Well, according to My Father’s Work… it’s going to take awhile. Like generations, probably three. But you’ve got to start somewhere so maybe try a couple of curses or cool steampunk-looking goggles and your grandkids really bring your legacy to fruition.
My Father’s Work will have players taking on the role of a mad scientist. Or, more accurately, a family of mad scientists (who knew it was genetic?). The game will last three generations, and each generation will have three rounds. You’ll add rooms to your property, complete experiments, and try your best not to freak out the local townsfolk too much.
In a lot of ways, My Father’s Work is, mechanically, a fairly standard worker placement game. You’ll have a board with some locations. Most of those locations will give you experiments you need to complete, resources to help complete them, or rooms and workers to help you have more and/or better actions in future rounds.
The app, of course, sets it apart in a number of ways. First, you’ll choose one of the game’s three scenarios and the app will give you some story points to get things started. It will also start you on a certain page of a spiral-bound book of town maps with different locations. Within each scenario, there are also a number of branching paths so you won’t experience everything a scenario has to offer on the first play.
After setup, the app continues to deliver story points and decisions for players. Sometimes they will trigger randomly between rounds. Or they may be tied to visiting a particular location and taking an action there. In most cases, the player triggering the event will get some private information and may have to make a decision in the app.
At the end of each generation, you will lose a lot of the progress you’ve made… but if you use some of your actions to record your knowledge you’ll start with some resources and be able to keep one of your completed experiments around. After the third and final generation, you’ll get some additional victory points from the rooms in your estate and potentially from things that occurred in the app. You’ll add those to the points you’ve scored during the game from completing experiments and the player with the most points is the most infamous mad scientist family.
Without the app, My Father’s Work is a good worker placement game. It doesn’t break the mold but there are a few neat quirks. Some of the action locations are “creepy” and start to arouse suspicion among the town that you are up to no good. Too much of that and you’ll have a mob at your door. And some workers can’t do actions in town at all and you have to limit them to only performing actions in your personal estate.
But the app is supposed to be the star here. What very few worker placement games offer is a story to explain the generally pasted-on theme. Having a changing town with characters who you can interact with and random decisions to make throughout the story adds a lot of life to the game. But it’s also kind of a mixed bag.
First, there is a lot of text. Some of it is narrated but the majority of it is not. So you’ll be reading aloud to your fellow players quite a bit. My second issue is that some of the things that happen in the app feel pretty arbitrary. In our first game, there was essentially an auction to see who would be mayor. What good did being mayor do? Well I got to make a decision about a location and was then rewarded with a few random points at the end of the game.
But the biggest issue is that My Father’s Work is long. A four-player game took us 3.5-4 hours. The length is attributed in part to the app and all of the reading, but if you skip that you really are missing what My Father’s Work is trying to do. But even then it’s pretty long. And while it’s cool to have basically an entire novel in this app to narrate the game… it isn’t exactly Pulitzer-winning material. It’s not poorly written—and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into making it work—but when you are putting narrative into a board game there is only so much that you can do.
My Father’s Work is an ambitious design and really tries to incorporate a lot of story into a worker placement game. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure it’s better for it. I love the mad scientist theme and how the game spans generations that give you a lot of decisions to make about how much time to spend recording your knowledge and expanding your estate. On its own, it’s a better-than-average worker placement game.
How much I would recommend My Father’s Work to anyone depends a lot on the size of the group they intend to play with. As a 2 player game, it’s much quicker (although still at least 2 hours) and you can get the story and move your family through the generations and enjoy what it’s got to offer. If you have more than that… I would say it’s probably not worth the investment of time and effort.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A solid worker placement game with a whole novel inside an app.
• A solid worker placement game of collecting resources and completing experiements.
• Various scenarios in the box can be played multiple times and add a lot of story to setup and between rounds.
• Reading walls of text makes the game too long, especially with 3-4 players.
• Story decisions are neat but also don’t feel like they make a huge amount of strategic difference.