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Subject: Does the World Need Another Android? rss

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Adam Kazimierczak
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Does the World Need Another Android?


(Android the FFG game, not Android the iPhone impersonator.)

I'm not saying that my game will necessarily be the next Android, sell as well and spawn a whole family of games. I'm just noticing that heavily narrative-driven games have more or less fallen off to the wayside to make room for more eurotrash and other hybrid strategy exercises. Plot and character development has been deemed incompatible with competitive boardgaming and anathema to success, either on a critical or monetary level.

I look at the BGG landscape and see threads about saltine dry efficiency puzzles with the thinnest veneer of theme or flavor and it is heralded as the most immersive experience ever. Really? We can't to better than that?

Video games had a similar glass ceiling for certain genres for a while. Who needs plot in an FPS? Or a fighting game? Want a good story: watch a movie (reading books is too much work apparently). Then Halo came along and console RPGs like Morrowind and Fallout that showed that you can have it both ways. If a designer puts in the effort.

I feel like board gaming has a similar glass ceiling in regards to thematic growth and evolution. When a game comes under fire for a weak theme, the knee jerk response is, "Duh. If you want that then play and RPG." Okay, I get that. But sometimes I just want a self contained experience that is accessible to non-RPGers and sensitive to my life's ever decreasing free time.

Introducing: Android.

In some ways the most revolutionary board game of this decade. Maybe ever.

It tells a story: check.
It has strategic decisions: check.
All of the mechanical elements immerse you in the story: check....Well, sort of.

I get the argument that you are the writer or director of a hard boiled, noir, dystopian tale and not really playing the character so you're not actually planting evidence to win the game. But the fact remains that playing the director instead of the character puts a barrier between me the player and this amazing world. I don't want to feel like I'm playing Deus Ex and working through alternate endings, I want to be the character: go on that emotional roller coaster and either succeed or fail based the character's (my) decisions.

Then add on the time factor, the fact that ignoring the fun actions and focusing on evidence is generally a superior strategy (debatable I know, but just throwing it out there) and you have a polarizing, flawed gem of a game that shattered the thematic glass ceiling.

So where are the next generation of Androids? Where's the ubiquitous train of FFG sequels chugging down the tracks? Was Android just an anomaly? A flash in the pan? An failed experiment?

Back to the question at hand: Does the world need another Android? As a game designer I take this question as a personal challenge as well as a marketing analysis. Of course nobody needs more games, but is there a demand for the next generation of narrative driven board games?

Of course because theme is involved, the answer will be more nuanced than cut and dry. Another cyberpunk game? What about other SF genres or high fantasy? Steampunk? Everyone's answer will be different, and unlike pure europhiles, AT fans are not as homogenous a group when it comes to matters of taste (zombies anyone?zombie).

Let's assume the theme is palatable: if a new game takes what Android did and raises the bar, would it succeed? Probably. Not on the scale of a super-accessible, entry level card game like Dominion or 7 Wonders, but I think it would sell.

There must be gamers out there waiting for something better than:

YACP (Yet Another Cube Pusher)
JAZRR (Just Add Zombies, Rinse, Repeat)
DOMR (Dudes on a Map Redux)

Or maybe it's just me.


(to be continued on my blogpost...)
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Byron Campbell
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You've summed up exactly why Android is my favorite board game. It has a ton of narrative, theme, and is probably the heaviest game in my collection, strategy-wise. Luck plays a minimal role in the game, and given how many different paths to victory there are, it coheres together surprisingly well.

Unfortunately, I think, for FFG, Android was a failed experiment. It could have been the next big things, but there was too much backlash from players, usually for stupid reasons ("Why isn't this game more like Clue?"). I don't think it's sold nearly well enough to justify another magnum opus along these lines. And that's sad.

If you're comparing your game to Android and City of Chaos, color me excited...
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I haven't agreed more strongly with somebody in quite some time. Well-stated. I think I'm even a little aroused.
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I think you are being a bit close minded. You say you see dry themeless euro games being heralded as the most immersive experience ever? From who?
People don't play euro games or efficiency puzzles for the theme. The theme is added so we aren't moving colored tetris pieces around.

As for thematic games. You think there aren't many successful ones around?
I will agree there aren't many games out there like Android, but to say there aren't thematic games around is just silly.

