First, a special thanks to Kevin Wilson for making Android (and many other games that I have had fun playing): the legacy of Android is going to push forward FFG's other Android universe inspired products. I look very much forward to Infiltration and other boardgames of the same universe, and I know others are excited by the idea of an RPG. I cannot express how much you put into this game. I am well pleased with what was attempted and I hope that is done again with some of this review in mind. Thank you for sharing your passion with the community and I believe Android's future will serve you well.
Also special thanks to jasonpanella: had I not bought this game, I would have not known what I do now about this product and what I will purchase in the future.
Lastly, Android is NOT a mystery game. I also disagree to a degree the critics who say it's a "frame-up" board game. Truly, it's how you want to imagine the game: maybe you are a selfish investigator who just wants to further his or her career by pinning the murder to the first suspect because they gave you a dirty look. I prefer thinking of it as evidence is being gathered for the prosecution, and when the prosecutor looks at all that's gathered by each investigator (end game), he decides who he is going to convict for his case (could be wrongfully accused too!). Your innocent card given at the beginning is also just a suspect who trusts you enough, or you trust them enough, to believe naively or know fully of their innocence. Another way I look at the innocent angle is you are Paul Drake, Jr. to Perry Mason and his client. The critics are wrong on the "frame-up only" account. Now, without further adieu...
Life is all about learning experiences. Android, I feel, is a good one, for Kevin Wilson, FFG, and the consumer. This review will be as positive as I can be with such a beautifully crafted game, but I do believe it falls short of its goal. I love the art, the design, the depth, the setting, Wilson's affection for his product, etc. I cannot wait for Infiltration because the Android universe is a cool place and has inspired me to begin reading sci-fi suddenly when I instead prefer more mystery, horror, and fantasy. At the end of the day though, I have to let others know how I feel about a product because we as consumers must be selective in our budgets. I bought Android on a budget that isn't going well and made an attempt to enjoy a game that I was hesitant at first to buy, bought it anyways because I liked the idea, and now after many play tests and one true game of 3 players, I can say Android is not for everyone, and I hope this review does a good job separating those who know they will enjoy it and those who will wait for future Android universe products, and even a revision of the original game, which I am all for.
I want to clear things up right away: Android is a quality-made game, but its unsimplified mechanics will cause strife. If you buy this game, you must read a 40 page manual to understand just about every little tidbit (you can find the manual under Android's "support" tab). I have read it twice before teaching it to others. Somewhere I have been told that I have misled players on a key point or two. My suggestion for buyers is if you are going to buy this game, find at least two more people who are interested in playing this game (three more, if you want to be safer about your purchase-a good idea). Be sure they are not offended by a game that is nasty in its competitive card play and play length (players can lose turns if not careful, and I happened to combo a guy where no matter what, Raymond's turn practically voided beyond his control). Patience and humbleness are virtue in enjoying this game. Ask them, after considering the overall consensus of good and bad about the game, if they are not just willing to try it, but play it again even if the first session goes bad. Many critical reviewers, including myself, write the criticism by how bad the first game went (and I will go into that later), and even some who later favor and love the game admit their first time too was not great. When you find your players, before you buy it, ask them to read the rule book. This game is absolute competitiveness; if only one person reads the book and explains the rest of this 40 pager, someone could accuse another of being misled. Avoid that by making it a prerequisite to READ THE MANUAL. Therefore, no one can be misled but by themselves. When at least three people have (including yourself), discuss it and whether your group is interested in it or not. If you cannot meet the prerequisite amount of three players that include yourself, do not buy this game (unless buying for variant, see below). Your Android will sit on your shelf as mine will for a while.
I am the proud owner of many FFG games: Space Hulk card game, Mansions of Madness (even with its flaws, it is one of the best games I've ever played), Gears of War, and Dungeon Quest (some people will find it the equivalent of Android's fun factor) are my favorites. Android is something I want to be proud of. I have heard many people critique why the game is either great or terrible, and though I don't believe it is terrible, the fun factor is spoiled with length, rule complexity, and a failure in balance. I will detail each of these respectively, and then give a conclusion on how you may be someone who really should own Android.
