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Subject: Another take on Android rss

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Justin De Witt
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I was one of the players fortunate enough to be invited to play Android with Phil Reed this weekend. Phil’s review is excellent and goes into an amazing amount of detail, http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/361770 I highly recommend reading his review for the details of the game.

Rather than duplicate what his review already did, my review is going to be more focused on my impressions after playing the game once and helping teach it to a second group later that day.

Let me preface this review with some information about me. I had deliberately not read anything about the game before hand, but I knew it had a sci-fi, Blade Runner feel and revolved around solving a murder. Also, I’m a big Fantasy Flight fan, Arkham Horror is one of my all time favorite epic games, but I tend to prefer simpler games ranging from things like Wings of War to Pandemic.

With that said, I was one of the volunteers/suckers that started punching out the pieces and going over the rules.

First Impressions:
Let me emphasize what Phil said in his review, this game comes with a TON of pieces. Seriously, the first 7 pages of the rulebook are just listing and describing all the pieces in the game. It’s a huge game as well. Think Arkham Horror plus an expansion or 2 and you’ll get an idea for the size table you will need to play this game. The components are of great quality and the art is very sleek. The gang at FFG did a great job making this game look cool and you definitely feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.

Figuring out what all those pieces do and where they go will take you some time at first. With 5 very experienced gamers working together it still took us about 2 hours to punch out, setup and read through the rules enough to where we were ready to start the game. One of the players actually left the game and let another person take her place after about an hour, it was just too much for her.


Game Play:
Once we got started playing things began to make more sense. As always, things sometimes seem harder in a rulebook than they are once you start playing. Movement and time tracking were fairly simple and once we ran through the process of following up leads, and placing evidence tokens that began to make sense as well.

What also became clear was that there is a LOT going on in this game. Android isn’t just huge in terms of physical space, it’s huge in its content. It really is an RPG in a box... sort of. There are so many levels to game play and so many different aspects to keep track of that the learning curve is extremely steep.

For example:
* Each player’s character has their own very unique abilities and weaknesses that need to be monitored.
* Each player has to track their own light/dark alignment meter which depending on how you are shifted, allows you to play certain cards.
* You need to remember when you can play your Light cards. (And make sure your alignment meter will let you play them.)
* You need to monitor which locations you visit on the map since that determines what cards you draw.
* You need to remember what costs are needed so you can pay them when you go to a special location and gain that bonus.
* You need to monitor your opponent’s moves since that determines when you can play their Twilight cards on them, did I mention the need to remember what Twilight cards you have for each of your opponents and the details for how to play them?
* You need to remember where you and your opponents are in the stack of Conspiracy puzzle pieces, plus keep track of the conspiracy as a whole and who’s playing those pieces.
* You need to watch the suspect sheets and try to be aware of who is placing evidence tokens on what suspect.
* Each character gets their own "cheat sheet" with general strategies for how to play your character and for how to play against other characters, don’t forget to read that!

Then there are the plot cards that each character is dealt. These are sort of like personal Mythos cards, to use an Arkham Horror reference. You need to keep track of both yours and everyone else’s so you know how and when to help yourself and hamper the other players. Watch out for your own baggage because you’ll need to deal with that on days when plots are resolved. Honestly, it’s all pretty overwhelming. We missed a lot of rules the first few time periods and while a lot of that is expected on your first time through a game, there’s just a lot going on here.

All of these mechanics, (and some of them are really, really neat) all boil down to one goal though, and that’s getting Victory points. Don’t be distracted by baggage or evidence tokens or location bonuses or puzzle pieces, because in the end they don’t matter unless they get you VPs.

Ironically, because there was so much going on and no one really knew what the best way to proceed was, we had very little analysis paralysis. I can see as you play the game more and become more familiar with the mechanics that this could become a problem, but it never really happened in our games.

We ended up playing for over 4 hours and then decided to call it quits. Everyone had played enough to get a feel for it and we were still just barely halfway through the game.


A few key observations:

Theme: The art definitely has a Blade Runner/Transhuman Space feel to it and several of the characters are right out of that universe. Plus, the flavor text on the cards for this game could probably fill a book. No, really, each character has at least a paragraph on every card they touch and some of those cards are double-sided. Unfortunately, the feel of this future world in the actual game play is very subtle. Where Arkham drips with theme, this game somehow feels light on it.
The game is based on a murder, but you never need to visit the body and as Phil stated in his review, you aren’t actually solving the crime, just blaming/framing someone for it. I understand the idea that the detectives are somehow collecting evidence to back up their hunches but it comes across as very mechanical and dry during the game.

