Happiness - the one thing that we strive to achieve. Build your life, move forward in pursuit of the happiness that you desire.
The Pursuit of Happiness is a worker placement game where players take control of a character from birth through to old age. Live the life that you want, get a job, acquire items, take on activities and have a family. Whatever you want to do, your life lies before you and you can choose the path you want to take.
The game is focused around three life attributes (or resources), knowledge, creativity and influence as well as money. Each of these resources is used in a number of ways to pay for activities/items, projects, jobs and partners. Stress and short term happiness is also something that needs to be managed and controlled.
A round is made up of three phases, the upkeep phase, the action phase and end of round clean up. The upkeep phase is where players need to pay resources and money to maintain their house, car, activities and partners. The action phase is where the main meat of the game is and where players will place their pieces to gain resources, perform actions and potentially gain stress. There are four main sets of cards; activities/items, projects, jobs and partners.
The game will last a number of round depending on when characters reach old age and have come to the end of their life (Eck! A morbid turn of events). The player who has had the must fulfilling and happy life is the winner. Victory points are awarded throughout the game as long term happiness and the player with most long term happiness is the winner.
From Babe to Old Age
The Pursuit of Happiness is a 2015 release which seems like a long time ago now. But does this worker placement game offer anything different and new amongst the deluge of other worker placement games? Is the game worth picking up in 2020 or are there better worker placement games? Well, read on to find out more?
As a massive fan of worker placement games the worker placement mechanism in The Pursuit of Happiness doesn't offer anything that had not already been seen pre-2015. It is a pretty basic worker placement game from a rules stand point. There is no twist like there is some of the more recent releases and I am fine with that, because what The Pursuit of Happiness does is offer a story. A story that you, as the player, get to tell, shape and bend to your will. A fun story, an interesting story, a story that you can tell not because it will win you the game but because it is laugh out loud hilarious. It just so happens to use a worker placement mechanism.
Personally, I don't see The Pursuit of Happiness as a worker placement game. I almost see it as a narrative, story telling, role playing game that uses worker placement to facilitate that. The fact that there is no complicated rules or new mechanisms is actually a good thing. The mechanisms don't get in the way of telling a good story and what good stories you can tell in this game.
The Pursuit of Happiness benefits from players that are willing to play out their story and add a bit of their own imagination and flavour in to the game. Forget the points, if you come at this game from a serious "what is my most optimal move" perspective you might be disappointed. Just have fun and tell your story how you want to tell it. Want to be high flying career driven individual then go for it and shun all the advances of potential partners. Want to be a layabout and just go on holidays, go karting, paintballing and to a spa then do it.
Want to become a ninja when you are an OAP then go for it. Tell your story how you want to tell it. You should not come to The Pursuit of Happiness looking for a worker placement game. However, come at it from a different view point, come at it wanting to tell a story, have some fun and wanting to add a bit of role playing then you will have a blast.
There is still a decent game behind the story though. Careful management of your resources is essential to be able to pay for your upkeep phase. The game is also fairly thematic. You can push your self to perform additional actions but this gives you stress. Too much stress and you can burn yourself out meaning you might not be as productive in future rounds. If you perform certain actions you can get "healthier" which reduces your stress, providing you with an extra worker to be able to perform additional actions.
The decks of activity/item, project and job cards are large adding a lot of variety in to the game. The deck of relationship cards is smaller, but still with plenty of variety, and they are double sided with male and females so you can choose who you want to date and form a relationship with. If you go down the carer route you can get a promotion for a similar type of job easier than paying for the better job outright, adding a thematic touch in to the game which I really appreciate.
Some of the stories that I have created in The Pursuit of Happiness are funny, varied and very entertaining. Competition over the board game library card (because why not?), becoming a highly strung career man and forgoing family life, but paintballing at the weekend, being a fitness fanatic who also went bar hoping, owning a sports car yet not having a job. They all make for fun, interesting and varied life stories.
The Pursuit of Happiness is a rules light, fun, engaging game that uses worker placement as a mechanism to tell the story. I love it.