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Subject: Android, a review and belated apology to Kevin Wilson for killing his baby rss

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Mike Clarke
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Much has been said about Android and what a confusing game it is. After having played it a few times since purchasing it last week, I can safely say the only thing confusing about Android to me are the criticisms that have nearly killed it and with it the hope of future expansions or additions.

What a shame.

Those who don’t get the game see Android as a collection of confusing mechanics with less than adequate game play. Many of the reviews I’ve read sum up Android with an air of authority based on in many cases only one play.

On one hand, they complain about how complex the game is but are unwilling to invest the time to discover it. Many of those who had a hand in killing it crowed about its unique theme, and original mechanics, but couldn’t be bothered to devote much effort to exploring them.

A lot of people expected one game (mystery deduction) and when they got something else (story driven) they bailed without trying to discover how it fit together and never questioning why Kevin Wilson would screw up such an obvious labor of love.

And that’s exactly what Android is…from the place names reflecting locations in sic-fi novels to the well developed stories of its characters and the detailed back stories of their NPC friends…from the beautiful board with its wonderful patina’d finish to the arty rule book, and the silken cards and thick chits.

The game’s bits are reminiscent of a collector’s edition. Hell, Wilson even poured out his soul in the first designer notes he’s ever done for a game, sharing with us his boyhood inspiration only to have us sh*t on it unreservedly.

So let’s look at some of the criticism. There’s no real murderer because you’re framing the suspect. Really? Really??? That’s the best you can come up with?! How about detectives are following their hunches and finding evidence that points to the suspect. This game is a STORY. You are NOT these characters. Your role as player is not to become them but to be part of the game engine creating an intelligent world with consequences that tells their story ....rather than some boring Euro where you play against the board until predictably you learn exactly how to beat it. Next! No wonder we own a hundred games.

They’re trying to find evidence that points to their suspect. That’s what detectives do but YOU decide where it goes and whether it does. Yep Wilson’s great sin was in creating a game that lets the players design the adventure themselves rather tying us down with the traditional “central story” the critics crucified him for leaving out.

And when the murderer turns out to be somebody else (another player’s suspect is found guilty), then your detective turns out to have been wrong all along. That sucks because it’s going to cost him in terms of reputation and self esteem (read victory points).

To this end Wilson gave the characters personal lives that interfere with their work (sound familiar?) There’s some elegant touches too. Some of their twilight cards are color coded to match their plots . You get a game incentive to play them and in return they provide the color and detail that brings that particular plot to life. You can play other twilight cards but the cards that relate to your particular plot are particularly thematic and valuable. I never heard that little detail mentioned once in all the reviews I’ve read.

The detectives all play differently. They need different things. They want different things. They can’t all be played the same. Raymond for instance is best at figuring out the conspiracy and manages his hand of light cards better than anyone else, but he's also an alcoholic haunted by his war time memories and the girl that tore his heart apart. Rachel is a bounty hunter who goes through money like water, but gains significant advantages from her cyber implants and is good at putting hits on people and Android Floyd is Pinnochio searching for his human soul and learning in the process to stand up to his creators. You have to play them like the people they are and that is contained in their plots and in the highly detailed and story driven twilight cards…so you have to play these cards to make these people who they are. No cards played EACH turn…NO unique story driven character. Maybe that was the problem. Bad hand management lol.

This is a game that plays particularly well with your close friends and significant others. With people who like to read books and can read the flavor text like they would a novel. With people who are comfortable enough with each other to do that. With people, in other words, who like each other. Want to make your book-reading, occasional game-playing wife happy? Play this game with her over a bottle of wine. Take it slow. Introduce it to her like the story it is and have her read out all the flavor text. This isn’t a game for kids. It’s a game for thinking adults. If you’re the kind of player that wants to race through a game moving cardboard around to put a beat down on his opponents than this game definitely isn’t for you. It’s not that kind of game even though there IS lots of “take that.”

But it’s not personal. In life bad stuff happens particularly when you’re down and nearly out as some of these guys are. The dark cards are a game mechanism to intelligently introduce conflict as is the entire twilight theme. Who better than thinking players to provide the conflict in an intelligent fashion that every good story needs? And guess what? You know your character’s weaknesses. You know your alcoholic investigator shouldn’t be in a nightclub where his inner demons might get the better of him. But hey, my opponent just moved the lead I need into that bar and the type of bad event (could be a girl, a fight or getting blind drunk) that unleashes its stuff in that location is only on four of about 20 cards. So it’s a gamble like a lot of things in life. (Maybe he’ll be strong enough to ignore that smart remark or not take that drink). But if he’s got a lot of favors stored up and he’s counting on them for victory…well…better stay away (because he could lose them). That’s not a problem with the game as so many have pretended. That’s a game decision. And going in when you have lots to lose? Well that’s a stupid game decision.