There are a lot of similarities to Arkham in the moving to collect evidence (clues) and spending them to gain a benefit, plus the Event and Plot (Mythos) cards. But where you really feel like you’re battling the forces of darkness in A.H., in Android, I never got the feeling of solving a crime, just collecting bits. For such a neat setting, the game felt very abstract to me. Then there is the issue of Victory points. Gathering evidence or solving the conspiracy doesn’t actually do anything, it’s all about counting up victory points at the end. Yes, those things lead to victory points, but it’s very easy to lose the forest for the trees when it comes to actually winning the game.

Time: This game is really long. Our first game ran over 4 hours and we didn’t finish it. The second game, which was already setup and was taught to the players by those of us who had played the first game still ran almost 4 hours long and was also stopped at the halfway point. I don’t see how players will get through this game in under 6 hours minimum until they have played it several times.

Complexity: There’s no way to understate this. This is a really intense game. There is so much going on here and so many ways to get or take away victory points that it is likely going to overwhelm you at some point. On the plus side, once you get familiar with this game, there is probably some REALLY deep strategy you can work with. Also, you will definitely be involved the entire game. There is very little downtime because you need to keep track of your opponents moves very closely. There were times when several of us mentioned we felt like we were being pulled in too many different directions and couldn’t really focus on one area enough. I’m sure that’s intentional, but it’s still difficult.

PROS:
- Great components and quality.
- Some incredibly cool mechanics - the Conspiracy puzzle is a game on its own, as is trying to balance your own light/dark alignment in order to play cards from your hand.
- Very little downtime.
- Theme sprinkled all over... sort of.

CONS:
- Light on theme - There is some great flavor text and art, but the game play itself comes off as a somewhat abstract variation on things we’ve seen in Arkham Horror. Plus the murder investigation is unsatisfying.
- Complexity - There is a lot of depth here, but I got the feeling parts of this game where complex for complexities sake. It feels in places as if one already good game had several other games added to it.
- Learning Curve - This game will take a few plays to "get it", there’s just a lot to take in.
- Time - Not everyone will be up for a 6 hour game.

OVERALL:
I don’t want to make this review sound too negative, because I think there is a LOT of game here and we’re all wired a little differently. However I do want folks to know what they are getting into. It’s probably FFG’s most ambitious game ever and the effort shows in both quality and some fiercely clever mechanics. However it’s long, it’s complex and the theme isn’t as strong as I’d hoped for.

I think gamers who are looking for deep strategy with multiple paths to victory in a very thick role-playing type of environment will absolutely LOVE this game. More casual gamers are going to be turned off by the length, complexity and overall difficulty of it.

Personally, I’m a bit more of a casual gamer, so while I’m glad I played it, I don’t feel it was quite worth the time investment to play it again anytime soon. I’m looking forward to see what other people think, since I expect this game will run the gamut of gamer opinions.

Justin
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Rod Batten
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Nice review! Having read them both I appreciate the alternative view presented.
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Brian Peters
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Thanks for the review! I'm still glad I ordered the game. I suppose I won't know for sure until I actually play it though.

I'm curious, how many players did you have in your games? How much do you think the number of players affects playing time?

I'm really starting to wonder whether FFG blatantly lies with the playing time they put on the boxes, or whether those times are are what the designers can get after they've played the games a hundred times. I don't mind long games, but it's irritating when a game that can easily take 5 or 6 hours is billed as a 2 to 3 hour game (*cough*Arkham Horror*cough*)
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Justin De Witt
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fnord3125 wrote:
I'm curious, how many players did you have in your games? How much do you think the number of players affects playing time?


We had 5 players in both games, which I think is the maximum. I could definately see this going faster with fewer players, but I wouldn't expect to zip through it. It did get faster every turn as people got into the groove, but there's a big hill to climb at the start as you figure out all your options. Plus since each player has a different character with different play options, each players turn is just a little different. In that case you don't get some of that "learning by osmosis" thing that you can in a lot of games just by watching the other players on their turns.

fnord3125 wrote:
I'm really starting to wonder whether FFG blatantly lies with the playing time they put on the boxes, or whether those times are are what the designers can get after they've played the games a hundred times. I don't mind long games, but it's irritating when a game that can easily take 5 or 6 hours is billed as a 2 to 3 hour game (*cough*Arkham Horror*cough*)


Ha! I know what you mean. I think part of the time estimate on the box is based on not counting some of that "learning to play" time. But there's also marketing to consider. How many people would be turned off it actually said 6+ hours on the box?
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Brian Peters
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jeston wrote:
We had 5 players in both games, which I think is the maximum. I could definately see this going faster with fewer players, but I wouldn't expect to zip through it.

