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July 11, 2010 / jadettman

Android

I go out of my way to play games that I’m interested in but not yet willing to buy when I go to Origins. This year, I specifically went out of my way to play Android, an investigative SF -themed board game produced by Fantasy Flight Games.

Android has been available for a while now. At least a year if not more. From what I had heard of the game on the internet, I’d been tempted to just buy it sight unseen. In the end, I’m glad that I didn’t.

Android is a SF and investigation-themed board game. The basic premise is that a crime has been committed (in a future vaguely similar to that of Blade Runner) and that a diverse group of investigators have been called in to solve the crime, working against the clock and each other. When setting up, a crime is chosen and various suspects are laid out. There are, apparently, several crimes to choose from (to keep the game interesting over the long term) but I only had the opportunity to play through the basic investigation suggested for beginning players and even then they had to shorten the game to make it fit the four-hour time slot.

Each character has a character sheet which provides you with their starting location on the board, their initial equipment and the special rules for that character, because every character has special rules. For characters to choose from there is the alcoholic veteran, the crazy psychic clone, the greedy mercenary/assassin, the bipolar police lieutenant, and the robot. Each character has a special mechanic that is only relevant to that character. For example, the alcoholic guy is haunted by his time in The Last War so, at the beginning of the game, he hands each of the other players a card that represent his trauma so that they can hurt him with it sometime during the game.

Once each player has a character, he’s dealt out two Hunch cards. One card tells you which suspect you think is guilty and which suspect you are sure is innocent. During the course of the game it is your job to make sure that your Hunchs are the correct ones. At the end of the game, if yours are right you get 15 victory points for having the right perp and 5 vp for the right innocent suspect. From the game I played, 15 vp looks to be a significant amount of points so you don’t want to lose sight of your investigation.

To continue game setup, Clue Tokens are scattered about the board at various locations. When a player acquires a clue token, he can do one of three things: he can pull a numbered token out of a bag and add it to one of the suspect’s character sheets (which will help determine who was guilty and innocent at the end of the game), he can investigate the Conspiracy (I’ll get to that), or he can use it for various effects in the game like effecting his Choose- Your-Own-Adventure stack or drawing cards or what-have-you. Once he’s chosen what he’ll do with the clue, he hands it to the player on his left to put back on the board somewhere.

Each investigator gets a specific number of actions on his turn. This is called Time and the game provides you with a Time Sheet to track it with (something I found largely unnecessary since I think most people are capable of counting backward from six or even 10). Doing just about everything in the game counts as an action, whether it is moving to a new location, investigating a clue, or playing a card from your hand. Generally, this makes a players turn go pretty quickly which is saying something, considering the number of options available.

Okay, more about the investigators and how they work: Each character has Light Cards and Dark Cards associated with their character. Light Cards do good things for the character and are played by that character’s player. Dark Cards are available to a player’s opponents and do bad things to his character. Here’s the hitch: at the bottom of each character’s sheet is a Five Point track that swings in an arc from left to right. When you play one of your character’s Light Cards it pushes you over toward the darker side the character’s track on the right, when you play a Dark Card it moves you toward the lighter side on the left. If you don’t have enough movement on your character’s track to pay for the card you have to make up the difference by discarding cards from your hand.

Blech.

Okay, I could keep going here but there plenty more mechanics to explain and I don’t feel like typing anymore this evening. Maybe in the future I’ll turn this into an article for one of my newsletters and, if so, I’ll mention it when I do.

Here’s the bottom line: Android is an overly complicated boardgame with lots and lots of mechanics, some of which I feel are needlessly fiddly. Overall, I kinda liked the game despite the fiddly mechanics. If there is one thing that FFG knows how to do it’s theme and that they nailed.

Maybe if I had three or four hours every couple weeks to play a boardgame, and there as a discount on the game, and I could swallow the fiddly mechanics, then maybe I’d pick up Android.

I’ll be honest, FFGs RPGish boardgames do tend to intrigue me but none have them grabbed me enough yet to put up with the baggage that comes with them, including Android.

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Dan / Jul 15 2010 5:43 am

    It sounds like a lot of complexity in return for…. what?

  2. J.A. Dettman / Jul 16 2010 11:12 am

    Well, IMO, FFG really took that old Wizards of the Coast game survey seriously.

    If you aren’t familiar with the survey in question, one of the big conclusions was that when a player learns a complex system it creates significantly higher levels of ‘buy in’ and results in more play.

    Theoretically, this also creates higher levels of satisfaction, but that isn’t from the WotC survey so much as other studies that I’ve read. ; )

    So, the more complex the game is the more time and effort you have to spend to master the game and the less likely you are to put it aside in favor of another game that you haven’t mastered.

    Maybe that’s why FFG has a fanatical player base? : )

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