My Father’s Work
- Designer: T.C. Petty
- Publisher: Renegade Games Studio
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 14+
- Time: 180 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher.
Per the front page of the rulebook: “In My Father’s Work, players are competing mad scientists entrusted with a page from their father’s journal and a large estate in which to perform their devious experiments. Players earn points by completing experiments, aiding the town in its endeavors, upgrading their macabre estates, and hopefully completing their father’s masterwork.
But they have to balance study and active experimentation because at the end of each generation, all of their experiments and resources are lost to time until their child begins again with only the “Journaled Knowledge and Estate” they have willed to them — and since the game is played over the course of three generations, it is inevitable that the players will rouse the townsfolk to form angry mobs or spiral into insanity from the ethically dubious works they have created. The player with the most points at the end of three generations wins and becomes the most revered, feared, ingenious scientist the world has ever known!
During the course of the game, players will make choices that directly affect the fate of the small village represented by a book of town building layouts called the Village Chronicle. The My Father’s Work app acts as the storybook, and you will need to interact with it during each round of play.“
The game will be played over three generations (each with 3 rounds: the Early, Middle and Late years of your life). Essentially, you play three games where not much other than the Score on the track and some Journal entries pass between generations. So, it will be a bit like a Legacy-style game where you carry some information over between generations, but in many ways, you get to start over each time too!
This description might be enough to tell you what you need. If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t like board games with an app – then you’re done here. Stop reading and save yourself the time. If the gist of the story sounds good, read on… there’s a lot going on in this game! (And get used to reading, because there’s a lot of reading in this game… I have read various places online that there may be as much as 160,000 words written for this game!)
To get started, choose the desired scenario (three different ones in my game) and set up the board on the table, boot up the app/website for the game, input the number of players and the chosen scenario, open the Village Chronicle up to the directed page, and then place the book in the gap found in the middle of the board pieces in the table. Each of the three scenarios has its own storage box, and all of the specific bits you need for said scenario are found within. Set up the rest of the bits nearby. Make the Compulsion, Maladjustment, and Experiment decks.
Each player gets all their colored bits, an Estate board, a player aid card and a Storage Shed Estate tile. The board has tracks to measure your score, your Creepiness, your Insanity as well as entries in your Journal. You also start with some people. There is a neat system here where there are a bunch of figures that can be interchangeably placed in different shaped bases. Your own character is in a hexagon. Servants are found in round bases, and your spouse has a circular base with spikes. For the time being, let’s not touch upon the implied statement here that your spouse is a “servant”, shall we? Finally, you have an estate Caretaker who has a square base. You start the game with yourself, your spouse and a caretaker. Finally, each player draws a random Masterwork Experiment card to work on during the whole game.
As mentioned above, you’ll play 3 Generations. Within each Generation, you’ll Start it (setup), then play through 3 rounds, and then finally End the Generation. At each step along the way, you will consult the app to make sure there isn’t anything else to do. As you click confirmation of each step, the app will also keep track of where you are in the game. Generally, the app will be open on the table for all players, but there could be a time where you are directed to give the phone to a specific player for them to get individual and secret instructions/information.
In the Start of each Generation, players take one Experiment card from each of the A, B, and C decks. They should examine their estate to look for any Start abilities or penalties.
Then you play three rounds. At the start of each, each player gets $3 and an experiment card from any deck. Each player takes a single action (either in Town or in their Estate) on their turn – this means they move one or more pieces to a single location, and then get both the benefits and/or penalties of that space. Note that if you are going to a Town space, if there are already any other pieces there, you must pay a $1 to the supply to use that space. Some of the Town spaces are darker in color, and they may cause you to move the marker on your Insanity or Creepy tracks or you might have to adjust the standing of the Angry Mob marker on the main board. Once you pass, you’re out of the round. Once all players have passed, the round is over.
Thematically, the tracks are great. There is an Angry Mob/Creepy track on the board. The Angry Mob moves left and your Creepiness moves right. If your Creepy marker is ever met or surpassed by the Angry Mob, you cannot take any actions in town because the Mob won’t let you – with the exception of the Church action which lets you reduce your creepiness. There is also an Insanity Track. As you get more and more insane, you will draw Compulsion cards, which actually allow you to score VPs for doing certain things. Of course, if you have too many Compulsion cards, you will have to draw a Maladjustment card which is a penalty that remains in effect for the entirety of the next Generation. You will also take penalties for becoming more and more insane such as placing Characters in the Lost, losing Estate upgrades or becoming more Creepy in the eyes of the Mob.