Thematic games that are successful:

Pretty much ALL wargames
Arkham Horror
Android
Galaxy Trucker
Mage Knight
Space Hulk
Earth Reborn
Claustraphobia
War of the Ring
etc. etc.

If you are saying a game will only be thematic if there is a TON of text and writing, I think you are looking at thematic games in the wrong way. A thematic game can spark your imagination regardless if it has a lot to read or not. I guess this is coming off as defensive, and I do agree that Android is one of the best thematic games ever made. I just think that going about appealing to people by telling them that they respond to criticism incorrectly and that they don't know what TRUE thematic games are isn't going to get you anywhere.
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Robert Kuster
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Edit: Some great comments here and for me I liked the game immediately when we first playedm it, great mechanics with plot and story driven episodes. I remember when it first came out and there was a very quick negative review posted and I defended the game strongly basically stating that players should be more open minded to the concept that was presented rather then trying to analyze it so harshly.

Anyways I could go on for a while but suffice to say I think Kevin Wilson made somewhat of a masterpiece and I will enjoy it for years to come.

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Christopher Scatliff
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gentlegiantglass wrote:
As for thematic games. You think there aren't many successful ones around?


There are different levels of theme, though. Sure there are lots of games you could describe as thematic and some of them are even pretty evocative. But only a select few are immersive. As he says, the objective of such a game would be to make you feel like an actor rather than a director. Android is for certain one of those rare gems.

So was it unsuccessful because that level of immersion isn't popular or because Android just came up short? I don't know, but I'd eagerly play another game like it.
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kaziam wrote:
In some ways the most revolutionary board game of this decade.


I don't think you really know much about the realities of Android. Android is a total flop game. An epic failure. It is an art house indie concept, a personal love letter from a designer to the science fiction that he loves.

It is not a success in any commercial or critical way.

You like it? Great. I quite like it too. That's you and me. And maybe what ... 500 other people in the world? It has a basic "fail" rating on BGG - people won't see or notice things below 7.0.

"But what about Infiltration and Netrunner?!" I hear you say. "What about novels?!" I hear you say. These have nothing to do with the success of the game. This is part of Fantasy Flight's business model, which is taking a page from the big companies - branding. Android is a convenient brand on which to build, a near future cyber tech setting that has limited overlap in gaming. Thematic room for growth. Limited or non-existent competition on subject...

But Android is, itself, generally poorly received. Few if any people want a game that takes 4 to 6 hours to play. A game so mechanically complicated and strategically byzantine that few will tolerate it.

Quote:
I get the argument that you are the writer or director of a hard boiled, noir, dystopian tale and not really playing the character so you're not actually planting evidence to win the game.


Umm... whatever. You are playing the character. You are not playing a director. I'm not sure how you get this idea that you are playing a director...

The game is very clear. Noir. That means the characters are not always good people. They do not always have good motives.

It is the most monumentally misunderstood thing I think I've ever seen in a lifetime of gaming. Evidence placement isn't even remotely weird and how the naive early reviewers distorted this concept in the game is mostly a testament to the failures of social media than anything about the real game.

Quote:
So where are the next generation of Androids?


I work with and know game developers and publishers. They'd do anything to avoid having as big a failure as Android. Cheers to FFG for at least trying to turn their commercial flop around by turning it into a successful brand in a underrepresented genre.

Quote:
Was Android just an anomaly? A flash in the pan? An failed experiment?


Yes. Yes. Yes.

Quote:
Does the world need another Android?


You know what the most successful game crossover between role playing game enthusiasts and board gamers is?

Munchkin.

You want thematic simulations? Try the war game genre.
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Christopher Scatliff
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Eric, I'm not sure you understood the original post. Your commentary is largely irrelevant to what I got out of the original post.
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Geoff King
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I'd love another game like Android that I could actually get people to play.
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John McKendrick
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I say go for it! I've ran RPGs for thirty plus years and Android comes closest (so far) to a game which has narrative and no 'referee'

I also play wargames (currently engaged in Virgin Queen and Space Empires pbem) and yes they are thematic but in a very different way.

The world needs more 'androids'

"I want more life ...... F*cker!"

-John
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Adam Kazimierczak
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Ok, I feel the need to respond to Eric.

I do agree that Android is by no means a corporate benchmark for success. But then again neither are many well received niche games on BGG. Even Twilight Struggle, the #1 game on BGG, isn't raking in profits as much as even one subgrouping of a Hasbro game (Boston Red Sox Monopoly for example).