Can’t make sense of the evidence piling up on the suspects? Jimmy the snitch lets you look at all the evidence on one suspect’s card. Want to expose a suspect to get Rachel to put a hit on him? Lily Lockwell, the reporter, will waste an hour of your time interviewing you, but when she publishes the story everyone will see it (one evidence turned permanently over). And she’s a roving reporter; you can then send her to someone else.

I love the way travel is done in this game btw…with a cardboard caliper featuring a thematic depiction of a hover car that actually curves above the game board to illustrate a vehicle in flight. (I never once heard that little detail mentioned either). Most people simply ridiculed it as clunky, when in fact, it’s fast, works well and is incredibly, beautifully thematic.

The conspiracy is brilliant. It’s a much needed third option within the game to get you points so your game doesn’t live and die on finding the murderer. Yes that's right. If you don’t find the murderer, you can still win. In this game, point generators include: the character’s personal plot, the murder itself, the rival corporations and of course, the conspiracy. And uncovering a conspiracy IS a little like putting a puzzle together. You can link either or both of the two corporations producing androids to the murder, or city hall, or the Human First group that wants to eradicate all androids or any one of several other groups. You get special game benefits for doing so. Some don’t like the fact that placing the last puzzle piece in a row earns you points, but hey in a conspiracy you make connections and when you make a particular difficult one here, whether it’s a puzzle piece in the final row or a link to the Mayor’s office, you are rewarded. What a unique game concept. I’ve never seen it done anywhere else.

The problem isn’t with the game. It’s with a lack of imagination…in the need to have some concrete bit, supply what the mind cannot. A board game lives in the imagination. All the bits in the world won’t replace that. That’s why we own a hundred games. We’re looking for that ONE that really does it for us. And what do we do when someone creates it? We fail to recognize it and sh*t all over it instead. Nor is there anything wrong with the game play. This is a highly competitive, time management game where those who don’t maximize their time will lose then whine about its inadequacy. At any given moment, you’re only faced with four choices: to pursue the murder investigation, your plot, the conspiracy or take VP’s from the two corporations. Your characters are better at some of these and worse at others. Managing that is what the game is all about. It’s not rocket science.

This game is far from confusing. It’s liberating. You live your character’s life on an open board where you can go anywhere, do anything. The game mechanics aren’t clunky, they’re beautifully interwoven. The game is not at all that complicated to play. There IS a lot going on which is why it takes more than one game to discover its depth and work out its game play.

I’ve seen bastardizations of this game that hack it apart and re-assemble it so that it resembles the Bride of Frankenstein….an ugly convoluted mess. That’s what I call an attempt to turn this game into a deductive murder mystery (which it’s not), by requiring players to convict the innocent in order to find the guilty. How is THAT an improvement?!

I can only shudder when I imagine what Kevin Wilson went through as we butchered his baby. The game certainly isn’t for everyone. No game is. But he certainly didn’t deserve to have such a labor of love ripped apart with such glee and condescension.

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Paul Ingram
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I also really enjoy this game and have had great fun playing it a few times with my 10 and 7 year old son. While they may not have a full grasp of the strategy, we have a great time living out the story. Definitely a game I'm glad to have in my collection and will play for years to come.
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Calavera Soñando
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mikecl wrote:
This game is far from confusing. It’s liberating. You live your character’s life on an open board where you can go anywhere, do anything. The game mechanics aren’t clunky, they’re beautifully interwoven.


Quoted for truth.
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Volker Hirscher
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Quote:
I can only shudder when I imagine what Kevin Wilson went through as we butchered his baby


Yes Sir, this game was made with love! Few games are, those days! If it would not have been "butchered", I am sure he would have made an expansion for it. It really seemed to be a game coming from his heart...

At least, I hope he reads reviews like this and knows that his game has some true fans! I think Android will be a gem in my collection and I will definitely NEVER sell it.
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Ronald (Joe) Rupert
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I'm so glad I bought this game around the holidays. I haven't had time to learn it yet (bought about 15 games...learning Chaos in the Old World at the moment ) but I'm eager to play it! Great review and I'm more convinced I'll love it.

