After Robot hands-on

After Robot 1

When we think of “local games development”, board games might not immediately come to mind. However, a number of talented designers are creating projects that are imaginative and have great potential. In After Robot’s case, it’s something that is truly South African. The November issue of NAG gave some specifics of the game, but hit the jump to read my tasty impressions of the game.

In the run-up to rAge 2014, I had been writing a great deal about board games. For this reason, I was targeted by a very enthusiastic Ben Myres who guided me away from the Bloodbornes and the Evolves to a stand where After Robot was being demoed.  The game is the work of Tsitsi Chiumya, a game-design student who first unveiled AR (we use acronyms in the industry) two years ago. And despite being surrounded by some great and promising video games, I found myself completely immersed in After Robot.

The game pits 3-4 players against each other in a race to establish taxi dominance on a detailed map of Johannesburg. Players each have four coloured taxis (red, black, blue, and green) and must build routes to colour-coded destinations. The objective is then to navigate all of your taxis onto their same-coloured marker. So for example, once you get your green taxi onto a green route marker, it stays there and is a step towards victory. Establlishing your transport network is done by building routes from your base to a destination is done by building a route. This is where After Robot‘s impressive level of detail comes into the spotlight. Each route has a certain price, and that price is an accurate reflection of the real-world taxi price. The routes inside the city are shorter and cheaper, while the long routes outside the city are more expensive but less chaotic. This forces players to try capture the easier routes, which will make tempers flare as players clash for a destination. Building a route is handled by an inventive dice system that uses 7 D6’s. It’s complicated at first, but becomes very easy to plan ahead with.

I had a great time with After Robot. It’s unique, and requires a great degree of forethought and cunning to outwit your opponents. The randomised setup of the board pre-game is a good idea too, and ensures that one strategy will never work every single time. Tsitsi is also an ambitious developer, and has plans for sequels set in other major cities, as well as 3D-printed game pieces. Most South African’s experience of taxis either involves fear or vein-popping rage, however this game is a very entertaining look into the shenanigans that go into a transport network. If this interests you (it should), then be sure to keep track of the game. We’ll be here to report on what looks to be a very promising project.

After Robot 2

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the name After Robot doesn’t suggest some post-apocolyptic robot war. It’s a common instruction given in taxis and means: “Good sir, cease the operation of the vehicle after the traffic lights, as I thusly wish to disembark.”

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