As mentioned earlier, you have a few different piece types. Your servants (round bases) do most of the work and can go most anywhere. There are a few spaces where they will be placed in the “Lost” area of your board at the end of the Round. You might be able to buy them back yourself at a later time (because, of course, as the rules say “you can regain your Spouse if you have enough money, just as in real life”). Your square Caretaker stays on your Estate, and only go to Estate spaces. However, they don’t suffer any penalties for doing things there. Finally, your hexy Self can go anywhere, and you also get the benefit of not having to pay the $1 penalty for occupied spaces AND you’re so awesome that you get to do most actions twice.
A summary of the sorts of actions you can do in town:
- Gain Ingredients: Chemical, Animal,Gear or Body Part ingredients can be gained
- Gain Knowledge: 4 different colored cubes of knowledge can be gained
- Retrieve a Lost Servant from the Lost area of your board and place it in your Quarters
- Buy an upgrade tile for your estate – there are 8 possible slots for upgrades, with the costs listed on the space. Some upgrades come with Creepy or Insanity penalties, and these are applied upon purchase and at the start of each successive generation
- Reduce your Creepiness or Insanity – by talking to people at the church
In your estate, you can:
- Draw experiment cards or earn a buck
- Record Knowledge – by paying the cost, you can move a marker forward in one of the four Journal Tracks. This information will be written down and passed onto later generations. It can also be used in the current life to perform Experiments (you get knowledge discounts for future experiments)
- Perform an Experiment – show an experiment card, prove you have done prerequisite work with previous experiments or Journal entries, pay the cost, then gain the benefits and file the card away as performed. Note that if you use Occult knowledge (which is wild), you take an Insanity penalty for each used.
When all players have passed, the round ends. Move pieces to the Lost area if they went to spaces that caused them to be Lost. Pass the Start player token, and then you’ll consult the app to make sure you haven’t missed anything and to get some text to continue the story. Repeat this for three rounds.
At the end of the 3rd round, the Generation ends. All players are allowed to store a single Experiment card under their Estate board, and it will count towards the prerequisites needed in the next generation. You are also allowed to keep a single Experiment card in hand between Generations. Discard any current Maladjustment cards and then draw 1 new Maladjustment for each two Compulsion cards left in your hand. Place your Spouse, Caretaker and self in your quarters, then put all the other pieces in Lost. Reset your Creepy and Insanity markers to zero. Then discard all you resources and money to the supply. Do NOT reset your Journal. This is the information that you have written down that you will pass onto your descendants. If this is the end of the second Generation, put the new 3rd Generation Estate upgrade tiles into play as well as flipping over the Insanity track to the more difficult side.
At the end of the 3rd Generation, the game will end. The app will go through any final events and tie up the story. There is a bit of endgame scoring – mostly positive points from Estate Upgrades and negative points for Maladjustments gained in the final round. The player with the most points wins, ties being broken in favor of the player with more estate Upgrades.
My thoughts on the game
Well, I’m not normally one for a game that is sold as a 3-4 hour experience. That is generally longer than what my game night allows (as well as my poor attention span). However, something about this game caught my eye, and I really was excited to try it. If you are a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know that I (and my group) has been slowly but surely warming towards both cooperative and legacy style games. I really didn’t care for either when they first came out, but I’ve had plenty of good experiences with them.
In the past, the biggest issue with a legacy game was finding enough time to play the games enough times to get through the whole story arc. For shorter games (i.e. Pandemic Legacy Season 0), we played one game as the opener to our game night for a few months until we finished the year. In My Father’s Work, you kind of get that same feeling of a Legacy game, but in a single experience. You get to play through three different generations, learning some things along the way, but for the most part, starting over after each Generation ends. Each of the generations lasts about an hour, though the final Generation can take a bit longer as you try to score your final points and possibly finish the final experiment – there is some definite AP potential here. I was a bit worried that the game would feel repetitive, but due to the changes in the game that happen (based on your choices), each of the three passes through the game feel related yet distinct from each other. You can’t simply just try to do the same thing each time; you have to adjust your strategies based on the current game conditions.
