Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Game Chef 2010 - Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Okay, now it's time for the next batch of Game Chef game twitter reviews.

Please note that if you disagree with what I'm saying, that's totally fine. Just please reference what game you're talking about. There are several on a page and if you're the designer and you don't use the name attached to the game I can't have a clue what you're talking about. Also, not that you need my permission, but that's cool. The whole disagreeing thing. It's not like I can talk a lot about all of them.

45. Finders by Davide Losito

The Good:The idea that you build a map and then you roll dice on it and have those be the randomizers that tell you how harsh things are. Kind of reminiscent of Hell 4 Leather, except in an affecting the map kind of way.
The Bad:Except that it doesn't seem to actually mean anything. It's a nifty mechanic which tells you how hard stuff is, but at the end if you can narrate around it then you're fine.
The Other:I also like the fact that you can 'finish' the game and then get back into it. There should be some sort of world domination kind of thing where if your coloured pencil has traveled everywhere on the map you win!

Would I play it? No, it is really rough and needs the polish.

46. Omphalos by David Pidgeon

The Good:Great little storytelling game where you tell stories about your characters, and flesh out their backgrounds by telling a series of stories about them. It's pretty awesome, in its index card glory.
The Bad: But it was also fun when the game was called The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The first part plays pretty much like that, then you've got the desert which almost feels a little tacked on.
The Other:The list of conditions is nice and fits well with the desert setting. I just wish it had been put in a table rather than a list.

Would I play it? Maybe, but not when pitted against the list that's already in the binder. Sadly it's going to be put aside.

47. Edge of Annihilation: The Last City by Shinobicow

The Good: It's a really well thought out game where you have to be cautious of your resources as you play your characters trying to build a city to survive the harsh wilderness.
The Bad:Except that I can't shake the feeling that this would make a way better board game than it does an RPG. When you have to worry more about resources in an abstract numbers kind of way I think you've crossed that line into Boardgaming.
The Other:I like the tables that give you random "Oh Noes!" but I'd almost like them to be cards, or actual events rather than just penalties. Also, mixing it up is nice, that way you don't know what you get until you roll rather than having it escalate.

Would I play it?As a boardgame totally. I mean I'd still roleplay it, because that's how I play everything, but not as an RPG. It's too Boardgame like.

48. Silver and White by Jackson Tegu

The Good:Wow. I wish I could spend more time going over games, because I would go over this game. It's a poem in the guise of an RPG book. It's dreamlike and ephemeral, rather pretty.
The Bad:Which is never a good way to try to explain how a game works. All the games referenced tell you how to play their game. This one puts out metaphors and hopes you get it.
The Other:I really want to try it. I like the idea of how you react to something being the determination of what you take. If it was just explained to me better ...

Would I play it? I would devote at least an hour with good friends trying to decipher it's beautiful but incomprehensible language. If we figured it out, we'd finish the game, if not we'd hold it up as an artifact and wait for the next version.

49. Egregore by Baxil

The Good: Plenty. The setting is phenomenal, the City one I don't know about the other one that's mentioned. It's got conflict -- internal, intra-mural and interparty -- it's got self revelation, it's working on the idea of redemption. I was drawn in and didn't easily leave.
The Bad: The game does suffer from a lot of "must know how the rules work to get it." The resolution mechanic is pretty easy, but it's all the fiddly bits that make up the game, which sadly are what drive what I find awesome, that requires you to know all the details. You can't really hand wave them away.
The other: More examples please! Not that they're needed, I just want to know what's going on with those two characters you have there.

Would I play it? Yes, but only if you help me blow up the city in the Shadowlands.

50. Action City! by Mike Olson

The Good:Hee! Dice at the beginning telling you what you're going to do. I like it, gets you in the right frame of mind and gives the possibility of a Buddy Movie. I'm still amused at that idea. Same with the fact that the Hero can't die, the Bad Guy will die and Allies might die.
The Bad: I get the idea of using Cliche's with a mechanic, but it almost feels like a bump in the flow of the narration. It probably helps the game, but reading it this section jarred me out of the flow I had. I also don't know why the Opposition gets extra dice at the end, I think it's to make the success less fulfilling?
The Other:Every end of an act MUST HAVE EXPLOSIONS! YES! VERY YES!

Would I play this? It's getting a special place in the binder, oh yes it is. That way when it blows up the other games the damage is minimal.

51. Man-of-Letters, Man-of-War by E. Tage Larsen

The Good: This concept was made for me to love. Letter writing and high sea adventure? Layout set up so that it looks like a Victorian novel? I squealed with delight when I read the first bit.
The Bad: The game does feel like it is split in two. I'd like the sea battles to have even more influence and the correspondence to affect the dice more directly.
The Other: The fact that you get to sing a sea shanty about your character is awesome. I know more than enough people who would spend hours just doing that.

Would I Play It? The mug is full o' grog me hearties. Let's go feel the salty sea air on our faces!

