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Rules? You want the Rules? You can’t handle the Rules!

by on 20 December 2013

There have been a lot of changes here behind the curtains at FFL Towers and we wanted to explain the changes to both the rules and more broadly, how the game has changed.

We’re in no way finished with the website and there are lots more features to come so, first off, thank you for joining in at the early stages of the game.  The rules won’t change now for a while but extra features and data will become available over the coming year.

The idea behind the changes we have made has been from an attempt to make the game easier and at the same time more complicated.

Let me explain that: For some they want a nice simple game they can play against friends and as a result we’ve strived to make the selection and entry of a fantasy film as easy as possible.

Then we’ve added in a few more layers of complexity for the more involved players.  You don’t need to know anything about these layers to play or indeed win the game but they are there if you want them.

This is the direction we always wanted to take the FFL and when we started to look into it we quickly decided that there was no way we could make the existing system (“Skynet”) do this. So we took the difficult decision to take the game offline for nearly a year to rebuild it from the ground up with the new system, “WOPR”. The downside of this is that there was no game to play but the upside is that the engine Mr Smith has built now is far more robust and adaptable for our future plans…

The second issue we had previously was with the scores. Now, getting reliable data on the box office performance of the US and UK markets is actually quite easy.  Getting it at the same time or even day on a weekly basis? Not so much.

We’ve switched the data source to a more reliable one and we’ve built WOPR to be able to handle scoring out of sequence. This sounds minor but it allows us to retroactively fix things without screwing up all the data. The next major upgrade is that WOPR will scans the box office results and ensure the actors in it are correct.  This works extremely well (99% of the time) so the manual linking of people to films by us mere humans has dropped dramatically.

So enough about the changes. As and when they arrive we’ll mention them on the site and the podcast. On to the rules:

You have 50 million Fufflebucks (Fb) to play. With a quick glance at the price list you’ll see that the cost of directors has dropped a lot. Directors tend to only make one film a year and unless they win the Oscar they did not have much chance of breaking even, so we have tweaked the price. We constantly monitor the earnings versus price for everyone on the list and the prices of the stars will be adjusted as we go along. Currently it’s about once every 3 months.

So here below is everything you need to know about entering your cast and how the whole game works. Without further ado please go ahead and ask your questions.

So what are the rules for playing the Fantasy Film League?

If you’re a player from last year, welcome back! As mentioned above we’ve tweaked the system slightly but if you are a new player don’t worry, the FFL is as easy and simple to play as you want it to be. There are a few more tactical options if you are out to win the top spot but essentially it’s the same game.

I’m like a producer or something, right?

Yes, the Fantasy Film League allows you to play the part of a producer, with your in-game budget of 50 million Fufflebucks (Fb) you simply create your movie by deciding who you want in it. You have ten slots in your movie but you do not need to fill them all up. You can choose actors and directors to fill up your roster. You are not limited to a certain number of each. You can have ten directors or ten actors in there if you want. All you have to keep in mind is that you cannot spend more than your 50m Fb.

Then all you have to do is name your film — but please keep it clean people, kids play this game! — and you are ready to play.

I want Chris Hemsworth and I’ve got a clever film based pun as a title. Let’s do this!

Go for it! It’s actually that simple. Maybe pick a few more people than Chris, though. He’s 15m Fb so you can spend a bit more if you like.

I’m ready. How do I make money?

Once you’re up and running and your film is submitted then each time a member of your cast appears in (or directs) a film that appears in the top ten US and/or UK box office, your fantasy film makes money. It’s pretty straightforward.

The winner is the player with the most money.

Here’s some small print:

  1. You must not exceed your budget of 50m Fb when buying your actors and directors.
  2. You do not have to spend all of your money; any cash not spent will go toward your starting score.
  3. The scoring system is based solely on US and UK box office performance.
  4. Rental releases or other country’s box offices are not counted.

Just the US and UK? I live in {insert other country}! That’s not fair!

We chose the US box office as almost all blockbuster films are released there first and Hollywood is arguably the centre of the film world. We’ve added the UK box office to allow for transatlantic success (and failures) plus indie films do better in the UK than the US so your lower priced cast members may actually score very big there for you. We did toy with the idea of adding in more international box office scores but the price list and scoring system would get very complicated very quickly and the amount of data would overwhelm us.

Essentially we score on the films that most of us will actually go to the local cinema screens to see and the price list (currently just over 600 names) will have people in there that even the most casual cinema-goer will recognise. We want to keep the game as easy and accessible as possible but with extra additions there will be options for the more “complex” player.

