Set in the distant future, in the city of New Angeles and the Moon colony of Heinlein, Android is a board game that allows 3-5 players to take on the roles of investigators competing to either solve a case, unravel a conspiracy, or simply find happiness. These tasks take the investigators all across the Greater New Angeles region. Its cities are dangerous places, riddled with lurking threats and dangerous temptations. Players must weigh their options carefully as they scour the streets searching for leads, because one wrong turn could take them down a dark path from which they might not be able to return.
Players have to decide how much time they are willing to spend following up leads that might be out of the reach. Depending on what form of transportation they have access to, they have to plan their day carefully. If they are fortunate enough to have a dropship pass, they have quick access to any location in the Greater New Angeles region. However, if they have to rely on their own flight-capable vehicles, they have to spend more time traveling between locations, possibly forcing them to travel through “seedy” locations in the city; these are areas most investigators will do well to avoid.
Learning the lay of the land is one thing, but using it to your advantage takes a bit of experience, and not a small amount of strategy. Moving through the wrong locations at the wrong time allows opposing players to play dark cards on your investigator, and vice versa. Since the fate of the opposing investigators lies partially in your hands, you have to stay diligent during their investigation in case you have a dire twist to their plot waiting to be revealed when they make a wrong turn.
Two Sides to Every Story
In Android, every investigator has his own distinct plot to unfold, affecting the controlling player’s overall victory conditions. Players are given liberty to pursue a happy ending in their investigator’s personal life, or they can devote themselves to the investigation, neglecting their own happiness. There are benefits and detriments to both choices, and each player decides how his investigator will invest his short supply of time.
To represent this personal struggle, Android uses plot cards to emulate each investigator’s story progress. Players can ensure that they receive a happy ending by accumulating more good baggage than bad baggage, as instructed by their plot cards. Louis Blaine, for example, is a corrupt cop riddled with guilt and shame. His marriage is on the verge of collapsing. Depending on how Louis spends his time and how he handles the case, his relationship with his wife will be directly affected. Perhaps Louis needs to save his marriage, gaining good baggage by sacrificing time out of his investigation. Or he could decide to focus on his job, alienating his wife, thus gaining bad baggage.
Finding a Balance
There is a light and dark aspect to everything in Android; and nearly every choice has repercussions. Each player has access to light cards that positively affect his investigator. But to play these cards, players have to “shift” their investigator toward their darker side. Light cards represent good things that happen during each character’s investigation.
To compensate for these light cards, opposing players have access to dark cards dedicated to each different character, representing negative events that hinder investigators. By dark shifting, players are able to play dark cards on their opponents, in turn light shifting their investigators. This back-and-forth mechanic balances the amount of good and bad events that affect investigators during a given turn.
For example, Rachel Beckman has a deteriorating relationship with a father. As an honorable cop, he does not approve of her decision to work as a bounty hunter. They have a troubled past they are trying to work through, but it takes time and effort on both sides. Rachel can spend some extra time reconciling with her father. However, doing so might cause her to be less focused on the case, failing to gather enough evidence to pin the crime on her hunch. On the other hand, she just might be able to reconcile her father issues if she can sacrifice even a few hours out of her week, earning a happy ending to her plot. These happy endings can potentially swing the player’s score during the final phase of the game.
Now It’s Personal
Since each investigator in Android has his own distinct style, story, and struggle, he also operates under a unique mechanic. No investigator plays the same. In addition to distinct plots, light cards, and dark cards, there is also a mechanic that governs each investigator’s overall winning conditions.
Detective Raymond Flint is a former fighter pilot. His experiences in the war constantly haunt him, and he attempts to drown those memories in the seedy bars of New Angeles. However, his memories threaten to come back to him at any time, possibly driving him back into depression. To represent this, opposing players are dealt Raymond’s memory cards and can play them at opportune times.
As the Evidence Piles Up
There are many ways to acquire victory points (or VPs) in Android. One of the most lucrative ways is to solve the murder, which is done by pinning enough evidence on the suspect that matches your investigator’s secret hunch. You can also gain additional points by proving another of the suspects to be innocent.
Each piece of evidence that an investigator “follows up” will have a numeric value assigned to it (such as 1, 2, -3, 5, etc.). When a player follows up a lead, he takes that piece of evidence, secretly checks the value assigned to it, and places it on a suspect sheet. Positive numbers will count toward that suspect's guilt, while negative values will count toward their innocence.
Once the second week of the investigation is played out, evidence is totaled and the suspect with the highest value assigned to them is declared guilty. The investigator that has the hunch that matches the guilty suspect receives VPs. All other suspects are innocent, and those innocent hunches award VPs to investigators as well.
Completing the Puzzle
In addition to happy endings and proven hunches, VPs can also be gained by piecing together the conspiracy puzzle. Investigators can unravel the conspiracy by placing puzzle pieces instead of evidence when they follow up a lead. The center of the conspiracy puzzle consists of a puzzle piece with four paths branching out. To unravel the conspiracy, investigators need to direct one of those paths to an organization involved in the conspiracy.
By manipulating this puzzle, players can earn VPs in many different ways. Depending on which organization is linked to the central piece, political favors might be worth +1 VP each, or sad endings could be worth an additional -1. The presence of the conspiracy puzzle ensures that each investigation will play out differently, making each game of Android a unique experience.
Get a Jump on the Case
While solving the case is the strongest path to victory, other avenues of acquiring VPs must be considered. Depending on how the conspiracy puzzle plays out, players will have to adjust their strategies on the fly, keeping gameplay exciting and versatile. Whichever path you choose to focus on, leads are the key to victory, so get out there and be the first to crack the case!
With deep narrative elements, multiple winning conditions, and unique mechanics for each investigator, Android is more than just a board game; it is an engrossing journey designed to pull players into a highly developed neo-noir setting. Players that enjoy heavy theme, complex strategy, and time management will find themselves returning to New Angeles frequently to experience a new case, a new story, and a new ending to the collective story they create with each game.