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Subject: A review of a massive game . . . rss

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NOTE: While this review discusses game play, and gives an overview of the game’s components and concepts, you will not learn to play the game by reading this review. Instead, consider this a set of thoughts and opinions after a single session and try to use my review as a roadmap to assist you in learning the game. You need to download the rulebook (found here) and study it carefully before attempting to play Android. Please keep in mind that some of the specific game rules descriptions and discussion in this review may be incorrect and I have not fully defined every term that I’ve mentioned. I have done my best to provide as clear an explanation of the game, as I understand it at this point and in the brief time that I had to write this review, but Android is too big for anyone to fully digest in one session. I have no doubt that reviews that follow in a month or two will be more accurate than this one, but I hope that I cover enough here to give you an idea of the game and some of its more unique mechanics.

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Kevin Wilson – designer behind Arkham Horror, Descent, Fury of Dracula, and the upcoming Cosmic Encounter – has teamed up with Daniel Clark to bring us the unexpected Android, a game in which the players race to build the most victory points before two weeks pass (game time, not real time) and the game ends. Billed as a dystopian murder mystery, Android is an ambitious design that presents entirely new mechanics – something rare in games – that theoretically help carry the game’s theme: namely finding the murderer.



Unfortunately, during the course of play the game is less about discovering the murderer and more about pinning the blame on one of the suspects. You see, unlike Clue in which there can be only one actual murderer in each session of the game, in Android any one of the suspects can be the killer; the players aren’t so much unraveling a mystery as they are building a lie (or, maybe, a flawed case). When the game ends the players will have identified a suspect as guilty, but there’s no real way in which we know if the guilty party is actually guilty of the crime or if the players merely built enough evidence to convict an innocent suspect of a crime which he did not actually commit. It’s a minor technicality that has no impact on the play of the game, but some players will no doubt be frustrated by this. Despite this particular quirk of the way in which the murder mystery plays out, I feel that there’s enough going on in the game – and that there is enough innovation in the design – that anyone who is a fan of Fantasy Flight’s big box games needs to give Android a chance.

Android: The Influences and Style
The game doesn’t even try to hide its influences, which is just fine with me. Looking a hell of a lot like it is set in the Blade Runner world, Android is a cyberpunk dystopia that is as much noir in attitude as it is classic sci-fi action. I think more than one player is going to appreciate “Heinlein Museum.”

In terms of visual style, the game is beautiful. Art director Zoe Robinson outdid herself on this project and everything – from the computer graphics of the gameboard by Stefan Morrell to the character art by Julie Dillon – is top-quality work. Congratulations, Zoe, for a job well done.

But you’re not here to read about art or influences, so let’s get on with it.

Android: A Lot of Pieces in a Heavy Box
Like the recently released, Battlestar Galactica (which I’ve already reviewed), Android comes packaged in a box that’s almost one-foot square and roughly three-inches deep. The first thing you will notice when you pick up the box is that this is one heavy, massive brick of game. Weighing in at roughly five-and-a-half pounds, Android definitely gives you a lot of bits, including:

Rulebook. It’s my belief that Fantasy Flight Games produces roleplaying games in boxes, which is part of the reason that so many of their rulebooks are long, complicated manuals. They’re not roleplaying games as we usually think of them but, rather, long adventure games in which each player selects a character and then travels through the game session, learning about the world and the various characters as the game progresses. This is merely just a long-winded way for me to say that yes, there is a rulebook and yes, it’s like the long rulebooks you’ll find in Arkham Horror , Descent, and Starcraft. That is, to be perfectly clear, this is a 48-page rulebook and you should not expect to crack open the box and immediately start playing the game. You can get a jump on the game, though, by hitting the Fantasy Flight website and downloading the rules in PDF. I recommend that you do this now, since reading the rules as you read this review will help you to better understand the game.

Gameboard. This large board, exactly the same size as the board included in Arkham Horror , represents locations on the Earth and the Moon where the players will travel, following up leads and amassing evidence and pieces of the conspiracy. The conspiracy; this bit of the game, represented at the start of the game on the gameboard as a single puzzle piece where players attach more pieces as they collect them, is one of the truly innovative game mechanics in the game. See below to learn what I love and hate about this part of the game.

