Playtime: 60-90 Minutes
“Imagine a world where people are enslaved by their electronics. Where we willingly allow smartphones to spy on us, and even pay for the privilege. A world where a handful of all-powerful multinational corporations control the flow of information by dominating hardware, operating systems, social networks and search engines… Oh wait, that actually kinda sounds like real life.
But, imagine all that stuff, plus the twisted CEO of one of these tech giants also using his power and influence to open the floodgates to another plane of existence, bringing ancient evils to Earth and generally causing a big mess.”
In Techlandia, 1-4 players will play as tech bloggers trying to sneak into the main campus of the world’s top tech company. With enough sleuthing, they will gain access to a conference showing off the latest and greatest smartphone. It’s a competitive game full of investigations, combat, a neat narrative, and a lot of luck.
Techlandia‘s gameplay loop is pretty simple. The board represents Techlandia’s campus, with spaces that each contain a room. Four of the rooms are randomized, and these are the rooms that players will need to investigate. When a player does the investigation action, they will draw a card that indicates if they are successful or not. Success will yield a QR code fragment, and players need four to find a full QR code and win the game. Failure usually results in an enemy spawning on the board, effectively blocking all actions on the space that they occupy.
Players that share a space with an enemy need to perform the combat action. Combat is resolved with a simple die roll. If the number rolled is higher than the number associated with that specific enemy, the player is successful and the enemy is removed from the board, giving the player access to their actions again. They also gain an extra try at finding the correct QR code to gain access to the event (More on that later). Failure results in the player taking damage. If a player takes enough damage, they will become a fanboy for the company. Their win condition changes, essentially forcing the player to heckle and slow down other players.
When players have their four fragments, they can attempt to find the correct QR to gain access to the event. Players will draw a QR code and scan it with their real-life phone. If the code is correct, they can head to the elevator room and win. If it isn’t, the player loses the game unless they have extra opportunities, which are earned by defeating enemies. Players can acquire up to three extra chances, which is enough to guarantee that they will acquire the correct code.
The rules of Techlandia are simple enough, but the rulebook doesn’t do the best job of making everything clear. For starters, the rulebook integrates the game’s fantastic theme into the rules, adding flavor to the text. This is nice once you know how to play, but it slows down the learning process significantly. There are also a few areas where the rules could just be a little more thorough. Some situations and cards aren’t clear enough, leaving the players to either guess or do extra research that slows the game down significantly.
The exploration idea is neat enough, but Techlandia doesn’t execute it as well as it could. The same applies to combat as well. For both mechanics, everything is completely based on luck. Combat is determined by a dice roll, while exploration is decided by a drawn card. There are a few outside factors that can change these results, but it is all mostly just dependent on luck. Rolling dice and drawing cards simply isn’t an exciting way to handle such important tasks. It’s one of the few situations where the rules are just a bit too simple. A more creative way to resolve combat and exploration would make the game significantly more fun to play.
The exploration and combat are the only things holding Techlandia back from being a great game. Turns are quick, which results in little downtime while waiting to play. The small board is easy to navigate and helps make the experience feel a bit more fair, even if a player has bad luck. The theme adds tons of immersion to the experience, with moments of narration scattered throughout the game. It’s also easy to teach, allowing new players to get started within a couple of minutes.
Techlandia is a frustrating experience. I love the idea behind but the execution is incredibly lackluster. Some people won’t mind how much luck is in it, but players who think more strategically will want to avoid this one.
Techlandia is a frustrating game with a fantastic theme that relies on simple luck mechanics just a bit too much.