I Am Not A Robot – 404: Law Not Found preview

It’s pretty obvious that the worlds of board gaming and science fiction cross over a fair old amount, after all, they’re two sides of the same nerdy coin. The amount of tables across the world strewn with copies of Twilight ImperiumEclipsePhantom League and more can only prove that there’s a link. There can’t be many gamers out there who haven’t dreamed of travelling through space at least once, or wondered precisely when we’ll be getting our robot servants who’ll do the dishes on our behalf.

Of course, when it comes to robots, things don’t always go entirely smoothly. There are countless stories and movies out there where our automaton friends go a little off plan, and a new game called 404: Law Not Foundplans to add to the number. However, where in most games you’re acting as humans (or aliens, we’re equal opportunities here on LMDS), 404 puts you into the soulless bodies of the robots themselves. This, as you’d expect, is not going to go well…

You see, everything was going so well in the world of Law Not Found before the new microchips arrived for the robots. Their usual, well functioning Laws were replaced with slightly less sensible Directives, and in combination with the fact that the humans on board the good ship Lucky Break are quite inept at their roles… Yeah. Not good at all. And if you’re going to win, the little metal version of you will need to successfully complete three missions before anyone else does. Three very odd missions, that don’t pay any attention to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. In fact, most of them plain fly in their face.

Over the space of ten rounds, you’ll face anything from meteors to evil enemy alien vessels. A card is flipped to reveal what the humans on board will be dealing with, and they’ll react via a simple but effective flow chart. The monkey (for what is a spaceship without something to test stuff on?) will hunt down and eat bananas, and then the players get to do their thing by playing three action cards per round that will hopefully get them closer to completing their missions. Pies will be placed into missile tubes and blasted into space. Scientists will end up in the vacuum of space without a protective suit. Out of date navigation files will bugger up all manner of events, and all the while you’re still looking to make your three objectives.

On the surface, 404: Law Not Found is a very silly game. However, a couple of rounds into your first play and you realise that it’s not to be taken lightly – with up to six different robots attempting to complete three missions each, pushing and shoving each other around the ship, there’s a lot of planning required. You’ll also need to be quite the opportunist, reacting to whatever your opponents are up to and taking advantage wherever possible.

Of course, with this being a prototype, I can’t comment on the quality of final components, but as a game it’s very solid indeed. There’s a nice drafting mechanism when it comes to doling out the objectives, so you’re kind of aware of what the others are trying to do, but you’ll be spending most of the time trying not to screw yourself over. You can sort of work out what the various people on board will be doing by playing the game’s AI system, so it’s certainly possible to push things in your favour – you’ve just got to try and not make things better for everyone else.

Chuck in a fair bit of humour – this is definitely more on the Red Dwarf end of the scale – and 404: Law Not Found is certainly one of the more interesting games being crowdfunded at the moment. Playing it feels a little like FTL mixed up with RoboRally, finished off with a bit of its own Ingredient X. No, it’s not the easiest game in the world to get to grips with, but with a bit of time investment I reckon many gamers will find 404 pretty rewarding.