I also have MScrivner to thank...I saw all his glowing feedback on the game (and his review on his games list...is that stalking btw? If so I apologize! ) and it helped to convince me to make the purchase.

One thing is certain...the game is beautiful.
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Mike Clarke
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Wrasse wrote:
I'm so glad I bought this game around the holidays.
....I also have MScrivner to thank...I saw all his glowing feedback on the game (and his review on his games list...is that stalking btw?


If it is I'm guilty as well. It was Scrivner's well thought out comments that convinced me to pull the pin, despite all the negative reviews.

How's this for a take on those who say the game's too complicated:

youthguyingram wrote:
I also really enjoy this game and have had great fun playing it a few times with my 10 and 7 year old son. While they may not have a full grasp of the strategy, we have a great time living out the story. Definitely a game I'm glad to have in my collection and will play for years to come.


Even kids can play this game...and I would argue are particularly suited to it for they haven't yet lost their imagination. This is exactly what I meant about it being a game particularly well suited to good friends and family.
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Calavera Soñando
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mavo wrote:
Quote:
I can only shudder when I imagine what Kevin Wilson went through as we butchered his baby


Yes Sir, this game was made with love! Few games are, those days! If it would not have been "butchered", I am sure he would have made an expansion for it. It really seemed to be a game coming from his heart...

At least, I hope he reads reviews like this and knows that his game has some true fans! I think Android will be a gem in my collection and I will definitely NEVER sell it.


After my third game of it, I actually sent him a Geekmail and said, basically, "Thank you." I tend to avoid all sorts of drooling fanboy interactions of that sort... but I couldn't not communicate the intense joy this game brought me, and I felt the need to tell it's author how grateful I was. He replied as well.
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Mr. Derrp!
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Awesome post! I agree 1000% with everything you said. This game is easily a 10 for me - it has everything and more. I can only hope for expansions whether more boards, cards, characters, or murders.

I also hope there are more games designed with this depth and theme!
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Gunther Schmidl
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Thank you for this review. I wish I could give it approximately a thousand thumbs, especially for

Quote:
This game is far from confusing. It’s liberating. You live your character’s life on an open board where you can go anywhere, do anything. The game mechanics aren’t clunky, they’re beautifully interwoven. The game is not at all that complicated to play. There IS a lot going on which is why it takes more than one game to discover its depth and work out its game play.


Yes, if you're just going to play cards on each other without reading the flavor text, the game isn't going to be interesting. Last play we were even pondering not telling the other player the possible outcomes of multiple-choice cards.

It's a game for people who like Tales of the Arabian Nights and City of Chaos, a game where the unfolding story tops the rest, except the story is less random than in those two.

And yes, the shamelessly-named "Director's Cut" is a bastardization to a grade that I wonder why FFG isn't asking BGG to remove it for slander.
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Holger Hannemann
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I haven't played Android, but I love Arkham Horror for the same reasons you love Android. For me AH is an interactive novel. Thanks for this fantastic review!!
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Dmitriy Deputatov
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I finally bought this game, I didn't have such enthusiasm while unpacking a game and reading the rules for a long time. Haven't played it yet but sooo in love with the game already - my favorite theme and interesting blend of different mechanics, can't wait to play it. Some may say it's a niche product, failed commercially, but for me it's an underappreciated masterpiece, so big thanks to Kevin and to all responsible for this game to happen Sad that we won't see any expansions
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John McKendrick
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I'm so pleased to see a review like this, from someone who really understands the game. Thank you sir!

I'm currently involved in a PBF of this game on BGG. This game may even take six months to complete, but I know I'm playing with people who appreciate the game. After only one turn, I can tell that I will be sad when it finishes .... No matter the outcome
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T France
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This review has made me want to reacquire this having traded it away in haste...
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Kyle Meighan
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I'll be playing my first game tomorrow. However, I too have read all the reviews, and just from my reading the rules and fiddling with the components I see what you see. Hopefully I will be able to convey this into our playing session tomorrow.

Thank you.

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Jorge Arroyo
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Excellent review!! You've summed up all the reasons why this is such an amazing game. Thanks!
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Jeff Luce
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Perhaps you should have titled your post "Android, a review of reviews and a belated apology to Kevin Wilson for all those stupid people who aren't half as clever as I."

Quote:
The game’s bits are reminiscent of a collector’s edition. Hell, Wilson even poured out his soul in the first designer notes he’s ever done for a game, sharing with us his boyhood inspiration only to have us sh*t on it unreservedly.


