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Subject: 3 tips for enjoying your first game of Android rss

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Byron Campbell
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I had my first, eagerly-anticipated play of this game last night, and while it went about as well as you could expect with 3 1/2 total newbies, two of whom completely ignored my advice about reading the rulebook ahead of time, there are still a few ways it could have gone better. Here are a few tips I picked up about enjoying your first game of Android; or, if you're the host, helping your guests enjoy their first game.

1) Every player should have read the rulebook before the game begins. As suggested above, my players ignored this rule. Now, Android is not an overly complex game, and it absolutely can be taught verbally, probably in about a half-hour to forty-five minutes. However, reading the rules ahead of time will increase your enjoyment of the game. Why?

There are two reasons. First, the rulebook provides vital context for all of the game's mechanisms that just can't be replaced by a 30 minute rules lecture. One of my players spent half the game thinking the documentary lead token was a gun. Would it have increased her enjoyment to know that physical leads "represent forensic, genetic, or ballistic evidence?" Probably only marginally--it would add to the story being built in her head every time she followed or moved such a lead--but nearly every paragraph of the rulebook contains such a context detail, and they add up to create a semi-cohesive picture of the game world. It's not absolutely necessary to know why Lily Lockwell lets them flip a piece of evidence face-up, but going into the game with more knowledge of the world and its history means that every action means more. Particularly, light and dark cards will have much more emotional impact, even when they're played on another character.

Second, Android is a game of strategy and efficiency. The goal is to make every action count, every turn. This means that the more knowledge you have about its mechanisms before the start of the game, the sooner you'll be able to play strategically rather than simply reacting to the nearest available leads. This goes double for reading the tip sheets. Your turn will start to mean something, and you are less likely to see your interest wane as the game moves oh-so-slowly toward its conclusion. That being said....

2) Accept that it's going to be a long game, and give each other time to think. Don't start playing too late, and don't give a definite end-time for the game. Because each player has a pretty much predetermined, finite number of moves (unlike most games that can end at any time, assuming the endgame conditions are reached), there are very few methods of artificially decreasing the game's length. For the same reason, a wasted action can be crippling to your final score, which means you should never rush through your turn or encourage others to do so just to make the game go faster. You will regret it when, four hours later, you are short 3 VP that you might have gotten if you'd stopped off at that ritzy location rather than the seedy one. Giving people time to play strategically (while still watching them like a hawk) means that it's even more rewarding when they slip up and allow you to play a dark card, and you're going to be glad for the extra thinking time on your turn. There is one major exception to this rule: think carefully about your next one or two moves, but it is almost never a good idea to plan your entire turn ahead of time (unless your name is Floyd and you need to get back to the moon without a dropship). There are simply too many dark cards that rob a player of time or move them to another part of the board, and then everybody pays the price for the fifteen minutes you spent plotting your way across the board before you even took your first move. Think ahead, but remain flexible.

3) Accept that it's going to be a long game, and take the time to read and enjoy the flavor text. Playing this game without flavor text is like eating a ten-course meal without...well, flavor. If it's your first time playing as a detective, read the story on the back of their detective sheet, and share at least the pertinent details with others. Read about what NPCs mean to you. Read the murder story aloud to the entire group, and at least summarize the pertinent details on the suspect sheets. If there's a new player, you might show them the trailer for the game (it's also a great way to start a discussion about the major game mechanics). And take the time to read out every light and dark card, as well as plot branches. Yes, it increases the time it takes to play the game, but it also increases the fun. It's a minimum four-hour game regardless, so would you rather have four hours focusing on pure mechanics, or five hours of a theme-filled story-driven ride? If your group cannot or will not abide by this rule, the player playing the card (whether it's a Twilight or a plot) should, at the very least, read it to themselves and summarize for the group, and read the title aloud before you announce any game effects. Just like tip 1 above, every bit of context the players get makes every action in the game more meaningful, and when it can take 15 to 20 minutes to complete one turn, that's an absolute necessity.

If you're thinking of playing Android for the first time, or introducing it to someone new, or even if you hated it the first time and want to give it one last play before trading it away, taking the time to invest in the experience by following these 3 tips will pay off in the end. At the very least, tt's worth more than a warrant on Human First.
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B C Z
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Start early - if you start immediately after breakfast, then you won't have to serve bagels and coffee. If you do start before 9am, consider having something to nosh on for the late risers.

Serve Lunch - Preferably something quick and easy that can be eaten in stages.

Serve Dinner - Preferably something that didn't require your constant attention, such as a one pot meal in a crockpot.

Order in Pizza around midnight - In the last few turns, people are going to get peckish, so be ready with the local late night establishments.

Offer Crash space - Be sure your guest bedroom has clean sheets in case someone doesn't feel up to driving home at 3 in the morning.
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Eric Jome
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These are, on the surface, all good tips. But this game does not have to be like this. We frequently play Android in less than 4 hours, often closer to 3, and in a very effective, easy manner. Much of this is directly related to teaching people the game in the right way.

