A brain-burning collision of finance and fashion
In 2010, Polish designer Ignacy Trzewiczek released the first edition of Prêt-à-Porter, a complex economic strategy game which cast players as the CEOs of rival clothing companies. It was tough, taxing and intensely competitive, and quickly earned a reputation for being every bit as cutthroat as the fashion industry itself.
Now Trzewiczek has returned with a new edition, much to the delight of players who have spent years trying to get hold of the previously hard-to-find game.
The first thing that strikes you about this latest incarnation is the breathtaking box art by illustrator Kwanchai Moraiya. It exudes boldness and style – suitably enough for a game about high fashion – and the rulebook comes with the same visual flair, featuring a diverse cast of characters showing off different styles of couture on every page. It’s enough to make your mouth water before you’ve even started punching out the components.
Once you have, you’re presented with a game that’s as brainy as it is beautiful. Over the course of one in-game year, you and your opponents compete to design stylish garments, hire talented staff, buy high-quality fabrics and organise prestigious catwalk shows. Your ultimate goal is to make more money than your rivals – that requires the ability to adapt to constantly changing circumstances, always thinking two or three moves ahead.
Throughout the game you’ll dispatch your employees to take different types of actions on behalf of your company. Most of your available options involve acquiring cards representing models and managers for hire, new departments to add to your office or new designs for items of clothing.
Different cards come with different effects, letting you take new types of actions and giving you advantages over your fellow players; spotting and exploiting useful synergies between them is a huge step towards victory. Any cards that players don’t snap up during a round are discarded before the next one begins, meaning you’ll need to be quick and perceptive enough to take advantage of fleeting opportunities.
To become the world’s most prestigious design house, you’ll aim to dominate a series of fashion shows held in cities around the world. Each rewards companies for different things. Some prioritise the quality of your collections. Others reward players who manage to release a bigger range of clothes than their opponents. Some are obsessed with current trends, while others grant prestige points to the companies with the slickest PR operations. To win, you’ll need to spot the shows you stand the best chance of impressing at, while working to do as well as you can in the ones that aren’t to your advantage.
The end result is tense and stressful in all the best ways. You’ll need to constantly evaluate whether the money you spend hiring staff, training employees or developing a particular clothing line is going to provide a worthwhile return on your investment, and it’s dangerously easy to get it wrong. Prêt-à-Porter emphatically isn’t a candidate for a chilled-out game night, but it encapsulates the high stakes risk-and-reward of running a business in a way that’s often thrilling.
PLAY IT? YES
Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
Artist: Kwanchai Moriya
This review originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.