One quick note about the puzzle piece that comes mounted to the board: mine is just slightly off, knocked maybe one or two degrees off so that it’s not perfectly square with the board. I was a little worried about this but in play there was no negative effect and the conspiracy puzzle worked out just fine (none of us ever had a question about where the conspiracy lines were going). I suspect this is a non-issue and as long as all of the boards are put together like this one then everything will be fine. If you notice your piece is slightly off don’t let it bother you.

Chipboard Tokens. If there’s one thing Fantasy Flight Games sticks in their games it’s chipboard – lots of it – and Android is no exception. Four roughly eleven-inch square sheets of chipboard will keep you busy with punching out tokens for quite a while (though, if you’re like me, you can find some people to punch out the bits while you go play another game). The bits in the game include puzzle pieces (which are part of the conspiracy), various lead tokens, vehicle range rulers, evidence tokens, alibi tokens . . . let’s just say there’s a lot of chipboard and move on. Trust me; if part of what you love in a game is a large number of tokens then Android is going to make you very happy.

Cards. You know how Arkham Horror has deck after deck after deck of cards? Android’s exactly the same way, except that this time around there aren’t any of the mini-cards like you find in Arkham Horror but, instead, every card in the game is a full-size one. There are over twenty different decks in the game, including Twilight Cards (a light and dark deck for each player), plot cards, hunch cards, event cards, and numerous special cards. Just sorting out the cards is going to take some time (be sure to grab some ziplocks when you open up Android, because you’re going to want to pre-sort all of these bits before trying to call over your group for a session).

Character, Suspect, and Murder Sheets. Again, I point you at Arkham Horror in order to describe a set of components in this game (it’s almost as if the same people were behind both games). These various sheets represent the five different characters in the game (unfortunately, information on the back of each sheet forces you to flip the sheet over, dumping the token that is used to track a character’s “twilight state,” so it would have been nicer if these had been larger and with all of the information on one side but that’s a minor complaint that can be solved if Fantasy Flight posts PDFs of the sheets to their site). The murder sheets are the setup options for each session; there are six different murder sheets in the game and I fully expect to see more, either as an expansion or downloadable PDFs. The suspect sheets are used to track evidence as the game progresses.

In addition to the character sheets, each character in the game also has a “tip sheet,” a lightweight piece of paper that provides suggested strategies for playing the character and for playing against the other characters. Read your tip sheet the first game!

Tip Sheet Example: When playing Rachel Beckmann, the character I played in the session, the tip sheet recommends picking up as many VPs throughout the game as possible because the character has a difficult time in “solving the murder or gaining points from the conspiracy.” And how! I did terrible at the game because I didn’t pay enough attention to this suggestion. As I said above, read the tip sheet!

In total, there are hundreds of different bits in the box. You definitely get your money’s worth when it comes to components. Now that you know what’s in the box, we’ll continue our review with . . .

Android: A Long Game
Before you sit down to play Android you, and the other players, need to know that this is a commitment. In the first game session yesterday the players took almost two hours just to setup the game and go over the basics of the rules. Granted, this included punching all of the bits but I feel it is vital that everyone knows just what they’re getting themselves into before sitting down to play Android. For your first session I recommend setting aside a day – start at noon and expect to play until seven or eight that night. Later games should go faster, but I don’t have any proof beyond the fact that the second game of the day took roughly three hours to complete the first week, at which point we ran through the end game and declared the game over. We’ll play again, and I expect the next session to go faster, but I do not see how we can play the game in under four or five hours, even after we’ve gained some experience with it. This is in no way negative; Arkham Horror , after all, usually takes us five or six hours and we always have fun playing it. It’s just a statement of fact that Android is a big, involved game that requires time. Those of you who enjoy big games are probably going to have no problems at all with Android but anyone who hates games like Twilight Imperium, Descent, or Arkham Horror should do themselves a favor and skip this release.

Android: Playing the Game
In his Fortress Ameritrash post discussing his first impressions about the game, game critic Michael Barnes writes: “Good god. I played a couple of sample turns and my early impression is that it is an adventure game, it's a Kevin Wilson adventure game, but it's really pushing the envelope in a lot of ways.”

Saying that it’s a “Kevin Wilson adventure game” is quite accurate. If there’s one thing that Kevin Wilson does well it’s that he builds large games that have a lot going on – both mechanically and in terms of theme and story. Android is no exception and it’s going to be easier on everyone if you just accept the fact that you’re going to get something wrong – maybe lots of things wrong – the first few rounds and maybe even the first few games. Knowing how to accept this and just play the game is one of the keys to learning and enjoying one of these big games. Trust me, everyone will have more fun if they relax, don’t stress about making mistakes, and just work their way through the rules as best they can.