I found the game components on par with most Fantasy Flight games. Unless you got one where the bits were gold plated or included some sort of pre painted mini, I wouldn't call them "collector's edition".

In regards to the second half of that paragraph. The designer's "boyhood inspiration" is interesting perhaps but is irrelevant to the quality of a game.

Quote:
There’s no real murderer because you’re framing the suspect. Really? Really??? That’s the best you can come up with?!


I believe the central point of that criticism was that looking at the box and the blurbs associated with it, a purchaser was likely to think that this was a traditional murder mystery when it is clearly not.

Quote:
I love the way travel is done in this game btw…with a cardboard caliper featuring a thematic depiction of a hover car that actually curves above the game board to illustrate a vehicle in flight. (I never once heard that little detail mentioned either). Most people simply ridiculed it as clunky, when in fact, it’s fast, works well and is incredibly, beautifully thematic.


For the record, the caliper IS clunky. Interesting? Yes. Cool looking? Yes. Thematic? Maybe. But clunky as hell.

Quote:
The problem isn’t with the game. It’s with a lack of imagination…in the need to have some concrete bit, supply what the mind cannot.


So if you don't like the game then you lack imagination? Your mind cannot function on the same plane as the glorious designer or his enlightened disciple? That observation is pure clap trap. Any game with a high level of theme relies upon imagination. Other games such as Tales of the Arabian Nights, which are almost entirely story and imagination related, have succeeded wonderfully.

Quote:
I can only shudder when I imagine what Kevin Wilson went through as we butchered his baby.


Frankly I couldn't care less what Kevin Wilson thought or thinks regarding my or any review of his "baby".

Games succeed or fail based on their own merits. The elitist concept that the ignorance of the "great unwashed" is the only thing that kept this game from being enshrined in every house in the nation and treated as some holy relic is B.S.

(For the record, I gave this game a fairly positive review at the time)
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Chris Ferejohn
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I think the problem is that this game is alienating to many many gamers. Many people are not interested in a 3-4 hour game. Of those that are, many of them are not interested in a 3-4 hour game they will have to play 3 or 4 times before they start to understand and enjoy it. If blaming people for not having that kind of time and patience makes you feel better, go for it, but a game that is only really enjoyable after you've spent 12-15 hours playing it is going to have acceptance problems.
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Mike Clarke
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One_Wolf wrote:
I'll be playing my first game tomorrow. However, I too have read all the reviews, and just from my reading the rules and fiddling with the components I see what you see. Hopefully I will be able to convey this into our playing session tomorrow.

Thank you.



You're welcome. My best advice is to enjoy the experience. Don't rush it. Either read or let them read the flavor text on the back of the box and on the inside of the game manual so they understand the setting.

Explain to them they are detectives following up on their hunches and if their hunches are wrong, their reputations will take a beating in the form of missed victory points.

Make sure they read ALL their dark cards first. Don't make them read the flavor text, just the locations they need to stay clear of. Otherwise there's too much to absorb on first play.

Make sure they know there's five easy victory points in just having your innocent hunch NOT declared guilty. You don't even have to do anything as long as she's not gaining all the guilty evidence tokens.

Don't rush the game play. This game is ALL about the journey. Make sure each character pauses when they change locations and asks, "does anything happen to me here?" so players don't miss their opportunities to play cards.

When something happens, have the card player announce it and read the game impact on the bottom of the card. IE: Fight play when Raymond enters a nightlife location. Then have them read the flavor text: "God, I can't breathe...get away from me!! The lights faded around me and suddenly I was back in that spacesuit all those years ago running out of air." etc....

The more you play this game, the more it comes alive. First play is always a struggle with any game but I had more fun learning this game than I have with any other in my collection. And it just got better from there.

Good luck!

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Mike Clarke
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cferejohn wrote:
I think the problem is that this game is alienating to many many gamers. Many people are not interested in a 3-4 hour game. Of those that are, many of them are not interested in a 3-4 hour game they will have to play 3 or 4 times before they start to understand and enjoy it. If blaming people for not having that kind of time and patience makes you feel better, go for it, but a game that is only really enjoyable after you've spent 12-15 hours playing it is going to have acceptance problems.


I'm not blaming anyone for not liking it. Clearly different strokes for different folks...and yes it's a long game and that will eliminate a certain segment of gamers right there. I get that. But I AM taking issue with many of the reasons people gave for why they didn't like it ie: confusing, clunky, a mish mash of unconnected parts...and yes...I did feel it was misunderstood on an artistic level.

