Some game publishers release rules before the game is in stores. Some people feel like they can review games based on reading the rules. Maybe that is true for some games and/or some gamers, but I think it is like reviewing a film after reading the shooting script. Fantasy Flight posted rules for both Android and Age of Conan. I have played Android since then, but Age of Conan still isn't out.
So let's talk about the rules for Android. Are they long, complicated, and hard to grasp first time? Yes. Are they "strongly thematic"? A set of rules governing the behavior of Noir detectives seems questionable.
I was able to write 5 whole sentences about the rules. Like number of players or play time unless long "meaty" rules aren't enjoyable then there's nothing to scare you away. But the rules aren't the game.
Specifically there are lots of cards which have special rules on them which change the game for you. Without reading all the cards, you can't know how the game will play.
Even playing for the first time, I couldn't really get the system. It is big and different and hard to evaluate. After the game, I thought about what had happened for days afterward (which is something I enjoy in games).
The more I thought about what had happened to my character and how the game played out, the more I could see the theme in the game played.
I played Louis Blaine. He's a corrupt cop who let his partner die just before the game starts. His wife knew something was up and left him. I spent most of the first week trying to get Blaine back with his wife. This gave me 7 VP, but I was kind of confused with what to do. I was in a bad mood and that somehow translated into Rachel (the bounty hunter) having her car break down. I figured she was out of the game for the time being. And then I turned my attention to Caprice (the psychic).
For the second week Caprice was pelted with Nightmares and emotional trama. Her sanity began to slip (even though I was now in a good mood). Louis had decided to end his relationship with Mr. Li (the underworld guy who Louis sold his partner out to). During the beginning of the week, Louis managed to corner Mr. Tanaka and beat him to death with a lead pipe.
Louis's plot was going so well he as it entered the second part of the second week. Then I realized that Louis couldn't be corrupt any more and have a happy ending. The cards I drew to frame suspects and throw out evidence caused me to gain bad baggage. I couldn't even gain favors like I used to. I stuck it out and managed to resolve the plot for 7 more VP.
However, I'd burned all my favors trying to reconcile Louis with Sarah. With the favors spent I couldn't profit from the work I did uncovering the conspiracy either. And I couldn't sway guilt at the end of the game. I ended up with 14 VP. Thematically, I chose to stop being corrupt, but it meant that the criminal got away.
Which seems like a very Noir story, but I only realized the importance of my decisions after the game was finished. I would lost more points pursuing the happiest endings than I gained from them.
This is how Blaine played. I am sure that the other detectives play very differently. I'm interested to see how they play.
I've kind of rambled long enough about Android. Age of Conan isn't out yet. So who knows how it actually plays. Just like Android, Age of Conan has decks of cards. The rules for Age of Conan don't seem all that thematic (whatever that means), but the flavor could well be in the cards.
I am waiting anxiously to find out.