Hunches
When the game starts each player is dealt two “hunch” cards: one guilty hunch and one innocent hunch. These hunch cards are kept secret and are used through the course of the game as you place evidence tokens on suspects (see below). In the “Murder 101” article at the Fantasy Flight Games website, designer Kevin Wilson gives an excellent description (and example) of hunch cards:

“These cards represent your hunches about the case, and for each of your hunches that turns out to be correct, you’ll receive some points at the end of the game. So, for example, you might receive Mark Henry’s innocent hunch and Vinnie the Strangler’s guilty hunch. If Mark Henry turns out to be innocent, you’ll receive 5 VP. If Vinnie the Strangler turns out to be guilty, you’ll receive 15 VP.”

As you play the game you want to try to push the evidence tokens to the point where the guilty suspect matches your hunch. See “Follow a lead,” below, for an overview of how evidence tokens are used. You can also check p. 20 of the rulebook (you did download the PDF, right?) for the game’s actual rules for evidence tokens.

The hunch cards are neat, but they don’t do anything except give each player secret goals and a roadmap to winning the game. But I’ll cover that more as we dig deeper into the game . . .

Turns, Days, and Time
Android is played across twelve turns, each one of which represents a single day of game time. (Why the game world has six day weeks is unclear to me, but since it’s just a game we can let go of that little oddity and move on.) On each day, every player – in turn – may spend time (basically action points) to explore and interact with the world. Time is tracked with its own play sheet and can be used to:

Move on the board. Using the vehicle ruler specific to his character (see image, below), a character may move from one location on the board to any other location that is within range. Locations are divided into two broad types – Major Locations and Minor Locations – and then further subdivided into five more general types – businesses, civic spaces, nightlife spots, religious locations, and residential spaces. Additionally, locations are divided into three qualities – Normal, which have no special rules; Ritzy, which give a character one of his “light” cards (see below) at no cost when he moves into it; and Seedy, which give a character one of any opponent’s “dark” cards (again, see below) at no cost when he moves into it.



Movement is very simple to do during the game, because of the way in which the vehicle rulers work. As the image above (a capture from the PDF of the rules) shows, not all characters move at the same speed. In addition to the five characters’ vehicle rulers there is a sixth ruler in the game, the fastest vehicle available, but it only comes up as cards are played.

Follow a lead. Scattered across the board when the game starts – their exact placement determined by the characters in the game session as well as the specific murder sheet being used this session – are a variety of lead tokens: testimony (represented by non-player character tokens), physical (represented by a fingerprint token), and document (represented by a camera token). Following a lead gives the player either evidence tokens – which are used to increase or decrease the chances of a suspect’s guilt or innocence – or pieces of the conspiracy puzzle – which allow a player to manipulate various alternate methods to scoring VPs at the end of the game.

Evidence Tokens: These are numerical values (mostly, with a few special tokens mixed in to keep things interesting) ranging from a positive value of 5 to a negative value of -4. All of the tokens on each suspect sheet are totaled at the end of the game and the suspect with the highest total is the guilty party. There are exceptions to this, and ways in which to manipulate the evidence tokens on suspects, but at its core that’s the basic mechanic that is used to determine the guilt or innocence of the various suspects. As I mentioned before, this method doesn’t actually prove definitively that a suspect was the murderer – the game doesn’t care about this at all – but is merely a creative skin wrapped around a VP scoring mechanic.

I’m not sure how I feel about this part of the game play. On the one hand, I feel a bit robbed that there’s nothing in the game that makes me feel as if I’ve actually solved a crime. On the other hand, this system does lead to cases in which players can concentrate on their specific hunches and not worry about a situation in which the game sets up a “true” killer while providing them with misleading hunches. I fully suspect that this aspect of the game is going to lead to arguments amongst players, groups, and online discussions.

Kevin Wilson weighed in on this unusual situation – specifically, the fact that the players aren’t actually solving a crime – in a post at Fortress Ameritrash where he says:

“When I was first looking at mechanics for the murder, I looked at the traditional 'deductive' mechanics in games like Clue and such, but I never saw one that actually felt deductive to me. They're more like bad logic puzzles / shopping lists where you tick off possibilities until you're left with only one possible solution, and I've always disliked that type of mechanic. Mystery in the Abbey pulls it off with a reasonable amount of style, but I was looking for something that felt different.”

