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Subject: How to play Android right rss

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I think the single most critical thing to get the most enjoyment out of this game is to immerse yourself in the setting: have a running narrative in your mind about your detective and weave everything that happens into that narrative. (Others, notably MSCriver, have written a lot about that already and I won't repeat them.)

Of course, there are some people who simply don't like to do that in the first place, or people (as Scott Nicholson said in his video) who prefer to keep storytelling and point optimizing separate in their brains. Android is simply not for those people.

However, there seem to be a lot of people who would very much enjoy the storytelling aspect, but feel that there is a complete disconnect between the storytelling and the mechanics in Android (e.g. Michael Barnes). I am hoping this article will help those people see that there is indeed a very strong connection, it simply may not be immediately apparent. Hopefully this will make the game more enjoyable for them.

I have two key suggestions:

1) First and foremost, understand what the design goals and philosophies were. (We'll get to how well they succeeded in implementing these goals later.)

I think the best way to do this is to watch this developer interview:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/2470/android/developer-in...

Some key quotes:

Christian Petersen wrote:
Here we have a game that not only is about finding the murderer and exploring this wonderful setting that we have created, it also really takes the element of the character to a whole another level. The fact that you have a flawed character, there is a dark side to you, you're trying to manipulate your own story in a way that is good... You try to resist the descent into darkness... How close do you get to the enemy before you're no longer fighting him, but you become him? You try to be good, but in the process of doing good, you become what you are trying to struggle against. Kevin tried to capture this in a board game -- and this is really an amazing thing.
Kevin Wilson wrote:
I want the fans to sit down at the table, and play the game, and at the end of it, I want them to be able to imagine the movie that they just played. You know, have scenes in their head of: oh wow, wasn't that really cool when Louie did this, or when Floyd was over here, and he got in that fight and took some damage, but took out the muggers! And I want them, as they are playing the game, to be able to immerse themselves in the world.
Andrew Navaro (graphic designer) wrote:
I have a lot of fun just trying to make my character happy, trying to make their plot deck come out as best as possible. Last time I played as Caprice and I felt that it was my responsibility to help her find love and acceptance. Which was kind of cool, I never really experienced that in a board game before.

Clearly Android seemed to have been designed with the story experience and character development as its primary goal. The quasi-euro mechanics serve as a backbone, and playing this game as purely a VP-optimizing game misses the point and is not nearly as much fun.

2) Play to the design goals.

The main point here is that to truly play to the design goals and immerse oneself in the story, one must first understand the setting and the universe, which is the foundation of any story. The problem is, the game doesn't do a very good job of introducing the setting adequately. This game could really have used a booklet describing the canon of the world of Android.

For example, a common complaint is that it's not clear what is the thematic connection between the conspiracy organizations and their VP bonuses. Why should Order of Sol provide extra VPs to your guilty hunch? It seems very random and arbitrary! Well, actually there is a very strong connection, and it is explained in the designer diary below for each of the 10 organizations in the conspiracy.

http://new.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?eidn=256

Another common complaint is the disconnect between a character's plot and the mechanism of getting good and bad baggage. Notably, Scott Nicholson complained in his video that one of Raymond's plots is apparently about Raymond getting back together with his old girlfriend whereas the mechanism for getting good baggage is to uncover a piece of the conspiracy. On the surface, indeed these are completely unrelated. However, the context is that Kate is a bad influence on Raymond and so of course he should get good baggage by focusing on work instead (in fact the good baggage is called "focus"). Again, something that appears completely random and disconnected is actually deeply connected and thematic -- but only if one makes an effort to understand the setting.

So, I believe one key reason for the failure of the story to come through the mechanics for some people is because the game really requires you to understand the setting before the story really starts coming together. This understanding comes naturally with more plays, but for your first several plays, I recommend familiarizing yourselves with the following:

- Designer diaries on http://new.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite_sec.asp?eidm...
- Read through your character's background, plots, dark, and light cards before play. Rather than spoiling the story, it will actually make you understand it better and make the game go faster and smoother. (It will also make you understand the strategy better!)
- Bits of fluff scattered throughout the manual, as well as suspects' stories.