Cool. I wondered because my usual group to play with is just me and two others. Like I said, we're usually willing to play a 5 or 6 hour game when we get together once a week, but if it's really likely to run more like 8 or 10 hours our first time playing, whew. we might have to try to split it into two sessions or something.

I know what you mean about the playing times on the box being based (at least partially) on marketing. Though, at this point, it would probably only work with people that have no experience with FFG. For my part, I now ignore those playing time claims except possibly to laugh at them after actually playing a game.
And also, this is getting a bit off topic, but the supposed playing time for Android is 2-4 hours right? Even if you can run through a game in say, 5 hours after playing a few times, if I was really expecting a game that averages 3 hours, I'd be pretty pissed. Not meeting customer expectations is sometimes a real good way to drive people away.
 
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Chris D'Andrea
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fnord3125 wrote:

And also, this is getting a bit off topic, but the supposed playing time for Android is 2-4 hours right? Even if you can run through a game in say, 5 hours after playing a few times, if I was really expecting a game that averages 3 hours, I'd be pretty pissed. Not meeting customer expectations is sometimes a real good way to drive people away.


Well duh your reading that wrong. FFG's times are based on a "PER PERSON" estimate that is not total playing time.

C'Mon, if you didn't know that before you got into a FFG title then you need to go back to playing a Knizia game.

Please note this is written with my tongue FIRMLY planted in my cheek

I for one can't wait to get this one. Kevin Wilson is my Favorite Designer and Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies. I don't see you trying to frame someone as much as gathering evidence on the suspect that you have a hunch did it. You are going to locations and finding evidence on the person that you place the evidence in their "folder" who is to say if that evidence isn't factual. We all remember that they found overwhelming evidence that O.J. killed those two people but he was innocent. The blood on his dash was found but it was applied to the wrong person obviously as he was found not guilty by a jury of his peers.

I guess what I am saying is that your finding evidence that ties suspect "A" to the crime whether it is Circumstantial or not is for the evaluation phase at the end of the second week but when you followed up on that lead your found that evidence and your putting it where you think it belongs. I think that is where the Alibis come into play and make great sense and tie the theme in well. Same with the Alibi Perjury tokens. I think that it ties all the theme in very well. Each player having a different vehicle and the vehicles having a different movement distance, again very thematic. The Baggage that each character builds up during the course of the game due to the stresses of the job.

Again This is a MUST have and I just wish that they made it available before the holidays cause I am more then likely going to have to wait till after then to get my copy.
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lordunborn wrote:
Again This is a MUST have and I just wish that they made it available before the holidays cause I am more then likely going to have to wait till after then to get my copy.


You get a tip because this is so true. cry
 
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Philip Reed
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lordunborn wrote:
Again This is a MUST have and I just wish that they made it available before the holidays cause I am more then likely going to have to wait till after then to get my copy.


I think it's supposed to be in stores this week.
 
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PhilReed wrote:
lordunborn wrote:
Again This is a MUST have and I just wish that they made it available before the holidays cause I am more then likely going to have to wait till after then to get my copy.


I think it's supposed to be in stores this week.


No, the problem for me is that I got so excited about the game that someone decided it would make a nice Christmas present. If it had been released in July I wouldn't have this problem.

I mean, there are worse problems to have, but still...
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ElAdoranSureshot wrote:
No, the problem for me is that I got so excited about the game that someone decided it would make a nice Christmas present. If it had been released in July I wouldn't have this problem.


How dare they give you a game!

 
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PhilReed wrote:
How dare they give you a game!


I know, especially one I want so much! What utter gall!
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Anthony DuLac
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Thanks for the warning - I was pretty excited about this game but hearing that it's potentially pretty long has me FAR less interested.
 
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Justin De Witt
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wytefang wrote:
Thanks for the warning - I was pretty excited about this game but hearing that it's potentially pretty long has me FAR less interested.