(I’ve finally picked up a copy of Mystery of the Abbey but I’ve yet to play it. I need to grab some players in Austin and give this game a shot. Anyway, back to Kevin.)

“After some experimentation, I wound up going with something that's a bit more like poker or Top Secret Spies. It plays off the dual role for the player, in that you're both playing a detective and a sort of director trying to build a dramatic movie centered around your detective. You can imagine either that your detective is framing someone, or that he's finding evidence that happens to advance the story in the way the 'director' wants. I guess coming from an RPG background, it doesn't bother me any to have the players directing which way the story turns out, and I like the noir qualities of deciding whether your detective is honest or not with his evidence.”

I’m not surprised at all about Kevin mentioning his background in roleplaying games since, as I said above, a lot of these giant games that he designs feel like roleplaying games in a box rather than just a simple boardgame. Arkham Horror often gives me a sense of story – as the various plot lines and events play out – but as I read through the cards in Android I can see where Android takes the idea even further than Arkham Horror : it’s going to take several plays before a player uncovers all of the stories that are hidden inside Android.

But I’m going off on a tangent here. The evidence mechanic, and determination of innocence or guilt, is clever but leaves me wanting more out of the game. As we placed evidence tokens as the game progressed I started to realize that I wasn’t going to uncover the killer. As you can no doubt tell by my struggling with writing my thoughts on this (important) part of the game, I’m torn between wanting to like this mechanic and wishing for something more. In going back to Kevin’s post, I think he sums it up well when he says:

“It's a bit artsy, I admit, but I think that it makes for some compelling gameplay and helps to make Android something that is quite different from the games already on the market.”

Conspiracy Pieces: If evidence tokens were the only thing you could do with leads then the game would be complicated enough for most players’ first play but, as I’ve already mentioned, you are also dealing with the conspiracy puzzle. When a player draws a piece of the conspiracy puzzle he draws from one of three stacks of puzzle pieces – shift pieces, favor pieces, or baggage pieces– and adds the puzzle piece to the central piece on the gameboard (see the image, below).



When you place pieces, connecting them to the existing puzzle piece, you’re building links to the eight boxes around the edges of the puzzle section on the board. At the end of the game the boxes that connect to the center of the conspiracy affect how different tokens collected throughout the game are scored. In his article “Uncovering the Conspiracy” at the Fantasy Flight Games website, designer Kevin Wilson writes

“In Android, uncovering the conspiracy delivers a number of handy paychecks to the players in the form of both Victory Points and resources. A player can earn anything from emotional baggage (handy for dealing with those pesky personal demons) to dropship passes (used to jump around the map) while investigating the conspiracy. VP rewards are earned when a player completes a row, column, or diagonal consisting of 5 puzzle pieces, although that can be a tricky proposition without some careful planning.”

If you have any doubt at all as to the game’s overall goal, let me tell you that your one and only objective when playing the game is to collect as many VPs as necessary. Uncovering the conspiracy, as with determining the guilt or innocence of the various suspects, is just another way in which you score VPs. In fact, there’s so much going on – and so many ways in which VPs can be scored at the end of the game – that some of the players in our game felt overwhelmed. Again, I reiterate the fact that you’re going to make mistakes your first few games. Accept that and move on. I truly want to play this several more times, since I believe that the game is going to play faster and faster with experience.

Using the pieces for more than just the conspiracy. As mentioned, there are three types of pieces. These are:

Shift Pieces: When a player draws one of these pieces he may light or dark shift any character in play. (Which is a neat resource mechanic that reflects the changing emotions of the characters as the game progresses.) Shifting is part of the playing cards, see below.

Favor Pieces: Favors are a type of currency in the game and when a player draws one of these pieces he also selects one free favor of any type. Notice in the conspiracy image below that favors, when certain boxes are connected to the conspiracy, affect VPs.

Baggage Pieces: As with twilight and light/dark, baggage is a part of the emotions and story behind characters. Keep reading to learn about how baggage works.

This more than any other part of the game is a cool, unique mechanic and one that I’ve never seen before. As Barnes puts it in his Fortress Ameritrash post: “The puzzle mechanic to visualize conspiracies is pretty genius.”