That seems pretty straightforward, up to ten slots for actors and directors… so any tips on cast selection?

Well it’s your cast and you should feel free to choose whoever you want but from my experience:

Although you don’t have to spend all your budget on your cast, picking a low-cost cast may net you a lead early on but if they are not scoring big in the box office you will fall behind. Try to get a balance of mega-stars, up-and-comings and solid performers. There are a few hidden gems in the price list.

Try not to pick actors who appear in the same film. Sometimes it will work and earn you loads of money, but if the film flops you can be stuck with a cast who won’t release any other films for a while. Also, it gives you a greater chance to earn cash the more film genres you cover.

People have a tendency to buy stars they fancy. This is fine, it is the Fantasy Film League after all, but if they have a questionable track record then steer clear. It may not be worth it.

Remember, this game is based only on US and UK box office performances.

What if my director is also acts in the same film? Do I score double?!

Not any more, sorry. If your chosen director, for example Clint Eastwood, turns up in Dirty Harry: The Next Generation as an actor and a director, you score just once. It simply comes down to whether someone appears in a film, not whether they are cast or crew… or both.

(In the old system we had a rule that if your chosen director appeared in a film as an actor he would score half points for acting. Likewise if you had an actor who directed a film he would score half points as a director. This in no longer the case. The reason we changed this was because we found that only about five directors were regularly chosen in the old game and we felt it was a waste of a slot.)

That seems fair. So how do I make money from my fantasy film?

Actors and directors make money for your fantasy film by appearing in or directing a real life movie. But just like in real life they don’t make the same amount of money by starring or co-starring in a film. The exact amount of money is determined firstly by the position of your fantasy film member in the actual film, then by the position of the actual film in the box office top ten. The higher up the box office chart, the more money the member makes for your fantasy film.

The star of the movie makes more than the supporting cast? How’s that worked out?

In real life all the actors appearing in a given movie are not paid exactly the same amount of money. This is reflected in the game; the position of your star in a real movie’s cast list affects how much money they make for your fantasy film. So a George Clooney will cost you a lot more than an Adam Sandberg but he’ll usually appear much higher up the cast list and so bring in more money.

Stars appearing in the top two positions of a real movie’s cast list are referred to as “top billing” for that film. For scoring purposes, directors also fall into this category. Everyone else in the film is referred to as “supporting cast”.

There will always be exceptions to these rules and in these cases the FFL team’s decision is final. For example, a film with an ensemble cast may all score as supporting cast.

This can be a big deal for some players and we get a lot of email appealing our decisions. Sometimes we have to make a guess on a movie before we have seen it so occasionally (and I mean really ocassionally) we may make a change.

A star’s exact earnings, according to the movie’s chart position and their billing in that movie, can be determined from the following table:

Position Top Billing (Fb) Supporting Cast (Fb)
1 1,500,000 750,000
2 1,300,000 650,000
3 1,115,000 557,500
4 945,000 472,500
5 790,000 395,000
6 650,000 325,000
7 525,000 262,500
8 415,000 207,500
9 320,000 160,000
10 240,000 120,000

Wait, wasn’t there a third category?

There was. It was called “Hey Isn’t That…?” and covered cameos and minor supporting cast but it got very difficult to distinguish between supporting cast and “HITs” so we got rid of it.

Any other scoring things I need to know about?

Yes there are a few important ones:

1. All animated film cast members are counted as supporting cast, or “How to Train Your Dragon nearly broke SkyNet”.

This is a big one. A few years ago we had a serious bump because of How to Train Your Dragon, a very popular kids’ film. It hung around in both box offices for months and as a result Jay Baruchel was one of the most profitable stars the system has ever seen. This seriously skewed the FFL results for anyone who had a cast member in their fantasy film. This was great if you had them in your cast but it did not reflect the reality of the situation. Ultimately How to Train your Dragon made just under $500m (in real world money!) over its release, which is very good but its score in the FFL was disproportionally high. As a result we have decided to normalise this by treating all cast members of animated films as supporting cast. This lessens the impact of the films and means that their scores line up.

2. Re-released films count.

If a film is re-released (for example a 30 year old, remastered, 3D cash-in) it will count fully. This is a change from last time where we did not count them. A recent example is the re-release of Star Wars I, II and III in 3D. They did not perform very well (which I was very pleased about) but if they make it into either box office they will score.

Is that everything?

That’s it. It’s that easy! So pick your cast and watch them make you millions. Please note: Fufflebucks are not usable as real currency.

Back to the game!

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