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Subject: A few thoughts after finally getting Android to the table rss

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Sean Westberg
United States
Ventura
California
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After owning this game for over a year, I *finally* got it to table a couple weeks ago with 3 players.

Five hours later, I can say that Android is an odd, beautiful masterpiece that is occasionally flawed, but often brilliant.

I normally do a Good, Bad, & Ugly review with bullet points, but that doesn't feel like it fits with my playing experience. So we're going to go kind go with items that reflected my experience as I played.

* Setup: Setup was insane. Took about 30 minutes because I had never set the game up before. The game has *So* *many* *components* that it drives me crazy. However, on the up shot, with a few exceptions, once the tokens come out, they stay out, and there's actually not much fishing in my plano boxes during the game.

* Rulebook: It's written exquisitely well, but took almost an hour to get through with the table. A lot of smaller, more subtle rules were lost on us because of rules overload (such as discarding cards to modify twilight costs). However, the *core* actions of the game are rather simple and straight forward. You get so many action points, and about half a dozen things you can do with your actions. Following up leads lets you do 3 things: pull evidence, pull the conspiracy token you are on, or upgrade your next conspiracy token.

* Getting into character: We made a consious decision to read the flavor text out loud- especially our plots. It paid off. Without reading the (amazingly well written) text, we would have had no clue why we were behaving the way we were behaving. Suddenly the android was buzzing around the moon experiencing all of life that he could, in hopes to have that spark of imagination. I fought for my citizenship, and later my sanity, avoiding busy places and dark places because they attacked my very mind, and the private dick was dealing with an old flame and shadows of the past.

* It's nothing personal...: There's a lot of "take that" in this game. Which is interesting in that you need to "attack" your opponents so that you can buff yourself. Even when attacking, it feels more like plot complications than anything else. Still, it felt like I was getting *hammered* through the game. Some of those twilight cards are brutal.

* This isn't Clue: I hammered that home repeatedly before even breaking open the box. Android isn't Clue. We approached it more as a competitive roleplaying game than Clue, and that kept us going when we might have quit. As we kept playing, the murder became part of the story instead of the driving goal. It's what set things in action, but what was important to each player was yet to be determined. I focused on the crime itself, working on my own plot, and saved the conspiracy as almost an after-thought. The PI went back and forth between the conspiracy and the crime. The android ignored the conspiracy completely and focused on his own journey, only towards the end kicking into gear and working efficiently on the case.

* Are we done yet?: The game definately dragged towards the end. We were pretty proficient with a normal turn, and the total play time from opening the box was eeking up past 4 hours, and it was late. We stuck with it though. The problem is that in sticking with it, the theme started to wear thin, and we could see the corners start to rub off. I suspect that with further playings this wouldn't be an issue, but the climax of the game felt very mechanical because we were all exhausted and it was 2am.

* Wait, it cleans itself up?: At the climax of the game, pieces left the board and went back into the box. Half the game was cleaned up when we did final score tally. Very neat. It made cleanup feel easier.

* So what the hell happened over the last two weeks?: Due to a last minute dumping of bad baggage on the PI by yours truly (for revenge for getting hammered on all game long), his personal life spiraled out of control and he ended with around 9vps (his personal plot effed all the victory tokens he *did* get). The Android managed to feel more human, perform admirably for the police, AND solve the crime, by sneaking in a handful of evidence while me and the PI slung HUGE amounts of evidence back and forth (winning the game with around 37 vps). As for Caprice, she was designated a citizen, and came to grips with her psychic abilities, while ruling out her own corporation from the conspiracy. She was a little too obsessed with her own suspect (but the only player in the game *not* to have an obsession surprisingly!), and didn't pay attention to all the other leads. In the end, Haas-Biodroid's prodigal son committed the murder, was caught by a Haas-Biodroid android, and the conspiracy nearly touched every single major player.

* Can we do it again?: The overall sentiment was that Android is worth playing again, but eariler in the evening, and capping it at 3 players (*maybe* 4). The game is long, slow, florid, dripping with theme, and mechanically kind of straight forward, even if there are eleventy billion subsystems whirring around. The theme wore thin towards the end of a marathon session, but that's mainly because we were tackling the game cold. From opening the box to closing the box, we clocked in at around 5 hours, but we think we could squeeze the game into a 3 hour time frame now, especially if we printed up some cheat sheets to reduce rules references. At 3 hours, the game is entirely playable. We feel with 5 players the game would spiral out of control and bloat horribly. 3 felt like a sweet spot and 4 would be doable if everyone knew the game well.


So there's the brief overview of my first Android experience. We forgot rules- like warrants, which would have made a difference, but the soul of the game was there, playable, and enjoyable. It's clearly a labor of love. There's a lot of "in" references for the cyberpunk/phillip k dick genere of sci fi, the art is heart-breakingly beautiful, and there's a sort of zen nature to the mechanics of the game-The elements are all simple, the combination is what creates immense complexity.