If you only play Android once, or if you have any interest at all in designing games, I recommend that you take a close look at the conspiracy mechanic. Again, it doesn’t exactly act as anything more than an elaborate scoring mechanic – you aren’t actually uncovering a set conspiracy but, rather, manipulating strands on the board to point to boxes around the edge that will best help you score VPs at the end of the game – but it’s creative and I can see where someone is going to step in and build a new game that uses this basic idea as the central mechanic. If for no other reason than this puzzle mechanic, Kevin deserves to be congratulated for his efforts with Android (and Fantasy Flight Games should be commended for taking a chance on such a unique mechanic).

Draw or discard a card. Remember, we’re still talking about what you can do on your turn and spending Time. (Sorry about that long diversion into evidence and the conspiracy, but this is a giant game and it’s still settling into my brain so there are bound to be a few more leaps off of the mental track as I try to put my thoughts – and a basic overview of the game – into a format that can be read.)

Players draw light twilight cards (basically, good cards) for their character and dark twilight cards (bad cards) for the opposing characters. Light cards are played on your turn and dark cards are played on an opponent’s turn (one of the dark cards for Rachel Beckmann reads: “Play when Rachel enters a location. Rachel loses 2 Time.” This means that the character can take fewer actions that turn.

Playing a light card costs time – 1 Time – and also a “shift” cost (see image, below). A card’s shift cost is either a dark shift (for playing a light card) or a light shift (when playing a dark card) which requires the player to move the token left or right as appropriate on his character’s shift track.



There are ways in which the cost can be modified (depending on the plot card in play or by discarding cards), but basically a character must be able to pay the shift cost in order to play a card. This concept threw some of us during the game but, after two or three rounds, I think everyone completely understood how shift costs work.

Dark cards do not have a time cost (since they are only played on another player’s turn).

Get a jump on the case. As with many games from Fantasy Flight, Android uses a “first player marker” to track the start and end of game turns (known as days in this particular game). Even though we never used this mechanic in our game – no one ever found a reason to do this, but I suspect that’s because we were learning the game and overlooked something – a player can shift the first player marker to himself by visiting the scene of the crime (the location on the board where the corpse token is placed at the start of the game). As we were packing up the game more than one player commented that he never saw a reason to visit the scene of the crime; in fact most of the players at the table thought that this was unusual since a game about solving a murder never required a character to actually visit the corpse.

Use a location’s ability. Finally, you can use Time to activate an ability at one of the “major locations” on the gameboard. Flip back to your browser tab where the Android rulebook is waiting for you and jump to page 46 (or, if you’re lazy, take a look at the image below). Take a look at “Broadcast Square,” the first location on the page. The icon with the “1” in the blue circle is the Time cost to use this location’s ability; by spending 1 Time and any 1 Favor token a player selects a puzzle piece and plays it to the conspiracy.



In total there are sixteen different locations on the gameboard with special abilities. I don’t think we used even half of them our first game, but a lot of that (as I’ve said many times) was likely because we were learning the game. Looking at the various abilities now that I’ve played the game I can see where I should have paid closer attention to the board and spent less time chasing leads and more time activating board abilities.

Ending the Day
As soon as each player has taken a turn then the day marker advances one step and the players perform the “End of Day” steps described on p. 15 of the rulebook. It is at this point that the first player token may change hands (as discussed above) and, during some days, when a “General Event” is played or a “Plot” is resolved.

General Events. Arkham Horror fans should think of these as Mythos cards. When a general event card is revealed it provides instructions that progress the game’s story. For example, the card “Director Haas is Touring the Facilities” reads: “Move Director Haas to Haas-Bioriod (D7). Any detective who uses Haas-Bioroid’s location ability while Director Haas is there gains an extra Haas token.” Haas tokens, for those of you at home, are worth VPs. Remember, you want to collect as many VPs as possible in order to win the game.

Plots. At the start of the game each player randomly selects one plot card from his set of plots. These plots twist and turn around the individual characters, building stories within stories. At the end of some days (shown on the day track), plots are “resolved;” the player identifies whether or not he has more good or bad baggage on a particular plot which, in true “Choose Your Own Adventure” fashion, determines the next step in this particular plotline. Plots built to conclusions, which include bonus or negative VPs. (VPs again, yes.)

