Monday, February 21, 2011

Movie Mashup 2011 - Review - Alone in the Woods

Since I'm involved in a contest that doesn't end until June 1st, 2011, I figured that I would do what I did with Game Chef and do reviews for people who have put forth entries into the Movie Mashup 24 hour RPG competition. I put my game up already, but since I'm not really going to review my own stuff, I'd rather get feedback from other people, I turn my attention to those the other contestants.

I'm doing this because I know that feedback is important, and that it is rather notoriously hard to get. I offer free copies of a book to people who will do a review of the PDF and I still haven't gotten any reviews that fit the contest (though Ed at Robot Viking did one, which is always appreciated).

Anyway, I'll be doing this review using most of the criteria put out by the contest. Copying from the thread here are the criteria for judgement.

Poor you! Our panel of monkeys will be judging you on:
Must include an NPC called Keeton
Proximity: How close to the two films is it?
Complete: Is it complete? Could you run it?
Attractive: Is it attractive to look at?
Professional: How much effort went into layout and style?
Extras: Did they include actual cover, index, character sheet or any other cool things you get in a proper RPG?

Don't worry too much about the Keeton part. That's a running joke on the site.

First up - Alone in the Woods by Shinobicow

Alone in the Woods takes any Robin Hood movie, and there are plenty, and Home Alone and attempts to mash them up together into a game that takes Sherwood and turns in into a trap filled place to prevent the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and his minions from getting to far into the camp.

Proximity: In this regard the game both succeeds and fails at being close to the films. The location is spot on, you're inside Robin Hood's camp defending it from the evil Sheriff. Great, you've got a perfect parallel between the two movies and the game uses it wonderfully. My concern is that's kind of where the game starts and ends. Robin Hood is an adventure story, filled with action and romance, and Home Alone is all about the childhood dream of being separated from family and then being ingenious enough to grow up when it comes time to defend it from a couple of thieves. It would have been nice to see a couple of those things in there? Maybe not only do you have to defend the place from the Sherrif and his Troops, but also woo the one you love who just happens to live in the toughest place to get to. Maybe have it be less, "Well, I guess everyone is drunk and that's why you're alone" and even more on the "you have to hold out until Robin gets back from his latest caper" would have gone a lot more of the way to make it feel like it was more like the two movies.

The big things were got, maybe one of the little things would have made it better. However, this is something that's come up in 24 hours so getting the big things right is really important.

Complete: It's totally there. Using the paired down d20 system, thankfully, the game makes you use a bare bones skill list and has very defined phases. The author even took the time to write up a "How do you run this game" section in the back. How to run it if you're playing the good folk and the bad folk and what your main job is, which is to keep the funny moving. Character sheet is there, tables are provided. 100% Complete and ready to roll.

Attractive/Professional: It's got a serviceable look to it. The kind that says, "I've got a short amount of time and want to get this out" which I can appreciate since I know that I'm very much in that camp when it comes to my layout skill. However, my one complaint would be the "LOL" put in on the title cover. I think the picture itself would have conveyed the proper, "Oh no!" emotion rather than having to add a LOL to it.

Another thing that probably should have gotten cut was the discussion on all the Merry Men that will not be appearing in this game. The only three that are important were Robin, because you were a Merry Child, the Sheriff, because he is the villain, and Maid Marion, because you can enter her lands to scavenge for materials. That's a lot of text that you didn't need in a contest where every minute counts, and in the end it doesn't add much to the final product as well.

Extras: Yup. All of them are there, especially the things that are needed in a d20 game. Charts, tables, more charts and tables (I'm just joking there are only 5 tables) and the character sheet.

Would I Play it? Yes. All in all, Alone in the Woods is a really solid effort. Someone mentioned on the 1km1kt forums that it would probably make a really beer & pretzels game and I agree completely. It's got the right amount of silliness and the right amount of boardgamyness that would make it fun to sit around a table and play, and I can start to think of all the little doo-dads that would make great add ons the playing experience.

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