I saw Android listed for $25 on the FFG sale; not exactly selling like hotcakes (well, maybe like 4 year-old hotcakes ). Still it is a high concept game with a vision. It is innovative in that it attempts not to tell a story, but let you tell the story. And it's also a strategy game. Yet you (and many others) say that there are plenty of games that do that. Plenty of games with theme. BGG has its own Thematic Games subgrouping, damn it! AT is more popular than ever! Who needs Android with its clunky mechanics and over the top narrative style?

That's exactly the problem. Board gaming has set the thematic bar so low that we (players who like theme and thematic/epic/escapist games) are happy with whatever low-cal drivel they spoon at us. Munchkin is a satire. Wargames are simulations. War of the Ring is great, but that's me getting to play in someone else's story, not telling my own.

Call me picky, but while I like euros and some of the shallower AT offerings out there, I think there is a huge vacuum in the board gaming world at the high end of the thematic spectrum: premium AT. Eurogames have their high end polyhedron pushers with mancalas and more moving parts than a watchmaker's shop, but AT fans really don't have many games that take it to the next level.

Android took it to the next level.

If all you want is unleaded AT, then look no further than the BGG top 100 (plenty of good finds in there). I for one would like some 100 proof premium AT for when reality needs to get kicked up a notch.



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Gunther Schmidl
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You lost me at "iPhone impersonator". devil
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gentlegiantglass wrote:
I think you are being a bit close minded. You say you see dry themeless euro games being heralded as the most immersive experience ever? From who?
People don't play euro games or efficiency puzzles for the theme. The theme is added so we aren't moving colored tetris pieces around.

As for thematic games. You think there aren't many successful ones around?
I will agree there aren't many games out there like Android, but to say there aren't thematic games around is just silly.

Thematic games that are successful:

Pretty much ALL wargames
Arkham Horror
Android
Galaxy Trucker
Mage Knight
Space Hulk
Earth Reborn
Claustraphobia
War of the Ring
etc. etc.

If you are saying a game will only be thematic if there is a TON of text and writing, I think you are looking at thematic games in the wrong way. A thematic game can spark your imagination regardless if it has a lot to read or not. I guess this is coming off as defensive, and I do agree that Android is one of the best thematic games ever made. I just think that going about appealing to people by telling them that they respond to criticism incorrectly and that they don't know what TRUE thematic games are isn't going to get you anywhere.


I wasn't going for "closed minded" or telling people "they respond to criticism incorrectly" but I can see that I was standing up on the pulpit a bit during that post, so it could come across a bit arrogant and "my way or the high way."

I'm not advocating that Android should be higher in the BGG rankings or that everyone should picket in front of FFG until they put out an expansion (I wonder if that would work, though?). Nor am I an AT-or-die gamer who hates euros. Many of my highest rated games and most played games are pure euros, Agricola high up among them.

But I (like many gamers, I'm sure) like playing many different kinds of games. I get bored with pushing cubes every game night. I want something to spark my imagination, tickle my SF taste buds, give me the stagnant whiff of the undead (and not just because someone forgot to flush) or the rush of riding a dragon into battle.

Now sometimes all it takes is a little thematic seasoning: nice artwork, toss in some well sculpted minis, add a dash of flavor text and that's a decent AT burger to sink your teeth into. Arkham Horror, Space Hulk, Earth Reborn and company do the job nicely.

If I want more immersion than that though, then typically the response is, "Nope, not in this hobby."

Android is the foie gras with carmelized pear and an apple/fig reduction of board gaming. Sure it's not for everyone, but it would be a shame if premium AT didn't exist because it wasn't profitable enough or because designers and publishers felt that what we have is "good enough."
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gschmidl wrote:
You lost me at "iPhone impersonator". devil


laughlaugh I am the proud owner of an Android phone but couldn't resist the jab. My wife keeps saying we need iPhones, and my response is "But I already have a pirate iPhone, so why would I pay for a real one?" arrrh
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kaziam wrote:
gentlegiantglass wrote:
I think you are being a bit close minded. You say you see dry themeless euro games being heralded as the most immersive experience ever? From who?
People don't play euro games or efficiency puzzles for the theme. The theme is added so we aren't moving colored tetris pieces around.