Once you understand the setting, interpreting the game events within a running narrative in your mind becomes much easier. However, Android doesn't feed you the story, it feeds you little bits and pieces, and it is up to you to connect those pieces within a single narrative in your mind. That is a feature, not a bug, and part of the fun and the design! I think Android strikes the perfect balance between giving you enough story material to work with and enough room for imagination, but of course different people would prefer more of one vs. the other.

However, one important tip for good balance is the this: play more light and dark cards!! This is where most of the story really lives. The manual says that "ideally at least one light and one dark card should be played each turn", and perhaps if you feel that the story doesn't come through enough, it might be because your group is not playing enough cards.

In summary, this basically seems the "right" way to play, or at least play as the designers intended: know the world and use your imagination to connect game events into a running narrative about your character. This is a challenge to do in a reasonable time slot on your first game, where because of time pressure there is a strong temptation to ignore the story and just focus on the game mechanics. It may be necessary to ignore the story in order to just get a handle on the mechanics, but just be aware that if you stop paying attention to the story, you will be playing the game not as the designers intended. One option is to play a PBF game (there is one going on right now that I'm part of) where time is not an issue and the story can be explored fully.

Here are a few other examples of common story-mechanics disconnects that disappear when played "right" (i.e. as the designers apparently intended):

"Sometimes it feels like I am planting evidence rather than finding it."
But the question remains, since you’re controlling where the evidence goes: Are the detectives discovering evidence, or are they planting it? Well, that depends on what you want to believe about your detective. In Android, there’s no easy black and white answer – only shades of grey.
Trying to think purely in terms of "finding" or "framing" misses the point and often ruins the mechanics-story connection. The right way to play is for you to interpret whether your detective is finding or framing as you weave each evidence placement action into your story.

"I don't feel like I am my character, e.g. when I am playing dark cards".
The design goals above make it clear that the intent was for players to explore characters and settings, not really be a character. This player-character separation is precisely what allows your character to behave badly and be flawed. You are still in charge of your character's light side and strengths, but clearly it is up to others to be in charge of your character's dark side and weaknesses.

"I don't see any reason my character should dark shift when playing a light card"
Read the cards! A lot of the light cards involve your detective doing something bad and getting a benefit from it! A lot of the cards that don't involve your detective doing something bad (such as Louis' Sara plot cards) cost 0, making perfect thematic sense.

"I don't see any reason my character should light shift when playing a dark card"
The rule book talks about "recharing your batteries" and "in the world of Android, a certain good/bad balance is maintained", but admitedly this does not seem to be motivated thematically further than that. However, it's always fun to make up a story for why your character just light shifted or "recharged their batteries", and if by coincidence something bad happened to somebody else, well, why not? You can call it karmic balance if you wish, but it doesn't really seem to impact the story.

"I don't see why I should get 4VPs for completing a row/column of the puzzle or get other benefits"
It is partially explained in the designer diaries that the intent was to provide "little rewards" or "paychecks" for working on the puzzle. It's clear to me that uncovering a conspiracy should thematically lead to (sometimes random) little rewards. Again, the idea is to weave these events into the story and to have a balance between the game giving you explicit story elements vs. the players using their imagination.

"I spent 4 hours collecting favors and then someone played a dark card which completely negated 4 hours of effort"
This is an example of what can happen when you ignore the story. Making the game about story allows you to roll with the punches! However, to avoid even having to roll with the punches, make sure (a) you understand your characters strengths and weaknesses by reading light and dark cards, and (b) make sure you aren't making game-breaking rules mistakes such as activating a major location more than once! And be aware that favor collecting strategies can be very risky.

etc.

Hope that all this will enhance your Android experience. It did for me!
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Calavera Soñando
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A much needed article. Thank you for writing it.
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Mike Clarke
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Yes thanks for that. Good points all. Thumbed and for content.

