Designer: Ruben Morato
Artist: Fernando Martinez
Publisher: Muquo Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 4-12
Playing Time: 15-20 minutes
WARNING: This is a preview of Andrana Project. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
tl;dr: An elevated, asymmetric social deduction game that takes place mostly on your phone.
Getting to the Game: Since this game plays nearly entirely in a smartphone app, there's no setup. Learning the rules of the specific mission you're playing and getting a grasp on what is expected of you in each role will come easier to those with experience in social deduction games. Still, Andrana is different enough in its gameplay that you'll want to play a couple games just to get the gist. At the time of this review, there isn't a tutorial, but the developers assure me there will be.
Playing the Game: The goal of Andrana is asymmetric. There are two factions (teams) in the game. The World Federation is a hegemonic conglomeration of major world powers bent on control and an end to illegal immigration. They have instituted the Andrana Project, an initiative to implant tracking devices in every citizen in the name of technology and security. Opposing them is the Neoluddites, a group who questions technology and wants to bring down the system.
Depending on which side you find yourself randomly assigned to, your goal is either to hunt down and eliminate all the Neoluddites in the room, or to isolate the World Federation Cybersecurity agent who possesses the codes to the mainframe responsible for Andrana, steal the codes, and bring down the server.
The World Federation is resigning to brute force to accomplish this objective; you can attack another player directly to reduce their health by half (a neat way to handle the instant-player death that this genre often resorts to), but it empties your gun and you have to spend a turn reloading if you want to fire again. This forces players to coordinate with each other if they want to one-shot eliminate someone. Once all the Neoluddites are eliminated, control is assured; war is peace.
The Neoluddites have a far more intricate endgame. Their goal is to steal the aforementioned codes, all while playing defensively with skills like the Leader's Smoke Bomb, and Recruitment- actually flipping players to their side. Once they have the codes, all existing Neoluddites have to hack the server at the same time. This is where the "phygital" (yes, this is actually a real word word they're using to promote the game) aspects of the game come in. The server is represented by a neon pink puck that activates with near-field technology. So, the neoluddites have to physically push their phones to the puck all at once to win the game. Fail to get everyone on board, and you've just given yourselves away. One of the developers mentioned to me that you could add an element of physicality to this by placing the puck in another room and the World Federation players would try to physically restrain the Neoluddites from getting to it. To each their own, I suppose.
Downtime with social deduction games in general is key. If you make the action simultaneous, then it becomes prone to alpha-gaming and just a couple people taking over conversation and accusation. This problem gets worse with increased player counts, and in my experience, it usually involves the same 3 or 4 people accusing and being accused. However, if you make each player wait for their turn, then the analysis-paralysis players can slow the game to a crawl, because each action is vitally important to the game as a whole. Andrana does an admirable job at splitting the difference here. Action itself takes place all at once with an action timer. Each player has only a few choices to pick from, which helps a lot, and as the game progresses, the decisions become pretty binary. Once everyone has "acted," the game reveals any public actions and gives the players 60 seconds to discuss who they think each other are. In our games, we thought 60 seconds was a little short, but it does force people to get to the point.
Andrana has some serious potential in the social deduction/party game space. The digital aspect of it allows them to push new game modes whenever they come up with them, and according to their KS page, some are already in the works. This is a great feature, and I'm personally really looking forward to experiments in the genre.
Artwork and Components: The artwork for Andrana is perfectly thematic, evoking a clean tech feel. Work is being done to the characters and overall aesthetic according to the devs, but it's completely reasonable right now in the app.
It's hard for me to comment on the components, as I was only able to test the app. The Andrana puck could lend itself to failing to recognize all the phones pushed towards it, which would be pretty gamebreaking, but I'm happy to give the devs the benefit of the doubt here. If it works seamlessly, it could be used for all manner of functions, which would be amazing.
Currently, the game has some English localization issues, but I expect those to be worked out before launch, as well.
The Good: Andrana Project is a solid addition to your social deduction collection as it stands today. With time and polish on the development side, it should only get better. If the Kickstarter delivered only what I was able to test, I'd say this game is "fine." Clean art, asymmetric play, and a physical puck that could do cool stuff (again, I couldn't test it, so I don't know for sure) is all very promising.
The Bad: Lack of a tutorial, localization issues, and an overly short game timer bring this game down for me. If these issues are fixed before launch, I have no reservations about Andrana. Right now, though, there's just too many unknowns.
Score: Given all my reservations, it seems like I don't like Andrana Project. That's actually not true. The game I reviewed was just "decent," but there's so much potential here, it's a no-brainer for me at the price. I'm giving Andrana Project a score of Don't be a Luddite.
See more reviews from Nicholas and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html