As for thematic games. You think there aren't many successful ones around?
I will agree there aren't many games out there like Android, but to say there aren't thematic games around is just silly.

Thematic games that are successful:

Pretty much ALL wargames
Arkham Horror
Android
Galaxy Trucker
Mage Knight
Space Hulk
Earth Reborn
Claustraphobia
War of the Ring
etc. etc.

If you are saying a game will only be thematic if there is a TON of text and writing, I think you are looking at thematic games in the wrong way. A thematic game can spark your imagination regardless if it has a lot to read or not. I guess this is coming off as defensive, and I do agree that Android is one of the best thematic games ever made. I just think that going about appealing to people by telling them that they respond to criticism incorrectly and that they don't know what TRUE thematic games are isn't going to get you anywhere.


I wasn't going for "closed minded" or telling people "they respond to criticism incorrectly" but I can see that I was standing up on the pulpit a bit during that post, so it could come across a bit arrogant and "my way or the high way."

I'm not advocating that Android should be higher in the BGG rankings or that everyone should picket in front of FFG until they put out an expansion (I wonder if that would work, though?). Nor am I an AT-or-die gamer who hates euros. Many of my highest rated games and most played games are pure euros, Agricola high up among them.

But I (like many gamers, I'm sure) like playing many different kinds of games. I get bored with pushing cubes every game night. I want something to spark my imagination, tickle my SF taste buds, give me the stagnant whiff of the undead (and not just because someone forgot to flush) or the rush of riding a dragon into battle.

Now sometimes all it takes is a little thematic seasoning: nice artwork, toss in some well sculpted minis, add a dash of flavor text and that's a decent AT burger to sink your teeth into. Arkham Horror, Space Hulk, Earth Reborn and company do the job nicely.

If I want more immersion than that though, then typically the response is, "Nope, not in this hobby."

Android is the foie gras with carmelized pear and an apple/fig reduction of board gaming. Sure it's not for everyone, but it would be a shame if premium AT didn't exist because it wasn't profitable enough or because designers and publishers felt that what we have is "good enough."


Fair enough. The only problem for me is that I don't see Android the way you do. I really want to like games like Talisman, or Arkham Horror but I dislike them terribly because of the gameplay. The reason I am such a big Android fan (despite the fact I am a cyberpunk junkie), is that it is filled with a few euro-y minigames that give the game strategy and make the game competitive while still retaining the thematic flairs. I still to some degree feel as though I am manipulating game mechanisms than I am being a detective. I count my moves and optimize as much as possible and I do fairly well. It is what is under Android's hood that keeps me interested, like watching a bunch of little pieces spinning and interacting. It actually reminds me of games like Urban Sprawl where the designs are admirable and unorthodox. I don't think Android nor Urban Sprawl are perfect, but they are original.

Unfortunately, my imagination runs at about the same pace while I am playing Hannibal RvC, Android, or Bootleggers. Android just has more to read. Maybe I have never played a true thematic game, or I have no idea what you are talking about. Regardless, I would play another game like Android because I like Android.
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kaziam wrote:
(Android the FFG game, not Android the iPhone impersonator.)


Andriod predates iOS.
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kaziam wrote:

If all you want is unleaded AT,


I admit, I only mostly read your posts and I found all the discussion fascinating... But pardon my ignorance, what is AT?

On a side note, Android has always intrigued me despite all the flaws I've read about and $25 is a pretty marginal risk to take a shot on a game like this.
 
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Adam Kazimierczak
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AT = Ameritrash

Sorry, it's one of those jargon abbreviations thrown around on BGG. In short Ameritrash is a nickname eurogamers gave classic American style games like Monopoly but which fans of higher conflict/interaction and thematic immersiveness (often including custom components) have adopted as their own.

Nowdays the difference between AT and euros is not always as clear, but Android definitely represents the pinnacle of AT.
 
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Ah, of course. I should've known since I love Ameritrash.
 
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You want marketable? Board gaming is in the rut that video games used to be in. They generally market (particularly on the AT side) to geeky males (me). But video games have broken out to a more mainstream market. In particular, highly thematic people sims have greatly broadened the market. So imagine this:

Take the card driven story line play of Android. Place it in a more approachable theme (roaring twenties, the sixties, whatever). Simplify by a tad bit the card interactions. Make a map with interesting real world locations but one that can be reused. Then create character packs and plot packs. Provide overall plots that drive the group forward as their individual decks advance their own stories. Have characters fall in love, play office politics, become super sleuths Agatha Christie style. Perhaps the game parodies daytime soap operas.

