Collaborate / Manipulate
A Look at the Deals and Victory Conditions of New Angeles
Humanity Labor has once again denied any connection between the advocacy organization and the violent movement Human First. This comes in the wake of another spate of vandalism in which dozens of androids, both bioroids and clones, were destroyed by sledgehammer-wielding activists in “Robot City.”
In New Angeles, you gain executive control over one of the largest megacorporations from the Android setting. You command a nearly unfathomable wealth of resources, and you carry the crushing weight of your shareholders' expectations upon your shoulders. After all, you're running a megacorp in New Angeles, the greatest business district in all of history. There are fortunes to be made. And then these fortunes are to be traded in for larger fortunes.
There are, however, two problems. Actually, there are a great deal more than two problems, but you can file them into two general categories.
- The first is that in order to keep doing business, you need to work with the other corps to keep New Angeles and its citizens in order. Not only is it hard to work efficiently and effectively if your commute takes you through the midst of a riot, but there's the very real possibility that the United States government would reconsider the special business privileges the megacorps enjoy in New Angeles.
- The second problem is just as pervasive; you need to maintain and grow your market shares. You cannot make the same mistake that others have made—thinking that the megacorps are somehow aligned as a group. No, there is a finite amount of capital circulating in the economy, and your job is to collect as much of it as you can. There's no room on the corporate food chain for "peaceful coexistence." There's only predator and prey. It's your job to make sure you look like the prey… and eat like the predator.
When we first announced New Angeles prior to Gen Con, a number of veteran boardgamers were quick to note what they recognized as the game's "semi-cooperative" elements. In essence, the idea is that the players need to work together to meet a few basic goals, but then the game would diverge from those cooperative roots as players pursued their individual goals.
Those veteran gamers were only partially right.
There are, in fact, collaborative elements in New Angeles, but they only come into play on the heels of individual player goals. The principle that drives the game forward isn't the cooperation between corporations as they attempt to maintain order within their city. The game is driven by each corp's pursuit of profit. Specifically, each player wants to end up richer than one of the others.
There's also a chance that one of your friends is secretly a Federalist, working to ensure that the U.S. government decides to intervene in the city's affairs, but we'll address this player's unique role later in the article. For now, we'll let it suffice to say that no other corporation shares your company's goals.
At the beginning of each game, you shuffle together the Rival cards for all the corporations represented in the game, plus the Rival card for the Federalist. Then you distribute one Rival card to each player and place the last remaining Rival card facedown beneath the edge of the board, unseen.
At this point, you and your friends have now been set against each other. It's true that you only need to outearn one other corporation to win (unless you're the Federalist or have drawn your own Rival card), but the first shadows of suspicion and doubt have been introduced. And these will fall heavily over every deal you and your friends attempt to negotiate as the game proceeds.
There is no altruism in New Angeles. You are not out to save the world. You're not even out to save your city. You could scarcely care less about riots and orgcrime and the city's citizens, except that they all have some minor impact upon your bottom line. You're not looking to make friends with the other corps. You're only looking out for yourself; the other corps—if you play it right—are merely useful tools to help you earn more capital.
This isn't some semi-cooperative game where you're looking to preserve the peace and beauty of New Angeles as you bounce along some jovial path to prosperity; this is a game where you'll let nothing stand between you and your capital—least of all the corporations, one of which is almost certainly your rival, one of which is trying to outmaneuver you, and one of which is likely trying to ruin the city's special business district zoning for you and everyone else.
Getting What You Want
The hard truth is that in order to run over all the other corporations and collect the capital you ultimately desire, you're going to have to play the role of a "cooperative and friendly business partner." How much you have to adopt this role may depend on the strength of your position, as well as the strengths of your rivals' positions, but since you need to make deals in order to make money—and since you need the other corps to support your deals—you can't afford to make too many enemies.
Each round, during the Action Phase, players take turns proposing different deals. These deals begin with the game's Action cards.
When it's your turn, you'll draw the number of action cards indicated on your Corp sheet. There are five types of Action cards, and each corp other than Melange Mining draws two Action cards of the type with which it is primarily associated, and one Action card from another category. For example, when you play as NBN , you'll draw two Media cards and one Biotech card at the beginning of each of your turns. Melange Mining, as the exception, is able to draw its choice of three Action cards from among all the different categories.
After you draw your Action cards, you'll reveal the top card of the Asset deck. Whichever corp ends up resolving a deal gets to claim this asset, and since the game's assets all provide different benefits, it's easy to envision ways for all of them to fit into your corporate designs.
As the active player, you get the first chance to pitch a deal to the other corps. You do this by selecting one of the Action cards from your hand and placing it on the board to the left of the asset.
Here it's worth pausing to note the different ways that your business deals can shape the course of the game:
- You can turn a quick profit by cashing in on your High-Risk Investments .
- You can keep the city functioning smoothly. For example, you can use Budget Renovations to open up a district where business had been choked by outages, but doing so will create unrest. Still, you can reduce that unrest by hiring some Spin Doctors to go to work on the public consciousness.
- If things are going really badly in the city, you might use Scorched Earth tactics to deal with unwanted orgcrime and human rights activists.
- Or you might simply make a bid for the asset at stake by offering players access to more possible actions through the use of Full Deployment or a Puff Piece .
No matter which deal you hope to make, you'll need to find some way to get it past the other corps. Proceeding clockwise from you, after you play your Action card, they all have the opportunity to propose a counteroffer. The first person looking to play one of these alternate deals simply places it to the right of the asset, opposite your proposal, but for each subsequent player looking to play a counteroffer must discard Action cards from his or her hand equal to the number of faceup cards in the counteroffer position.
