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Subject: Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Pursuing Happiness With Two rss

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Milena Guberinic
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Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Pursuing Happiness With Two




The Overview


In the Pursuit of Happiness, you will build the life you always wanted by taking on projects, buying items, getting jobs, establishing relationships, and raising families. And eventually, you will die. Because death is inevitable. devil



You start the game with 6 hourglass markers that represent the amount of time you have to perform various actions in each round. You also start the game with a childhood trait that will continue to provide some sort of benefit to you throughout your life.



The board shows the actions you will have available to you for spending your time each round, the projects, items, activities, partners, and jobs you will be able to add to your life story, and stress and short-term happiness tracks. Getting too stressed can (and will eventually kill you) and acquiring short-term happiness will allow you to move up in turn order each round.

In each game, you will randomly select 2 life goals that will provide bonus points to the player who manages to fulfill the objective on the card(s).





The Pursuit of Happiness is played over a variable number of rounds (dependent on how long you manage to survive) during which you will live through teen years, adulthood, and old age. Each round consists of the following phases:

1. Upkeep
-Advance the round marker, discard all project, item/activity, job, and partner cards from the board and draw new ones to replace them
-If your stress indicator is outside the central section, you will lose or gain hourglass tokens depending on the location of your stress indicator
-Pay upkeep costs for items, jobs, and partners
-Gain 1 stress for each project, partner, or job you have over a TOTAL of 3 and 1 stress for each partner you have over 1



2. Action
-During the action phase, you will take an hourglass marker (worker) and place it either on one of the available action spaces on the board or a card in your tableau
-If you take an action that you have already taken in the current round, you will have to take 1 stress

Actions include
1) Temp job - Gain 3 money

2) Take project - Take one of the projects on the board, pay the cost, place a marker to indicate the level of the project. Single-round projects allow you to pick any level, group projects allow you to pick any slot, and long-term projects require that you start at the top level and retain the project round after round, using hourglasses to promote your project by paying additional costs over time.



3)Spend - Take an item or activity from the board and place a marker on a level of your choice, paying the cost.



4) Get job - Take a job from the board and pay the hiring cost to gain the monetary reward. Some jobs have promotion costs that allow you to move to a higher level of the same job type by paying a lower hiring cost.



5) Start relationship - Take a partner from the board and place a marker on the date level. You will be able to promote your relationship later by meeting the partner's requirements and paying upkeep costs.



6) Overtime - Take 2 stress and gain 2 hourglass markers.

7) Rest - Reduce your stress level by 2 but only within the same colored section. The only way to move to a lower section is to gain health through projects.



3. End of round
-Gain rewards from group projects and remove single-round projects and group projects from play
-Take back your hourglass markers based on your stress level
-Determine the first player for the next round by positions on the shot-term happiness track, with the happiest player getting the first-player token
-Return the short-term happiness indicator to the center

The Review


Played prior to review: 4x






1. Every aspect of the game is infused with theme, allowing you to create some fun story lines
Pursuit of Happiness is a game that truly embraces its theme. If you have ever wanted to play a board game version of The Sims or another such life-simulation video game, Pursuit of Happiness is as close as a board game has come. Throughout the game you spend time on creative endeavors to gain creativity, on studying to gain knowledge, and on interactions to gain influence and then you use the creativity, knowledge, and influence you have gained to do well at your job or to progress further in projects and goals you have set out for yourself. Perhaps "spending" these resources is more gamey than thematic, but the game still manages to make strong, thematically-based associations between "resource" requirements and outputs. For example, becoming a sponsor to a political party requires a bit of influence and a lot of money, becoming a rocket scientist requires a lot of knowledge and some influence and creativity, etc. These connections allow you to make sense of the connections between your various actions and create a viable life story, which is what this game is all about.

2. Double-sided partners and jobs!
Partner and job cards are double-sided with identical requirements and benefits but different names and illustrations. This gives you a sense of ownership and a (superficial though it may be) sense of ownership over the way you live your game life. This element strongly contributes to evoking the theme that is already effectively woven into other aspects of the game.

3. Good replay value for those seeking a BREADTH of strategic options and story possibilities
To those who are looking for a thematic, life-building experience, Pursuit of Happiness will offer plenty of replay value, as the combination of child traits and life goal cards you face will encourage you to adopt different strategies and live a different life in each game.