Well, if you get a chance to play it, and you're still interested in the whole package (theme, mystery, etc.) I'd say go for it. It really is an impressive creation, just be prepared for a pretty serious time commitment, a-la Arkham Horror and such.
 
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On the time front, I played a 4 person game yesterday that lasted 5 hours. That's from breaking the shrink wrap on the box to closing the lid on the sorted game. Three of us were familiar with the game and one had never played before.

So, about as long as Arkham.
 
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Huh? How were you familiar with the game when you were only then
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breaking the shrink wrap
?!
 
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zoran
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Unless, of course, the three of you had played some other copy beforehand blush
 
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Will Robb
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Or they had read the rule book (which is available online) beforehand. I've done the same, and I hope to play this weekend if it ships before then.
 
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fnord3125 wrote:

I'm really starting to wonder whether FFG blatantly lies with the playing time they put on the boxes, or whether those times are are what the designers can get after they've played the games a hundred times. I don't mind long games, but it's irritating when a game that can easily take 5 or 6 hours is billed as a 2 to 3 hour game (*cough*Arkham Horror*cough*)


To jump a little bit on defense...

First time playing Arkham Horror, our session last about 5 hours or more. On the other hand, right now, we are lucky if we hit 3 hours mark. It's usually about 2 hours. Doesn't matter who's winning, the game or us, by awaken or not, 4 or 6 players, it's still 2 hours if everyone is experienced. By experienced I mean not above 100 playing times, but I think above 5 is already good.

Although it's true that it's only the base game, and different gaming group might give different result, but at least FFG is not really lying. Just rather sleek.

So, I tend to believe that Android will have the same fate (at least for my gaming group!)
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zemus wrote:
Huh? How were you familiar with the game when you were only then
Quote:
breaking the shrink wrap
?!


We're playtesters, mostly. It was the first time I'd gotten to play on the finished product.
 
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Great review. Thanks for breaking it down this way. You've really given a good impression of the game and while the time commitment is significant, it still sounds like an interesting, deep and strategic undertaking.

Plus, time isn't a factor for me as long as I'm engaged and come away with a great experience. This theme and setting really seem to lend to that and I get the impression that this game creates some memorable stories that will stick with you long after you've finished playing it.

--James
 
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MrSkeletor wrote:
How does this game play when eating pea soup?


As always happens when you add pea soup, the game gets worse . . . much worse. The only thing that could make it even more horrific would be if you turned it into a Jones Soda Holiday Pack drinking game in which players have to drink shots of a random holiday soda for each Time unit spent during the game.

Ick. I can already taste the grease from the Turkey & Stuffing flavor.
 
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Well, if this game doesn't take Pea Soup, and it lasts 4 hours, I don't know what I'll do... cry

--James
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On the note of time, at least with Arkham Horror, there's a local gaming store I go to sometimes (whenever I can get time off work, really) that usually plays Arkham on Wednesdays, either a normal play, custom scenario, or League game. I've rarely seen a game go beyond 3 hours - once, we were able to cram two games in under 4 hours, although the first one ended with the AO waking up on turn 3 (8 players, no closed gates, and someone got a "Gate and Monster Appear" encounter).

The problem I see with Android's length is that there's no compensation for more players. Each player will add X minutes to the total playtime, and nothing in the game balances it out (compare to say, Battlestar Galactica, which still has one crisis at the end of each player's turn, or Arkham requiring the same number of elder signs to win no matter how many players are there).

Back to my point, though... while the time on FFG games is very unreasonable for first plays, once everyone gets the hang of it and has played a few games, everything should go along at a pretty fast clip, and I could see it ending in "2-4 hours".
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PhilReed wrote:
MrSkeletor wrote:
How does this game play when eating pea soup?


As always happens when you add pea soup, the game gets worse . . . much worse. The only thing that could make it even more horrific would be if you turned it into a Jones Soda Holiday Pack drinking game in which players have to drink shots of a random holiday soda for each Time unit spent during the game.

Ick. I can already taste the grease from the Turkey & Stuffing flavor.


No man, the true horror was the Brussel Sprouts and Prisciutto flavor. Sometimes I can still taste it in my nightmares.
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KevinW wrote:
No man, the true horror was the Brussel Sprouts and Prisciutto flavor. Sometimes I can still taste it in my nightmares.


I try not to think about the Brussel Sprouts flavor. The color was unnatural and the smell . . . well, let's just say that the smell stays with you.
 
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