I'll spend a moment on the concept of "framing" the suspect though. I've heard, repeatedly, that this is theme breaking, not in genre, and is what ruins the game. I humbly disagree. Android sees it's roots most obviously in Bladerunner, but moreso in the broader work of Phillip K Dick especially, and Heinlein and other giants of classic science fiction. However, to truly savor the game you need to understand Phillip K Dick work especially. His stories deal with identity, truth, and the sometimes very plastic nature of reality and fact. It's easy to approach the game and say "think of yourself as a director trying to set up a favorable ending for your protagonist", but that's intentionally left ambiguous by the designer. Maybe you are. Maybe you're actually playing your character trying to frame someone. How can you know? The behavior of one is identical to the behavior of the other. In this situation, the asking of the question is almost more important than what the answer ends up being. Who cares ultimately if Deckard is a replicant? Once you've asked the question you've found something far more valuable than a concrete answer. The plotlines in Android are about identity, humanity, and dealing with past experiences and future expectations. In asking just who you, the player, are supposed to be- character or director, god or mortal, experienced gamer loaded with expectations or new player here for the trip itself, you touch upon one of the very deepest themes of this sub-genre of literature.
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John McKendrick
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Another PKD fan who has found Android, so glad you liked it

-John

Do Sheep Dream of Electric Androids?
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Aswin Agastya
Indonesia
Bekasi
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Quote:
Without reading the (amazingly well written) text, we would have had no clue why we were behaving the way we were behaving.


The beauty of Android is that after a while, you don't need to do that anymore. Once you've captured the characters, the world and the NPCs, the cards' effect will make your minds conjure their own imaginations. The mechanics are insidiously thematic. So a single card will have many meanings, probably different to each player.
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Grant Batt
United States
Scottsdale
Arizona
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There were no screams. There was no time. The mountain called Monkey had spoken. There was only fire. And then, nothing.
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Yay! Great review!
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Charis
Switzerland
Genève
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I absolutely _love_ Android, although i only manage to play it a couple of times so far. Looking forward the next time !
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Martin Ralya
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R'lyeh
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I've been on the fence about Android for a long time, but this review got me off the fence and made me hunt down a copy. Actually getting it to the table will be an uphill battle, but one that I think will ultimately prove worthwhile.

Thanks for a great review! I really like this format.
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Sérgio Iglésias
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Porto - V.N. Gaia
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After reading this review I had a urge to go buy it, more so since it's on sale at a discount on my local retailer but the review also made me understand that this is probably not a game for my group.

Thanks for the review!
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Mike Clarke
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Port Coquitlam
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Your review sums up my own experience with this game beautifully. You call it an odd beautiful masterpiece. Another reviewer called it the poor, misunderstood genius sitting in the corner.

This is not your typical game. Android is more of an experience than your traditional move and counter-move competitive game. It's caused quite a divide in the gaming community because I think it appeals to a particular type of gamer: the right brained dominant gamer: intuitive, creative, imaginative, conceptual, as opposed to the left brain dominant gamer: logical, analytical, sequential, literal and precise.

It is long for what it is and at times a little clunky but also often brilliant as you point out. I would never trade it because it is truly unique. And for anyone like myself who is a fan of classic sci-fi (well all sci-fi really), it's something of a dream game.
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Charlie Mote
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Decatur
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Great review, with one of the most insightful comments on a game:

"In this situation, the asking of the question is almost more important than what the answer ends up being. Who cares ultimately if Deckard is a replicant? Once you've asked the question you've found something far more valuable than a concrete answer. The plotlines in Android are about identity, humanity, and dealing with past experiences and future expectations. In asking just who you, the player, are supposed to be- character or director, god or mortal, experienced gamer loaded with expectations or new player here for the trip itself, you touch upon one of the very deepest themes of this sub-genre of literature."

Don't know if I can ever justify trying this, but, it certainly has sold me on keeping an eye on Infiltration. Who knows, if the group ends up liking that, maybe Android won't be such a leap.
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Kyle Cope
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Lexington
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Yes, three is the maximum I will play this game with. I have a great experience with it. Also if you know the faults of your character, the bad things that can happen to you sit ok. I had a bunch of favors that got taken away thanks to my "girlfriend", but I knew the risk I was running in holding onto them.
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Byron Campbell
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Valencia
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TheFlatline wrote:
I'll spend a moment on the concept of "framing" the suspect though. I've heard, repeatedly, that this is theme breaking, not in genre, and is what ruins the game. I humbly disagree. Android sees it's roots most obviously in Bladerunner, but moreso in the broader work of Phillip K Dick especially, and Heinlein and other giants of classic science fiction. However, to truly savor the game you need to understand Phillip K Dick work especially. His stories deal with identity, truth, and the sometimes very plastic nature of reality and fact. It's easy to approach the game and say "think of yourself as a director trying to set up a favorable ending for your protagonist", but that's intentionally left ambiguous by the designer. Maybe you are. Maybe you're actually playing your character trying to frame someone. How can you know? The behavior of one is identical to the behavior of the other. In this situation, the asking of the question is almost more important than what the answer ends up being. Who cares ultimately if Deckard is a replicant? Once you've asked the question you've found something far more valuable than a concrete answer. The plotlines in Android are about identity, humanity, and dealing with past experiences and future expectations. In asking just who you, the player, are supposed to be- character or director, god or mortal, experienced gamer loaded with expectations or new player here for the trip itself, you touch upon one of the very deepest themes of this sub-genre of literature.


And we have a winner. This paragraph seriously made my day.
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Brian White
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Chicago
Illinois
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A remarkable review, and your evaluation of Phillip K. Dick's writing was incredibly succinct and elegant. You've convinced me to go to my FLGS TODAY to buy this game, even though their copy has a gouge on the box (maybe I can talk them into a discount... devil). Now the only question remaining is whether I'll manage to find someone in my local gaming group who is willing enough to play the story, not the mechanics. Truly, it sounds like the value here is not in a winning strategy, but in a meaningful story created by the players.
 
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