The life goals are many and varied and each pushes you to play a little differently. In one game, you may be encouraged to "live fast and die young." In another, you may want to pursue a "zen" life, dying with the least stress. In another, you may want to be a hoarder, accumulating the most items. The combination of life goals will undoubtedly influence the strategy you choose to adopt due to the significant VP rewards that you can gain by satisfying those goals.

And there are a number of strategies to choose from in this game. You can collect long-term happiness points by buying lots of stuff and pursuing lots of activities, you can collect happiness by collecting mountains of a particular resource, as resources you have remaining at the end of the game will score, you can collect happiness by having a family and spending time with them round after round, you can collect happiness by participating in and promoting various activities. All of these provide viable ways of converting the basic resources of money, knowledge, creativity, and influence into points.

The child traits will also modify the direction you pursue in any given game and thus add to the replay value, as their benefits will follow you throughout the game. If your childhood trait gives you extra creativity every time you play, you might be inclined to play and pursue an arts job that demands you use your creativity each round. Alternatively, if your childhood trait allows you to ignore partner requirements when promoting relationships, you might want to focus on making points by having a family or having multiple relationships *gasp* (I wouldn't encourage this as I don't think it's sure to sink you into a hole really fast, but hey, whatever makes you happy ).

Ultimately, between the mountains of project, item/activity, job, and partner cards in the game, the life goals, and child traits, you will live a very different life in each game. If you're looking for breadth of strategy and story potential, look no further!

4. Some interesting decision points and neat tension between stress and actions
Stress is the chief source of tension in Pursuit of Happiness and it is my favorite part of the game! Does that say something about me? I love the tension between the desire to get more done in the short term and potentially having less time to spend in the long term. The "overtime" space is a particularly strong source of this tension, as it constantly presents you with the evil temptation to get TWO hourglasses for the turn while taking on two stress. It isn't that difficult to get rid of stress, as many projects, items, and activities will reduce it, but if you really want to get more done in a round, you may not have the time to chase extra projects, activities, or items to reduce your stress, which can make for a tough choice between short-term gains and long-term losses because passing certain thresholds will reduce the total number of hourglasses you have to use in the round. If this happens, the only way you will be able to reduce it again is to gain the oh-so-elusive health, so choosing to pass the stress threshold or even increase your stress by a little can create...well...a bit of fun stress!

5. Short-term happiness
I love the short-term happiness track and the way it encourages you to optimize the order of your actions. The chief function of the short-term happiness track is to determine the first player in each round. However, it also functions to reduce the amount of resources you have to spend on projects. As such, if you want to become the first player in the following round or you simply don't want to waste more resources than you could on projects, you want to make sure you find ways to increase your short-term happiness BEFORE you start working on projects, rather than the other way around.

Deciding when it is worth it to reduce your short-term happiness in order to cycle through the cards on display is also important and interesting. If you are really desperate for a card of a certain type, you always have this option to fall back on, but will the cost of going second always be worth the risk?



soblue


soblue 1. A little too long and AP inducing
Pursuit of Happiness is a relatively light and simple game but takes about 60-90 minutes to play. And we tend to be quick and decisive. For some reason, we are not quick and decisive when playing this game. Perhaps it has something to do with us getting caught up in the thematic connections between the effects and resource requirements of certain cards, but as much fun as it is to get caught up in that, it ends up irritating me to have to sit around waiting for Peter to take his turn because he's trying to make up a story.

soblue 2. The resource chits are fiddly and unnecessary
We ran out of money in our first game and found the system of using chits for the relatively large number of different resources used in this game to be unwieldy. I think that games with this many resources should just use boards with tracks for each resource.

soblue 3. The resource accumulation and conversion to points isn't particularly exciting
Resources are not difficult to come by in this game. You can get all kinds of resources from all kinds of cards and this just makes the game feel loose and a bit too easy. I prefer games that restrict resource flow and make it difficult to get the exact things you want to convert into points or other things...And the chain or resource to point conversion is a very simple one-step process that just left me wanting more.