The core thing is to focus on the basic action of the game and then generally build out into a more complete description.

This is what I usually say;

"Android is a victory point scoring game. The person with the most points in the end will win. You get points from having successful hunches, investigating the conspiracy, and having a happy personal life while doing it. Thus, this game is really about being successful - it isn't a murder mystery, for example. Points mean your character is a success in life; good at their job of investigating the murder and keeping their life together."

"You earn points from having successful hunches, guilty and innocent. Suspect with the most evidence is found guilty; these are the evidence markers and when you follow a lead you put one on a suspect matching the type. Instead of placing the evidence, you can place a piece of the conspiracy - you'll get points for finishing columns, rows, and diagonals as well as for activating rules by linking them to the middle. Lastly, each player character has personal plots. If these resolve correctly - they're in a little tree shape - it's good for you. They list their triggers on them and all of them are different."

"On your turn, you get 6 action points called time. You spend action points to do the following things - move, follow a lead, draw a card, play a card..."
and so on.

Usually I am done teaching people in under 10 minutes and play begins. Android is a very much "learn as you go" game.
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David S
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byronczimmer wrote:
Start early - if you start immediately after breakfast, then you won't have to serve bagels and coffee. If you do start before 9am, consider having something to nosh on for the late risers.

Serve Lunch - Preferably something quick and easy that can be eaten in stages.

Serve Dinner - Preferably something that didn't require your constant attention, such as a one pot meal in a crockpot.

Order in Pizza around midnight - In the last few turns, people are going to get peckish, so be ready with the local late night establishments.

Offer Crash space - Be sure your guest bedroom has clean sheets in case someone doesn't feel up to driving home at 3 in the morning.


Sounds like a day well spent!! (in truth, it doesn't take that long to play )
 
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Byron Campbell
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cosine wrote:
Android is a very much "learn as you go" game.


Based solely on my own experience with the game, I'd have to disagree. This is how we play/learn most games, and most of the time it works really well. Battlestar Galactica, for instance, works great like this, because the only thing you really need to hammer home from the beginning is how loyalty cards work--then as you go, you can explain each situation that comes up: "See, this crisis is especially bad for the humans, morality is currently our lowest resource, so here would be a good place for a sneaky Cylon to spike the check. Of course, the humans might want to offset that by putting in more cards than they normally would." But I don't think Android quite works the same way. I think a major factor in this is that the game is very much a game of turn optimization. A player who feels as though they know how to play the game, rather than simply ride the waves of evidence, will have exponentially more fun doing so. Especially with new players, it takes a long time to get around to actually playing your turn, and the turn itself is always over too soon (it's the main mechanic of the game). So it's especially important that each player feels as though they're actually accomplishing something during that 6-time window, and having at least skimmed the rulebook helps with that. And there's also, as I said, all of the world-building that goes on in the rulebook, which helps make your turn feel meaningful even when there's not much going on mechanically. I think the best evidence for this is that I got more excited to play the game every time I cracked the rulebook in preparation of teaching it, which seldom happens. Sure, the mechanics can be glossed over in 10 minutes, but it's the clockwork details that make them so rewarding thematically--the possibility of being obsessed with a suspect is one such detail that really sold me on the game.

I noticed during my game that pretty much every other player started out somewhat exasperated, particularly by the long downtime. I have a feeling the subjective sense of downtime was heightened by the fact that, when it finally came back around to their turn, they didn't feel like they knew what they had to do to get ahead. We had to take a break after the second day, and we took that time to look over the tip sheets and read the back of the detective sheets out to everyone. When it was time to start playing again, the player who'd spent the most time looking over her tip sheet began playing her turns much more strategically--avoiding locations that might trigger dark cards, making optimal use of the conspiracy. It elevated the excitement of the game for all players, and I think that's the key point here. When Android's functioning well, I imagine it to be a kind of game of wits, setting up high-risk situations for your opponents while deftly avoiding the traps they've set for you. Each player who plays in this manner invites all the others to do so, which means everybody who's familiar enough with the rules to begin strategizing makes the game better for everybody, not just for that player. I have no doubt that the game is playable without following my three tips...but how fun is it?
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cosine wrote:
These are, on the surface, all good tips. But this game does not have to be like this. We frequently play Android in less than 4 hours, often closer to 3, and in a very effective, easy manner. Much of this is directly related to teaching people the game in the right way.

The core thing is to focus on the basic action of the game and then generally build out into a more complete description.

This is what I usually say;

"Android is a victory point scoring game. The person with the most points in the end will win. You get points from having successful hunches, investigating the conspiracy, and having a happy personal life while doing it. Thus, this game is really about being successful - it isn't a murder mystery, for example. Points mean your character is a success in life; good at their job of investigating the murder and keeping their life together."

