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Brian Morris
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Every once in a while a game comes along that you simply can't pigeon hole and Android is one such game. I've heard the game described as a simulation, ameritrash and a euro on steroids. Truth is all three names apply to this rather unique game. The game uses mechanics that one often associates with euros, has the look and feel of ameritrash and yet has the long term strategy and depth of a historical simulation. While I think you can use any of these terms with merit I think simulation best describes the game. The game is literally a game of Sim Detective.



So what do I get in the box? Is their lots of eye candy?

Let's talk stuff. This is a Fantasy Flight game and if you are like me one of the things you love about Fantasy Flight is the eye candy. Fantasy Flight delivers some of the best eye candy in our hobby and once again they come through in android. You'll find in Android tons of different chits, stand ups for the characters and even what look like jigsaw puzzle pieces.

If you've played Arkham Horror then you basically should know what to expect. For myself I came prepared when I opened my copy of Android with a new Plano storage box for the game. You'd need it. The total number of chits in Android is close to what you'll find in Descent and Arkham Horror so you'll want a way to keep them all sorted. The last thing you'll want to do is sort all of these chits every time you want to play. For myself I picked up one of the regular Plano storage boxes from my local Wal-Mart. You'll find them in the fishing department with the tackle boxes if you've never gotten them before. Alternatively you can go to one of these new fishing superstores like Bass Pro Shops where you'll find even a wider selection of sizes. Either way you go you'll want something besides ziplocks to sort and store all the chits you'll find in this game.



So is this game a murder mystery?

I wouldn't describe this game as a murder mystery but more of a game of sim detective. The basic premise of the game is you're a detective trying to solve a murder mystery in the future. Some people liken the game to the film Blade Runner while others call it cyberpunk. Personally I'm neither a fan of the film or the genre but I do like the thematic feel the game provides. This futuristic theme is well used by the designer, especially in terms of the detectives who vary greatly as characters imersed in this world.

The game takes place over a period of two weeks where your detective tries to solve the murder and connect it to an overall conspiracy. As this detective you travel around the city of New Angeles and to the Moon following leads and putting together the pieces connecting the conspiracy.

Unlike other games however you don't just solve the murder but also deal with the character's personal life. Each of the 5 different detectives you play is very unique with their own story lines that you can't ignore or you risk your detectives personal life to come unraveled. The result is that while you work to solve the murder you also work to try and achieve happy endings for your detective's personal life.



So the characters have plot lines separate from the murder?

They do and this is perhaps the most unique thing about this game. While we are use to playing different characters in games like Arkham Horror and Battlestar Galactica there is no game that I have ever seen where the characters are this unique and play so differently. It's that uniqeness and depth that really sets Android apart.

Each character has three distinct plot lines to resolve during the game (one has two). Only two of the three get played during a game. An example of this is the character Louis Blaine. He's a cop who is on the take to a smuggling ring and who's marriage is on the rocks. He has three plots of which you will have to deal with two during a game. One plot for him involves him dealing with an old murder case that has haunted him for years. Another has him trying to reconcile with his wife Sara. In the third his partner was killed by the smuggling ring he's been getting kickbacks from.

Another detective is Floyd who is an android. His plot lines involve his having to live in a world where he is ruled by his 3 laws of robotics. He is befriended by a Priest who is then kidnapped by a group called Humans First. You as Floyd must decide how to deal with the conflict of your laws in saving the man. What will you do when it comes down to a choice between saving your friend's life and breaking your robotic laws and suffering the consequences?

At the end of the game you earn victory points depending on how well your plot line comes out. You may actually be the one to uncover the murderer in the game but if your personal life is now a shambles you might not be the winner. It's balancing your personal story line versus your attempt to uncover the murder that is the key to the game.



What's the game's main mechanics?

Unlike many games where they are built around one main game mechanic, Android uses a variety of them.

Each turn a player has a number of time to spend and every action takes a certain amount of time. For example moving from one location to another takes 1 time. Following a lead up also takes 1 time. Most players will have 6 time to spend each turn although there are things can can add and subtract time you get for a turn. For example one character named Caprice is a clone with sanity issues. If she keeps her sanity up she gets extra time each turn. if her sanity goes down however she can have less than 6 time per turn.