Baggage. Baggage is an interesting mechanic, since it represents positive and negative emotions and baggage accumulates on characters as the game progresses. Kevin Wilson’s article, “Confronting Your Inner Demons,” at the Fantasy Flight Games website goes into some detail on baggage and is well worth reading.

I didn’t quite grasp the idea of baggage until the first plot resolution phase, at which point I started trying to pay more attention to opportunities to gain good baggage. (There don’t appear to be many of them; from what I can tell this is a very depressing environment and it is much easier for things to go bad for a character than it is for anything good to happen.) When you play your first session, don’t forget to keep a close eye on baggage and use whatever effects you can – notably puzzle pieces and a couple of the major locations on the gameboard – to pump up your good baggage. Don’t worry about the bad baggage, since the other players will find ways to dump bad baggage on your plot.

Another day now starts. At the end of the twelfth day the game ends and everything is scored. The article “Murder 101” on the Fantasy Flight Games website gives a good overview of the scoring mechanic of suspects, and I’ve already given a little information on scoring the conspiracy at the end of the game, so rather than go through the step-by-step process of scoring I’m going to wrap up this (long) review with my final thoughts on the game after a single session.

Android: The Game is Amazing and Frustrating all at the Same Time
I think I’ve mentioned it a few times already (okay, I know I’ve mentioned it), but Android is a massive game, not just to design (I can’t begin to imagine how many man-hours of time went into designing and playtesting the game) but also to learn and play. Expect to spend anywhere from five to ten hours playing through your first session, and expect that you’ll do something very wrong and not even realize it.

Amazing
Android is an amazing game for a number of reasons, including:

* Fantasy Flight Games managed to successfully build a giant new game in secret and get it to within weeks of release without word leaking to the public. Considering how many people were involved in the game, and how game distribution works, this is remarkable. From a purely professional point of view I’m going to keep a very close eye on Android; if this type of launch does well for Fantasy Flight Games then I expect to see other publishers follow the same tactic.

* The conspiracy mechanic is fresh and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Giving players multiple ways in which they can influence the game’s story, and build VPs, means that no two games will ever be the same. When combined with the suspect/evidence mechanics, players can construct games in which The Media, James Levy, and Commissioner Dawn all worked together with Eve 5VA3TC to commit the crime. Sure that isn’t what really happened behind the scenes, but it makes for an entertaining ending to the game.

* There are stories hiding inside the card decks. The “Choose Your Own Adventure” approach to the plot lines, as well as the snippets of flavor text on every card, really bring across the feel of the world. In fact, it’s almost sad that so much of the game’s flavor is spread across all of the cards, since no one player during the course of a game will get to enjoy every part of the world. Still, this is also a benefit since every time a player selects a different character at the start of the game he gets a look at a different part of the constructed world.

* The game’s production and component qualities are excellent. This is a high-quality game that is every bit as good as any of Fantasy Flight’s recent releases; if you’re a component snob (as I’ve been accused of being) then you’re going to be very happy with Android.

Frustrating
Why is the game frustrating? There are a few key reasons, which are:

* Euro-scoring hidden inside an awesome theme. Barnes’ post at Fortress Ameritrash nails it when he says: “There's no set murderer at the beginning of the game and who it is develops over time and isn't really resolved until the end of the game via a complex and strangely convoluted resolution system . . .” I’m already growing to accept this, and understand the reasoning behind avoiding a Clue-like mechanic, even since I started writing this review, but it still gnaws at my mind. I think what annoys me the most about the scoring system is that, during our session, I realized: “This game would be great on a computer.” Complex scoring systems get me down (which is part of the reason that I almost exclusively play Carcassonne on the Xbox these days).

* One too many things to keep track of. Or, maybe, two or three too many things to keep track of. Android makes no attempt to dumb down the system and there are layers of choices built on top of the game’s Time track foundation. If you have a player in your group who suffers from analysis paralysis then do not allow him to play this game. On your turn you have to decide where to move, which leads to follow, how to use those leads, where to place evidence tokens or puzzle pieces, whether or not to draw, discard, or play cards, and . . . well, the list keeps building. I’m hoping that Fantasy Flight will post some summary sheets, since those would be a great help during the game.

