But as a migraine sufferer, bright isn’t always good.
Welcome back to an actual playthrough of a new game! YAY!
Don’t let my first sentence fool you, the game I will be playing through is good….REALLY good. But I am also warning that my health still isn’t as great as it could be, so I probably won’t be playing as smart as I could be and this may take me a whole lot of time to type up.
I’m going to get a few days of posts logged before I post the first one, in case I’m unable to keep up (I usually go fairly live with my playthroughs), but we’ll see what happens.
And who knows in the future things might be better.
Which brings me to today’s game:
In this tiny, tiny box is a HUGE HUGE game that will melt your brain 12 ways from Sunday.
The elevator pitch of the game is that you play an “Influencer” of some type, trying to get your Ideas spread out there into the world, influencing the 4 Spheres of the future: The First World, The Developing World, The Cloud and Space. You score points by solving Problems in those Spheres (like Aging, Social Immobility, Artificial Consciousness or just being plain ol’ Earthbound), dealing with Future Shock (But won’t teenagers use this technology for sex? Answer: Yes) and/or building factories (because the Eklunds love free and open business).
Ah, but were it only that easy.
Because the game has “PAX” in the title (and yes, I realize my last post was called “PAX Unplugged, but that PAX stood for, quizically, Penny Arcade), it is in a class of games that began with Pax Porfiriana.
What makes this game fascinating is that the winner is they who has the most points. Only there are 5 different kinds of points, and which points counts depends on the Regime in power at the end of the game. So you can try to have all the points of all the Regimes, or just go for one and fight like hell to make sure that’s the Regime in power.
Fighting like hell is kind of what Pax Porfiriana is all about. It’s a hoot, I recommend it.
Because of that, Pax Transhumanity is also a bit like that. So depending how the game ends, you get points for different things.
The game could end in a Singularity or Paradigm Shift, where one technology overwhelms the world and all the matters is how much Future Shock you managed to handle. Basically the world changed so much so fast, that the world looks to you as a savior for holding their hand the most through the uprising (“Thank you Mr. Jobs for making all this tech into big icons we can hit with our fingers instead of typing words onto a screen.”)
The game could end in a Tycoon victory when you just have factories all over the freaking place, and it doesn’t really matter what ideas have been put out there. (“Oh, Disney owns Amazon now?”)
The game could end in a Tipping Point, where one Sphere gets smashed down before the “Dominant Sphere” gets awarded points. (“We don’t care how much you built up India, we’ve passed the point where Earth can sustain the number of humans on the planet, but thanks to your success in space, we may be able to do something about it.”)
or finally there’s Plurality, where everything is worth a little bit of points. (“You’ve played through all the cards….so we’ve got to end the game somehow, right?”)
So what do you go for? Do you try to build factories to get the Tycoon victory?
Do you solve problems and dodge whatever Sphere will be smashed in the Tipping Point victory?
Do you “Quell Heat” and cover up Future Shock for a Singularity Victory?
And we haven’t even gotten to the rules yet.
So here is our playspace.
Um, it’s a little crowded. Let’s zoom in a bit.
First is our little player board. There’s our “pool” of unused bits, namely cubes that we can add to our wealth if our ideas infuse us with some cash, as well as discs that act as our factories. If we get all four down on the board and we trigger an action that would make us place a fifth, BOOM tycoon victory. The most straightforward of the victory conditions.
On the right side we see something that may look familiar to those that read my (aborted) playthrough of Pax Emancipation. This is where all the money in the game comes from. To generate a dollar, simply slide a cube down the ladder from Capital to Wealth or from Wealth to Debt (once Capital is out of cubes). As an action you can remove cubes from the board to huddle them all back onto Wealth, drag cubes from Capital to Wealth to drag cubes from debt up to Wealth and then finally drag them all back up to Capital. It makes the world go ’round ya’ll.
But that’s not the only source of money in the game. You can also sell patents.
Every time you drag a cube from the patents card back to your Wealth, you can as many dollars as that color is worth. So you see, the black player starts with a cube in Red (Assembly). Patent worth is judged by how many of that color is shown in the Human Progress Splay, which is just a row of colors that is conveniently below that patent card. At the beginning of the game, there is one random color there, in this example a green. So Red is worthless, but at least you’d get a cube back. But if Pink were to “Sell” their patent, they’d get one dollar and that cube back into their wealth.
As the game progresses, you’ll be doing the fundraise action less and less because you’ll earn more and more patents, and you’ll find that patents are worth more and more money.
Or you’ll find that whatever you’re doing isn’t earning you patents and your opponents are laughing at you…
And here we have one of our Spheres, the First World. It’s split into two sides, one for Ideas, and one for “Makers.” Or, I guess to be a bit pretentious, Philosophy and Entrepreneurship. The other spheres are likewise split into Freedom/Productivity, Security/Privacy and Astronautics/Robotics. But they’re split into the Research side and the Commercializing side. There’s also big ol’ stop signs showing, which are the Barriers. Again, those familiar with Pax Emancipations might remember that phrase. The more Barriers showing on a card, the more expensive it is to do anything there. If there’s an Employee sitting on a Barrier, then you can’t see it, and things will be cheaper (“I’m working on it!”). If there’s a factory on it, the same effect (“They’re working on it!”). There’s also two Utilities-in this case Western Universities and Defense Contractors. You can get work from them to get things done cheaper, but you can’t gain Patents that way. Because, duh, they’re doing the work for you. But work costs Barriers X Two. If you get Subsidized work at these Utilities, then it only costs as many Barriers are showing.
50% off! Cha-ching!
And now the Ideas themselves. There’s a lot going on here. You’ve got the colors on each edge, sometimes the same, like our Diamond Fiber (Red/Red), sometimes not, like Universal Property Directory (Green/Blue). This is important to see if the Idea is Viable to be Commercialized. We’ll get into that later as it’s the most in depth thing to wrap your head around in the game.
The other things to notice: The icons on the left are what you are awarded when you Commercialize the idea. Things like: Factories, our Diamond Fiber idea earns you a factory in the Developing World…because there’s a lot of diamonds there, and making super strong thread is useful. It also specifies the type of factory, in this case a “Maker” factory since this is a practical Idea over a philosophical one.
You can also be awarded “Problem Chits” for solving problems. Like the Diamond Fiber solving the Earthbound problem, since it allows for a Space Elevator (I’m assuming). The Universal Property Directory solves Disenfranchisement and Social Immobility. I would probably have to do a lot of reading to understand the whys and wherefores of that one, but that’s the joys of playing games like this one. The Universal Property Directory also causes a Exoglobal Recession Impact. How’s that for a mouthful? If you don’t deal with the Jealous Mobs (the little black square in the lower left/upper right of the card), then everyone loses an Employee to the pool. There’s also a White square called Shadow Rich on that card, too. If you Syndicate that Idea (basically put some resources there to work on it), you are forced to put a cube on the Shadow Rich as well, in order to deal with the “Heat” of that particular fear. Dealing with Heat can be points at the end of the game (See Future Shock way up above), or it can just lock up your resources. You have to spend actions to remove heat, and uncovered black heat is a dangerous thing. We’ll get into that later.
So that’s the basics of what the game looks like. You’re probably already tired, weeping slightly and might need a drink, so I’ll finish here and start the actual solo game tomorrow to give you some time to rest. So go talk to your robotic companion from Robotix, drink your Soylent, put some CBD under your tongue and take a nap. You’ll be fresh and new for tomorrow.
Though it often seems like tomorrow is now.