For most of the game players will move around the board following leads in the murder case. Movement in the game is unique (there's that word again). The game uses a sort of point to point map where you travel by flying car to a variety of locations. However rather than having movement points like in most games you use car rulers. These rulers represent how fast your car can go and each detective can move only a certain distance depending on which detective you get. As a player you take your ruler and place one end on your current location and then see if your car can reach the location you want to go. If it can't you will need to go to another location in between.

 


So following leads is pretty much the meat of a player's turn?

Most of the time following up leads will be a player's main focus. Following leads can benefit players in a variety of ways. In some cases it may help you with your personal plot line. For the most part however you will either gain evidence against one of the murder suspects or you may uncover a piece of the conspiracy. You will most of the time have a choice and what you choose will be determined largely by your own personal long term strategy.



How do you use evidence to find the killer?

At the beginning of the game players are dealt two cards. One represents a suspect you believe is guilty while the other is for a suspect you believe to be innocent. At the end of the game you receive victory points if your can prove your guilty hunch is the murderer and points as well if your innocent hunch is correct.

The mechanic that deals with this comes from following up leads. As you follow your leads you can either pull an evidence chit or a conspiracy puzzle piece (more on the puzzle in a minute). If you decide to pull an evidence chit you can take that chit and place it on the card of one of the suspects. Some chits will be positive numbers like a 4 while others are things like -2. What you want to do is get as many points on the person you believe is the murderer as you can while trying at the same time to make sure your innocent hunch doesn't end up getting confirmed as the murderer.

So what is all this about the conspiracy puzzle?

If there is any part of this game that is the most talked about it has to be the conspiracy puzzle. The idea behind this is that in addition to trying to find the murderer there is an underlying conspiracy behind it. So it's not just a whodunit but a why and who put him up to it. During the game you will have the chance to draw conspiracy puzzle pieces which you can then use to try and link the murder to a variety of organizations or corporations.

On the game board there is a glued on puzzle piece and a sort of mini board. It's here you will take your conspiracy puzzle pieces (yes, they look like real puzzle pieces) and try to connect the murder at the center to organizations ringing the outside of the puzzle map area.

A good number of extra victory points can be earned through the conspiracy puzzle but a player will have to really plan his use of it to maximize that effect. Simply pulling puzzle pieces and placing them on the board won't help you. You need to plan ahead as to how you want to use it.



On top of all this there's also a card mechanic?

Yep. In fact the cards are an extremely important part of dealing with the characters and their plots. Each character in the game has two decks. One is called the light deck and the other the dark deck. As a player you draw light cards from your light deck and dark cards from the dark decks of other players. This results in you having a mix of your own light cards and other player's dark cards in your hand.

Light cards in your hand are played on yourself while the dark cards you play on other people. These cards do a variety of things but one of the most important is they generate baggage. In your character's life things will happen that will have positive effects on your plots as well as negative. In the game these are called baggage. Baggage is basically emotional baggage although in terms of the game play anything that negatively effects your plot is called bad baggage and anything good is called good baggage. The best way to earn good baggage that ensures a happy ending to your plots is to play light cards on yourself. There's a problem however. You need dark points to be able to play light cards on yourself and you get that from light shifting and dark shifting.

Light and dark shifting is basically taken from a gauge on your character sheet. In short you have to play dark cards on other players to be able to play light cards on yourself and visa versa. So let's say you want to play a light card on yourself that's worth 3 points. You would play the card and then shift on your card your points 3 points towards dark. You don't have a lot of room on your light/dark gauge so most players wouldn't be able to play more than 2 light cards on themselves in a row. In order to get more light cards you would need more light points. You get those by playing dark cards on other detectives. Dark cards earn you light points and light cards earn you dark points.

Dark cards are the bad things that can happen to players and some of them are very bad. Most dark cards have an event that triggers when they can be played. For example one dark card may be triggered simply by the beginning player's turn. Another may be triggered by your character entering certain locations. For example Louis has a number of dark cards in his deck that can be quite devastating to him. These cards however are triggered only when he enters seedy locations. So of course the best strategy is to avoid these locations.

