Negotiation, it's a long lost art! I'm a big advocate for interaction in games and this is one of the best ways to incorporate it. You can't get much more interactive than talking with the other players on more than just how their day was. Cosmic Encounter is one of the forerunners of the genre, but it also is a big part of some popular social deduction fillers such as One Night Ultimate Werewolf, CS Files and The Resistance. Honourable mention must go to Dragon's Gold though, just straight up negotiation over treasure, great fun!
They don't tend to be long games though. Sure you can make alliances with other players in epic 4X games and the like, but for a game to be pretty much straight up negotiation and long, that's rare in my experience and even rarer for them to be actually any good. New Angeles is seeking to be just that and based in one of the best universes Fantasy Flight has brought out: Android. I enjoyed Android Netrunner and its rich, thematic sci-fi world (though I might have to quit soon, it's impossible to keep up with the meta) and so I like the sound of using it to perform shady deals as corrupt Corporations.
Too much complexity could kill it though. And how long can one keep up a session of constant negotiation before one gets bored or one's head explodes?
Designer: James Kniffen
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Time: 120-180 Minutes
From Fantasy Flight Games
The largest, richest, and most diverse city on Earth, New Angeles is home to the Space Elevator that rises along its buckyweave tether and connects us to Luna and its invaluable Helium-3 deposits. It is here, in New Angeles, that you'll find the global headquarters for the worlds' most powerful megacorps: Haas-Bioroid, Globalsec, Jinteki, Melange Mining, NBN, and the Weyland Consortium. And it is here, in this shining beacon of human achievement and advancement, that these powerful megacorps enjoy a uniquely fertile breeding ground for their projects and their rivalries.
In New Angeles, you gain control of one of these megacorporations, then you use your wealth and influence to create more wealth and more influence. To do this, you cut deals and forge temporary alliances. You leverage your credits and assets to gain financial superiority over your corporate rivals. All the while, you also need to keep an eye toward the masses, striking deals with the other corps as necessary in order to keep a lid on crime, disease, and unrest. If you want to maximize your profit, you need to keep New Angeles open for business!
This is Fantasy Flight and it's the Android universe. You don't need me to tell you that New Angeles looks the business. The graphic design is clear on the board/cards/tokens and the artwork is excellent, seriously I want a movie done based on the Android universe now! If you're familiar with the Netrunner LCG you'll recognise the personalities used for the corporations and various asset cards, in fact maybe a little too well as I did notice some artwork taken directly from the LCG in places.
On top of that you get a selection of great looking miniatures for the units that can appear in the game. I especially like the look of the PriSec infantry with their cool armour. Some may object to the orange plastic colour, but I didn't mind, it's not like I paint my miniatures in any game anyway and it makes them stand out more on the dark board.
Having miniatures and good artwork does come at a price though and New Angeles isn't a cheap affair with an RRP of £54.99, but rarely is anything from Fantasy Flight cheap anyway given their high production quality.
......EVERYBODY NEEDS GOOD ANNNNNDROIDS.....
For what can be described as a fairly heavy game, there aren't actually that many rules to the game. It can get a little fiddly in your first run as you get used to the terminology and how offers and counteroffers work, but after a few rounds it becomes almost rinse/repeat and you'll be more comfortable. The real meat is down to the negotiations.
And right now I'll just make it clear. If you don't like this genre, stop reading. You won't like New Angeles. Everything is about the negotiations. Deals, bribes, consortium's, you name it, they happen frequently. One minute you're supporting Jinteki with their plans to cure the city, but the next you're stabbing them in the back to back a counter-offer raised by Globalsec to enforce martial law. Any "friend" you make in this game is a temporary affair.
And this is compounded by the fact that each player has a secret victory condition. The Federalist player wants the city to fall to chaos and is essentially the equivalent of a traitor in a co-op game. Everyone else is trying to acquire more capital by the end than a business rival, but the rivals are dealt out randomly at the start of the game. This has a dramatic impact on gameplay and will influence a lot of player decisions on supporting or opposing offers. Weyland may rival NBN, but NBN may be rivals with Haas Bioroid and they themselves might even be rivals with NBN, putting them in direct conflict with each other. I had a similar setup in my first game, I as Globalsec rivalled Melange and they rivalled me so throughout the whole game there was always a tense feeling of opposition between us. Figuring out who rivals who is a fundamental part of manipulating the negotiations and I love it. Move over Dead of Winter, this is how you do secret agendas properly.
Despite the constant deals and offers, there is still a good degree of structure in New Angeles. There is a clear progression of what each player can do and at what stage during a round so it's not wild and chaotic like some negotiation games where players can just jump in without warning at any time to mess things up.
.....ANDROOOOOIDS HAVE FEELINGS.......
There are some minor weak areas that deserve mention though. Despite having 5 separate offer card types to choose from it's not easy for you to draw outside of your categories per your corporation player board. On top of that there aren't that many different cards within each pile as many repeat themselves. As a result the variety isn't as good as it could have been and could use a little expansion to fix, though I don't know if this game will end up getting one.
