Tag Archives: Android

Magical Mystery Tour – Android (guest) review

Ladies and Gentlemen of the internet, I am delighted to welcome a new guest reviewer to the fold! Emma Laslett will be joining us with opinions on games old and new, and here’s her first piece: Fantasy Flight’s sci-fi noir extravaganza Android. Now, this is a game I have never managed to get to grips with, so I found her thoughts most intriguing… Take it away Emma!

Android COVER

So, this is Android – the cyberpunk/noir game of investigating a murder and getting your friends lynched in a dystopian future. You and up to four soon-to-not-be-friends play as five different detectives with a hilarious variety of life problems trying to solve a murder in my two favourite places – futuristic ethically-dodgy pseudo-American hyper-metropolises, and the Moon.

From Fantasy Flight, this is co-designed by Arkham Horror’s Kevin Wilson, and the links between the two games are definitely there. It’s huge, both in time (the box says it takes 4-6 hours, and I’ve had games of it ranging anywhere from 2 to 8), and in the sheer amount of stuff contained within the box, which brings me straight to “Emma Complains At Stuff Fantasy Flight Always Does” #1: the box is, well… just a box. The component list takes up five and a half (!) pages of the rulebook, and the game comes with absolutely nothing to put all that cardboard in, leading me to wonder how much of that 4-6 hours is meant to be spent sorting everything out from each other. As soon as you sit down to Android, its first major selling point hits you – it looks fantastic. The components are high-quality, the art is beautiful, the board has more detail the more you look at it, and an entire sixth of it is a game-relevant jigsaw puzzle – and if that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is.

Also worth mentioning while we’re on the board is the nonlinear design of it – while you’ll be moving characters from place to place à la Arkham Horror, these places aren’t joined up linearly. Instead, every location is shown by a point on the board’s map of the city, and each character has a big ruler/calliper/cardboard arc thing that shows how far they can move. This leads to a lot of interesting route planning, as you try and get where you’re going without tripping over a dodgy bar and falling face-first into a riot. I just think this is a really neat system, and not really used in any other games I can think of. This nonlinear feel is reflected in the loads of ways to earn points that are available – sure, you can try and solve the murder, but there’s also a city-wide conspiracy to piece together, shady corporations to schmooze and your own personal plots to pursue, with each character having hugely different ways to earn more points.

This last part makes up a lot of the game in general, with every character having three different plots, of which you’ll only see two in any one game, and they’re not just called ‘plots’ – each one has a bunch of text that acts as a little short story, which is great for adding to the immersion.

But then, so do all the twilight cards for each character, which add extra little positive or negative side-notes to the story.

And so do the murder suspects.

And the murder cards.

And the random event cards.

And the… Basically, what I’m trying to say is there are a lot of words in this game. Which is great! But it’s also terrible. It’s incredibly immersive, and I probably enjoy reading all the stories in Android more than a lot of books I’ve read. But this means either everything takes forever, as people try and read everything on every card, or people just lose interest in the story from overexposure – at which point you’ve lost one of the best things about this game.

So. Much. Stuff. You WILL need a big table for this one. Also, be sure to set aside a day to play it...

So. Much. Stuff. You WILL need a big table for this one. Also, be sure to set aside a day to play it as you’ll also need that…

Ultimately, this can make it feel bloated, and I’ll be honest, it kind of is. Even with each player only taking twelve turns, the game still feels overlong for what it is, and this bloat even spreads to the rules – the rulebook is absolutely massive, and there are just so many mechanics that a lot of the game just turns into lots and lots of bookkeeping. Now, I like bookkeeping, but the primary complaint I’ve had from people about Android (apart from “Oh my God, you’ve been there all day, when can I have my table back?”) is that people get lost in the massive morass of the rules and forget all the things they can do, leaving annoying Mentat-types like myself to run half the game for everyone.

Also, I don’t know whether it’s this tendency to lose bits of the game or more fundamental balance issues, but in pretty much every game of it I’ve played, at least one of the major threads of the game gets completely ignored – and it’s usually the murder, which is nominally the primary focus of the plot, which kind of works against all that lovely immersion.
Ultimately, Android is a game with a *lot* of flaws, but I still love it for the stories and the world it creates. Would it work better as a computer game so you didn’t have to do all the bookkeeping? Probably. Would it work better split into two or three different games? Almost definitely. Would it work better as a book? Arguably yes. However, if you don’t mind doing a bit of work to find a fantastic, immersive story, and you’ve got four friends who want to spend an entire day helping with that, I can’t recommend Android highly enough, even as an experience more than a game.

This is NOT a Storage Solution, FFG.

This is NOT a Storage Solution, FFG.

Android was originally released back in 2008 through Fantasy Flight. Designed by Kevin Wilson and Daniel Clark, between three to five can play with games – as Emma mentioned – taking anywhere from two to six hours, or even more. It’s available from Amazon for a shade over £20, so if you feel like getting into a flawed gem at a bargain price, why not give it a shot? Oh, and follow Emma on Twitter – you can find her there as @Waruce.