"You earn points from having successful hunches, guilty and innocent. Suspect with the most evidence is found guilty; these are the evidence markers and when you follow a lead you put one on a suspect matching the type. Instead of placing the evidence, you can place a piece of the conspiracy - you'll get points for finishing columns, rows, and diagonals as well as for activating rules by linking them to the middle. Lastly, each player character has personal plots. If these resolve correctly - they're in a little tree shape - it's good for you. They list their triggers on them and all of them are different."

"On your turn, you get 6 action points called time. You spend action points to do the following things - move, follow a lead, draw a card, play a card..."
and so on.

Usually I am done teaching people in under 10 minutes and play begins. Android is a very much "learn as you go" game.


I like how you began writing this. Any chance of doing a full write up, a kinda "How to teach Android to others in Ten Minutes."

Jorune
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Michael Mesich
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cosine wrote:
These are, on the surface, all good tips. But this game does not have to be like this. We frequently play Android in less than 4 hours, often closer to 3, and in a very effective, easy manner. Much of this is directly related to teaching people the game in the right way.

The core thing is to focus on the basic action of the game and then generally build out into a more complete description.

This is what I usually say;

"Android is a victory point scoring game. The person with the most points in the end will win. You get points from having successful hunches, investigating the conspiracy, and having a happy personal life while doing it. Thus, this game is really about being successful - it isn't a murder mystery, for example. Points mean your character is a success in life; good at their job of investigating the murder and keeping their life together."

"You earn points from having successful hunches, guilty and innocent. Suspect with the most evidence is found guilty; these are the evidence markers and when you follow a lead you put one on a suspect matching the type. Instead of placing the evidence, you can place a piece of the conspiracy - you'll get points for finishing columns, rows, and diagonals as well as for activating rules by linking them to the middle. Lastly, each player character has personal plots. If these resolve correctly - they're in a little tree shape - it's good for you. They list their triggers on them and all of them are different."

"On your turn, you get 6 action points called time. You spend action points to do the following things - move, follow a lead, draw a card, play a card..."
and so on.

Usually I am done teaching people in under 10 minutes and play begins. Android is a very much "learn as you go" game.


This is pretty much exactly what I did. And we had a great time.

Making everyone read a rule-book and then heavily forcing them to accept that it'll be a long drawn-out game seems like a recipe for never playing it more than enjoying it to me.
 
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Byron Campbell
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mmesich wrote:

This is pretty much exactly what I did. And we had a great time.

Making everyone read a rule-book and then heavily forcing them to accept that it'll be a long drawn-out game seems like a recipe for never playing it more than enjoying it to me.


Well, I'll reiterate that it's what we did as well. I was the only player who had read the rules (which I had to explain twice thanks to a new player replacing another mid-way), and while I think it took more than 10 minutes to explain them, I'm pretty sure I got them in in under a half-hour including showing them the trailer (which makes a great jumping-off point for rules explanation). And we had a good time as well. But it is a long drawn-out game, and I personally think attempting to make it something that it is not (by dropping certain aspects of the game, such as flavor text or efficient move planning, in an attempt to rush through it, or by giving a 10-minute speed-lecture that will likely leave non-experienced gamers flabbergasted--"Wait, it's a tree shape how? Slow down!") is a far quicker path to not seeing it played again.

I guess the main point I was trying to make is that I didn't make a point of forcing anybody to read the rulebook, partly because I don't think they would've anyway and partly because, having read the rules myself, I wanted to emphasize that this is actually a much simpler game than it appears at first. And the game was playable with my explanations alone. But the quicker a player picks up that a turn offers more possibilities than just "Follow the nearest lead or play a light card," the quicker they will start to truly enjoy the game. Or so methinks. It's simply more efficient to get that education through the enjoyable-to-read rulebook, which also has the bonus of laying a thematic groundwork for the game, than it is to do it over a four-hour slog of "learning as you go," and there's always the danger that you'll still come away from it with a wrong idea of the game, as so many negative reviews can attest. Maybe I'm just a rare gamer in this regard, but every page of Android's rulebook sings like clockwork to me, and gets me excited to play the game in a way no physical demonstration could.

I will revise my three tips: "While the game is perfectly playable as you would play any other game, new players should remember two things. First, every minute you spend fore-arming yourself with knowledge of the game's systems, from the tip sheet or the rulebook, will pay off ten-fold when you play the game. Second, Android is a rich experience to be savored...so savor it." That's a nice summary of my salient points, I think.
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Byron Campbell
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To put it another way, telling your guests "Don't worry, we can get through it in 3 hours if we play really efficiently" is a recipe for disaster. If people don't want to play a long game, they probably don't want to play Android, at least until somebody cooks up a balanced one-week variant. And in a game as long as Android, you probably don't want to be playing with people who don't want to be playing the game. That's just torture for everyone involved.
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Cody Konior
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Quote:
Usually I am done teaching people in under 10 minutes and play begins. Android is a very much "learn as you go" game.


Maybe you should do a YouTube tutorial.
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