the bank where the players can obtain credits there exists no limit for the number of tokens to be placed.

However, before we go into more detail, let's first have a closer look at the game's setup and the player's aims. In Pret-A-Porter each player runs his own fashion company which is represented by a player board which each player has received at the beginning of the game. These boards are used to keep track of the players' monthly costs / income, and furthermore various tokens and obtained cards can be placed there. The boards also host a small distinction which is made between all companies, since every company is specializing in a specific type of fashion designs. In addition to the player board, each player also starts the game with two design cards which show (yet unfinished) designs for clothes. Each design belongs to a certain type (dress, trousers, blouse etc) and style (Boho, sports etc), and during the course of the game the players will aim to obtain and finish designs of matching styles because all cards with an uniform style may be included in a collection which can be presented at a fashion show. The fashion shows happen evenly spread four times during the game, and this will be the time when the players can turn their collections into money and additional company value, and at the end of the game the player with most money plus company value will be the winner of the game.

The game runs over a total duration of twelve months (rounds), and every third month will be a fashion show month in which a fashion show takes place. On the other hand, the first two months of each quarter are the preparation months, and here the players act by placing their tokens onto the gameboard to perform actions. As indicated, most of the actions available on the board either deal with the obtaining of new cards (employees, buildings, contracts and designs) or the purchase of materials (3 different types of manufacturers), and the players need to balance their actions in order to prepare for the upcoming fashion show month. Thus, it is important to get new design cards in order to assemble a collection of design cards with a uniform style, and when design cards have been obtained the players also need to purchase materials to start sewing on the designs they want to present at the following show. Each design needs two different material-cubes to finish it, and here come the manufacturers into play. As indicated, the players can choose between three different manufacturers, and here the conditions differ concerning both the quantities and choice of available materials. In addition, players also get Quality tokens from the manufacturers with each purchase, but once again the number of Quality tokens differs with each manufacturer. When a player has obtained the two materials required to finish a design, he simply places the two cubes onto the design in order to mark that the design has been sewn.

Employees, buildings and contract cards also can be obtained on the main gameboard, and together with the design cards a completely new display of available cards is revealed each round. All three types of cards give the players access to a wide range of benefits, covering many different aspects of the game. Quite important is the fact that the players can gain Quality, Trends and Public Relations tokens through some cards, and these kinds of tokens will be important during the fashion show months. However, the players have to choose new cards on the basis of their own strategy, since it is important for them to create windfall effects in the course of the game in order to reach maximum performance with their fashion company. Thus, it doesn't make sense to buy a wide range of buildings and hire a variety of employees, but instead a wise choice of matching cards will have a much bigger impact during the course of the game.

However, there are some common features of these cards which can be mentioned here. For one, both buildings and employees have a monthly cost which needs to be paid, and in addition a player also needs buildings to place employee cards if he should hire more than three employees. Both card types also can be upgraded for a sum of money printed on the card, and if a card is upgraded the benefit created by the card gets even better. Contracts on the other hand provide their usually quite strong benefits only until the next fashion show. At that time the player either must discard his contracts, or - if he has a negotiator amongst his staff - gain a prolongation for another three months with a reduced benefit.

All fashion shows were determined before the game started, and so a number of fashion show cards was revealed for each quarter. One fashion show takes place in March, two in June, three in September and four in December. During a fashion show month the players send their finished collections of designs to all fashion shows taking place in that month, and so the collections will have to compete in more and more fashion shows the older the year gets. During each fashion show, the collections of all players are compared on the following features: Quality, Trends, Public Relations and Quantity of finished designs, and the question on which feature the comparison is made is solved by a look on the fashion show card where a ranked list of all four features is given. Players winning in a feature will be assigned Star Points, and apart from increasing the sales value of the player's collection these points will be transferred into company value which will count towards winning the game.

During March, all four features listed on the one available fashion show card are compared in downwards order, with most Star Points being awarded for the winner who is best in the first feature and the lowest amount of Star Points assigned to the winner of the fourth and last feature. The situation changes over the year in so far as the number of fashion shows increases by one each quarter, but the number of compared features decreases by one each quarter. So, the two fashion shows in June only are compared on the first three features, the three fashion shows in September only on the first two features, and the four fashion shows at year's end only on the first feature listed on each fashion show card.

At this point we are finally touching the centrepiece of Pret-A-Porter, since the changing composition of fashion shows and features upon which the collections are compared is rather important for the strategic impact of the game. At the end of a fashion show month each player sells the collection of designs which he has sent to the shows, meaning that he looses all these designs but gains a nice income which can be increased even more if the player earned some Star Points at the shows. However, the loss of the designs means that the players always have to plan ahead for the following fashion shows, because it would be disastrous to start into the next two preparation months nearly empty-handed. The possession of matching employees and buildings is indispensable at this point, because the effects created by such cards give the players many possibilities to increase their company performance.

However, as the year goes by, competition between the players gets ever harder because the fashion show cards which were revealed for September and December actually might bring a shift of emphasis towards specific collection features. During March, the single fashion show brought a competition for all four different collection features - even though each feature had a different importance. However, at the end of the year the single feature which will be compared might be the same for two or more fashion shows, and so the second half of the year usually will increase player competition for design cards matching the demand of the year's end shows. In addition, all four fashion shows at year's end will award a high amount of Star Points for players winning these competitions, and so author Ignacy Trzewiczek succeeded in building up a nice arc of suspense for the course of the game.

The game contains many set screws which the players may try to manipulate to their own ends, and the well constructed rules allow for different approaches. To allow different ways of financing, the game includes an interesting system of bank credits and private loans which stand at the disposal of the players, but the cheaper bank credits are based on the size of the players' collections since the banks need securities for their money (what a surprise!!!). A private loan on the other hand can be undertaken at any time during the game, but it is much more expensive to pay back and so usually is avoided. Another interesting twist is the Preparations action on the gameboard. It is the last board action which is played each month, and since the players can choose between different benefits here the action often is chosen to bring along some last-minute changes for an upcoming fashion show month. However, this is the only action which is dealt with in a backwards player order, and so players who have placed their token early may act after later players and thus counterbalance a disagreeable action.

There are quite a few different ways available for the players to gain the desired Quality, Trends and Public Relations tokens which are needed to compete in fashion shows, and here yet another strength of the game appears because the players are not purely depending on gaining the right employees, buildings and contracts. While the sheer choice of cards helps, there are other ways to gain such tokens (quality from manufacturers, Public Relations from a Preparations action etc.), and so the players remain masters of their own fates if they are able to keep a good timing.

Overall, the rules of Pret-A-Porter are very rich in content and promise some quite interesting competitions at the vanity fair of the world of fashion, and even players who have nothing in common with the world of designers should be tempted to give this game a try!

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany