By Kevin Wilson
Today brings us to the third – and most unusual – part of our tour through Android. I’m going to talk about the personal demons and the twilight cards, which is where the theme and story of the game shines through the strongest.
Looking at Louis Blaine (who was the first detective Dan and I designed for Android), we see that he has three entire decks of cards devoted to him and his story. He has a light deck (representing his strengths and abilities), a dark deck (representing his weaknesses and frailties), and a plot deck (detailing the major events going on in his life at the start of the game).
In Louis’s decks, he has three plots. Each plot has cards scattered throughout all three of his decks. That is, his “Sara” plot has light cards, dark cards, and plot cards.
At the start of each week, each detective randomly selects one of his or her plots to deal with that week. Let’s say Louis draws his “Sara” plot. Basically, Louis’s wife Sara has left him at the start of the game and he’s trying hard to win her back. To introduce the player to the plot, the start card is placed in play.
The start card sets the scene for the story, and lists the conditions under which Louis gains emotional baggage (both good and bad). Because Sara is concerned that Louis is involved with criminal activities, spending time with her or trying to be a better person helps him to win her back. On the other hand, when Louis’s dark side shows (represented by the other players sacrificing his dark cards), it drives her further away.
For the purposes of our example, let’s say that Louis isn’t able to overcome his dark side (perhaps he neglected this plot, or perhaps the other players were simply too much for him), and the plot resolves negatively on day 3 of the week (this happens if the amount of bad baggage on the card is equal to or greater than the amount of good baggage). In this case, his negative crossroad replaces the start card, and all the baggage on the start card is discarded.
From here, Louis now has new ways to gain good and bad baggage (the start card is discarded, so those ways to gain baggage are now gone). He gains good baggage when the suspects are moved away from Sara’s new place, but gains bad baggage when the suspects are near her new place.
If Louis turns things around and resolves the crossroad positively, he receives the 2nd best ending for this plot, “I’m glad you’re back.” which is worth 3 VPs at the end of the game.
On the other hand, if Louis can’t pull it out of the fire, he receives one of the most tragic plot endings in the game (and one of my favorites, oddly enough), “She can’t be dead.”
Obviously, the badness has now officially hit the fan for Louis. This ending is worth –9 VPs for him. However, if he turns out to be the one who successfully catches the murderer, he avenges Sara, and this ending is only worth –2 VPs instead. When designing the plots, I tried hard to closely integrate game mechanics and theme.
But what about the light and dark cards? How do they tie into the plots? Well, each plot has a number of light and dark cards that are related to its themes. For example, here’s a light and a dark card related to the “Sara” plot:
When Louis has his “Sara” plot in play, light and dark cards that are related to it (indicated by the color of the card’s border), the cost of these related cards can be adjusted up or down by 1 (minimum 0), as decided by the person who plays them. Thus, if Louis plays his “I’ve got a date with Sara” card when his “Sara” plot is in play, he can increase the cost from 0 o 1 (which he might want to do if he’s preparing to pay for a dark card). Similarly, if another player plays the “Back off...or else.” card on Louis while Louis has his “Sara” plot in play, that player can adjust the cost of that card up to 3 or down to 1, depending on his or her needs.
Basically, what this all means is that I had about 60 cards to explore each detective’s personality, stories, and supporting cast. This is pretty much unprecedented in a board game, and I had an absolute blast working with Dan to flesh out all the stories. So, if you read the rules and thought they were a bit dry, don’t worry, there’s a whole world of details and drama waiting in the 300 or so cards.