soblue 4. The worker placement isn't particularly exciting
This isn't a completely negative point because there is an interesting element to the worker placement (as described in the section), but the whole system is rendered a little loose and lacking in tension by the fact that it is entirely non-interactive. By that, I mean that once you have taken a worker placement spot, your opponent can simply go ahead and take that spot as well, so you have all action spots available to you at all times. I understand why the system was designed the way that it was designed, as this is essentially a game of drafting cards from an open display and the tension of having something become unavailable to you is generated by the fear of having a card taken away by another player. However, the fact that so many of the cards do similar things mean that even this tension is frequently absent.

soblue 5. Breadth of strategy does not equal depth of strategy
In the section, I mentioned that Pursuit of Happiness will make those looking a breadth of strategic possibilities and life stories to experience very happy. Well, breadth and depth are not synonymous and, unfortunately, this game is lacking in the depth department...which, even more unfortunately for me, is what I crave from a game. The game's systems are simply not compelling enough for me to want to explore over and over again. The loose resource accumulation and exceedingly simple, independent chains of resources to points make for such a simple and straightforward experience that simply feels the same to me every time. And despite the breadth of stories and options, the game feels the same to me every time I play for that reason. So, if you are like me and prioritize depth to breadth when determining the replay value of a game, you may find Pursuit of Happiness somewhat lacking in replay value.

soblue 6. In the 2-player version, you see far fewer cards, choices feel somewhat restricted, and randomness increases
With only 2 players involved, fewer cards become available and you cycle through fewer cards, restricting the breadth of options you have available to you each round. Aside from the health-giving cards, which are specifically addressed below, the job cards are probably the best example. You are able to get promoted to a higher level job of the same type as the one you currently have at a lower resource cost. Of course, you gain a lower bonus once, but the resource savings of promotion over hiring are significant. The likelihood of a job of the same type that is one level higher coming up is not too low when playing with more players because you will see more cards in each round and cycle through more cards in each round. With two players, you will only see two cards in each round and only cycle through 2 cards in each round. If one player gets lucky and just happens upon a level 2 job of the same type he has, YAY for him and too bad for his opponent. And if the objective is to have the highest level job at the end of the game, the lucky player's job was just made easier than the other player's for no reason at all.

Of course, if you are unhappy with a particular display, you could always reduce your short-term happiness to cycle through the cards in a display, but doing this could end up benefiting your opponent more than you, it could end up accomplishing nothing, or you could get the card you wanted, BUT you had to spend short-term happiness to do it, which will disadvantage you when it comes to completing projects in the current round and possibly set you back in turn order in the following round. And whenever I execute this cycling business, I feel like I am only replacing randomness with randomness.

All of this just doesn't feel very satisfying to me because I am competitive when I play games. If it isn't the first time I'm playing a game, I am playing to play well. If the game throws a monkey wrench my way at a random time for no reason at all, I'm not going to be very satisfied with it and the level of randomness in Pursuit of Happiness just fails to satisfy.

soblue 7. Where are all the hearts!?
In Pursuit of Happiness, you are theoretically able to improve your health in order to reduce your stress level and prolong your life. There are only 4 cards in the huge deck of projects that allow you to improve your health. This means that they are unlikely to come up, heavily discouraging you from taking on stress that will send you over a threshold you are unlikely to be able to deal with later on. This restricts the strategic options you have. Sure, taking on an extra partner is POSSIBLE, but the stress you would have to take for doing so is simply not worth the trouble, as it won't be easy to sink below a threshold once you've passed it.

This point also ties in with my previous point. With two players, you cycle through so few cards that you are unlikely to ever see one of these elusive heart cards. And if you do see it, the player who is able to get it will be able to effectively extend the game for himself. In some cases, going into old age with less stress will give you extra points, meaning that this luck-based advantage can prove to be an even greater advantage in certain situations.

soblue 8. The options for living the "life you always wanted" are a bit more dull than the life I would want, but I have a wild imagination, so I may not be representative of the general population
Analyst? Civil servant? Dentist? Teacher? Even Rocket Scientist? These are not exciting jobs. These are things I could be or could have been and chose not to be for a reason; they don't interest or excite me.

A garden? A coin collection? A stamp collection? A boat? Again, the items are frequently accessible things you could easily obtain if you so wanted.