I know some people have complained that some dark cards in the game are to powerful. However these more powerful cards can easily be avoided by playing your character properly. All characters in the game have a small card that has basic strategy for that specific character. One of the things it tells you is don't go to certain locations. Read the card for the character you are playing. Trust me, it tells you some good information. Louis for example can get in deep trouble if he visits seedy locations. So don't go there! If you pay attention in the game and avoid the locations that you should avoid with the character you are playing then you can avoid most of the more serious dark cards. If however you decide to risk it don't be blaming the game when you get slammed.



What would you call this game?

I think one of the problems that people have with this game is they expect it to be something it's not. I think many expect Android to be literally a eurogame on steroids and it's not. The game if anything has more in common with high end historical simulation like Republic of Rome. The mechanics themselves may be very eurogame like but the game as a whole is not. This game is not about using the game mechanics efficiently to achieve a arbitrary goal. It's about simulating 2 weeks of a detective's life while he investigates a murder and the conspiracy surrounding it. At the same time that detective must deal with his life outside of that investigation just like we do our jobs and deal with our own personal lives at the same time.

Bottom line. Will I like Android?

In the end I think Android is an amazing game. It has great depth and is a game that will benefit people who enjoy long term strategy. I think however if you come into Android thinking it's a regular eurogame with just a lot more theme and eye candy you will come away disappointed. With a playing time of about 3 hours for a 4 player game it's not one you would toss out on the table on a weeknight but a game you set up and take your time with.

It's also not a game you can sit down and in one play come away truly knowing the game. This is a game you walk away from thinking about it and formulating in your mind how you're going to play it next time. There is no formula for playing Android as each character is so different. There are multiple ways to earn victory points so there is no one strategy fits all. So if the idea of a long term strategy game with lots of theme is appealing to you then I say give Android a shot. If however you like your games to be about an hour and you don't like the idea of being 2 hours into a game and still trying to figure out what you want to do then give it a pass.

I rate this game a 10
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David McLeod
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Sums up my feelings about the game quite well. Great review!



 
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Chris
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I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. You hit a few points that people need to know before they sit down to this game.

Quote:
I know some people have complained that some dark cards in the game are to powerful. However these more powerful cards can easily be avoided by playing your character properly. All characters in the game have a small card that has basic strategy for that specific character. One of the things it tells you is don't go to certain locations. Read the card for the character you are playing. Trust me, it tells you some good information. Louis for example can get in deep trouble if he visits seedy locations. So don't go there! If you pay attention in the game and avoid the locations that you should avoid with the character you are playing then you can avoid most of the more serious dark cards. If however you decide to risk it don't be blaming the game when you get slammed.


Very important to know your character. Also this game is seriously aggressive and if you want to succeed then you may very well have to try to screw your opponents.

Quote:
This game is not about using the game mechanics efficiently to achieve a arbitrary goal. It's about simulating 2 weeks of a detective's life while he investigates a murder and the conspiracy surrounding it. At the same time that detective must deal with his life outside of that investigation just like we do our jobs and deal with our own personal lives at the same time.


Yep this is a simulation in of 2 weeks in the life of your character.

I have already had to tell a few people that they would not like this game yet I LOVED it. People who think 4 hours is too long need not apply cause this is not the type of game you will enjoy. The game doesn't even get moving for the 1st hour (around turn 3).

You did a great job with this review!
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Brian Morris
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It's funny because the main complaint I read about this game is it's length. Some greatly exaggerate the time it takes to play (someone claimed 7 hours!) but in general when you look at the games these folks list in their top 10 you find games like Ticket To Ride, Race for the Galaxy and Carcassonne. These are so completely different than Android. One person called the game broken simply because they said no game should ever take over 2 hours.

