When The Pursuit of Happiness (POH) came out a couple of years ago, I rejoiced because finally there was a gamer-esque life simulation game. It wasn’t spin and move like LIFE and it wasn’t a dice game like CV. Finally, a strategic worker placement game that used one of my all time favorite themes! At the time I didn’t notice that there wasn’t much community involvement included when creating your ideal life. As a card-carrying introvert, this isn’t something I require from life, so I didn’t need it in my game.
But evidently some people (I’m looking at the extroverts in the room!) felt that an ideal life needed a chance to go to parties, meet the neighbors, shop on Black Friday, go to karaoke night, or join a flash mob (shudder). Thus the Community expansion was born, giving you a chance to add all those social activities and more to your ideal life. The question is, is all this togetherness a good thing, or does it just complicate an already comfortable life?
How It Plays
The Pursuit of Happiness: Community is an expansion for POH and you will need the base game in order to play. The majority of the rules are unchanged from the base game, so if you need a refresher on how that plays, check out my earlier review of The Pursuit of Happiness.
Now, on to this expansion!
The first thing to note is that the expansion comes with some more cards that can be added to the base game without even invoking the new “Community” aspects. You get more life goals, projects, items/activities, jobs and partners. These are simply shuffled into their respective base game decks and play as normal.
(Note: There are two new child trait cards, but their special abilities are tied to the Community aspect of the game. There are also two new life goal cards. One is tied to the Community part of the expansion, but the other can be used with just the base game.)
You also get everything you need to add a fifth player to the game.
The Community part of the expansion adds a new board which is placed adjacent to the main board. This is where you will place the new Community cards, and it’s also where you will track your popularity.
When you enter the first adult round of the game, you will fill all the slots on the Community board with cards. (Note that you cannot use short term happiness to switch out the Community cards as you can with the other cards in the base game. What comes out is what you’re stuck with.) Each player has a special Community meeple which can be placed on a Community card if you want to claim the benefits of that card.
On your turn, as one of your actions, you can place your community meeple on a Community card. This is called “engaging” with the Community card. You can only use your Community meeple on the Community board. It cannot be used for any other action. (Note that if you’ve earned enough popularity, you can also use your hourglasses on Community cards later in the round, just as you would use them for other actions. More on that in a minute.)
If there is a cost to engage with the Community card, you must pay it when you place your meeple. You also claim any reward for engaging immediately. Some cards allow multiple people to engage with a card, others allow only one player to engage.
Each Community card has several different outcomes for engaging with it. At the end of the round you will choose your desired outcome and claim the associated reward(s) for any Community cards with which you engaged. You must be able to pay for the outcome, however.
Community cards offer a variety of rewards. You may receive money, knowledge, creativity, influence, short or long term happiness, relaxation, or popularity. Popularity is new to this expansion.
The more you interact with the community, the more popular you become. Popularity earns you two things in the game. First, when you are popular, you can use your hourglass markers on community cards, in addition to your Community meeple. So you can engage with more cards if you’re popular! You can use hourglass markers equal to or less than your popularity score. For example, if your popularity score is two, you can use two hourglass markers, plus your community meeple, for a potential total of engaging with three community cards during the round.
Second, your popularity gains you long term happiness. At the end of a round, after determining the outcomes of all of the Community cards, you earn long term happiness based on your popularity score. A popularity score of two earns you two long term happiness points, for example. After you claim your happiness, you move your popularity marker one space to the left on the track, potentially reducing your score for the next round.
Everything else remains the same and, as in the base game, the winner is the player with the most long term happiness.
Do You Need to Be One of the Cool Kids, or Are You Okay Being a Social Outcast?
The Pursuit of Happiness remains one of our favorite games, so when I saw there was an expansion coming, I knew I had to try it. As with most things, there are some good points and some neutral to not so good points, so let’s start with the good.
The first is that the expansion adds just a bit more to the game without fundamentally changing it in any way. This is my priority for an expansion. I like more, but I don’t want a whole new game! The community and popularity aspects are easy to integrate and manage, and there’s not much rules overhead. You could even introduce this with players new to POH without too much trouble, especially if they’re already familiar with worker placement games. Even if you don’t want to use the Community parts, you can just toss in the extra cards for more variety.
Community and popularity add two new decision points, but they aren’t so meaty as to melt your brain. Now on your turn you have an extra place to place workers. That’s really all there is to it, rules-wise. But the Community cards have enticing rewards that force you to consider them equally with the other spaces on the board. They’re also the only way to boost your popularity, which translates directly into long term happiness victory points (plus the opportunity to use more Community cards on your turns). On the other hand, as enticing as they are, focusing too much on the Community cards and your popularity isn’t a guaranteed path to victory. You still have to pay attention to the rest of your “life.”