Also, there is a lot of reading in the game, and this will take some time. I suppose you could try to skim it, but I think the storytelling is part of the game (and heck, there may even be hints as to what you should do in the game provided in the text), so we just kinda read it all. It was enough that I almost felt that I should log a play of the game in Goodreads as well though! Weirdly, only some of the stories were read out loud by the narrator – (feels like the beginning of each generation only) – but we could read a lot quicker and with better expression than the narrator, so this wasn’t necessarily a negative. The monotone delivery of the voice actor was not great IMHO. There will be plenty of opportunity for players to read their parts aloud as well – don’t you worry. There can be a LOT of text on the screen – and I was very glad to have had a iPad to display the app rather than trying to read it off someone’s phone. Also, as the iPad could just sit on the table, no one had to have their personal phone tied up for hours while we played.
The rules in the rulebook are honestly pretty sparse, and it is surprising how little framework is required for this game. Or maybe it shouldn’t be surprising as you’re really just playing a short game three times in a row. It all depends on how you look at it. Also, much of the specifics for your game will come to you via the app – and the twists that it can give you both rules-wise and to the plotline of your story can be quite surprising. On the downside, we did have some questions about things presented to us in the app – and there really isn’t anywhere to turn to. We tried to look at BGG, and some of the questions were answered, but then, we also exposed ourselves to some spoilers – so be careful!
When you first sit down, you think this is going to be a simple resource gathering game where you get ingredients to perform experiments and then use that info to perform more experiments. And maybe at the basic level, that’s what you’ll do. But don’t worry, there’s more to the game. The game and the story are quite dynamic; all of which you’ll learn through the app. Each play of the game will lead down a different story arc – I think dependent on choices that you make – and you’ll constantly have things to deal with that the story throws at you. That part is neat. Some of the twists can be pretty severe, and I did have some issue with that.
In other coop games (think Pandemic Legacy Season 0), there were similar twists that totally changed the game – but we dealt with them as a group. Regardless of the severity, it affected everyone and posed a new obstacle to deal with – and no one thought it was unfair. The twists/surprises here sometimes only affect a single player, and it seems a bit more capricious to affect only one player in a competitive game. For me, this is a less desirable trait in the game, but I seemed to be alone in my group on that aspect. The rest of the gamers that I played with loved the twists and turns as the app told us the (possibly unexpected) direction the game was about to take.
The components in my edition are really swanky, and for those people who love nice bits – this game will surely satisfy. The glass vials and the metal gears got lots of oohs and aahs. Of course, as most of the readers here know, I’m a bit curmudgeon, and I’d be just as happy with cardboard chits… But I’m a cranky old man – the younger whippersnappers in my group definitely loved the bits. I also liked the way the book was used to continually change the layout of the town in the game. That part of the game is really well done, and the book makes sure that you have always made the necessary alterations. It also looks beautiful on the table. The game comes with everything snugly packed in GameTrayz, and that makes storage nice and cozy- and pleasing to my OCD eye.
Overall, I have enjoyed the game so far, and I do look forward to trying it again. Our first game was a bit long – 4hr 20min with rules, but I think that now we know what to expect, we should be able to get our games down to 3 – 3.5 hours or so. It’s still longer than what my weekly game group will tolerate, but it’s definitely the sort of thing to bring to the table for a full gameday or a convention. That is likely the only sort of setting where I’d play this again, but there is still lots of room for exploration given the 3 different scenarios and the fact you don’t even see everything in a scenario on a given playthrough.
The addition of the narrative to the game likely makes it worth the time invested in the game. Time will tell how much variety we get between games, but so far, the development of the stories in our games have taken different directions, and that has been interesting to listen to/read aloud. I think that the style is not going to be for everyone, but if this is the sort of itch you need scratched, this is a great thematic “story telling” game. For me, I enjoy it, but it is at the upper end of the length I’m looking at for games that I play. It will likely remain in the collection for play at conventions or long game weekends when we have the wherewithal to schedule games in the 3+ hour range but I doubt it would ever come out at a regular game night as this falls more into the “experience” game region than something I want to play week in and week out. It’s a audacious idea, and fun ride while it happens, but ultimately, not my usual cup of tea.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor
Looking at this game like free short games of about an hour is the best mindset to go into it. We’ve had a couple all game days where we would play this game play something else and play this game and it just felt like we were playing a series of short games