A Beginner's Guide to Murder Investigations
|Android | Published 25 November 2008|
by Kevin Wilson
The ARG, the video trailer, and the website have done an excellent job giving everyone a first look at the world of Android, but now it’s time to talk turkey (appropriately enough, given the time of year) and start delving into game mechanics.
Android is a competitive strategy game for 3–5 players and is playable in 2–4 hours. In it, players take on the role of one of five unique New Angeles detectives investigating an important murder. However, just solving the murder won’t always win you the game. The detectives also try to uncover the conspiracy behind the latest rash of killings and deal with pressing issues from their personal lives as well. The player who best juggles those three things – in effect making the best ‘movie’, wins the game.
For now, let’s talk about solving the murder.
At the start of the game, each detective is dealt a guilty and an innocent hunch card. These cards represent your hunches about the case, and for each of your hunches that turns out to be correct, you’ll receive some points at the end of the game. So, for example, you might receive Mark Henry’s innocent hunch and Vinnie the Strangler’s guilty hunch. If Mark Henry turns out to be innocent, you’ll receive 5 VP. If Vinnie the Strangler turns out to be guilty, you’ll receive 15 VP. It’s possible that you’ll receive both the guilty and the innocent hunch for the same suspect, but that’s okay. It just means that you’re obsessed with that suspect. In that case, if you can prove the suspect not only guilty, but really guilty, then you’ll receive points for both of your hunches, and a small bonus besides.
But how, you may ask, do you prove that a suspect is guilty? Well, to explain that, I’ll have to talk a little bit about the turn structure first. On a player’s turn, he receives a certain amount of Time that he can spend to do things. The two most common actions are moving around the board and following up leads.
Now, if you’ve looked at the pictures of the game map that have been floating around, you may have noticed that there are a number of locations on the map, but only a couple of them are actually connected in any way. So how do you move between unconnected locations? Well, in the world of Android, most non-cargo vehicles fly, so the detectives don’t have to worry about following the roads. Instead, each detective receives a vehicle ruler. These rulers have a picture of the detectives’ vehicles on them and show how far a detective can move by spending 1 Time. Here’s an excerpt from the rulebook explaining how that works.
Ok, that explains how to get around, but what about following up leads? Well, there are three types of lead markers in the game: documentary, physical, and testimonial. These are placed at various locations around the map and represent different types of evidence the detectives can find. Documentary evidence includes paperwork trails, security videos, and so on. Physical evidence includes DNA remnants, footprints, fingerprints, etc. Finally, testimonial evidence includes any testimony given by witnesses. By moving to a lead’s location and spending 1 Time there, a detective can follow up a lead. The lead is then moved by the player on the detective’s right to a new location of the same color while the detective draws a piece of evidence from the evidence pool and places it on a suspect of his choice.
As you might expect, not all evidence is created equal for all suspects. Testimonial evidence is much less effective against Vinnie the Strangler than documentary evidence, for instance. After all, would YOU want to testify against someone named Vinnie the Strangler? To represent this, there are 3 areas on each suspect’s sheet called ‘files’. One for each type of evidence. The evidence type at the top of the sheet is strong against that suspect, while the evidence type at the bottom of the sheet is weak against that suspect. When you follow up a lead, you place the evidence you get from it in the corresponding file on the suspect of your choice (i.e. if you follow up a testimony lead, the evidence from it must go in a suspect’s testimony file).
On top of that, each individual piece of evidence ranges in importance. This is represented by its value, which ranges from –4 to +5 (there are also some special pieces of evidence, but I won’t get into that). The higher the value, the more incriminating the evidence (with negative evidence actually working against the case against a suspect). Since evidence is normally placed facedown on a suspect sheet, this helps the players conceal which suspect they’re trying to convict. Why does that matter? Well, the players can arrange for suspects to be killed, and if a suspect gets bumped off, neither of his corresponding hunches pays off!
At the end of the game, the murderer is the suspect with the highest total value of evidence placed on him. This is modified a bit by strong and weak evidence, as shown in the example from the rulebook below.
Investigating the murder adds an important bluffing element to Android, and provides a framework for everything else that goes on in the game. But the question remains, since you’re controlling where the evidence goes: Are the detectives discovering evidence, or are they planting it? Well, that depends on what you want to believe about your detective. In Android, there’s no easy black and white answer – only shades of grey.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!
Next time, join me as we piece together the conspiracy behind the scenes...