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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).





 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Return of the LiQuans

A close associate of the Baron LiQuan has been haunting the Corewards periphery and like the old Baron it is said he has a meklan connection. It's unclear whether he obtained his meklan nanites via the CIA but there are rumours that the DEN may be helping the Liquan relative in a bid to sow discontent in the Stellar Empire. Exactly why they would start in Corewards is unclear although with DEN allies, the DOM, having strong positions both in the Sol system and the old Harcorp systems of Harlong and Coptuv they may be the linking factor.


 
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Meklan Unleashed on Mobile Bay

Mad Dewiek scientist Dr Kala released a number of Meklan on the busy world of Mobile Bay in the Yank system. Thousands of civilians have been killed in what is treated by DEN warlords as an amusing practical joke. Rather than take any responsibility for their affiliation’s reckless behaviour, a DEN lord rumoured to be half-meklan himself quipped he would nuke the planet whilst another merely saw it as an opportunity to test some of his greener troops in combat. Surprisingly, the KAS planetary defence force was up to the job of repelling the insidious incursion. Questions remain whether further meklan are stored elsewhere on the planet and whether anybody will challenge the Dewiek’s lack of care for the lives of innocents. Probably not, given how even the mighty IMP are now cowering from a fight with the DEN (see inside this edition).


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Who is behind the AFA?

Following the large scale holiday attack by the AFA against the FET the question of who is behind the attacks has been raised once again. What is clear is that the AFA is using ships that were transferred from the GTT to the IMP. The organisation and expertise of the operation also reduces the pool of potential candidates. Few can go from commanding a handful of broadswords to half a thousand warships and significant army logistics without a long stint in one of the more combative affiliations. With the DEN’s allies the HEX in close relations with the FET and no recent history of animosity between the aliens and FET, at least since the departure of former one-eye big-bun Norozov, it would be a bizarre turn of events if they were behind these attacks. Frankly, there’s no point dancing around it. The IMP are clearly behind the AFA. The question is what can anybody do about this move of significant Imperial resources to a black-flag agency?


 
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Fox Effects Fantastic Turnaround

With his feet barely under the table, Xavier Fox has managed to dramatically turn things around at the GTT. With year-on-year sales figures up by 23%, manufacturing up 42% and ship production increased by 36%, the megacorporation is running at full steam with noticeable impact on local economies across the Stellar Empire. Political analysts also note that after a period of retrenchment following the disastrous leadership of Ike Krieger, investment in defence is at a five-year high. After such bullish growth, the trick will be for Mr. Fox to recruit C-level executives fast enough to match his ambitions. It is notable in temperament, the current crop of GTT politicals do not exhibit the monomaniacal xenophobia of their predecessors and have resisted repeated provocations by the DEN to enter a pointless spar before they have re-established superiority against the foolhardy aliens.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Felini flounder in Winter against superior Dewiek forces

The FEL have managed to get their asses kicked by the DEN yet again after provoking the definitely “not cute or cuddly” Dewiek in the Crossley system. The furry punching bags had bought a civilian flagged outpost in the system, without permission or under certain conditions depending on who you ask, and then had the gall to reinforce this error by positioning warships in orbit. The famously patient warlord Halvor did not buy the story these heavy hull armed ships were merely transports and sent a pack to clear the orbit. The mouthy yet green Felini fleet commander Pr'prz fancied his chances against what looked like a light complement of DEN warships and ordered his own warships to engage in the neighbouring Winter system. The result was predictably a wipe out of the FEL forces consisting of forty-seven capital warships at no loss to the DEN. Once again, a series of calamitous decision making resulted in Felini lives being wasted by a leadership barely fit to clean a litter tray. The otherwise untested Halvor can now claim some victory ale although with his penchant for picking on creatures as weak as Gracians, it’s not exactly clear how much glory this new breed of Dewiek warrior can claim against the legends of old.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Dastardly Dewiek Disregard Yank Neutrality

The governor of a MRC outpost in the Yank system reports that a 400-hull DEN warship called Grey Hunter Axiom entered orbit of Spritzer and opened fire with weapons of mass destruction (WoMD) against a platform, outpost, ground party and ship. Reports indicate significant casualties to Kastorian personnel both in space and on the ground. The KAS Junta is gruffly warning, with a slightly indifferent air, that everybody better stay out of the sector of the outpost for their own health. It is unclear what measures the KAS have or will take against the DEN on this matter. Such a breach of Yank neutrality has in the past caused the Dewiek to froth at the bit against the Empire for their disregard of ‘civilised’ norms. Their current silence on this matter speaks volumes.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Yenni-bodies Pirates?

A PIR outpost was miraculously discovered by an IMP freighter, of all things, in the Yanni system with several Javelin class warships in orbit. After noticing the IMP freighter and seeing the public post by Jack Jones on subspace, the PIR decided to flee and leave a combined force of IMP and FET forces to capture the outpost. A brain damaged three-year old commentator who still believed in the goodness of people and Santa Claus was quick to commend the IMP on their good work, dismissing those who thought it no more than a convenient clearing up operation signifying* completion of operations in the nearby FET claimed systems of Graydown, Canth and Onissian by IMP puppet Edward Lowe. Meanwhile, the Wolf Lord Lyceum summed up the view of many when he screamed, “What is this amateur b*llshit?” into an uncaring universe.


 
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Crowe Coups Self

The IMP Viceroy Tiberius Crowe has finally achieved something in his unremarkable tenure by relinquishing even the semblance of wearing big boy pants and instead, appointed Jack Jones as Patrol Commissioner, salty spokesperson and policy maker for the Empire. Crowe will now join CIA Director Laton in riding the special bus to work where the two of them will enjoy long pleasant afternoons sipping cups of tea. Actually, just tepid fruit-scented water as neither of them can be fully trusted with a hot kettle. Occasionally, they might be visited by equally dynamic war “veteran” Admiral Bridge to enjoy mimes presenting the latest comics from the Howl. Meanwhile, Jones is putting pressure on the FET and will soon no doubt find a pretext to deploy his vast mercenary forces against anyone else who is seen working too closely with his most hated of enemies, the HEX.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Highlord Aadolf Loses Control As Dewiek Break Peace Treaty

Around one hundred DEN warships have launched an attack on a small GTT destroyer squadron of forty ships in the Daggern system. Two GTT ships were destroyed and another fifteen suffered noticeable damage. CEO Xavier Fox issued a restrained but angry statement demanding the DEN explain themselves. Highlord Aadolf’s buffoon-like response amounted to “Dewiek be Dewiek, let’s drink and forget about it.” Cold comfort for the dead crew onboard the GTT ships and their families. Especially, as seems likely at this time, the Empire will settle for some bloody money instead of retribution.


 

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Control everything, up to an entire empire
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Over 20 years of content development
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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