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Review: The Pursuit of Happiness

The roll and move ‘The Game of Life’ from your childhood reimagined as a worker placement game for adults. Instead of random events happening, players control their future by allocating time towards whatever goals they wish.

Pursuit Of Happiness Box
1 – 4 players | 60 – 90 minutes | Medium Difficulty

Workers in the game are time. As in real life players are limited in what they can accomplish by time. There are projects in the game that can give additional time but as players enter old age they begin to lose time and it proves more difficult to accomplish anything. Planning is key.

There are three basic resources in the game – creativity, relationships and knowledge. There is also money which works like a resource but isn’t considered one for whatever reason. Players use these resources to get jobs, life partners and to complete projects. Everything costs a certain amount of resources. Players also receive other resources: short term happiness (a temporary bonus) or long term happiness (points).

Many things in the game require an upkeep each round. Players that buy a car in the game will have to pay money towards it’s upkeep each round or lose it. Paying the upkeep allows the car to continue to give rewards in resources and happiness. Upkeep on items is simple enough. Upkeep on jobs and partners prove to be difficult because their upkeeps require time – which is quite limited.

Presentation

  • The rule book is well organized, clear, and concise.
  • The board is designed well and laid out in a way to help remind players of different setups for different player counts.
  • The workers are actually carved wooden hourglasses representing time. There’s no purple player color which is clearly a flaw in the game, but otherwise the bits are well made.
  • The artwork is a bit cartoonish but works well for the game. They used the same artist for all the cards and the consistency is appreciated.
  • There is a good bit of humor in the cards. All of the projects you complete throughout the game come in different stages. The first stage of ‘Learning a Foreign Language’ is swear words. The first two stages of ‘Healthy Eating’ cost you short term happiness instead of any resources. Being on a diet myself I can assure you that this is thematically accurate.
  • The cards are an odd size – the same size as 7 Wonders cards. Players that like to sleeve everything might not have that size of sleeves on hand.
  • The game box is bright and colorful. It features artwork from the cards and is a beautiful box. It would have preferable for the box to be a bit more standard so that it doesn’t stick out from other games on a shelf and fit the cards better, but this is a minor quibble.

Pursuit Of Happiness Play

Pursuit Of Happiness Cards

Gameplay

  • This an odd type of worker placement game where players can go anywhere they want on the board regardless of whether or not someone else has gone there already. Removing the blocking mechanism that’s standard to worker placement games really limits player interaction and conflict.
  • There are group projects that everyone can work on such as starting a magazine or a roleplaying group and that kind of helps with the interaction but it really seems like it was added to compensate for the lack of interaction throughout the game.
  • Just about every mechanism makes sense. Buying things makes you happy. Your dog dying makes you sad. Having a high level job gives you lots of money but takes up lots of time. Your partner makes you happy, but having two partners (which is absolutely allowed in the game) causes you stress.
  • This is one of the very few Euro games that features player elimination. It is entirely possible to die earlier than the other players and be forced to sit there and watch them have a final turn or two. This could be a turn off for some Euro players but thematically it makes sense. The last round for the remaining players will go very quickly. They’re basically paying upkeep and collecting the rewards because their time is severely limited at that point.
  • As mentioned previously there are projects that can give you additional actions and extend your life. These are healthy themed projects such as ‘Eating Healthy’ or ‘Working Out’. These projects are essential for having a long life (longer game). As such they are in high demand and if there is real competition in the game it’s to go first and have first pick for these projects if they come out in the next round. It feels like these projects should be more common and that there were more ways to extend your life. Maybe there could have been a home gym players could buy or a yoga instructor to marry.

Fun

  • The interactions in this game are low but the decisions are incredibly difficult. It’s entirely possible that blocking mechanisms that are present in most worker placement games are absent because it’s hard enough for players to do what they need to do without being blocked.
  • Life options are wide open. In one game a player could become a ninja, win the Spiel Des Jahes, or become President.
  • It’s satisfying at the end of the game to look back at your ‘life’. You wrote novels and became a fitness instructor while learning another language. You went to concerts and had a room full of records. You bought a boat and a house. You married a girl (or a guy). You were a lawyer before you retired and lived a long life because you kept your stress to a minimum and stayed physically fit.

Collection Management

The Pursuit of Happiness is an excellent worker placement game that’s unlike many other worker placement games. The lack of interaction is well made up for with the difficult decisions. Fans of worker placement games or Euro’s in general will find a keeper.

Scores for The Pursuit of Happiness
  • Presentation - 90
  • Gameplay - 80
  • Fun - 90

Summary

An excellent non-traditional worker placement game that’s very challenging, thematic and fun to play.

87