As an example, after the Weyland Consortium offers to share the rewards of some High-Risk Investments, three other players decide to play counteroffers, all hoping to lure Bernice Mai to work for them. Accordingly, the third player to play a counteroffer must discard two Action cards from her hand before she plays Clinical Trials , hoping the other players (and Bernice Mai) will recognize that his contribution is more valuable to the city's continued prosperity than the Weyland Consortium's self-interested investments.
However, once every player has had the opportunity to make a counteroffer, the corps can wheel and deal, and things tend to get murky—even when it's so apparently simple as a choice between what looks like an offer that's good for Weyland and a counteroffer that's good for everyone.
First of all, as Weyland might note, the company's High-Risk Investments pay out for three different players, and while you might expect Weyland would want to collect the maximum of three capital for themselves, the Weyland player might declare her intention of paying out three capital to the first player to support her, two capital to the second, and one to the last. In fact, depending how badly the Weyland Consortium wants to recruit Bernice Mai, the Weyland player might even offer the other corps a few points of her own capital.
Next, the Weyland Consortium might cast aspersions on Jinteki and the so-called "selflessness" of their medical efforts. After all, as everyone knows, Jinteki has their fingers in just about all the city's biotech, and as indicated on her Corp sheet, the Jinteki player stands to earn a couple points of capital when the illness token is removed by her action.
Perhaps, at this point, the NBN player remains neutral. His primary concern is keeping Bernice Mai at home, rather than seeing her take her talents to either Weyland or Jinteki. Since the head of NBN had his counteroffer cancelled by Jinteki's, he's inclined to support Weyland, but he keeps that idea to himself and states that he'll support anyone who's willing to give him the asset. In fact, he'll even pay out five capital in order to get the asset.
This bold move could then startle the Globalsec and Haas-Bioroid players, both of whom start to question, openly, whether NBN is secretly the Federalist. Why else would NBN offload so much of its capital—putting itself in a weaker position—just to win a single employee's tenuous loyalty? The truth is that Globalsec is actually the Federalist in this game, but the Globalsec player recognizes the opportunity to deflect suspicion and to shift perception in favor of Weyland's offer—an offer which does nothing to quell the city's unrest or to keep it functioning smoothly.
After a short debate, the players without offers on the table all have the opportunity to decide whether they'll support one or the other offer. To support an offer, a player places one or more Action cards face down beneath either the active offer or the counteroffer. The offer with the most Action cards beneath it is successful, and its owner wins the contended asset. In the case of a tie, the active offer wins.
The Government Stooge
As mentioned earlier, your victory condition is handed to you in the form of a Rival card. Since it's possible for you to emerge victorious by earning more capital than, say, NBN, even while NBN wins by earning more capital than Haas-Bioroid, it is possible for more than one player to win a game of New Angeles.
It is never possible for everyone to win. There is always at least one corp that will fail to meet its goals, and because the Federalist is positioned against all the other players, the Federalist's role adds a significant measure of tension to the game.
For the Federalist to win, he or she needs to earn only an extremely modest twenty-five capital by the time the city's threat hits twenty-five and the U.S. government decides to intervene, temporarily suspending—perhaps even revoking—the special business privileges the corporations have long enjoyed within the city. This means that while the other corps are turning a measure of their attentions away from their holdings and investments in order to assess the city's needs, the Federalist is looking at how those needs can be met as ineffectually as possible.
Simply raising the threat is not a winning strategy for the Federalist. No one wants to be outed as a snitch. It's bad PR to tip your hand as the force behind the city's unrest. It's just bad for business to get caught, and taking direct measures to raise the threat is likely to get you caught.
Instead, the Federalist needs to play clever. A government stooge in corporate skin. The Federalist needs to be out for him or herself, just like all the other corps, and might just be a little more self-interested at inopportune moments. Better yet, the Federalist might play the role of good business partner.
As the Federalist, you might see a pair of offers and recognize that if Haas-Bioroid has its deal pass, its bioroids will spur more of the manufacturing that the city needs, whereas the Action cards that NBN hopes to share with everyone won't help the corps meet their demands for the round. In turn, you might look at your hand, look at the board, note how the city's residents aren't getting enough entertainment in the Nihongai district, and offer your support to NBN, recommending that others follow suit, so that you'll find some way to clear the outage in Nihongai and get the district's entertainment back in motion!
The flip side, of course, is that when you aren't the Federalist, you read the other corps differently. One of them is secretly working against you, so you need to be suspicious. There's no trust in New Angeles. There are no true shared goals.
Look Out for Number One
Set in the not-too-distant future of the Android universe, New Angeles is a compelling game of corporate greed for four to six players. As you and your friends look to transform your corporations' massive fortunes into even greater fortunes, you'll need to keep an eye to the health of your city, even as you negotiate your way through rounds that are full of wheeling, dealing, bluffing, bribing, promises, and backstabbing.
Because you need to keep the city running smoothly in order to keep the U.S. government out, some early reviewers decided that New Angeles deserved the "semi-cooperative" tag that sometimes gets slapped on different mechanics. Technically, there are "semi-cooperative" elements, but the term just doesn't feel appropriate. The term is too friendly for the megacorps. It's too altruistic. And it doesn't fully address the measure of suspicion and distrust introduced by the Federalist and the game's Rival cards.
There's no trust in New Angeles, and the lack of trust leads away from true cooperation. It leads, instead, toward manipulation and coercion. It leads toward a game in which you want to keep your secrets close and you need to play your rivals as much as you play the cards you have in hand. It leads toward tension, surprises, and excitement.
Step away from the idea that the megacorps are working hand-in-hand to make the world a better place. Step into the CEO's chair and drive your megacorp toward a megaprofit. In New Angeles, you only need to look out for number one.
Stay tuned for a closer look at the demands of running New Angeles and more information about the various talents you can recruit. In the meantime, be sure to head to your local retailer and pre-order your copy today!