* Long. To be fair, I think that the reason our game was so long was the fact that we were learning the game and, as each turn passed, uncovering some new subtle rule that changed what we wanted to do. This entry may very well be stricken from my list after another session or two but I’m fairly confident that the first thing people will think after their first session is that the game is long.

I know this review doesn’t properly cover everything that can be found in the box – or in the rulebook, for that matter – but I hope that you at least have a feel for how the game works and some idea as to what to watch for when sitting down to play. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a unique new design and one that Kevin, Daniel, and the crew at Fantasy Flight should be proud of. I don’t ever see this becoming one of my favorite games but, as with Arkham Horror , I can see this becoming one of those games that we drag out two or three times a year for a marathon session.

If you have any questions at all about the game please ask. I’ll do my best to answer questions but, as with any reviewer, I only have so much knowledge about the game and there’s an excellent chance that someone more knowledgeable will step up and give a better answer.

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James Hemsley
United States
Palatine
Illinois
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I haven't read the review yet, but I wanted to say "Thank you" up front. I'm really looking forward to reading this!

--James

Edit: Wow! Great review! I appreciated your take on the positives and negatives of the game. This looks like something I'm really interested in trying out and if I have fun with it, possibly owning!

--James
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Brian Peters
United States
Iowa
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It's time to go Full Chort.
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‎"NO FATE BUT THE NARRATIVES WE IMPOSE ON LIFE'S RANDOM CHAOS TO DISTRACT OURSELVES FROM OUR EXISTENTIAL PLIGHT"
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I succumbed to temptation and placed an order for this before your review went up. I suppose if I read your review and change my mind I can probably still cancel it.
But so far, after reading the summary, I don't think I'm going to change my mind. One of my friends does get AP pretty bad, but we're used to it, and he's used to our mantra of "Whatever you do, do something."
I'm not sure how I feel about there being no predetermined murderer. I like the idea of a truly deductive, investigative game, but I also like the idea of crafting the story of the events through play.

Anyway, thanks for this review.
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Thank you, Phil, for your excellent review! What's your take on whether or not this game could be played with only two players? Do you think it could be done with some minor tweaking or is it out of the question? Thanks.
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Philip Reed
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bjorndog wrote:
Thank you, Phil, for your excellent review! What's your take on whether or not this game could be played with only two players? Do you think it could be done with some minor tweaking or is it out of the question? Thanks.


My wife and I were talking about the game this morning (she was in the second game, the one I played in, yesterday) and she didn't think it would work with two-players. I disagree; I think that the game may work for two without any changes at all. I think it's at least worth trying since you should be able to tell within a few rounds if it's working or not.
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Jonathan
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I'm glad I held off on buying this today and went with Cosmic Encounter instead. The long play time and unusual murderer dynamic are both potential turn-offs. I'll definitely try Android before I buy it.
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Brian Peters
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bjorndog wrote:
Thank you, Phil, for your excellent review! What's your take on whether or not this game could be played with only two players? Do you think it could be done with some minor tweaking or is it out of the question? Thanks.

I haven't played this game, but I believe I've read in other threads here on BGG that one of the main reasons it isn't "officially" playable with 2 is that it was never playtested with two and thus FFG didn't feel confident enough in it as a 2 player game to put it on the box, but that there probably isn't any reason the game would completely "break."
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fnord3125 wrote:
I haven't played this game, but I believe I've read in other threads here on BGG that one of the main reasons it isn't "officially" playable with 2 is that it was never playtested with two and thus FFG didn't feel confident enough in it as a 2 player game to put it on the box, but that there probably isn't any reason the game would completely "break."


That makes perfect sense. While I was going over the components again today I couldn't spot any obvious reason why the game wouldn't work with two. Solitaire won't work, but two-player looks like it would work just fine (and would likely play quite a bit faster).
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jmw23 wrote:
The long play time and unusual murderer dynamic are both potential turn-offs.


Potentially, yes, but if you're a fan of Arkham Horror and would like a competitive game with a lot of story you should give this a try. The plot cards -- which I didn't properly address in the review -- have some ways to change the way each session will turn out.
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Brian Peters
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*snort* Oh yeah. There's a whole thread here for discussing playing with two players. It just got bumped off the first page of threads by this post. That's where I saw the claims I mentioned.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/360112
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Justin De Witt
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Wow, nice review Phil. You put a lot of work into this and now I know what you did all day Sunday!