Android is a long game. One in-game week too long, I would argue. After test playing with my two-friends beforehand, I knew it would go faster. I had test played it three times beforehand with only one opponent: all three times ended before we even got the first week finished (two of them went for three hours; mind you, I had to teach rules though). The true match between three players ended up being five hours. Another 3 player game we could have played could have been Mansions, Gears, or Space Hulk, which in that time we could have roughly played two matches of. If we played Dungeon Quest, several. Instead, Android took five hours for one session. By the end, we were exhausted. There are some games that are exhaustive but are still worth playing, like Descent. Android is not worth playing despite its exhaustiveness because its rules are too unbalanced. Furthermore, its rules are gigantic. One more point: if we included the other friend I had trained, the game would have easily gone on for another hour, and we were already dragging through it. By halfway (if that), mostly I was the only one reading my twilight cards flavor text aloud. The flavor text is why I bought Android, foremost, and why Mansions is a winner for me because its flavor text is concise and read by only one player (the Keeper). It was a bummer that we didn't have the time to say aloud beyond plots our flavor text our first real game.
Complexity is good in a game. The reason I buy FFG is because of their devotion to making a complex game. So isn't it odd that I am saying Android's complexity is a bad thing? Simply: no. Android has too much complexity. Somewhere in the transition of rules and memorization, there is just too much. I thought I had remembered all the rules once I had read the manual twice, but there was still questions I had. Then when you have players who rely solely on you to explain said rules with a game that is slippery on balance and has already taken three hours to get through "week one" AND took a while to set up too, people are going to get frustrated and have "You failed to explain the rules to me" arguments, which we had one resolved by coin flip (again, EVERYONE who is going to play Android should read the manual or do not play). Complexity, however, can be simplistic, and Android is not simplistic. Earlier in these forums, I stated it would be good if Android had an expansion. Truth be told: I was wrong. This game is a game-and-a-half already, but you must play with "the expansion" that comes with. Android needs no expansion. It is long enough as is. If there were an expansion, it should cut game length down.
Finally, the balance in Android is on par, and not. The characters seem balanced from what I have observed, though not every character is for everyone. What is not balanced is a few things: 1) major location use, 2) the Earth and the Moon, and 3) complexity, player confrontation, and the feeling of falling behind in game.
1) In the Gamers' Table review of Android, some people criticize this game has too much to do, and Chris's response was he believed that to be a good thing. Both sides are right: Chris is correct in saying that having a lot to do brings depth and replay-ability to a game, but the problem is if that depth is unbalanced mechanically, you find some places or abilities not worth utilizing, making the game linear yet teasingly not. For example, the places that need warrants (which uses precious amounts of time without a warrant), require favor points, discards, and more time to gain a small service that usually requires more purchases of to make a difference (especially the Human First/Assassination location). Instead of making an equal location that removes assassination tokens or "witness protection" mechanics and increasing "kill" capability, it's just really, really hard to kill someone (or easier if you are playing with more players, as the use of assassination tokens will be more frequent, which that too isn't balanced). Most mechanics do not reflect on whether three or five players are playing the game, making some mechanics better or weaker than others, as in Jimmy's event card where he shows you who was not selected as guilty or innocent in distribution to players. Three players it's easy to figure out then who has what; five players makes it pointless to waste time there (and you could argue that helps replay-ability when with different group sizes but, again, its not balanced because the mechanic is worthless in varying group sizes).
2) I have found that token distribution can be bounced back and forth between two players on the Earth and the odd man on the Moon has to walk all the way down to get any use out of leads (this is done by player 1 using leads, player 2 places the lead outside his district but still on earth with players 1 and 2. Player 2 does not collect any leads and goes for other game abilities. Player 3 is on the Moon and uses leads to have them placed by player 1, who is also on Earth with player 2. Player 3 then must make his way down to earth to throw leads back up to the Moon or everyone simply stays on Earth, never using the Moon's surface). That, again, is not balanced (especially if Player 3 has a slow car, unlike Players 1 and 2: that happened). If the NAPD (gives move anywhere on board tokens) was on the Moon, maybe this would be easily remedied. Alas, it too is on Earth...
