2012 Reviewing

The initial reviewing process for Game Chef 2011 starts around April 17th, with reviews and recommendations due by April 25.

Which Games Should I Review?

Chefs are semi-randomly assigned four games to review as follows.

  • Take your entry number (based on the order your game was submitted) and add +1, +3, +6, and +10. This will give you the numbers of the games you are supposed to review.
  • For example, if your game is number 23, you would review games number 24 (+1), 26 (+3), 29 (+6), and 33 (+10). Try to be careful with the math, since it’s easy to accidentally review the wrong game!
  • The numbers will ultimately wrap around, so the final dozen chefs to submit will be reviewing some of the games submitted earliest. The reviewers of each game are explicitly spelled out on this page.
  • To avoid any confusion, I have added the games to be reviewed and the numbers of their reviewers in the comments below. Make sure the games you are reviewing have your number listed as one of the four reviwers.
  • If you end up being assigned a close friend’s game to review, please try to arrange a swap with another chef, trading review assignments with them. This is both to avoid bias and just because — come on! — you’re gonna read your friend’s game anyway, right? Get to know some new people!

How Should I Review My Assigned Games?

I’ve reviewed a LOT of contest games over the years (more than 100, certainly) and, while I haven’t always done an equally great job on every review, these are the principles I try to more-or-less stick to, which I think have served me well and are among the most helpful things for designers to hear.

  1. Try to avoid reading other reviewers’ comments on the game before reading it yourself. Be your own reviewer!
  2. Read the games in a cooperative spirit, not like a harsh English teacher looking for flaws, but as someone who’s potential interested in playing the game with their friends. If you can, print the games out and take notes on the print-outs as you go, so you’ll have a record of your initial reactions.
  3. When you’re ready to write a paragraph or two of feedback, start off by mentioning what you like about the game, what excites you, what the designer has done well. In addition to what you would normally look for in a game, consider how well the theme and ingredients were incorporated, how much the designer was able to accomplish with a limited wordcount, and how brave the designer has been in attempting new or difficult things.
  4. Then, talk about the parts of the game that you don’t think are clear, that you don’t fully understand, or that you feel uncertain about. Think more about how you would present this game to your friends or organize a session of play to try the game out. Do you have the information and instructions you need to do that? What clarifications or additional tools might you need? Try to ask questions or admit your own confusion instead of criticizing: “I felt unsure about the part where…” or “What did you intend this part to do?”
  5. End with a few positive thoughts about the game as a whole and how it could move forward to be even better or more “finished” (whatever that means). Is it ready to be tried out? Does it just need a couple things before it’s ready to hit the table? What’s the minimum amount of work that the designer needs to do to get it to the next level? Don’t list a bunch of things or talk too abstractly. Suggest one or two concrete steps or improvements.

Where Should I Post My Thoughts?

Post your reviews as replies to the comments below. That way I can tell when all four reviews for each game have been completed.

If your review is more than a couple paragraphs — or if you want to post your review elsewhere or send your comments privately to the designer — please just post a link to your review (on your blog, on a forum, etc.) or a short comment telling me that you’ve sent your comments to the designer.

How Should I Pick One to Recommend?

Please do not indicate in your reviews which game you are recommending as a potential winner! Honestly, the business of winning — which I mostly view as a necessary evil — should not get in the way of providing helpful feedback and support to your fellow chefs.

Instead, please fill out the form below to submit your recommendation, picking 1 of the 4 games you reviewed to be a potential winner of Game Chef 2012.

When picking an overall winner, consider:

  1. Are you excited to play this game, right now?
  2. Do you feel able to play this game, right now?
  3. How well did the designer use the theme and ingredients?
  4. How brave was the designer in attempting this game?

Your selection will be anonymous unless you decide to announce it. Additionally I’m not planning on announcing the number of votes each game receives, since I suspect that would be a distraction from the more specific comments each game accrued in the reviewing process and simply appreciating everything the participating chefs have accomplished.

What If I Can’t Finish by April 25th?

Please let us know as soon as possible, since there are a number of former Game Chef participants and friends of Game Chef who might be able to step in and help out with reviewing. Likewise, if you’ve submitted multiple games but don’t think you can review 8 or 12 games, let us know and we might be able to help.


557 responses to “2012 Reviewing

  • Jonathan Walton

    ENGLISH-LANGUAGE GAMES

    Game 01 is reviewed by… 82 80 77 73

    • spamicus

      Summary: A 3+ player game, where players use the magic of words to stop the gods from destroying a world in disarray. Designed as a one-shot story, Anansi’s Children makes powerful use of props to create a memorable experience.