Android is a great game but not for everyone. I think the problem is you have folks playing it who are into the euros and they expect the game to be a glitzed up eurogame because of some of the mechanics. It's not. It's a long term strategy game with conflict. I understand someone who thinks Carcassonne is the perfect game would likely not like a long game with a lot of direct conflict like Android. But the idea that Android is a bad game simply because it takes 2-3 hours to play is silly.
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Miguel de la Casa
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(I apologize because this turnt out to be quite a long response)


You're oversimplifying. I'm still on the fence about Android (and waiting to see if any international editions appear), so I've read extensively about this game. It IS a very interesting game with interesting and innovative design. But I have found other, quite meaningful, criticisms:

a) Game length. Enough said, I agree with you for the most part.

b) Too much/too arbitrary "take that" elements. Of course, how much is too much is a matter of taste; however, I do feel the decision to attack a particular opponent might be too random in Android since...

c) It's difficult to tell who is winning. Now, the fans defend the game arguing that it's a story-game and you shouldn't care too much. While I'll buy the argument to some extent, I do feel that this "problem" is more important just because you HAVE to attack someone (see above). Moreover, if I wanted just a story I could go to a movie theater. I do want a game, and I don't think it's enough of a reply to say that I might come to Android with the wrong expectations. This issue could improve with more experience. Something even the fans of the game don't have at this point.

d) Too little MEANINGFUL decisions. There are a lot of things going on and yet it seems difficult to find something in particular that could further your goals. For instance, you have to attack someone, but don't have good reasons to choose anyone in particular. Or you might want to put evidence on a suspect but there is a lot of a random factors invloved: the value of the evidence already "planted", the value of the piece of evidence you are about to take, which suspect is the more "suspicious", and so on... Again, more experience with the game (particularly such a comlex game) could "fix" this issue... or not. And I definitely think it's a meaningful issue you just can't dismiss by saying people came to the game with the wrong expectations.

e) Disconnection between theme and mechanics. At times Android wants to be a game about a story, almost more of a story than a game. However, the mechanics at some critical points pushes some people away from the "story" and the "experience". One example: it would seem that you're actually planting evidence and not discovering it. I, for one, feel ok with a game about planting evidence in a dark, noir future (I don't understand how we could feel ok playing games about war and not about planting evidence, but that's an entirely different story). Another example: the conspiracy puzzle where you lead the conspiracy to fit the links you want it to, and even get a reward for completing row and such stuff.

In summary, I feel there are a lot of reason to be enthusiastic about Android (you have pointed to some of them). But there are also reasons not to like it, they are meaningful, and I don't think honest to dismiss them by just saying people came to the game with the wrong expectations.
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Brian Morris
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aristarco wrote:

c) It's difficult to tell who is winning. Now, the fans defend the game arguing that it's a story-game and you shouldn't care too much. While I'll buy the argument to some extent, I do feel that this "problem" is more important just because you HAVE to attack someone (see above). Moreover, if I wanted just a story I could go to a movie theater. I do want a game, and I don't think it's enough of a reply to say that I might come to Android with the wrong expectations. This issue could improve with more experience. Something even the fans of the game don't have at this point.


I do agree with you about it's suppose to be a game first. For myself while I think it's harder in the game to tell who is winning it's not impossible. You can see plainly who is doing well in their plots and who isn't. If you are in your second week and Floyd has had a happy ending to his story and seems to not have had to many bad cards played on him then you can pretty much deduce that he's having a good game. While the game doesn't have a scoring track like some games it's really not to hard to see who is doing well and who is struggling. Mind you, trying to figure out who your top competition is and dealing with them is part of the strategy in my opinion.

Quote:

d) Too little MEANINGFUL decisions. There are a lot of things going on and yet it seems difficult to find something in particular that could further your goals. For instance, you have to attack someone, but don't have good reasons to choose anyone in particular. Or you might want to put evidence on a suspect but there is a lot of a random factors invloved: the value of the evidence already "planted", the value of the piece of evidence you are about to take, which suspect is the more "suspicious", and so on... Again, more experience with the game (particularly such a comlex game) could "fix" this issue... or not. And I definitely think it's a meaningful issue you just can't dismiss by saying people came to the game with the wrong expectations.


Not sure I would agree with the term "fix" as the system isn't broken. These are all part of the game's strategy. For example you state putting evidence on a suspect and imply it is random. It's not since it was placed there by other players as part of their own strategy. That's not random. And you have the ability to take a peek at that evidence if you go to the snitch but you will have to decide if you want to take the time to do that.

The game provides many choices and in fact one of the complaints some people have expressed is they don't have time to do all the things they want to do because they have so many choices. So I wouldn't at all say the game lacks meaningful decisions. On the contrary you have almost to many. If you feel you don't then you aren't looking hard enough at your options or thinking far enough long term in your strategy. Remember, this is a long term strategy game. It's important as a player that you decide how you plan on winning early in the game and follow a planned strategy.

