In 2008 Fantasy Flight Games released Android, a science fiction game with a very strong Blade Runner vibe where you were trying to solve(?) a murder as well as keep your own personal daemons in check. It had beautiful components and everything about it seemed to appeal to me. Blade Runner is one of my absolute favourite movies, and I'm a huge fan of William Gibson, so when I got it I pimped it out and studied up on the rules.
Then I got together with a bunch of JIGGers (this was back when I lived in Tokyo) and we tried it out... and it was kind of... meh. I tried it a couple of more times but I never really got the experience out of it that I was hoping for. It simply took a long time (easily rivalling Twilight Imperium) and I think in the end everyone just wanted to get it over and done with. The "murder mystery" just felt very random and after a while you didn't have the energy to care for everyone's personal plots.
So when I moved back to Sweden Android was one of the games that I decided to sell. And this is very rare for me, I'm a hoarder! Naturally I would have liked to keep it, but I had to make some priorities and I simply had a lot more fun playing Age of Conan, Chaos in the Old World or Arkham Horror (although I have a feeling that AH might get "fired" by Mansions of Madness).
However, it has always lingered at the back of my mind. I simply want to like it so much - it has all the right ingredients! I've been thinking that maybe if we tried playing it with just the right crowd when we were in just the right mood then maybe it'd click. So when me and Anders (who's also a huge Blade Runner geek) were planning a game night we decided to give Android another try. Mats and Jimmy joined us as well and I think all of us are very much into the theme and experience when gaming, meaning that Android should be right up our alley.
Android set up and ready to play.
We set up the game and started playing and in the beginning we got really into the story, reading all the cards out loud and playing pretty much in character (although we all jokingly agreed Floyd should speak in a monotone). But as time went by the card reading fell by the wayside as the characters stories never really drew us in, and after four hours we had only made it half the way through. We decided to end it at that time. Checking the different suspects it turned out that the guy with the least tokens on him was the murderer, making the mystery seem even more random! We didn't mess much with the conspiracy since the mechanics for it are kind of boring (although it's definitely what you should go for if you want to win), but most of us had managed to get the positive ending on our plots.
commitment vs fulfillment ratio. The theme is excellent (although at times ham-fisted and clichéd) and I love the concept of the different mechanics - murder, conspiracy, plot - but it never really comes together as a harmonius whole. As the game goes on it just feels like you're less and less in control of what's going on.
There are a bunch of posts on how to play Android "correctly"out there (like this one) and they usually come down to stuff like "play the story", "play the characters", "play as the designer had envisioned". Although I understand where they're coming from, to me that seems to be an awful lot of restrictions to put on a game that is as open as Android in fact is. Why give the players all these options and freedom if you "have" to play the game in a certain way to "get it" or make it fun. To me that is not good game design.
Now, I hate drawing Twilight Imperium into each and every board game post I make on this blog, but there is a game with tonnes of different things to do and ways to play the game, but it all fits together and all the different ways are valid. Sure it might be a little clunky, but everything you do in TI has an impact on the game and although you can fall behind you never feel out of control. Damn, it's about time I stop talking and start playing some TI again. It's been ages!
Well, this is starting to get long-winded.
Even though we talked about this being the last chance for Android in our group I don't actually think it was, the attractive elements are simply too many. I'm pretty sure that in a year's time from now some of us are going to thinking that maybe if we tried it just once more... then it might be really cool! Maybe we'll try it with some kind of variant rules next time, like the Directors Cut or something.
Perhaps I'm suffering from some kind of Star Wars prequal denial thing when it comes to Android, I like the concept and ideas so much that I can't make myself let it go. Hmm...
UPDATE: Nope, I indeed can't let it go! I just got my hands on a used but unpunched copy for the same cheap price I sold mine for in Japan. More on this later... :)