Courtesy of xodroolis of BGG

I am probably in the minority but I actually like the Game of Life.  I liked living another life, at least for an hour.  I liked how it followed the traditional path that one would associate with life: college, job, marriage, kids, trials, successes, retirement….in that order.  However, we all know that life does not always flow that smoothly.  I loved going though the progression of the story that your life told.  I have also played it enough times to grow tired of it.  Since starting my life in this hobby just over a year ago, I have yearned for a game about life with more strategy and depth…that seems a little more adult!  Let’s find out if The Pursuit of Happiness fills that void…

The Pursuit of Happiness

Publisher:  Artipia Games & Stronghold Games

Designer:  Adrian Abela and David Chircop

Players:  2-4

Time:  60-90 minutes

Overview

In The Pursuit of Happiness, everyone takes the role of a person and goes through life trying to gain the most long term happiness or victory points.  Along the way, each person will take on projects, partners, activities, pets (with modules), jobs and purchase items. At its heart, this is a worker placement game with resource management and some minor set collection.

Gameplay

The major part of this game is focused on worker placement.  During each round everyone has a certain amount of “time” they can use represented by wooden hourglasses.  Each round basically takes place over 10 years.  There is a possibility of going 9 rounds but chances are you will die in round 8 if not 7m depending on your stress level.  During your teen years there are certain spots that are not available, such as getting a job, starting a relationship and working overtime.  These spots will open in adulthood.  On your turn you choose one of the areas to spend your time.  The beginning spots just give you three resources; influence, imagination, money, knowledge.  All these resources will benefit you throughout your life in the game.

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The meat and depth of the game involves managing your resources through projects, relationships and jobs.  When you get one of these there are different levels that you can begin these cards at.  You simply pay the cost of the level you want when you are taking the card and then put a black cube on the level.  Later on you can upgrade those cards using one of your time actions, then eventually finish your projects, promote to a higher level job or retire.  You are only allowed to have a total of three projects, jobs and relationships before you start taking on stress.

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Stress is a whole new wrinkle that was definitely not present in the Game of Life.  When you place your time in areas to progress, you are free to go anywhere as many times as you want….although you will start accruing stress if you go to the same spot more than once. Stress in life and stress in this game is not good!!  Stress determines how long your life will go and how much “time” actions you will have each round.  You can always rest to lower your stress also.  The touchy part is that you can move from color regions freely going to the right (negative) BUT you can not move to the next color region on the stress board going to the left (positive) unless you have a card that gives you a healthy heart.  There are only 7 cards like this in the whole game that have a healthy heart on it, so if they come up….you MUST grab it at all cost.  It will basically give you another round more than the other players at the end of the game, giving you a big advantage!

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Many of the cards are pretty straight forward, pay these resources, gain these other resources.  Some of the cards have upkeep costs though.  When you get jobs, partners, and various items they need to have resources paid to them each round to retain them.  Jobs and partners will actually take your “time” before you even start the round limiting your “time” to use in other areas.  Juggling what you want to buy and what you need to have left over for upkeep can be a real grind…..in a good way!  But this is life right? We have unlimited wants but limited time and resources!

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You continue playing this way until everyone dies and then see who conquered life in the best way in The Pursuit of Happiness!

My Rating

Components: 2.5/5

This game was lucky to get a half point, leaning more towards a 2.  I kickstarted this game and it is actually my first game I have ever kickstarted.  When it arrived, the box was fine BUT the insert was destroyed and I was missing a blue cube.  The rest of the cards, board and cubes are fine.  What saves this game is the artwork…..I just really like it and the “time” hourglass meeples are a very nice touch.  Other than that it is below average in production quality.  I do wish that children were in the game but maybe that will be an expansion.  I can raise a family with a partner but have no children???

Mechanics:  3/5

Nothing really shines here.  When it comes down to it, it is your straight forward worker placement/resource management style game.  I do like the depth that you get in the resource management.  There are many times you feel tight on how and when to spend your resources.  I like the addition of the stress track and how you are hurting yourself instead of blocking others from doing things.  The one issue that I have that is still up in the air is the stress track going to the left.  There are only 7 cards in the game with a healthy heart symbol and who ever gets one of them will have an extra round.  In our 4 player game, the 2 players that got those were the first and second finishers and both got around 10 points in that last round.  In our game we were all within 12 points of each other.  It seems to me that if you are one of the ones to get the healthy heart, chances are you are going to win.  It just seems way to random on when and how they come up also.  I also liked the set collection element where you are awarded bonus points at the end of the game for the number of various type of activities you were able to fully complete, including business, political, social, etc.  This made a big difference in our game as several players scored 8-10 points at the end for their accomplishments.

Strategy: 4/5

I have played this with 2 and 4 players.  They both felt about the same.  The only interaction that is really there is someone taking a card that you might have wanted before you could.  There were many times though when some one took a card you wanted and a better one cam up right after it.  The strategy comes in how you want to manage your resources.  What cards are going to give you the best long term happiness but will also help keep the resources coming.  In my 4 player game, we were all within 12 points of each other and we all seemed to play a different game.  One guy was just taking what ever he thought would help with no strategy, 2 players focused on items and projects, I got most of my points from having a partner and buying activities.  I was really impressed with the different paths to victory that each person took.

Replayability: 5/5

This is where the game shines in my opinion.  There are so many things to take, cards to use and paths to take that each time you play you will truly be a different person with different goals, abilities and desires.  In our 4 player game we didn’t even see all the cards……and that is a great thing!  I really cant wait to play again to see where life will take me next…..I might just become a polygamist!

Final Thoughts – 14.5/20

I was hesitant about The Pursuit of Happiness.  I thought CV would be a game that would fill The Game of Life void but it was not at all.  The Pursuit of Happiness does a fantastic job of playing at life.  I really feel like you have a choice of what kind of life you want to live.  You can be a work-a-holic, a playa with multiple partners, get lost in projects, or drown yourself in material objects.  When you look back through your life you really feel like it makes sense.  In my thirties I got my first job, then had a midlife crisis in my fifties and quit my job and went kayaking in the Rockies.  I think I will keep The Pursuit of Happiness for a bit longer until another life experiencing game knocks it off.  It is not perfect but despite its downfalls, Artipia Games and Stronghold Games have given me a game that allows me to live my life the way I choose!

– Tim