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Android - Board Game Review

Android – Board Game Review


The Objective
Android takes concepts from Blade Runner, Cyberpunk and a plethora of other dystopian near-future sci-fi settings. Megacorps, lunar colonisation and technology are the backdrop against which the players, taking on the role of investigators attempt to determine who is guilty of a murder and who is exonerated from the list of suspects. While successfully determining the identity of the guilty party is central to the game it is simply a means of scoring points. There are other sources of points such as discovering the involvement of the primary mega-corp and developing the character along their own personal plot line.


The Concept
Android is one of the relatively new ‘roleplaying in a box’ style of board game. They achieve this through the use of characters with specific plot arcs that to some degree dictate the playing style in order to win the game. This is not a particularly new concept, when all is said and done, back in the days of the original Talisman, you played a very different game when you started with a Troll, compared to starting with the Priestess. The development here though is to flesh out the characters, giving them backgrounds and plot arcs that will change the character depending on which path they take and how successful they are in achieving the goals of the character. As the results of these personal plot arcs actually affect the capabilities of the character as the game continues, they are not just fluff but give balance to the game when weighted against the unique abilities of the character.
The Basics
Unlike the age-old game of Cluedo, Android does not have a definite murderer; there is no Captain Peacock, in the library with a candlestick (or game show host, in the Pool with a fourteen inch Toy - according to one satirical version). Instead, each player has what can be termed a Hunch. These are two cards representing the suspects. One of these cards represents the person they think is the killer and the other they believe is innocent. The player’s task therefore is to accumulate evidence by visiting locations on the board and assign the evidence to the suspects. There are three types of evidence, corresponding to how strong it is under certain circumstances. This evidence can be used to incriminate or exonerate the suspect. Placing the evidence is both secret and open. Secret in that the strength of the evidence is not seen though open in that the other players can see how you are placing the evidence. When it comes to end of game scoring, the player with a guilty hunch for the suspect with the most incriminating evidence scores the most points. The second most points are awarded to the player with the innocent hunch for the suspect with the highest total exonerating evidence. The placement of evidence gives plenty of scope for tactics. You may play few weak evidence tokens on your guilty hunch, hopefully causing other players to think that you have them as the innocent suspect thereby encouraging them to put stronger incriminating evidence on the suspect. There are also non-evidence clue tokens that will affect other evidence tokens on the suspect. There are tokens for removing the strongest evidence from the suspect and others that move exonerating evidence to incriminating evidence.

Places to Go People to See
The nature of the game is that the characters as part of their investigation travel around the board visiting various locations. These can be anything from Ritzy to Seedy, which give the player access to the character’s personal deck of light cards or the dark decks for other characters. These cards are used to help the individual character (light cards) or hinder other players (dark cards). The use of the cards either costs them points for light cards or gains them points for dark cards. This is an interesting mechanic because it forces the character/player to do bad stuff to other characters in order to be able to afford to do nice things for themselves. This invariably leads to retaliation and a dark-card war. This is good because without this mechanic the characters could easily be playing a game in a vacuum, only to deal with each other when it comes to totalling points at the end.

The Conspiracy
As mentioned above, there is a mega-corp conspiracy aspect ubiquitous to this genre. As part of visiting places the character can try to solve the conspiracy. This is dealt with in a special region of the board. Here is a large open box with a tile in the centre, the tile representing the mega-corp. Around the box are results that are applied should the trail lead from the mega-corp to them. The players use tiles to extend the paths out from the central tile to the results. As the tiles are only placed under certain circumstances such as through visiting certain locations and as the trails are unknown at the time of picking them up, how they are placed is tactical. They can be used to not only push the conspiracy that will award you points at the end of the game but also to block results that favour other players.

Personal Development
Baggage, all characters gain it and this can be both good and bad. The object is to get rid of bad baggage and accumulate good baggage. These are associated with their plot cards and are dealt with through the use of light and dark cards. Plots are resolved every few days, allowing the characters to develop their own personal storyline and possibly end up shaven headed in a padded cell!


Minor Quibbles
There is a lot to this game, in terms of bits and pieces but also learning about the specific character. They are a lot more in-depth than say the difference to a Troll and Priestess, to return to the Talisman reference. This can mean that by the time you have a handle on the character it is already too late to make the most of it. This can be narky especially if you have only played the game a few times and always ended up with a new character (especially if one chap always seems to completely randomly get the same one). Anyone attempting to nosy over at the other characters is likely to require quite a bit of time to understand what they are up to unless he has played them before. This can lead to calls to ‘get on with it’ or at the very least the perused character electing to pick up a bunch of cards from the overly interested third party’s dark deck as polite ‘feck off’ or else.

A peculiarity of the start is that there seems little incentive to actually visit the scene of the crime. As for the placing of evidence this feels less like uncovering the identity of the murderer but rather fitting up the suspect based on your hunch (Gene Hunt style).

The dark and light cards of the characters, their equipment and even their vehicles (which determines how far they can move in a turn) effectively contribute to guiding a character along a certain tactical path of least resistance (certain characters can gain through having their dark cards played on them when they enter seedy locations for example).