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Computer Love – Android: Netrunner review

NetrunnerCOVER

Out of all the things that comprise this world of play, the aspect that impresses me most are card games. I love the scope that cards offer the designer and the gamer, the range of opportunity and the variety of formats that a few simple bits of paper can provide. Consider games such as Dominion and Love Letter, Flowerfall and Yomi… all little more than words and images on paper but all very different games. I find it incredible how card games can conjure up theme so well, and now another has been added to my pile of favourites – Android: Netrunner.

I was honoured to have Richard Garfield on the show a while ago. As the designer of the original Netrunner (as well as Magic: The Gathering, of course) he’s responsible for one of the lost classics in gaming, one that has gathered fans through the years despite only really being available through eBay and other second-hand routes. Perhaps going up against M:TG was too much of a struggle, but now Fantasy Flight have taken the reigns some sixteen years down the line. After running it through their great big LCG machine, it’s now available again – albeit in a slightly new format – and is even better than before.

Android: Netrunner is a masterclass in asymmetrical design. Players take either the Runner or Corporation side and attempt to score Agendas, with the first to seven points taking the win. The faceless Corporations will spend their huge reserves of cash to advance these Agendas while also trying to protect them with various pieces of Ice, technological marvels that only the greatest hackers will be able to break through. Unfortunately, the Runner has the tools at their disposal to do precisely that, deftly breaking subroutines and stealing the Agendas from under the Corp’s nose.

Kate is a Shaper, determined to create and play within the confines of the Corporations.

Kate is a Shaper, determined to create and play within the confines of the Corporations.

Of course, it’s not as easy as that. There’s a huge element of bluff in A:N – having control over secret information is key to gaining the upper hand over your opponent.Timing is also vital, especially for the player in control of the Runner. If you can manage to attack the Corporation servers often, you’ll put a huge dent in their coffers meaning that they won’t be able to flip the Ice protecting their precious Agendas. On the other hand, you may well be racing headlong into a trap that will cause you damage – you never know what could happen, which is why attempting to outmanoeuvre the other player is so vital.

If being the Runner is to dart about, looking for weaknesses and chinks in armour, playing as the Corp is all about force and using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Building up well protected servers and confusing the Runner should be the order of the day if you side with the big bad guys in A:N, trying to swat them away like a mosquito. You really do get a feeling of power when you take one of the Corporation roles, creating a (hopefully) unbreachable row of defences as you march relentlessly towards victory. After all, the Corporations in Netrunner rule the world – how could a pesky little Runner stop them from achieving their goals?

Jinteki are one of the Corporations, ready to crush any attacks made on them.

Jinteki are one of the Corporations, ready to crush any attacks made on them by forcing Runners to frequently discard cards.

Quite simply, actually. Despite both players having very different goals (as well as methods of reaching them) the game is generally well balanced. Sure, the different Runner factions and Corporate identities may have a few positives and negatives when thrown into the mix, but most of the time you’ll find that match-ups are pretty even. It’s even suggested in the rulebook that you play twice each time, switching roles after the first game – if anything, it’s a great way to ensure that your skills are relatively even no matter what side you play. You’ll invariably end up preferring one side over the other – personally I enjoy Running much more – but if you want to get truly good at the game you’ll need to work on both.

As you’d imagine, what with it now being under the Fantasy Flight banner, the whole game has a sheen of class about it. The images throughout are lovely, instructions are nice and clear… even the flavour text on the cards is good. Hell, I’d go so far to say that some of it is downright funny; there are plenty of in-jokes and pop culture references to pick up on. A personal favourite is the Archer quote – definitely one for fans of the TV show.

Android: Netrunner has taken the original game and improved on it in countless ways. Where it could often require the assistance of someone else to get into the intricacies of how to play (and more importantly, how to play well), it’s now a lot easier to pick up and understand. Even the rulebook is well put together – where many other FFG products can be like molasses when you’re trying to wade through them, it’s comparatively easy to find out the information you require in this one.

Oh man, they're all so pretty.

Oh man, they’re all so pretty. And useful!

For far too long, Netrunner was left out in the rain. Those who knew how good it was championed the game but with dwindling stocks of cards, managing to play was a challenge in itself. Now, thanks to this relaunch, more and more people are getting to experience this fantastic game properly. With regular expansions being made available, FFG have demonstrated their desire to support it and sales have been good, so here’s hoping that Android: Netrunner is here to stay.

Android: Netrunner is strictly for two players only and games take around 15-30 minutes. Designed by Richard Garfield with assistance from Lukas Litzsinger, it’s now produced by Fantasy Flight Games. A copy from Gameslore will set you back £26, while the expansions (called Data Packs) are an additional tenner each. And seriously, it’s worth every penny.

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