In Fantasy Flight’s Android universe, New Angeles is a city of over a billion people, nestled at the bottom of the world’s only space elevator. In our universe, New Angeles is a game of cutthroat business dealings between megacorporations exploiting the city to turn as much profit as they can before conditions get bad enough that the US government takes over to restore order. Social collapse can be narrowly avoided if you all cooperate, but corporate rivalries and backroom government contracts insure that’s not going to happen.
In New Angeles, each player is a corporation with a specific goal, one that will be familiar to Android: Netrunner players. Jinteki gains capital (victory points) by removing diseases from districts in the city. Haas-Bioroid gets an advantage when the android laborers move around. NBN benefits from media consumption, reducing unrest in the city. Additionally, each corporation has access to a different combination of action cards that allow them to perform these necessary tasks…if they can make a deal.
Additionally, each player has a secret victory condition. To win, you must end the game with more capital than your randomly-drawn rival player. If your rival is yourself, then your goal is to be in the top 2 or 3. However, one player, instead of having a rival, may be the Federalist, who secretly wants the city to collapse so they can reap their fat government contract…but only after they’ve achieved 25 capital for themselves. Depending on the rivalries, there may be multiple winners of the game, or you could all lose.
The heart of the game revolves around Demand and deals. At the beginning of the game, a Demand card is revealed to show what resources the city must generate to stave off a disaster (represented by an increase in the Threat level – once the Threat hits 25, the city collapses and it’s game over). You have two rounds in which to produce those resources, which is achievable…but just barely. On the active player’s turn, they will make an offer from the action cards in their hand. This offer could be to remove disease from a district, reduce its unrest so that the androids working there can get things done, send in private security to force out rioters and organized crime, etc.
Going around the table, each player can then make a counteroffer from the cards in their hand – but each time you replace a previous player’s counteroffer, it costs you additional cards. Once the offer and counteroffer are established, the remaining players can vote with their cards to decide which one they accept. Whichever one goes through, that player chooses how it resolves, as well as taking an asset card as a reward. Assets can be one-time benefits or ongoing abilities, but they are always positive. After two full rounds, in which all players will have had multiple opportunities to make offers, demand must be met or the Threat level increases. This repeats twice more, for a total of six rounds and three demand rounds.
Like in any Fantasy Flight game, there are multiple wrinkles to this basic concept – disease forces the Threat level up when infected districts do work; organized crime steals the hard-earned resources of a district; and Human First agitators cause riots when android labor replaces human jobs. All of these obstacles can be mitigated, but it takes time and requires you to make deals to do it. You might not be able to deal with all of these threats at once, but you can handle some…unless there’s a Federalist who secretly wants you to fail, or someone simply gets greedy and makes a grab for more capital.
Not surprising, negotiation and trading play a huge part in New Angeles, and the game has specific rules for how these are to be handled. If both parties come to an agreement and perform it at the time it’s made, then it’s binding. For example, during the support phase, if I offer you 1 Capital in exchange for 1 card of support on my offer, and we can both deliver immediately, we must. However, if a player promises to do something in the future, they aren’t bound to do so.
It’s very difficult to compare New Angeles to any one game. The color-pie split of action cards and the obligations of each player, as well as the use of those cards as resources, is reminiscent of FFG’s Battlestar Galactica. The Federalist traitor-mechanic, as well as the individualized victory conditions, is most similar to Plaid Hat’s Dead of Winter. If you like either of them, you will most likely enjoy New Angeles, although the play is quite different from both. But it does have that same cooperative/competitive hybrid feel, as well as the panicked sense of having to triage too many crises to handle at once. A special note should be made about the plastic figures – these could have just as easily been cardboard tokens, but they are really nice and look great on the board.