Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (Artipia Games/Stronghold Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; $59.95)
We all have a common desire – the desire of happiness. As we build our life, taking steps towards the pursuit of happiness, we come closer to the realization that happiness lies in the pursuit.
The title, theme and art of the box all guide us in the wrong direction: we are not in front of a light party game but a solid, well designed and well balanced working-placement and resource management Euro with a lot of tight decisions.
Artipia Games is an interesting emerging company. Pursuit of Happiness is by Adrian Abela and David Chircop is a great start.
Players are involved in the difficult task of achieving more happiness, from teen years to death. Every turn (to a max of nine) is a step in your life: teen, adult and old age. The “currency” of the game is “time”: you have 6 hourglasses (actions) every round but you can get more or less according to many different situations. You can spend time (actions) getting knowledge, creativity, influence and money that are resources needed to accomplish projects, activities, to buy items and/or develop relationships. Meanwhile, you can also spend time getting a job that will rarely give you happiness but will provide money to buy things (like a board game collection). Projects, relationships, activities and items will potentially give you Long Term Happiness (victory points). You need to keep an eye on stress though. There are stress “levels” and some actions will raise your stress level. Too much stress can deteriorate your time or bring you to an early death.
Every player will start the game in the teen age with a kid card that sets up his initial condition, offers a special ability and talks about the beginning of his life. Project cards and Activities/Items cards are revealed each round. (Jobs cards and Partner cards are also revealed from the second round on.)
Life Goal cards are revealed in the first round. These will offer special goals that will make every game different. During your turn, you can perform one action, putting one of your hourglasses on an action space. The round goes on as long until all the players have used all the hourglasses, then there is the End Round Phase.
You can perform an action as many times as you want (as long as you have an hourglass) but taking the same action twice or more in the round will raise your stress! (Evidently, it is not good to always do the same things). Four actions are used to get resources: study (to get knowledge), play (to get creativity), interact (to get influence) and temporary job (to get money). Later in the game, you can get a real job: it will offer you much more money but will use up some of your time (one or more hourglasses according to the job level).
You can use an action to do an activity or buy an item: actually taking one of the abilities/items cards available. Activities usually cost something offering you something back. Many activities can be accomplished in different levels: you can go sightseeing one day or take a full holiday. Items can also be “one shots” like a shelf of video games or something you need to maintain, spending resources year after year, like a full board game collection. The cards are well balanced and, of course, the more resources you are able to spend, the better the results.
You can also take an action to get a Project or to advance in a Project. Projects are something that can occupy a good part of your life. You can start designing websites with a 90s look, than evolve into Geo Towns, WordStress and finally HTNL6!
There are also group projects (like a RPG group or a Rock Band) that can be undertaken by more than one player, offering increasing rewards if more than one player is taking it. These are one-round projects but are really important and fun.
Starting from the second round, you can get a job and start/evolve a relationship. Jobs usually require some skills (resources) and will offer you money every round in exchange for time. Relationships also require something (there are girls/men looking for creativity, influence, items or money) and you need to spend more to evolve. Relationships are a good way to have Long Term Happiness. Getting a Job and a Relationship is something typical in the adult age but they will considerably reduce the time (actions) available in the round.
Finally there is the “Rule of 3”. You are able to make 3 things (among projects, jobs and relationships) without a problem but more than 3 will raise your stress. Having 2 or more relationships in the same time, as you can imagine, is also a cause of stress.
Playing The Pursuit of Happiness is a good exercise in decision making and resource management: you need to wisely focus on the things able to offer you happiness, plan a strategy, choose the right projects and be ready by having enough resources and time to grab interesting activities and items as soon as they appear. Looking to the Life Goals cards is also important because they can offer you a lot of happiness.
There is no luck in this game apart from which cards will be revealed in the beginning and during the round. This is something you have no real control on and sometimes, it could make the difference.
The Pursuit of Happiness is a great resource management game with the theme interwoven into every single action, card and decision! You can see the designers’ love for this game as most cards are ironic and fun. By the end of the game, you have in front of you a story: your story. You can try to play your life or do something totally different. You can invest in projects and relationships but also spend a life in activities. You can work to maintain your collections or just take the money you need from temporary work.
I have played this game more than 10 times now with the first edition (still not have played the 2nd one, that is the same game with a few new cards and some little new twists). I really love this game and, for me, The Pursuit of Happiness is the best Essen 2015 release and a title deserving much more attention and recognition. I think it is a game every player needs to have in his library. – – – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
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