Showmanager is a game of producing Broadway and off-Broadway shows. The players put together four shows in any order. The four shows are Wolf (which has three roles available), Queenie (four roles), King Lear (five roles), and Ballet (six roles). Each player is going to put on each of these shows, and score points depending on how much better or worse your version is than the other players' versions.
You start the game with four shows to put on a sum of money to hire performers with. Four actors are turned face up onto the performers-for-hire board - the rightmost one is desperate for work and you can have him/her for free. The next one to the left costs 1,000 DM to hire, the next one 2,000 DM, and the left-most one 3,000 DM. On your turn you may hire any one performer you wish - or spend 2,000 DM to clear the board and bring out four new actors. Once you select one, those to the left of that empty space all move one space to the right, and a new actor is placed in the 3,000 DM slot.
Play continues around the board - on your turn you can either hire an actor or put on a show. You may not simply grab all the best actors for every show and save them all to the end, however. The game forces you to focus on one show by a simple rule: when you open a show, you may not carry more than two actors in your hand after playing the cast for the opened show. Thus, if you want to open Wolf, you'll have to do it with five or fewer cards in your hand. Once you've hired that sixth performer, you'll have to wait to do Wolf until you've opened something else first ...
Once you open a show, you write your total value (points of all the actors) on the card, and place it on the show board. If you are the first to open a show, you pick which city it opens in. If someone else has opened the same show earlier, you must put your musical on in the same city. There are five different cities (so one won't get a show) with different scoring values. If you think your show is very good, open in New York or Hamburg. If you think you have a poor show, open in Troisdorf or Bochum. (You could have a very poor show if you have to use an actor not suited to a role, by the way: zero points for someone not rated in a role, unless it's a provincial actor, who gives 1 point for any role at all.)
The six slots in New York are rated from 0 to 22 Victory Points. As a show is opened in New York, it gets placed in order by its value (with an earlier show winning ties). Thus, if my show is worth 18 points and I open New York, I put it in the top spot: 22 Victory Points. If you then open the same show with 19 points, you take my 22 VP slot and slide me down to the 16 VP slot. If a third person opens the show with 15 points, we both retain our top slots, and the third show goes in the third slot for 10 VP. And so on. The six slots in Troisdorf are rated from 4 to 14 VPs, by the way - I guess they're so starved for theater there they're not so fussy, but nor do they pay as much as New Yorkers.
The game plays very well, and it's better with more players than fewer. It moves at a good pace, so even with six players you're never waiting for your turn too long. It's a resource management game with lots of interesting choices - do you spend your money to get those expensive actors, or go for the cheaper ones, saving money for special occasions? You can hold two actors between shows - do you grab a 9-point star for a show you're not working on now, hoping to use him later, or are you wasting your time and money doing that? Someone else is going head-to-head with you to open the same show, and seems to be grabbing the best actors - do you just open it quickly with a low score in order to place it in Troisdorf or do you fight to the last? The game has lots of interesting choices with a good pace, and takes just over an hour.