The activities aren't much better. Jogging, yoga, political activism...not particularly exciting. These are things I already do or could do. Ultimately, the careers, items, and activities are rather lackluster things that do not make the "life I've always wanted. Give me an astronaut, a professional gamer, a Hawaii summer house, a magic wand, a palace, a sleeve tattoo, a trip around the world, a unicorn...something a little more outlandish, exciting, fantastical. Perhaps I have a more active imagination than the average human, but I don't want to live a boring life in an imaginary game world that I could be living in the real world. I want to live a more exciting life and I want to play in a more exciting universe. But that's me and my fantastic thematic inclinations and not really a problem with the game. If you enjoy The Sims and other real-life simulation games, the options for living your life in this game will likely appeal to you.

Final Word


The Pursuit of Happiness is a great experience. You will live a life and you will die a death and you will experience all kinds of things you could possibly be experiencing in your own existing life or in an alternate life in a parallel universe. This game condenses 80 years of living into a much shorter time frame and in a much more entertaining way, presenting you with choices that are thematically driven and inspired. And yet it doesn't inspire me to continue to play it on a regular basis. Why? Because I chiefly play games for the challenge they present chiefly enjoy overcoming that challenge and learning to more effectively interact with the game's systems and other players over time. Now, I am fully capable of enjoying games that are silly and fun and light IF they don't take very long to play. Case in point is the delightfully funny Foodfighters, which sends me into fits of laughter every time despite its incredibly light weight. It takes 15 minutes to play. A harmless amount of time. While I wouldn't put Pursuit of Happiness in the same weight category as Foodfighters, I would put it in the same category in terms of what I am getting out of the game. Pursuit of Happiness gives me a cute story more than an interesting and innovative system to skillfully and competitively manipulate. Yes, all the mechanisms work together well and are all familiar and satisfactory, but they don't work together to generate a tense or mentally challenging experience. They work together to create a walk in the park. And that's ok. It's a great, fun walk in the park that clearly and effectively captures the designer's vision, but it isn't one I would personally care to repeat very often because it takes far too long for the DEPTH of strategy it provides. For me.

But how can I fault a game for not being what I want it to be? I can't. Pursuit of Happiness may not be a deep game, but it is a good game that does what it sets out to do very well. It provides a light, pleasant, thematic, family-friendly game about building an alternative life that will provide those looking for a breadth of story options with plenty to come back to. Pursuit of Happiness also accomplishes this in a superior way to that its rival, CV, presenting you with a more controlled and coherent system. I have enjoyed the time I have spent with Pursuit of Happiness and even though I won't personally be returning to it again, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a pleasant, light, worker-placement game that effectively simulates a life well lived. To my knowledge, this one is at the top of its class.

MINA'S LOVE METER heart SOME LIKE




***


Mina's Love Meter


Burn it! - I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale)
Dislike - I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale)
heart Some like - I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale)
heart heart Like - I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart Some love - I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart Lots of love - I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart heart All love all the time - I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)



To see my other reviews, visit this geeklist.



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Stephen Buonocore
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Thanks for the review, Mina! Well done as always!

Thanks,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games
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Milena Guberinic
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evilone wrote:

Thanks for the review, Mina! Well done as always!

Thanks,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games


Thanks, Stephen!
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bort
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milenaguberinic wrote:


Where are all the hearts!?
In Pursuit of Happiness, you are theoretically able to improve your health in order to reduce your stress level and prolong your life. There are only 4 cards in the huge deck of projects that allow you to improve your health.


I played this game on the weekend, and wondered if we had missed a rule, or forgotten to add more cards, or were just plain unlucky. I enjoyed the game, but it was a bit of a downer to die and miss a round, just because I didnt have a heart anywhere - I never had the opportunity to take a card with one. I think one came out in the game. Was doing ok in the game (leading for a lot of it), finished a distant last.
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Milena Guberinic
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bortmonkey wrote:
milenaguberinic wrote:


Where are all the hearts!?
In Pursuit of Happiness, you are theoretically able to improve your health in order to reduce your stress level and prolong your life. There are only 4 cards in the huge deck of projects that allow you to improve your health.


I played this game on the weekend, and wondered if we had missed a rule, or forgotten to add more cards, or were just plain unlucky. I enjoyed the game, but it was a bit of a downer to die and miss a round, just because I didnt have a heart anywhere - I never had the opportunity to take a card with one. I think one came out in the game. Was doing ok in the game (leading for a lot of it), finished a distant last.


I think there are maybe only two hearts in the whole game. Game is a bit devoid of hearts.
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