It is therefore a game that improves with replaying sooner rather than later and everybody either sticking with a character they have played before or all playing one they haven’t. While it does give hints on how to deal with the other characters in the game from the perspective of each character, this generally only becomes apparent in hindsight unless the player controlling the character in question is overly obvious in their actions.
This is also an all-nighter or at least can be, leaving little room for anything else. To some degree, this hits the limits of quite what can be achieved in a board game before it crashes due to analysis paralysis or simply needs writing up as a supplement for an RPG system like Gum Shoe (of the future).





 
News
GTT step forward to control protection and peace in the Stellar Empire.

With the retirement of Jack Johns and various lower-level IMP officers from public life, the Imperial Services were left on the verge of being unable to fill their role as protectors of the Stellar Empire. Due to the serious nature the Imperial Services found itself in, the Emperor recently travelled to GTT HQ to attend a board meeting with the directors of the GTT.

With Galactic Trade and Transport being one of the few remaining loyal Imperial Chartered affiliations, who also supply well over half of the war material to the Imperial Services, the Emperor sought the position of the GTT with regard to the Imperial Services becoming overburdened with bureaucracy and lacking effective leadership. Effectively the Imperial Services were at the point of collapse. A position highlighted when an opportunistic supposed ally subverted four Imperial Outposts in the Inner Empire, thinking their asset grabbing would go unnoticed.
 
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  Star Date: 221.30.5

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RAGNAROK COMES

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A Forlorn Hope

The seat of Dewiek Government has fallen. What began as a small group of Architect ships picking up retreating DEN forces, amalgamated into a much larger force. The bombardment fleet comprised dozens of Adult ARC ships plus several Planet Killers. The force made short work of the impressive fortifications of the planetary orbit of Newstart. Multiple heavily armoured and maximised deflector shield platforms crumbled. They did so only after releasing their volleys of antimatter and nova weapon batteries. Any DEN warships that remained from earlier encounters also stood the line. But within the week, the last defence was gone.

Bombardment of Wolf Lair starbase proceeded without further resistance from the Dewiek. ARC Plasmas ripped through starbase shields. They demolished tens of thousands of factories and research facilities. The ARC demolished the huge military recruitment and training facilities on the planet. Over half a million trained troops evacuated from deep bunkers, leaving a token ground defence.

The ARC were not satisfied to burn the facilities and murder the workers. They deployed repeated salvos of their Virus Bombs on the wider population. Reports began to arrive of civilians of the world regressing. Leaving settlements and returning to nature. Much as the Dewiek found themselves some decades ago when they started to recover from the First Great ARC-DEN War. This time there was no High Lord Magnus willing to obliterate the world to save a remnant of the people. Newstart was already lost.

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Newstart is lost

 
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  Star Date: 221.27.2

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RAGNAROK APPROACHES

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End Game Lost

A short-lived period of peace followed the Dewiek Elder Nation’s historic and Saga-worthy defence against the Architect Planet Killers. A handful of the more typically encountered ARC ships were spotted picking off DEN support ships in Forlorn Hope before more than forty of them appeared back in End Game.

While the ARC “Adult” class ships, as the DEN had previously classified them, were eight times smaller than the “Planet Killers”, they were still as big as the largest ships any other species has managed to produce. Including the otherwise technologically advanced Dewiek.

Forty-four of these Plasma armed organic vessels smashed through the DEN forces left circling the orbit of Beacon, End Game. The mass of ARC weapons bombarded the DEN Shipyards at Ragnorak with their superheated ionized gas, razing the entire outpost to the ground.

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ARC Plasma weapons devastate End Game

 
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  Star Date: 221.22.5

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RAGNAROK BECKONS

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Assault on End Game

The ancient Architects have declared war on the Dewiek Elder Nation. The first sign of the conflict was subspace transmissions in a remote system in the Pocket Periphery. This followed reports that the ancient Ragnarok shipyards on Beacon were malfunctioning. In response, the Wolf Mother sent urgent orders to several Dewiek scout ships to patrol the End Game system.

The Konungr Smidamadr was the first to encounter the gigantic, “Planet Killer” class ARC ships. Measuring in at thirty-two hundred heavy hulls and armed with a hundred ARC plasma weapons, the ship was more like a mobile armed platform. It is certainly the largest vessel ever recorded. The scout ship was vaporised instantly.

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ARC Planet Killer dwarves largest DEN warships

 
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  Star Date: 221.11.4

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Caste Apart

The Flagritz Republic is (very nearly) no more. In its place, a single Hexamon and Flagritz power has arisen. The new Collective has absorbed much of the Flagritz holdings with only a handful of Clique-caste Flagritz systems choosing instead to align with the other Elder species, the Dewiek.

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Flagritz and Hexamon Hybrids - A hope for the Future?

 
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  Star Date: 221.3.3

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Meklanmania

Meklan scout ships continue to be seen around the Orion Spur periphery. These cyborg creatures in service of hidden ancient masters appear to be terrorising the Wimble Nation in particular. Despite public lamentations against the hardship of defending themselves, the Wimble leadership have not yet responded to our request for comment.

