Buzzworthiness – Ada Lovelace: Legacy of the Analytical Engine

Thanks to Robin David for providing a review copy of this game.

During GenCant 2017, a number of designers submitted roll-and-write games for an official GenCant contest. One of those was Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician. I really enjoyed that one, so I jumped at the chance to review

Ada Lovelace: Legacy of the Analytical Engine takes the basic concept behind the original Ada Lovelace and expands it into a print-and-play legacy game. It’s a game for one player, and in it, you are trying to find the museum thief known only as Mr. X. Over the course of 9 chapters, you’re placing polyominoes and trying to collect the evidence you need to bring the crook to justice.

What you need for playing the game is six dice, something to write with, six dice, and the print-and-play files. Within those files, you get a character sheet. The six dice go in the upper right corner of the character sheet, in the space marked reserve.

image from robin-david.com

On a turn, you’ll pull two dice out of the reserve and roll them. Then you can take an action with each die.

TAKE A POLYOMINO: Find the die value on the wheel and take one of the two polyomino shapes. Draw that shape anywhere you want on the board. You can’t go over the borders of the map, nor can you cover up preprinted evidence spaces on the board. If you completely surround an evidence space (orthogonally and diagonally), you circle it in your evidence column.

ACTIVATE AN ABILITY: Write the die value into a box next to a piece of evidence you’ve collected. These boxes have requirements for what can be placed there – equal numbers, consecutive numbers, add up to a certain number, etc. When the requirement has been fulfilled, you can use the evidence’s ability.

When you have used both dice, move them to the used section and start a new turn. If there are no dice left to roll, move all dice in the used section back to the reserve, and mark the top time off the time track. When the last time slot is marked, the game is over. Count up your score, and read the chapter conclusion page to find out what happens next.

image from robin-david.com

This is a print-and-play game, organized into a file that is 24 pages long (this includes four pages of rules). There’s a character sheet where you track your dice usage. This character sheet also has a spot for stars you collect and abilities you may gain, as well as for you to track all evidence you’ve collected in the campaign. There’s also a wheel that shows which polyominoes you can get for each die roll. It’s well laid out, and I never felt like anything needed more space. The game is organized into 9 chapters, each one with a different map (there is one chapter with two maps). The maps also show what abilities each piece of evidence can unlock. It’s basically an abstract grid representing a mansion, or a museum, or some other location. Each map has its own flavor, and frequently gives you a new way to play, which is cool. Following each map is the conclusion, which will often result in you unlocking some permanent new change to the game. Overall, the graphic design here is pretty good.

Thematically, you’re chasing the mysterious Mr. X across the world, collecting evidence that has been left behind, and tying to get to the big final showdown. Most times, I felt like I was just working on the latest puzzle rather than really doing any detecting. There’s not much mystery there. But there is a kind of through story, with taunting letters every now and then, and of course, exotic locations. Everything comes together in the end, so the stars and evidence you’v been collecting has more relevance. And of course, you get some rewards as you go along that change what you have and can do. The stakes get amped up in the end, but until that point, it often feels like you’re just doing puzzles.

But I really like those puzzles! The game is structured in a round format, so you’re kind of racing against the clock to get the best score possible. When the game first came out, it had this system where each time you refreshed your dice, you had to get rid of one from the game. So the dice were kind of your timer. I think I prefer it this way – you can count on at least 15 rolls in most games, and more if you play your abilities right. Meanwhile, you’re trying to use the polyominoes to surround evidence and gain the abilities that you need to use dice in order to activate, as well as fill the rooms to score more points. It’s a balancing act, and it’s very mentally challenging.

The legacy aspect is interesting, though I do have a confession – this is the first legacy game I’ve ever played. I have Pandemic Legacy sitting on my shelf waiting for the pandemic to be over (ironically enough), but other than that, nothing. So I don’t have a whole lot of comparisons to make here. The main things you’re affecting are changing the polyomino wheel and adding abilities, there’s really not a whole lot of story changers there. Although by completing certain tasks, you do unlock the ability to get a different reward sometimes.

One complaint I’ve heard about a lot of legacy games is that they’re one-and-done experiences. You play through the campaign once, and there’s really no way to go back and change things. This game is similar to that, but the benefit of it being a print-and-play is that you can always print more sheets and just start over. You’ll know more about your goals the second time, but you can play again. And at the very least, even if you don’t want to do the campaign again, you have nine different ways to play Ada Lovelace, and that’s pretty cool.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes. It’s a fun system, and the different maps each provide their own challenge. While I don’t think it’s the most thematic game in the world, it’s engaging enough to hold your interest through the whole campaign, and I absolutely think it’s worth the price. You can find out more details about the game at robin-david.com, which also has links that will take you to where you can purchase it (current price is $8).

Thanks again to Robin David for providing a copy of this game for review, and thanks to you for reading!

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