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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 *****

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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***** Inter Galactic News *****

The Worm Turns

The FET have reduced relations with the IMP to neutral. Sneezy boss Cu Chulainn took the bold step of putting 1 and 1 together by linking recent mercenary attacks in their systems with the IMP scouts seen loitering for some time and refusing to move. Even bolder, hints that they believe “a certain Imperial citizen” is responsible for Edward Lowe’s entire underhand operation were voiced loudly enough that the handsome but hard of hearing Tiberius Crowe had to take note. He was seen grappling in trademark fashion with his skin tight jacket, pulling it down over his partially concealed middle-aged girth, as he sat to issue a terse public statement. Exactly who this citizen may be was left unnamed and no news channel subject to Imperial laws would dare unmask the villain. Luckily dear readers, we are not subject to phony Imperial laws. It’s Jack Jones everybody. Jack Jones, butcher of Naplians and fancier of silver long johns.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

”Necessity hath no law”

Lord Cromwell of the DOM slapped a fleet of privateers, on charges of "knavery", "bad manners" and "poor sportsmanship." Such offences carry the death sentence in the Dominion, a nebulous territory neither part of the Empire nor apart from it. At least thirteen Armadillo class ships, typically sold by the DOM, were destroyed at a location Cromwell was unwilling to disclose publicly. Bloodthirsty Dewiek as well as "prince of peace" Yahn Wodenzoon were quick to congratulate the DOM for their merciless carnage. It seems the consensus in the galaxy’s ruling class is that not presenting valid identification is a crime worthy of the murder of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of unfortunate crewmen. This is all just another indicator that the political elite are far removed from the lives of ordinary people who are seen as little more than meat inventory. It is telling so-called “man of the people and the downtrodden” Wodenzoon so readily aligns himself with this grisly concord. Meanwhile, the archaic elocutionist Cromwell further establishes the recent trend of mild exertions of power by the cold-blooded DOM.


 
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Return of the Fox

The galaxy is still digesting news of the return of Xavier Fox to the boardroom of the GTT. The ailing corporation's share price began a sharp rally after a six month downward spiral under Ike Krieger, credited with being the worst CEO in the megacorporation's history. The only surviving board member from Fox's initial tenure as CEO, and perhaps across the entire GTT board, is Antt Tilton the Research Director. The reclusive Tilton is the brains behind the ascension of GTT technology, particularly in the field of antimatter weapons and super-heavy dreadnought size ships, Tilton offers a small measure of continuity during this tumultuous time. Mr. Fox has therefore resorted to a broad appeal for new blood to join the ailing firm. So far, the result has been a number of two-dimensional "Yes" persons being promoted to the C-suite. Still, key stakeholders were upbeat with one commenting, "Fox is the man to turn this bloody disaster around. He knows how to put a great team together and where to bury the bodies of the non-performers."


 
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Welcome to the new version of ESNN (formally CSNN), giving the news and views from the former CSNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe,

And so with the news,
 

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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