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Artist's impression of a Meklanised Wimble

However, Xavier Fox, CEO of Galactic Transport and Trade, did give us the following statement:

“We have engaged several Meklan ships, although currently the source has not been identified. GTT Directors have been running patrols and have engaged and destroyed numerous ships that have attacked outlying outposts belonging to different affiliations. The pattern of ships encountered leads us to believe there is a central source, but until that is found we would suggest any affiliation with assets in the area provide adequate defences.”

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Doomsday On Pause

At the site of the Thete anomaly, the Dewiek Nation has sent media sensation Sharon Aleman to the scene. Aleman, whose cybernetic enhancements allow her to directly interface with her ship’s sensor array, led her hardened crew into a dive of the outermost “edge” of the anomaly. After spending several days collecting and analysing data (mere minutes to the rest of us outside the anomaly), Aleman reported her shocking discoveries.

 
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  Star Date: 220.50.5

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Veil Lifted on Flagritz Home Space

As the Hellcadium ISR field continues to fluctuate, one of the newly exposed systems is Junista inside the previously hidden and inaccessible home periphery of the Flagritz Republic.

Over the past few weeks Flagritz Republic patrols and platforms have dealt with a number of scout ships from the Human Empire as the IMP wasted no time in exploiting this opportunity to poke around in their old enemy’s backyard. It is understood that at least one of these unarmed scouts was destroyed with no one willing to estimate how many more might be buzzing around.

Coincidentally, suspected IMP lackey, SSL TOAD, has also been overheard showing an obsessive interest in the Flagritz periphery. However, we have received no reports of this being anything other than his usual drug-fueled, barely decipherable mutterings at this stage.

Either way, this sudden, uninvited interest in the Flagritz Periphery has left the FLZ leadership muttering darkly about appropriate measures being taken. Defensive fleets and supporting structures are being deployed in the Junista system and beyond in expectation of further uninvited guests.

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When You stare into the Flagritz Periphery...

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Thete's Timey-Wimey Tease

Investigation into the Thete anomaly continued in the Dewiek Pocket Periphery. The anomaly was scanned from all angles by a number of the Dewiek Nation’s best sensor ships and officers. The data, collected over several weeks, was sent to one of the DEN’s most advanced scientific laboratories for analysis.

What they found will shock you!

 
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  Star Date: 220.45.1

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Perfidion Reached

Long speculated by theoretical Stellar Cartographers, Perfidion Reach finally opened in the last few weeks. Immediately, the Detinus Republic boldly staked a claim on the first accessible system, Hellcadium. Only time will tell the true value of this strategic move but their much-taunted bureaucracy may have finally proved its worth.

Early reports from scans of the system reveal a wildly fluctuating ISR field. Rumours suggest that at least one ship was destroyed as it was forced into an asteroid belt chasing a stable jump field attempting to exit the system. Casual travellers are warned away from the system at this time for their own safety. Leave it to skilled explorers and navigation officers.

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Mathematical model of Hellcadium ISR Field.

We spoke to Captain Zakiyah Ummahi via subspace link. Zakiyah led the first DEN expedition into the Perfidion Reach. "Spirits remain high but this is largely down to the extended R&R we were all forced to take immediately prior to jumping into this hole. Initial scouting reports show at least one planet with plenty of forests and grasslands which might help if we're going to be stuck here for Folkvar knows how long waiting for this damned ISR field to stabilise."

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Valhalla Stargate Reopens

Dewiek engineers and scientists have finally managed to re-enable Stargate Valgrind this week and the protective Exclusion Zone is to be lifted. If DEN investigators discovered who caused the gate to malfunction, or why, they were not willing to share it with us. Military sources, however, have announced a project to provide a significant boost to the already formidable defence platform in the stargate’s orbit.

 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

Empire - DEN action grinds to a halt

After months of tension relations between the Empire and the Dewiek Nation, which rose to several large scale fleet actions ending in the DEN losing over 60 Direwolf warships in Solo, things appear to have moved from antagonistic to unfriendly. With the Solo system being a particular issue an agreement has been reached between the Wolf Mother of the DEN and Xavier Fox of the GTT. Since this things have become very quiet, not just because the shooting has stopped, but also because my reporters have been on their summer holidays.
 
News For Discerning Naplians!
---- Special Galactic Edition ----



(The Host sits at his desk as the studio lights dim, and a single spotlight bathes him in light. He looks straight into the camera and begins to speak: )

Host: Naambta!
Good Greetings, and welcome to the show.

This is News for Discerning Naplians, and i’m sure you are all showing much impatience to see this week’s Panel Discussion. We will be discussing religion with the Lady Ghadir of the Temple of Ya Zoon, renowned neo-naplian spiritualist Chairman TonTon, and a very special guest from our imperial neighbours, Bishop Samantha Porteus of the Brotherhood. But before we get to that...

(Looks demonstratively at his digital wrist watch. )

... it is time for a word from our sponsor.
 

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I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
-Zigic