For myself I still believe my earlier statement. I think the game simply is not for some people. When a game isn't a good fit for us we tend to look for things in the game rather than admit the game could be a great game but just not a good fit for us. For some they have claimed the game is a bad game because it's long or as you state because it's hard to tell who is winning. But for me those are two things that I enjoy about the game. I like that it's a long involved game and I like the fact that I have to use my brain to try and figure out who's doing the best so I can slow them down. That's strategy which this game has a lot of and that's part of the reason I like it.
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Gregory Bay
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Thanks for the review and very well done!!

I just keep comming back to this game whether to buy it or not and I read this and I am sold. Let me ask this though, how long did it take for you to learn the game, and then how hard was it to teach new players the game that have never played before? Stressful, or does the game basically walk you right through?

Are the new concepts to hard to grab for players?

This is the biggest problem that I face in new games in my group is the ability to be able to teach the game understandably without the game itself confusing people.

Thanks!
 
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Brian Morris
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baymonkey wrote:
Thanks for the review and very well done!!

I just keep comming back to this game whether to buy it or not and I read this and I am sold. Let me ask this though, how long did it take for you to learn the game, and then how hard was it to teach new players the game that have never played before? Stressful, or does the game basically walk you right through?

Are the new concepts to hard to grab for players?

This is the biggest problem that I face in new games in my group is the ability to be able to teach the game understandably without the game itself confusing people.

Thanks!


Hard to say how long it took me to learn the game because I had the rules sitting on my nightstand for a good two weeks before my first play and still got a few rules wrong.

As far as teaching the game to people I would say definitely harder than teaching Power Grid and Railroad Tycoon (I checked to see what a few of your favorite games were Greg so I could have a good point of reference). This isn't a game anyone is going to sit down and learn in 10-15 minutes of play. I think most experienced gamers are going to pick up the game mechanics within a few turns but there are a lot of different mechanics in the game (dark & light cards, baggage, conspiracy puzzle, evidence) that I think most players in their first game are going to spend most of it just trying to link it all together to where they can truly do long term planning of what they need to do and how to do it.
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Gregory Bay
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Thanks! Still am leaning heavy towards this game.
 
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Frank Eisenhauer
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Disclaimer: I only played 1 game so far.

While I think this game is very interesting and has a lot of depth, I am very disappointed about the disconnection between theme and gameplay. I don't mind that there is no pre-determined murderer and you try to pin the murder on certain characters, that fits into the Noir theme. I bothers me, however, that there is no general story that effects all players and develops as the game progresses. You just try to use the different game mechanics to your characters best advantage. While the flavour text on your cards (dark & light) is nice, it only develops your characters plot, not the murder plot and it doesn't influence the other players character plots.
I my game I did not pay any attention to the murder plot as I didn't perceive that as the mayor source for VP's and I still ended up with being the player to have both hunches correct. The 20VP I got for that where less than 1/3 of my VP total and I won the game with an 11 point lead.
The game is so pretty and the background fits my preferences to a T, but the fact that the theme did not matter very much disappointed me. This game could as well be about shooting a Motion Picture and competing for the lead-role.

The game work very well from the mechanics side (it is a good abstract), it just doesn't tell a story.
I realize that it is just my personal expectations that let me down.

Edit: Spelling
 
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Mark Paul
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Good review. As far as the disconnect from the theme, I think it's better to see this as several games at the same time. The murder mystery, the conspiracy and the status of your detective's personality.

There isn't really a game to compare this to. Despite it's length,it's a game you want to play again. I wonder what the future hold's for this game.SPI put out a game called "Empire of the Middle Ages" in the 1980's. (Still available from Decision Games). Everyone agreed it was a masterpiece, but it was so complex and unusual it never became very popular.

I hope this game fairs better.
 
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Jorge Arroyo
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I just played our second game (just posted a session report) and so far the impression is very positive.

There are a few things that baffle me slightly, like the complain with the theme. What I really like so far about this game and its theme is the way the stories that develop make sense AND at the same time the mechanics behind those stories make an interesting and very playable game. To me, that's excellent integration between mechanics and theme.

