We tried to give our characters a good life in The Pursuit of Happiness, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Time: 60-90 Minutes
Designers: Adrian Abela, David Chircop
Artists: Panayiotis Lyris
Publisher: Artipia Games
Pursuit of Happiness is a a game where players are taking a character from childhood through old age and trying to give them a happy life. This will be done through worker placement and resource management as you give your character a job and love interest, work on hobbies, and buy items or experiences. All of this in pursuit of long-term happiness. Whoever can guide their character to the happiest life will win.
The game is set up with the board at the center of the table, the various decks of cards shuffled and placed nearby, “unavailable” tokens placed on the Overtime, Get a Job, and Start Relationship locations (these are removed after the first round), and the round marker placed on the “Teen” space. A number of Life Goal cards are placed face-up near the board equal to the number of players.
Each player takes six hourglass markers and the set of helper cards of their chosen color. They place markers on the Stress, Short Term Happiness, and Long Term Happiness (points) tracks. Then each player is dealt two Child Trait cards, and they’ll choose one to keep and discard the other.
The game is played in rounds — one Teen round, four Adult rounds, and one, two, or three Old Age rounds (depending on the character’s stress level). Each round has several stages: upkeep, actions, and end-of-round.
During the upkeep, players move the round marker (except in the first round) — during the Old Age rounds, this will cause players to take increasing amounts of Stress, and if their marker falls off that Stress track, they are out of the game. Then players clear the board of available cards and replenish them, and they pay upkeep costs on any cards in front of them (like, paying an hourglass and a few resources for their job to earn some money). Players will also take Stress if they have more than three total active Projects + Partners + Jobs in front of them .. and an extra Stress if they have more than one Partner.
The main part of the game is the action phase. Here players take turns placing out their hourglasses to take actions. The pre-printed actions on the board allow the player to gain resources like Ideas, Knowledge, Influence, and Coins. Players don’t block each other from spots, but they do “block” themselves — if a player puts an hourglass on a spot where they already have one, they’ll gain a Stress.
Or they can Take a Project, Spend, Start a Relationship or Get a Job by placing an hourglass on the appropriate spot, and claiming a card from the display. The cards will typically have a cost or requirement (partners) that the player must pay, and then they’ll take the card into their play area and place a black cube to mark their level on that card. The Projects, Jobs and Relationships will be brought in at the first level on the card; Items and Activities can be purchased at any level.
Players can also spend hourglasses to work on an existing project, also paying the resources for the next level of one of their cards and receiving the reward.
At the end of the round, players resolve additional rewards from Group Projects and set aside the Group and Single-Round Projects. Then they determine the new player order, based on the Short Term Happiness track, which is then reset. Finally they retrieve their hourglasses and start the next round.
Once all players have fallen off the Stress track (i.e. their character has died), they’ll evaluate the Life Goals, and then whoever has the most Long Term Happiness, wins.
I sought this game out after I saw a play through on Game Night — I loved the theme and the art on the cards. It just seemed like a game I would love. Of course, it is mostly a game about gathering resources and spending them to get other resources and points, but luckily, I like that kind of game.
For me, what makes this game are the different cards and activities. You can buy a board game collection, go scuba diving, or learn to speak a foreign language. The variety of things you can do makes for fun stories about what your character has done with their lives. And there’s the humor on the cards — for example, on the “learn a foreign language” card, the first level is learning swear words, just like real life.
We’ve also added the Community expansion to our game, and I like what this adds. You get an additional meeple that can only be placed on community projects. These will gain you popularity, which is another source of points. But you also get additional resources for doing the community projects. The expansion just adds a few more decisions to the game and more ways to spend your time and resources.
How is it as a 2-player game? The Pursuit of Happiness works well as a 2-player game. Since players don’t block each other on the various action spots, it doesn’t change the game much to have fewer players. The one place where it makes a little difference is in the group projects — it’s harder to get the other player to join in on a group project, but it’s a minor thing.
How about the art and component quality? I’m a fan of the art in this game. Each card has a unique illustration that matches the humor of the selections on the card. I love that the various partners come as both male and female, otherwise identical on each side of the card. Similarly the job cards give you two choices for each card, which are otherwise identical on both sides.
The components are fine — nice cardboard chits for each of the resources, wooden hourglass markers, and decent quality cards. The iconography is easy to read, though takes a little bit to remember what all the symbols are.
Will this stay in my collection? This is an easy yes. We like taking this out every once in a while to play through a characters life and see what fun experiences we can give them.