Funny I never had a problem imagining the story in Android. This is a game that doesn't speak down to you that way. Instead it requires you to put it together and then gives you the tools to do it. I appreciate that. Nothing kills a story more than continually having to point out the obvious or even the not so obvious so that you don't have to think.

Never had a problem with the twilight cards either. They're just a game mechanism for intelligently introducing conflict rather than having to play against the board. You can always figure out the board (some games like Ghost Stories compensate by making it ridiculously hard to lengthen that process) but in the end, even with that game, you still figure it out. You can't figure out people quite so easily.

You're right; the game play is in the detectives cards. Without them, they're just cardboard on a pretty map. The conspiracy represents powerful people who may be involved in the murder because as the saying goes, power corrupts. A conspiracy is about making connections (hence the five-in-a-row dynamic) which for that reason is actually quite thematic. When playing the game, one should focus on (in this order), the murder (highest source of VPs), your personal plot (2nd highest - nearly equal to the murder) and the Conspiracy with sidetrips to Haas Bioroid and Jinteki for their 3 point tokens as play permits.

Focus your game play around the murder, use strong and normal evidence leads to convict your suspect and weak evidence to either bolster your innocent suspect if he/she's in trouble, or if not, to uncover the conspiracy. Normal and Weak evidence is also good for making someone else's suspect, or your own, less guilty. Don't treat these leads as interchangeable. They're not. Different types of leads will be more or less important depending on the murder investigation and your own situation. Use Jimmy the Snitch to see who's ahead in the murder investigation. Use Lily Lockwell, the reporter to reveal a piece of crucial evidence for everyone to see so they'll pick on someone else besides you.

And lastly you are NOT framing anyone. Your detective is a character following up on his hunch. If his hunch turns out to be accurate, then he's a good detective and if he's wrong then his self esteem and reputation will suffer (no VPs). You as a player get to decide who the evidence your detective picked up, points to. There is a separation between what you know...and what your detective knows. You're living outside the game world with a gods-eye view. Your detective is living within it. That separation is what most people have problems with, but it's as the core of Android's game play.

On the down side Android is long, but it's definitely got game.
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Paul Imboden
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mikecl wrote:
And lastly you are NOT framing anyone.




Kevin Wilson JUST SAID he left the "solve the murder" element open to interpretation, so that the player can decide whether he's discovering the evidence or he's framing the suspect.
 
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Mike Clarke
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Opie wrote:
mikecl wrote:
And lastly you are NOT framing anyone.




Kevin Wilson JUST SAID he left the "solve the murder" element open to interpretation, so that the player can decide whether he's discovering the evidence or he's framing the suspect.


Yes he did within the context of you as a player deciding what to do with the evidence rather than your character making the decision. In other words it's a player CHOICE not an automatic given as some seem to think.
You can also CHOOSE to look at it exactly as I said, a detective following up on his hunches which to me makes a lot more sense. BUT if your dick is a dick than I guess that's his story too.
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Calavera Soñando
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mikecl wrote:
Opie wrote:
mikecl wrote:
And lastly you are NOT framing anyone.




Kevin Wilson JUST SAID he left the "solve the murder" element open to interpretation, so that the player can decide whether he's discovering the evidence or he's framing the suspect.


Yes he did within the context of you as a player deciding what to do with the evidence rather than your character making the decision. In other words it's a player CHOICE not an automatic given as some seem to think.
You can also CHOOSE to look at it exactly as I said, a detective following up on his hunches which to me makes a lot more sense. BUT if your dick is a dick than I guess that's his story too.


Here's the way I see it: last night I played as Raymond in the Monwolff Massacre murder plot. In strictly non-narrative game terms, I spent the early game avoiding ritzy locations and the stalk (so as not to trigger any PTSD flashbacks and get massive penalties), and focused almost entirely on the conspiracy puzzle and on obtaining good baggage. By the second week, the puzzle was filled, and I was sitting on roughly 30 vp between bonus conspiracy vp, bonus vp from political and society favors (because of careful play of the conspiracy puzzle), and I was ready to start taking some risks and focusing on the actual investigation. Up unto this point, the two other players had been clearly playing a back and forth game with the evidence on two of the suspects, and it was evident that they had each other's guilty and innocent hunches. This left my guilty and innocent hunches nearly untouched.