Currently in the Binder Note, these aren't those I think should be finalists, but more like those I think I'd like to keep around personally

1. Cosmic Journey
2. Bridge Across Eternity
3. Man-of-Letters, Man-of-War etc.
4. Skin Men
5. Danger Mountain
6. Egregore
7. Last Chance USA
8. Longshot
9. Action City!
10. Over The Wall (It's mine, so duh)
11. Chronicles of Skin
12. The Hand of Gulliver the Man Mountain
13. Pub Crawl: take the edge off
14. In Between
15. In Skin City You Need an Edge
16. Going Home: an urban power fantasy
17. A Sojourn in Alexandria
18. Chaos Lords and the Desert of Death
19. Sparks from the Fire
20. The Fall of Granada
21. Broken Dream
22. Under the Sun
23. Red Land Black Land
24. Memoir
25. My God's Bigger Than Your God
26. A Trick of the Light
27. Paths of the Resolute
28. nowhere ROAD
29. A Journey

Current Finalists

1. Danger Mountain
2. Pub Crawl: Take the Edge Off
3. Never to Die
4. Longshot

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Jamie said...

(After not being a finalist, being in your binder is something of a solace, even if I am near the bottom.)

But wow - so many games you would play - do you really get to play so much you could hit even a fraction of these? I'm lucky if I can convince a group to try a new game once a month or so...

Unknown said...

Hey Jamie,

Let me just say that the reason why you're in the binder is that there are some really good ideas in your game. I wouldn't abandon it, but I'd sit down and go over it again.

Also, just because I'd play them doesn't mean that I'm going to get the chance to. However, I do have an RPG group that meets once a month for one shots and running them there shouldn't be a problem.

Mike Olson said...

Wow, I had no idea you were doing these reviews -- it's quite an undertaking, so thanks for that. It's great to get some feedback on Action City! from someone besides, y'know, me.

And naturally, I can't let the issues you raise with the game go by without responding at least a little.

Basically, the Cliches and bonus dice/Edges for the Opposition are there for two reasons: to strongly enforce genre emulation and to discourage Heroes and Friends from taking the path of least resistance. If you don't strive to make the story as action-movie as possible (by working those Cliches into the story), you'll suffer for it later. If you make everything a Cakewalk in the beginning, you'll find it impossible at the end.

As for the Cliches breaking the flow for you, well, I don't know what I can do about that. Ideally, they and your Sub-Plot Resolution (along with the Badguy's stuff) drive the narrative, but shouldn't feel restrictive. Like, your Resolution gives you something to shoot for in your Personal scenes, and the Cliches should provide inspiration for content, primarily in the Setpieces.

So I envision the non-Opposition players keeping an eye on those five index cards in the middle of the table and their Sub-Plots during play, but I'd hope they wouldn't feel like they disrupt the flow of the narrative. But the thing hasn't even been playtested, so I can only speculate.

Anyway. I just like talking about my games, so thanks for giving me an excuse!

E. Tage Larsen said...


Thanks for the kind marks for Man of Letters, Man-of-War...

I think i only made it through about 12 of the entries. So i think i understand the magnitude of what you've done!

With regard to MoL,MoW, Your criticisms are spot on. Those are the sticking points that i'm wrangling. If i can solve that then i can push towards a beta release. i also want to get "more shanty" into play.

I'm off to give "Over the Wall" a read and i'll find some way to give you my notes.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan - thanks for the Egregore review! I'm glad to have done enough right to get into your Top 10. :) The things you criticize are products of racing the deadline - a lot of the mechanics only fell into place after my playtest session on the competition's final day, so I was trying to dump the game out from my brain as quickly as possible.

I do hope to revise them and improve the game's weak points. If you feel like writing a longer review and/or giving me some specific parts that need patching, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

You did ask for return reviews, so I wrote up a slightly longer one and posted it at my website. I hope it's helpful. :)

Unknown said...

Hey Baxil,

Thanks for the review. Pretty much you love what I love and hate what I hate about the game. At some point in time I might go over it, but in reality it's just something that was fun.

Jamie and I were chatting about even finding a way to mesh Over the Wall with Nowhere Road which might make for something particularly awesome. However, with the new CyberGen book, and the other stuff I already have, I'm probably going to let this one sit for a long while before I get back to it.

I do love the setting though and I'm glad that you liked it.

Also, I learned what you learned too. ^_^

Unknown said...

@Baxil - You're review is up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I appreciate the deeper look and will respond to a few of your points there.

OTW/Nowhere Road does sound like an intriguing crossover. I think one of the most appealing things about it is that it turns "getting over the wall" into an excuse for the trip, and makes interacting with your juicy setting the point of the game. That deserves deeper consideration.

Another idea that hit me as I was rereading JWalt's official reviews expands a little on my idea of a bidding mechanic: maybe instead of drawing random elements from the decks, deal out all the cards to the players at the beginning of the game, and people choose cards to play from their hand each round. This keeps the random aspect while still giving players some control (if you have the Dragon card, you can choose to have it show up against your rival, but then you then can't control the theme since you're letting someone else play a Diamond ... or if someone plays Unexpected Ally on you, you can play the Dragon and watch your crechemates' jaws drop).

Unknown said...

Mashup Game - The ultimate Game Chef 2010 result.

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