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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (The Pursuit of Happiness) rss

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Michael Carpenter
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In the Pursuit of Happiness players will be living out the lives they've always wanted. Players will choose their own jobs and significant others and even what hobbies and items they would like.The player who has the most points when all players have died wins the game.



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Family
Play Time: 60 to 90 minutes
Theme: Living Life
Number of Players: 1-4
Main Mechanics: Worker Placement, Card Drafting, and Resource Management
Components: Okay
Weight: Light


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
Every aspect of the game makes thematic sense. The round tracker is setup to track how far into your life you are, the stress track tracks how poorly or well you are aging, the cards include nearly areas of your life (activities-items, projects, jobs, and relationships). Even your workers represent time spent, rather than just individual workers doing jobs. The whole thing is well themed and implemented.

Round Track: As players enter old age they immediately gain increasing amounts of stress at the beginning of each round.


Stress Track and Short Term Happiness Track


I have heard that healthy living (hearts) are too difficult to get over the course of the game but even this is thematic in my opinion and the benefit you receive from the heart is nice but it will typically only give you one more round. All players are able to achieve 7 rounds (one more than the expected end of the game) if they play wisely. I could see people being frustrated if a player managed two extra rounds because I would think that player would certainly win at that point and the this isn't a short family game. The time you would invest and have swept away by one additional round may be frustrating.


GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
Players will start by taking:
- 6 hourglasses (setting the remaining 3 aside)
- 1 of the 2 child trait cards they have to choose from
- The starting resources given by the child trait

Hourglasses


Resources


Child Traits


Once the board is setup play will start with the oldest player. Players will place one hourglass (worker) on their turn and take the action it receives. There are 3 action spaces covered at the beginning of the game but they will be revealed at the beginning of the second round.



As players place hourglasses they will collect resources that can be used to pay for activities-items, and projects.

Activity-Item Cards


Project Cards


Players will be able to start at any level on a card for single project cards and must start at level 1 on basic projects but can upgrade as a "Card Action" later in the game.

Players may also start relationships and get hired for jobs. These are two of the three actions that are covered at beginning of the game when players are teens and only become available once players have become adults on the round track.

Both the Job cards and Relationship cards are double sided and allow for more variety.

As players progress through the game they will gain stress on the stress track. The stress track is divided into 5 colors. As a player's marker (cube) moves into a new color (to the right) the player's marker may not move back into the previous color. However, a player's marker can move back (to the left) within the color it is in. If a player gets accomplishes a task that gives him or her a heart symbol then the player may move back into a different color. If a player ever moves off of the stress track (to the right) the player dies.



Players will gain long-term happiness (points) for various things throughout the game and the player with the most points (after accounting for end of game adjustments) is the winner.



ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy


The Pursuit of Happiness gives off a strange feel of strategy. It almost feels as if you can get so caught up in the theme of picking what you want to have in your life that you can overlook the most strategic moves on your turn. There are several decisions to make on your turn but again it is as easy to just look at what the title of the cards are as it is to see what they will do for you. There are some ways to form a true strategy, like staying firm to a healthy lifestyle that will keep your stress track under control and there are some game-given ways to form your approach to the game in the form of Life Goal cards. These cards are revealed at the beginning of the game and give a slight path for players to take. However, I think the game falls flat in strategy and appears more focused on offering a thematic experience.

The game feels like it starts off with each player having a plan, but devolves to grabbing points as quickly as possible at the end of the game.

Depth of Strategy:
2.5 = Game provides opportunity to be strategic, but just grabbing points is typically more important.




Replayability


I think the obvious answer for people here is that there is nearly endless replayability in this game because of the variable setup, the vast number of jobs, projects, and all the cards in general. However, I am not so sure that anything in the game makes you buy into the cards you are buying. If you are willing to play up the atmosphere and tell stories and really make the theme for the game then I think there will be replayability. If you judge replayability based on mechanisms that stay engaging, I don't think this will be a game for you because every card is essentially identical, whether it is a job, relationship, etc. The cards look different, but play pretty similarly. I don't particularly find the mechanisms to be all that engaging because everything revolves around the resource management and there is very little, if any, variation to spending and gaining resources.

Replayability is DEFINITELY in the eye of the beholder for this one but I would say buyer beware. If you get involved in story telling during games then this may be a good one for you though.