Also the Investment cards are a double edged sword. On the one hand it's good to have secret agendas. On the other hand, they are all based on various things being present on the board or for resources to reach a certain level. If the current demand requires your investment to succeed then you are essentially getting points for "free" as the whole group will actively promote your investment without realising it. But if the demand ignores your investment, then good luck trying to make any money on it. Yes you get a choice of two each time you pick, but it's still luck of the draw - I almost want to remove these from the game, but I fear it might upset the balance.
.....ANDROOOOOIDS HAVE FEEEEEELINGS.........TOOOOOOO.....
Most pure negotiation games aren't long affairs, but here you're talking a good 2.5 hours minimum and anything up to 3.5 hours to finish assuming you reach the final round. I have heard stories of extreme lengths being achieved, but they are rare and more a fault of the players not pushing things along. It's not the number of rounds that causes this though, it's the level of discussion raised by the players. Every round is a series of offers and counteroffers made by all the players. Deals, bribes, trades, all sorts are arranged and of course this is what sucks up the time. You may have one offer pass in less than a minute as everyone agrees it's for the best, but another may take 10 minutes or more depending on the circumstances. As such it's almost impossible to predict how long a game of New Angeles will last while you're in it.
Overly long games are usually a put off for me, but what separates New Angeles from other long games is that you are constantly engaged throughout. And I don't mean spending 30 seconds plotting your next move in a Euro game, I mean you are perpetually involved throughout the whole timeframe. On the odd occasion there may be a deal that doesn't involve you that drags on a bit, but players tend to push them to make a decision before too long.
Otherwise you're either part of a deal or interested to know the outcome of a deal. Why is Weyland so interested in countering Jinteki? Will removing strikes or enemy units be more productive? Is he trying to tank the game as the Federalist? It's questions like these that keep you engrossed for 3 hours of play. You'll be knackered after a full game from a huge head rush of tension and negotiation, but you won't feel bad about it.
VERDICT ON NEW ANGELES
New Angeles is one of the biggest head-rushes I've had from a straight up negotiation game. It is a bit long, but for 90% of that time you are involved and engaged in discussion, deceit and planning. The clever system of having a hidden win condition based on one other player means it's hard to trust anyone and despite many players at least not wanting the game to tank, it's still not a co-op at the end of the day and some games can really come down to the wire.
Everything looks gorgeous as is to be expected. The rules take a little getting used to but after one game you'll be comfortable with how it all works from then on. Investments are a weak area as you can be rewarded for doing very little and I do wish there was more variety within all the various card piles.
I hope down the line an expansion fixes some of the small issues I have, but despite these I can't deny how interactive and intense New Angeles is. It's one of the heaviest negotiation games I've ever played, but I mean that in a good way. Prepare yourself before jumping in.
BROKEN RATING - 8 Bad-Ass Looking PriSec Units
Also Kudos if any of you caught on to the chapter title reference! ;-)
YOU WILL LIKE NEW ANGELES IF:
You love negotiation games - it's 2-3 hours of pure group interaction.
You're a fan of the Android universe - the theme is strongly tied to it.
You enjoy secret traitor mechanics.
YOU WILL NOT LIKE NEW ANGELES IF:
You don't take backstabbing well - this game can be quite mean at times.
You feel it's too long for what it is.
You feel it needs more card variety to be great.
Great review. We played a 5 player game of New Angeles last weekend and we managed to break the city without having a Federalist in play! I think it was our selfish playing style that contributed to it, but the thing was that we all had tons of fun playing this despite the fact that the Government came in and finally took control of the city from us. We're big fans of Battlestar Galactica and this has a similar feel (though it has lots of differences to it).
I'm actually really looking forward to playing this again,
Good review smeg head... makes me want to check it out.
Love the references...
Sit down, Brook. There's something I must tell you...
What is it, Kelly?
I wasn't with Simone that evening, Brook. I spent the night with Gary.
Your ex-husband Gary, my business rival? What are you telling me, Kelly?
I'm saying... Brook, Jr.
What about Brook, Jr.?
Have only played it once and at the 6-plyr count, but concur with a nice review.
We had one player (the owner) teach the game to 5 of us newbies. The set-up, take-down, teaching, and play time took us about 3 hours. And we had a blast. Great group of people who enjoyed negotiating and stabbing each other in the back. We loved being corporate tools! And we had a Federalist, who we exposed in the 5th round. He lost. But only 2 of our 6 players won. I lost by 2 VPs at the end as I had my own company and had to beat 3 other companies; I only ended up beating 2. Great time had by one and all.
Not quite BSG, but close enough. So if you like that great game, you should like this. However, I think this game is entirely dependent upon the group. Players who know how to negotiate and know how to leverage their tactical advantages at the right time make or break the play.