I wrote the review based on how I feel after having played it. It didn't take me 15 hours to come to that conclusion either. So for those who think I'm being elitist, I'm sorry you feel that way. But for all the misdirected, vitriolic, ridicule the game has endured here surely there's nothing wrong with a spirited rebuttal. If that's elitist, so be it.
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Max Maloney
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Good review. I do think Android is often unfairly criticized. Though I do think you may have missed the mark in not pointing out that it has some weaknesses. cferejohn's point above should be noted; it's a very fair criticism.

But I have an even bigger one. I played this with some friends who love story-based games. They did not find the mechanics confusing. They did not care about "framing the suspects" (they understood it was a mechanic representing the evolution of the storyline). They did not have any problem with playing for 3, 4, 5 or more hours. So what didn't they like?

The writing in this game is really bad.

After they played, they were completely ambivalent about playing again because reading the cards couldn't be done with a straight face. Now I know many sci-fi fans are fine watching crappy acting on Babylon 5 and Stargate and whatever else, so maybe they don't care. But if you're an actual fan of classic science fiction novels, this is not going to impress you. If you read Philip K Dick and then one of the cards in this game, you might just vomit in your mouth.

It's amateurish. And that's too bad because the idea behind the game is really quite brilliant. They just needed to hire a better writer to do all the writing and let the FFG people stick to system design.
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John McKendrick
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Dormammu wrote:

The writing in this game is really bad.

After they played, they were completely ambivalent about playing again because reading the cards couldn't be done with a straight face. Now I know many sci-fi fans are fine watching crappy acting on Babylon 5 and Stargate and whatever else, so maybe they don't care. But if you're an actual fan of classic science fiction novels, this is not going to impress you. If you read Philip K Dick and then one of the cards in this game, you might just vomit in your mouth.

It's amateurish. And that's too bad because the idea behind the game is really quite brilliant. They just needed to hire a better writer to do all the writing and let the FFG people stick to system design.


So do the writers at FFG have to hire someone of PK Dick's ability?

I notice you are an HPL (Arkham Horror) fan. What do you think of his writing ability?

{edited for clarity}
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oystein eker
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Close to a perfect review.
A mandatory read for all boardgamers. This is how you should approach a new game with new mechanisms that is beyond our level of experience.
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Mike Clarke
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Dormammu wrote:
Good review. I do think Android is often unfairly criticized. Though I do think you may have missed the mark in not pointing out that it has some weaknesses. cferejohn's point above should be noted; it's a very fair criticism.


Thanks! I thought so too (game often unfairly criticized). And I did note cferejohn's criticisms and conceded a few of his points.

Dormammu wrote:
The writing in this game is really bad.


Gotta disagree with you there and I'm a writer myself. It is a little cliche in some spots. And if you're playing it with a bunch of irreverent guys indulging in frat boy humor, it WILL be hard to read some of this stuff with a straight face.

But it's not bad. There's a certain pulp fiction style to it that's endearing. I've certainly read a lot worse. It's better than those awful sci-fi novels based on movies and fantasy role play (Star Trek and Dragonlance spring to mind).

Dormammu wrote:
If you read Philip K Dick and then one of the cards in this game, you might just vomit in your mouth.


I grew up reading Philip K. Dick and guess what, I haven't vomited in my mouth once playing this game.

Dormammu wrote:
It's amateurish. And that's too bad because the idea behind the game is really quite brilliant. They just needed to hire a better writer to do all the writing and let the FFG people stick to system design.


Ah! So now it's brilliant but poorly written. Are you familiar with the saying, "damned by faint praise?" That's a perfect illustation of what happened to this game. Death by a thousand cuts.

I respect your opinions Max, but on this, we're going to have to agree to disagree.
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Jeffery Bass
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What's this? Why, it's the Hiller Flying Platform! It flew in 1955.
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...boring Euro where you play against the board until predictably you learn exactly how to beat it. Next! No wonder we own a hundred games.


This is a very insightful comment. I own too many games for this very reason.
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Mr. Derrp!
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Repoman wrote:
For the record, the caliper IS clunky. Interesting? Yes. Cool looking? Yes. Thematic? Maybe. But clunky as hell.

Speak for yourself.

And.. FOR THE RECORD? You have the authority to set what is clunky for the rest of us? Hardly. Your opinion is stated like fact for the rest of us.

The caliper isn't clunky to me or my wife. She thought it was a great aspect to the game as did I.
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