Replayability:
2 = Heavily reliant on the group.




Quality of Design


Worker Placement: The worker placement aspect of this game is the best part of the game in my opinion. Players may place on the same action space as an opponent, they may even place a second hourglass on the same action space they have already used. It isn't so much that it is remarkably unique in implementation, but it is unique (to me anyway) in it the theme around it. The hourglass pieces are thematic and having to "spend time" (workers/hourglasses) to do more time-consuming projects, jobs, having a relationship is so thematic that it makes the lack of tensions for spaces between players less noticeable. Instead of having to compete with the other players when placing hourglasses (workers) you have to deal with your own decisions made earlier in the game.

Card Drafting: The card drafting mechanic in this game is pretty standard. The one twist in the mechanic is that you can buy a card for multiple costs and benefit more for spending more. This mechanism suffers from the lack of strategy in the game for me. There is very little suspense and tension as you wait for you turn to come around because the types of cards are so similar that even if you miss out on your first choice you likely have a second choice available or a different task to take on your turn that is going to be helpful.

Resource Management: The resource management aspect is completely standard and I have no complaints about the way you have to perform the task, but the fiddly nature of the chits is a nuisance because you are constantly making change. It is a MINOR complaint but each resource should have included a "3" value chit instead of just 1's and 5's.


Quality of Design:
3 = No major break in the game but pretty average gameplay.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
I think The Pursuit of Happiness will find itself as a game that a lot of families have in their collection because of the theme alone. You can have fun with this game if you are interested in the theme and the stories you can come up with and the mechanisms are very thematic. Unfortunately, I think the thematic feel of the game masquerades as deeply thematic but gamers can shatter that feel with strategic approaches to maximizing points and making the game more mechanical than it appears at first glance.

The game offers an opportunity to organize your approach to the game but it also has a portion of buying random cards to maximize points, especially toward the end of the game. This isn't exactly a bad thing for families but I would say that is not what I am looking for in a strong worker placement game. If I am going to have to maximize points to stay competitive at the end of a worker placement game I want to feel like I had to plan accordingly to make some quality moves, not just buy any card that offers the most points and hope I get more than my opponents.

One last word, a lot of people have taken issue with the lack of heart symbols on cards in the game but they don't seem to be so much of game changer that if an opponent gets one and you don't, you have no chance of winning. They appear like they would be this useful because of the way the stress track functions but there are plenty of ways to combat stress without having to waste actions or have a heart symbol. Whether you get a heart symbol or not the 8th round's stress requirement is likely going to kill you anyway. Spend the game working on managing your stress so that you will get 7 rounds and you'll be fine.


Overall Rating -
If it weren't for the theme I would say take it or leave it but because of the theme I will continue to play this game every once in awhile.


If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple
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Good review. I think your assessment is spot on for this game.
 
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Michael Carpenter
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Thanks! I want to like this game more and there is still a chance it will grow on me because of the theme but something is just missing.
 
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Trevor Schadt
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Great review! I wanted to point out a small error that might have influenced your play and especially your strategy:

MariettaTennis wrote:
Project Cards
Players will be able to start at any level on a card they would like and can upgrade as a "Card Action" later in the game.

That is only true for single-round projects. Basic projects must start at level 1 and can only be progressed through Card Actions.
 
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Adrian Abela
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Quote:
Number of Players: 2-4


It's actually 1-4 players. There is a single-player mode where one has to reach 50 points and complete 3 life-goals.
 
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Michael Carpenter
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Ahh. I did know of the 1-4. That was a typo. I haven't played it though. Is it good?
 
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Michael Carpenter
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No we played by the rules but the way I wrote the sentence was poorly written. I'll correct that. You can still simply grab points on your cards actions toward the end of the game which kind of eliminates/limits much of an end game strategy. You benefit from setting this up during the beginning of the game and then just grabbing at points a lot during your turns. The review may have made that sound harsher than it should have though.
 
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Adrian Abela
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MariettaTennis wrote:
Ahh. I did know of the 1-4. That was a typo. I haven't played it though. Is it good?


Well my opinion might be a bit biased

However, based on the vids and a few threads I've seen, I'd say it's well received.
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Michael Carpenter
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Haha. I didn't even notice the username tag. Sorry for such a dumb question.
 
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