No market out there? You must be kidding me. Ya gotta connect the dots to make new markets and get out of the old patterns. The game of Life makes mint because it tells a domestic story, even though it does so in a really bad way. Just imagine what would happen with a better game on the same theme that doesn't go overboard on the complexity side.
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tranenturm wrote:
You want marketable? Board gaming is in the rut that video games used to be in. They generally market (particularly on the AT side) to geeky males (me). But video games have broken out to a more mainstream market. In particular, highly thematic people sims have greatly broadened the market. So imagine this:

Take the card driven story line play of Android. Place it in a more approachable theme (roaring twenties, the sixties, whatever). Simplify by a tad bit the card interactions. Make a map with interesting real world locations but one that can be reused. Then create character packs and plot packs. Provide overall plots that drive the group forward as their individual decks advance their own stories. Have characters fall in love, play office politics, become super sleuths Agatha Christie style. Perhaps the game parodies daytime soap operas.

No market out there? You must be kidding me. Ya gotta connect the dots to make new markets and get out of the old patterns. The game of Life makes mint because it tells a domestic story, even though it does so in a really bad way. Just imagine what would happen with a better game on the same theme that doesn't go overboard on the complexity side.


Exactly! But AT board game publishers are going for the sure thing, and right now that's flashy games catering to established niche audiences (zombies, sci fi, fantasy).

Also narrative games are difficult to make universal. It's like writing a novella that everyone wants to read and then seamlessly melding it to a game. It's far easier to take a known fictional world (like Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.) and craft a game around it. Of course that usually ends up crap because the designers who do that stuff are hired to paste it up ASAP and put no heart into it.

An indie publisher could pull it off, but a tiny print run whether Kickstarter or not is not hitting the mainstream. The ideal would be a triple threat: novel, narrative board game, digital tie-in (likely on iOS). Then at least you'd cross pollinate and have a chance at someone actually bothering to look at the game.

At least that's the direction I'm going (well, maybe not iOS...yet), but writing good stories takes a long time. Actually so does writing bad stories, but you don't know which you have until you're done. whistle



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It's less fun from the writers side, but start with something like Jane Eyre. It's public domain, provides a well known and appreciated vehicle leaving the game designer to focus on the mechanics and implementation without having to write original story content. Then once the mechanics and principle has been proven, then you can make packs and completely new stories. You still have the challenge of publishing, but at least the publishers have Jane Eyre to feel comfortable with while hearing about a new concept.
 
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I'd be happy to consult on anything that goes forward.
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I like Android but my biggest complaint is that the narrative gets in the way as oposed to actually enhancing gameplay.

When going around and hearing bits and pieces of plot cards and then strategizing for a long while and then we go back to plot card resolution and I hear the next part of Louis' or Floyd's story I can't remember how it started, especially when you have 3 or more people playing.

It's all kind of disjointed and not at all directly connected to the strategy. The strategy landscape is divorced from the narrative which makes the experience seem fractured. Because of that it's hard to enjoy it for what it is.

I don't think this level of story-telling belongs in board-games with such heavy strategy and rules-framework. Or, if it does, it needs to flow more organically. If i'm interested in such a narrative, I'd rather play an Indie RPG that's story-driven like Fiasco, In A Wicked Age, Primetime Adventures, etc.
 
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byronczimmer wrote:
kaziam wrote:
(Android the FFG game, not Android the iPhone impersonator.)


Andriod predates iOS.


First, saying that Android was in development prior to the iPhone's release is irrelevant -- the iPhone was also in development prior to the iPhone's release. Neither company, to my knowledge, has revealed solid dates for when development began, and it's hard to pin down exactly what 'started' means in the first place. iOS is based on Mac OS X, and heavily affected by Apple's earlier work with the Newton and the iPod, along with likely dozens of internal prototypes of various products that were never released. So when exactly did development on the iPhone "start"?

Second, it is a poorly-kept secret that Android was a completely different animal prior to the iPhone, and that Google shamelessly ripped off the iPhone's design as soon as it was revealed. Take a look at http://www.technobuffalo.com/companies/google/android/androi....
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