The Community cards balance well with the rest of the game. They offer good rewards, but they aren’t overpowered compared to the rest of the game. Community is simply one more piece of a (now larger) puzzle that you have to work with. You have to smartly manage them and you can’t rely on them to be an easy path to victory. Neither can you ignore them entirely, particularly if your opponents are using them. That’s the mark of a solid expansion when it integrates so well with the base game.
It’s also a “right-sized” expansion in that it adds “more” without adding bloat. It does add a bit of time to the game (more on that below), but the whole is fairly streamlined. It’s not one of those expansions where the game bogs down under its own weight of stuff and decisions. There’s just “enough” here to be interesting without killing the game with more complexity and mechanisms added “just because.”
Next, Community boosts the replayability of the game. I found POH to be plenty re-playable as it was, but Community gives it a lift. Even if you don’t play with the Community part, the extra cards give you some new things to play with in the base game. The Community aspects don’t make POH a whole new game, but they do give you more fun things to do and consider. If your POH needs freshening up, Community will give you that.
There’s also the addition of components for a fifth player. This isn’t something I required since I rarely get to play with that many, but I do know many people who will welcome the addition. So it’s good for those of you who wanted it!
So what about the neutral and the not so good? Let’s start with something that’s a neutral, at least depending on your group. In my review of the base game, I noted that The Pursuit of Happiness could suffer from a problem with players prone to analysis paralysis. There is so much going on that those who seek to optimize every aspect of the game will drag things down, even though the game doesn’t really merit that level of thought. The solution is to play “for fun” and simply enjoy the ride and story that the game creates, but there are always “those people” who cannot do that.
If you have those people in your group, be aware that this expansion will not help matters. The extra decisions in the game are generally a good thing, but optimizers will take even longer, now, as they sort through these new options.
This brings me to my next potential negative which is the game time. The base game could sometimes run a bit long, even when not playing with the AP prone. Most games finish in an hour and a half-ish, but over-optimizers can drag that out to two hours-plus. This is fine, but for what the game is, it can start to feel longer than it needs to.
The expansion doesn’t add a ton of time, but it does add a little bit. Most of our games ran 15 minutes or so extra when compared to the base game, but we play mostly two player. When we went up to four, it tacked on close to thirty minutes over the average. So the more players you add, the longer the game is likely to run.
This may be a problem with five. I always felt that four players was really the max POH could handle without becoming a slog. While we only got to play one five player game with Community, it ran close to 2hrs. 15 min, and none of us are AP prone. And it did start to feel like a bit of a grind. There’s not a lot to do when it’s not your turn, so the downtime between turns can get a bit frustrating. With five players, and if any are AP prone, that downtime obviously increases.
Still, it is nice to have the option to play five if you have bigger groups. I just recommend you find a way to hustle people along on their turns. Egg timers are your friends.
Finally, there is the added fiddlyness. Community adds another (small) board, more cards, and more tokens. It’s not a ton of stuff, but POH already has a lot going on. Set up time is not greatly increased as all you do is lay out the board and fill it with cards, but round-to-round Community adds a bit more to manage, track, and move around. You’ll be moving/tracking your popularity, resolving community cards/actions, and refilling the community board. All this is in addition to the other tracks/card decks POH already has. Again, it’s not a ton of stuff, but if you felt that POH was already at your personal limit for stuff going on, Community is only going to exacerbate the problem.
This all sounds like I’m down on the expansion, but I’m really not. These are just some of the concerns that I’ve heard from POH players — game time, fiddlyness, and AP — which the expansion doesn’t fix. If these weren’t concerns for you before, they aren’t likely to be a problem now. Those who were iffy on the base game, however, should simply note that Community isn’t likely to make you love it.
I enjoy the expansion quite a bit. The new cards are welcome, and the Community aspect is a fun extra way to earn resources and points. The extra decisions are interesting, but not so overwhelming that they change the complexity of the game. Thematically it fits the game well because in real life most people will want to do community oriented things (even if we hermits think it’s a bad idea). The option to add a fifth player is nice, although not something I’ll make much use of.
However, while I do enjoy it, I won’t say that it’s a “must have.” If you enjoy POH and have played it a lot, then Community can be a fun way to change things up. The base game has enough going on, though, that if you haven’t fully explored it, Community might not be something you need to spring for, at least not immediately. The base game was “complete” as it was in that nothing needed fixing or clarifying, so Community simply adds “more.” Whether you want more is up to your personal preference and love of The Pursuit of Happiness.
iSlaytheDragon.com thanks Stronghold Games for giving us a copy of Pursuit of Happiness: Community for review.