I'm going to post a seperate review with my impressions of our game, but this is a great summary of a huge game and you covered just about everything there is. This should be really helpful to a lot of people.
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jeston wrote:
Wow, nice review Phil. You put a lot of work into this and now I know what you did all day Sunday!


Not quite all day; Gina and I went for about a four-mile walk this morning so that cut into some writing time.


jeston wrote:
I'm going to post a seperate review with my impressions of our game, but this is a great summary of a huge game and you covered just about everything there is. This should be really helpful to a lot of people.


I'll keep my eyes open for that. I know you didn't enjoy the game all that much so I'm curious to see what you think about it after it has had time to settle into your brain.
 
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Sean McQ
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Jolly good Phil. My hat's off to you sir for an outstanding piece of work. Take the rest of the week off, and enjoy your game. Thanks to you I can't wait to get my hands on this one
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Fine review. I'm really excited to see a serious treatment of the theme, and suspected I'd have to buy it the first time I heard of it. You've done nothing to change my mind.
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Chris D'Andrea
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GREAT Review!! I didn't think I could want the game any more then before I read your review. Now I MUST get it!
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Got two game tables and a microphone
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Well, the geek froze up while I was modding this review, so I don't know if you saw my comments.

One of the few fives I have given for a review. Remarkable for a first play review; I geekbuddied you because of it.
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Matt Tonks
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PhilReed wrote:
Android comes packaged in a box that’s almost one-foot square and roughly three-inches deep. The first thing you will notice when you pick up the box is that this is one heavy, massive brick of game. Weighing in at roughly five-and-a-half pounds, Android definitely gives you a lot of bits...


Huh? That sounds like a Tannhauser-sized box, rather than a Battlestar Galatica/Arkham Horror sized box...?
 
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mojo shivers
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Kickass review. This game has been on my radar for a few weeks now and this review has only made me want to give fnord it a test spin even more.
 
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Mat zo
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Funny that "bulding the case" is bothering you so much.


For me the player isn't the detective.

Here you are the director AND the detective.

When YOU play a evidence against a suspect, the evidence can be real for your detective in the game world.

In the same idea, when you play a dark card against an opponent, isn't your detective who play this bad experience to an other, but YOU the player/director against the character of another player.

Good cops and Bad murderer is the common way to play and feel a "murder mystery board game".

I think it's very interesting that a game stop talking to us about good and bad and send us to a world full of grey,

And like Roy Batty say it in Blade Runner : "Not very sporting to fire on an unarmed opponent. I thought you were supposed to be good. Aren't you the "good" man? C'mon, Deckard. Show me what you're made of."
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tonksey wrote:
Huh? That sounds like a Tannhauser-sized box, rather than a Battlestar Galatica/Arkham Horror sized box...?


Actually, I'm pretty sure Tannhauser is a 14-inch-square box.

 
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Heliconia wrote:
Jolly good Phil. My hat's off to you sir for an outstanding piece of work. Take the rest of the week off, and enjoy your game.


Thank you. Unfortunately, the office is only open for two more weeks so I have to be in there every day as we try to get some products off to the printer before Christmas. I am scheduled to get off from December 20 to January 4, though, so I should get some time to relax then.
 
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Mikkel Øberg
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Excellent review Mr. Reed, outstanding work.

And as a note: I've also given up on Carcassonne apart from Xbox
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daveroswell wrote:
Well, the geek froze up while I was modding this review, so I don't know if you saw my comments.

One of the few fives I have given for a review. Remarkable for a first play review; I geekbuddied you because of it.


There were no comments so thanks for jumping in here to let me know what you thought of it. I hope the review proves useful, but I can't shake the feeling that should have spent more time on my impressions of the game and less on some of the rules details. (Though most of the details I hit were ones that gave us trouble, so I hope that by discussing them here anyone who reads the review will have an easier first session than we did.)

 
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Lexingtonian
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I agree with Mat that you're not trying to frame someone. I think in this game the players aren't just taking on the personae of the characters. They're also narrators building the story and determining the criminal through gameplay. In this way, the game is similar to the Mystery Rummy games. Though I suppose the chance of wrongly accusing someone might fit the theme, too.
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Darrell Hanning
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I'm working on a mystery, myself: How Kevin Wilson can be considered the designer of Cosmic Encounter, when it was already designed over thirty years ago by Bill Eberle, Bill Norton, Jack Kittredge, and Peter Olotka.
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