The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Sponsored With Pax Transhumanity

August 14, 2018 by cassn

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The latest offering from Matt Eklund at Sierra Madre Games proves that Ayn Rand is alive, well, and designing board games, as Pax Transhumanity argues that the future is for sale.

What if Hollywood and the doomsters are wrong and the future is non-dystopian? No pandemic, zombies, or post-apocalyptic rubble? A more likely future is one in which free-market fortuneers explore the fringes of the achievable, in which scientists and technocrats rewrite the human condition by expanding into new spheres — the developing world, the cloud, and space — in doing so, demolishing the barriers of age, disease, suffering, and physical confinement to this planet. As control over our surroundings expands, technology will become more of a intimate part of who we are — or acquire a mind of its own, incorporated into our transhuman state.

First, let me say that this game - set to be yet another Pax success - looks incredibly interesting.  However, the concept of capitalist control of humanity's global direction being portrayed as a purely positive endeavour - a 'refreshingly utopic view' according to Matt's equally famous game designer father Phil Eklund - is a flaw which warrants discussion.

The players’ goal is to invest in viable ideas and use infrastructure to release them to the world. Once an idea is commercialized it becomes part of the human progress splay, becoming part of human history and making other ideas viable. It will also likely generate growth (new cubes), solve humanitarian problems (VP chits), or break down barriers (create new infrastructure). 

The concept is, perhaps, simple enough.  Make money, invest it wisely in projects which benefit humanity and earn you more income.  Repeat until you complete priority objectives and be declared the victor.  Sounds reasonable.

However, the mechanics sadly don't allow for the chaotic billionaire with too much money and a penchant for golden Lamborghini's or diamond-encrusted Nighthaunts (don't pretend you wouldn't).

My point is, portraying a few good samaritans with vast fortunes as the hope for a utopic future feels conceptually shallow and a little preachy.

However, while I disagree with the concept (can you tell?), I think Pax Transhumanity is a well-designed game which takes effective systems from previous Pax games (the money system from Pax Emancipation) while disregarding less well-received additions (dice rolls).

The types of cards in the progress splay also determine the current regime, with different combinations making certain actions easier for all players. Game ending trigger ideas (tipping points) populate the bottom half of the deck, and may lock humanity’s future into a particular sphere. Will humanity’s future be defined by improved political and social mechanisms that enfranchise the individual and harness their potential? Will society instead be dominated by biological elitists, exploring the full range of what genetic modification has to offer?

Player action ultimately decides humanity's future.  Depending on a player's primary investment, society becomes driven by where the money goes (there appears to be no 'Feral Karl Marx' card to wax philosophical).

With six potential endings to achieve, the game ensures a level of versatility which allows for different outcomes with each new playthrough.  Joking aside, I love any futuristic narrative, and I'm a fan of the Pax series, so I'm genuinely excited to get my hands on a copy of this game when it is released in 2019.

Let's see if my old socialist soul can throw some chaos into the mix.  Das Vadanya, comrade.

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"free-market fortuneers explore the fringes of the achievable, in which scientists and technocrats rewrite the human condition by expanding into new spheres "

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"he players’ goal is to invest in viable ideas and use infrastructure to release them to the world."

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