3) The selling premise of this game is that it is a nasty "take-that" game, as reviewer "Scott's Stuff" puts it. I would say it is nasty, and not fun depending on who you are playing against (and you may get along with every other board game you've played with him or her too), and will more than likely require a second or third play through before it can acquire full appreciation of its tact. Some people may not have the patience for that. More so, if someone is impatient or easily antagonized by bad cards being played on them by other players, they will take offense to it and "hunt" that player. A proponent of Android could say "That's why you don't play real nasty cards like that until the end." True, but then what "nasty" cards do you play? And how many "nasty" cards must be played to balance that evenness, or what do you do if you let your opponents draw first blood on you with "nasty" cards? It's sloppy. I could see the twilight clashes being fun if the game was only 90 mins long on average, but not a five hour game (3 player!). This happened early enough too, and it made myself and the other player duel for the first half because one would not let go of the grudge of the other. I conceded jokingly, yet knowingly, that the other player outside of this duel would win (he did, three hours later!). I knew because the clash ate so much time, that I was bound to lose (though I did vainly place all bets on who was guilty at the end to even the score, I still would have lost). If I knew I had lost before half of a 5 hour game was over, why would I want to play Android again where imbalance was overall the issue why I had fell so far from an attainable win, and what does that say for someone else who plays in my shoes?
Conclusion: a long game does not make a bad game. Complexity does not make a bad game so long as complexity is understandable. However, lack of balance, and length with complexity is not an enjoyable concoction. That being said, I CAN STILL RECOMMEND THIS GAME TO SOME.
You would like Android if:
A. You know your players well and their player commitments.
B. You are NOT buying this game just for its theme. That you LIKE, and others will LIKE, nasty "take-that!" card games that take 4 or more hours to play.
C. You are going to variant play this game for solo game, 2 player, or 2v2 teams; twilight rulings; or the Board Game Geek mystery variant.
Make a variant? Oh yes. A solid variant of Android makes this game much easier to digest. Besides the variant I am cooking up to allow solo play (slightly different mechanics though), I believe a simple two-versus-two version of Android COULD be much more balanced, if properly done. Teams of two sharing insight of their light cards and dark cards against other players should be a much more interesting game because the competition is more easily addressed. This PvP I will figure out in the coming weeks, which will be much easier than the solo build. In addition: I rarely make a house-rule for a game, but the other two I can think of is Gears, which demands extra exploration use measured by group size, and Dungeon Quest, which is very, very fun when house ruled (check the DQ forums for that). A light card only variant also may make this game much more accessible to those who hate the "take-that" fierceness the game had intended, though a few flaws with that due to missing dark cards. Dark card limitations would throw the balance of the game off for the characters, making the game more unbalanced. To each his own, though.
Last, a couple minor quibbles. The theme of the twilight cards sometimes do not reflect what is happening on a plot card at the time. How can Floyd, for instance, say he is late to Director Haas because he was talking with Father Michael if Floyd's current plot for the past couple days has been Father Michael has been kidnapped? I suppose it could be instead Father Michael was just kidnapped as you left, but... just kinda weird, and it makes me wonder if there are more inconsistencies with theme. To be honest, it seems like the flavor text abstractly fits together with what's going on with your investigator. Mansions of Madness instead preselects mythos cards that thematically make sense with its "haunted house" and has an event deck that further chronicles the delve. Android, though it has plots similar to the event deck, doesn't feel so much as the same chronology as Mansions. Also, the player who used Caprice defended the ability that his Daniel tokens "block" dark cards because his strategy sheet said so, but I used the manual to show NPC favor tokens do not do so and the strategy sheet is merely making a suggestion for how to play his character to avoid specific dark cards. When I reviewed his dark deck, only one card forced him to discard a Daniel token, to then play another dark card if Caprice has no Daniel tokens. Why would a strategy sheet suggest this when his dark cards mislead him to the statistical nature that that ONE dark card may show up, and further confuse him on the necessity of keeping a Daniel token? He is still adamant that he can play according to his strategy sheet, ignoring the rule book. Can anyone give me an explanation for if he or I is right in this situation so I may address it?
If you have a question, comment, or criticism to this review, I look forward to reading and responding. I hope Android gets a revision that cuts down on length. I will be there to buy it. The game deserves it. As it stands, there will always be a following but I cannot support the standard version, nor can the friends that I played with. We are a pretty patient group and this had tried our patience. When I bring a board game over, the goal is to have a good time. Unfortunately, Android was a dud. I hope a round two with a two-vs-two variant and something that cuts the time down a bit will make it more enjoyable.