Now in STORY terms, I saw it this way: Raymond knew, from investigating the conspiracy, that the REAL crime (the ordering of the murder of Monwolff, and the attempt to cover it up) was committed at a much higher level than the trigger man, so his actual guilty hunch (the suspect who did the dirty work) didn't matter in the least. Problem was, because the evidence (from the conspiracy) pointed to people who were essentially untouchable - the Mayor, several high ranking diplomats from mars (political figures), and several society figures, people with vested interest in keeping their involvement a secret, there was no way the info from investigation would see the light of day. Indeed, several plot and dark card events were played on Raymond (coincidentally, but they seemed to synch to his story perfectly), attempting to shut him up and shut his investigation down. So, Raymond's guilty hunch turned out to be the freaky blondye Lieutenant from the NAPD - a high ranking official, with ties to Law Enforcement and the mayors office, and rather than actually suspecting him of the actual crime (since I had revealed an alibi on him placed by one of my opponents by visiting Jimmy the Snitch in a seedy back alley cafe) I treated the guilty hunch not as an actual suspect who was guilty, but more as a way to attack those responsible by exposing the corruption within the NAPD. I knew going into the end of the game that it was going to be close, and that indeed, it was likely that someone else (one of my opponents suspects) was the actual trigger man, but if I could pile enough dirt on my guy, I might be able to take them down anyhow, and root out at least some of the corruption at the heart of New Angeles.

So in a sense, I *WAS* framing my suspect, but that is because (and I will say this again for the eleventy-seventh time), in a story like this ACTUAL GUILT and INNOCENCE DO NOT MATTER. What mattered was the STORY that had evolved over the course of the game. The outcome of the game, by the way, was that another suspect was guilty of the actual murder, but I still won by THREE vp. I considered my victory, in story terms to work out this way: I hadn't necessarily found the actual criminal, but I shined enough light on the high class cockroaches skulking in the dark that my investigation was ultimately successful and I had rooted out some of the corruption at the heart of the city (and overcome my alcoholism to boot!)
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Mike Clarke
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I agree with you Matthew. In the end, it's up to us to create the story from the actions of our detectives and the links they have found to the conspiracy. The issue I had with the term "framing the suspect" is how it was so often used to dismiss the game as inadequate as in...you're not real detectives you just go around framing suspects.

It demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of what the game was actually about...detectives following up on their hunches. But in the right circumstances, you can as you did look at it as trying to shake down a suspect for evidence on the conspiracy that you think he may or must know something about.

So yes, the murder is just another element in the story. Android delivers a character, rather than a plot driven story in that the game is more about the character's story than it is about the murder.

Loved your answer/session report. Raymond is one of my favorites because he's so much like a character in a Raymond Chandler novel. His flavor text is a lot of fun to to read:

"I could tell she was lying because her lips were moving. Why did I help her? I don't know. Brain damage probably." LOL

Close games are always a blast. The two big point generators in the game are the murder and your plot. I think you can win without one of them, but not without both. The conspiracy is in most cases, just icing on the cake that in a close game can make the difference between winning and losing.
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Todd
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Good article.

Lots of Android love lately, where was it two years ago
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Mike Clarke
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xjohncandyx wrote:
Good article.

Lots of Android love lately, where was it two years ago


Heh...that question has already been answered in the most recent review. It was so original, it seems it never had a chance. Don't judge games by their popularity. Books and games often become bestsellers because they're bland enough to appeal to everyone. That doesn't make them great.
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Dan Drontle
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The way I look at it, your character has a bias for/against your innocent/guilty hunches, which causes them to look for exonerating/incriminating evidence for each. It's not that you're planting evidence, so much as actively trying to uncover evidence pertaining to that specific NPC.
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