Yes, some specific elements don't make so much sense (especially the fact you gain opponent's dark cards when you enter seedy locations), but overall, the game works really well, and once you get confidence with the rules and card play, there's really an interesting game there with plenty of possible decisions and paths to victory, but at the same time you get a nice story out of the gameplay. The theme really shows through your (and your opponent's) actions!

I think one of the mistakes is to think of the game as a RPG-like game. You're not just in charge of your character with the other players acting as pseudo-GMs in your turn. You're in charge of how reality affects your character (and other characters in their turns). So, basically, if you play well, your character will flow better, things will fall into place easily and they'd have less of a hard time. If you think of the theme that way, then there is no disconnection between theme and mechanics, because the theme is more about the story than about controlling one character (and that certainly doesn't mean that the game is more about the story, just the theme. There really is a good game here, but also a good story).

Edit: Also, the "take that" element is not so bad. This has been said, but I'll say it again. Your actions determine what bad cards can be played on you. You've got to be careful and not expose yourself so other players won't be able to play the worse cards on you. These bad events are there and you decide how bad they really are. Other players just act as "intelligent brains" so that the bad cards are played in an interesting manner (as opposed to how they'd be if they were just random events). In this sense, this element is not so much a "take-that" element as a game balancing system, where both good and bad events get played on you (by yourself and your opponents) in an intelligent way, making the actual game that much more interesting to play for everyone.
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Frank Eisenhauer
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maka wrote:

There are a few things that baffle me slightly, like the complain with the theme. What I really like so far about this game and its theme is the way the stories that develop make sense AND at the same time the mechanics behind those stories make an interesting and very playable game. To me, that's excellent integration between mechanics and theme.


You mistake flavour text on the cards for a developing story.
No matter which murder you play, the flavour text will always be the same. Only the ways to make VPs will be influenced by the special rules comming into effect with different murder plots.
There is no universal plot that developes / influences all player characters! Only personal plots that stay the same no matter what crime was commited. Once again, this is a good game, but it does not tell a / develope a story. It is an abstract.

Edit: Spelling
 
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eisenphx wrote:
maka wrote:

There are a few things that baffle me slightly, like the complain with the theme. What I really like so far about this game and its theme is the way the stories that develop make sense AND at the same time the mechanics behind those stories make an interesting and very playable game. To me, that's excellent integration between mechanics and theme.


You mistake flavour text on the cards for a deeveloping story.
No matter which murder you play, the flavour text will always be the same. Only the ways to make VPs will be influenced by the special rules comming into effect with different murder plots.
There is no universal plot that developes / influences all player characters! Only personal plots that stay the same no matter what crime was commited. Once again, this is a good game, but it does not tell a / develope a story. It is an abstract.


Flavor text is only a small part on the developing story. The plots and their outcomes affect gameplay and create a story beyond the flavor text. It's not just what's written there, but how you react to it. How your actions change as the plots advance. It all creates a story that makes sense. Also, what you do and how it affects the other characters is also part of the story. Not only the cards you play on them (with their flavor text) but their effects, which are tied to the theme, but your general action when playing the game/placing evidence/etc...

In our last game I managed to place enough hits on my opponent's main suspect to kill her. This became part of the story that developed in out game. She had all the evidence, she thought she had the murderer, but suddenly the suspect is dead. Was she wrong? Maybe so, maybe someone wanted the murderer dead... revenge? a hidden interest? This are all storytelling elements that are deeply tied to the ingame actions and mechanics...

This is certainly no abstract. That's sure...
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Frank Eisenhauer
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I think we can agree to disagree. For me this "Story" part was disappointing compared to games like Lost Valley, City of Chaos, Tales of the Arabian Nights or A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game. But as I wrote earlier, this disappointment stemms from my own wrong expectations. There is no doubt that this is a very intricate game.
 
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Jorge Arroyo
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Of course but to me those games you compare to all have less sense of coherent story (except for City of Chaos which I haven't played)... Lost Valley is much more abstract and dry, and Tales is all about pre-written paragraphs (there are so many more, yes...) but what happens between paragraphs is totally disconnected (in a way, that's why I always play the merchant game, as to me is much more fun). I guess we just have different views on what makes a story
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