      Roses: This game is very well written. The story and the text shine with polish. The mechanics used to grant powers to the players are very creative, and I think would make for a very memorable story game.
      Theme Inclusion: Very Well done. This game draws clear inspiration from Native American mythology, and utilizes the ingredients throughout the text. The Doctor ingredient is less obvious, but I see the thematic inclusion in the word powers, as players have a number of opportunities to prevent damage.
      Density: Neal accomplishes a lot with the space he uses. The game’s text is printed on a single side of paper, the character sheet printed on the other. Though not described in the text, I love the idea that the evidence of the rules of the game, the fabric of reality, are destroyed as the players repair and dismantle reality. That being said, I think the text is a little too dense. Rules are written only once, so gaining a proper understanding of how the game runs means re-reading the text several times.
      An extra page and some examples would go a long way towards teaching readers how to play.
      Points of Improvement: I understand that the author has a goal of creating a game that fits on three pages, but unfortunately I think there’s a little too much left out. After reading Anansi’s Children, I immediately want to play, but then I thought about the logistics of the system, many not described, and I think it will take a few stressful scenes for my players and I to really understand how the author intended this system to be used.
      Final Thoughts: I love this game. It’s already been printed and included in my one-shot party kit. That being said, I’d like the game as a single .PDF download, and a third document with examples and pictures would be nice. Only the Host needs to see the examples, since the Host will be teaching their friends how play is done.

    • Robert Bruce

      Checking things off: the ingredients Coyote, Mimic, Lantern, and Doctor are present. Coyote is a weak association (a role without mechanical distinction), Mimic is strong (a mechanical tool, Crow’s Voice), Lantern is strong (Thunderbird, part of essential concept of the game), and Doctor is strong (the surgical Snake’s double-edged gift). Last chance comes through loud and clear.

      I’m a fan of the structure of this game, first presenting a story, and then an in-character rules explanation. Stories establish a good consensus of where you’re going to explore in the fiction without having to be translated from rules-speak.

      However, I did think the explanation of the rules could be put a little more plainly, making very sure to draw a picture of what playing this game looks like. I found it difficult to imagine. At first I was confused about what the Words meant. Quickly they are being cut and burnt, strange things to do to words. I would suggest a more explicit drawing of the metaphor, words and webs and worlds. What does it mean to cut out a Word, in the fiction? To burn it?

      The rock-paper-scissors thing doesn’t seem right. Is this the most interesting choice? Does it do what you intended?

      I love Crow’s Voice. It’s such an essential sharing mechanic. I want this to be done a whole bunch of times before the mass cutting and burning begins. Any way to encourage more of this?

      I would have loved more guidance of what to do when you’re not engaging the mechanics of the game. Y’know, just roleplaying. How do you imagine some scenes going?

      I don’t feel ready to decide how many acts/scenes I want by the time I read that instruction at the beginning.

      It feels like the game consists of tools which are overlaid on some assumptions about scene-framing, ending, how to do all the other stuff. Figuring it out will need to happen before playing if you don’t already have it figured out with your group.

      The questions on the character sheet are wonderfully provocative. Once written on, they would feel like sympathetic tokens; painful to cut out, unbearable to burn. What a tragic game, it really manifests your character in your character sheet!

      The consequences of cutting out a Word are unclear to me. Does it mean you can’t use it or you get hurt? Your fellow protagonists can’t use it without hurting you? Does it mean anything for the subject of the Word? I’m wondering what you’re imagining here.

      When you lose rock-paper-scissors and don’t want to give in, do you have to cut out and burn an applicable Word and show how that looks, or just any Word? I like the idea of the Words as sort of heterogenous hit points that you have to explain as you expend.

      Coyote’s task might be pretty difficult without a little more guidance. I mean, she has to make conflict for everybody! Can Coyote look at the others’ character sheet? Because if I were Coyote I would be all over that. “Oh that thing you care about? I’m going to threaten it, and the only way you can do anything about it is mutilating something else you love. WEIRD.” Just a hunch, but I feel like I would want to give Coyote some extra edge against the protagonists. Just to keep them slashing and burning, yaknow, the good stuff.

      Very cool. I look forward to running the wax with this in the future.

    • devlin1

      Contest Parameters: All of the ingredients are well-integrated. There’s even a meta-ingredient in that the unused half of the ingredients were all the discussion threads, and “threads” as a concept is central to the game’s fiction. The gradual destruction of the character sheet dramatically ensures that this game can only be played once (with these characters, anyway).

      Things I Like: I like the way the totality of each character is communicated in eight words, and the fact that there are clear rules describing how cutting and burning each of these words affects the narrative. In fact, I really like this last bit. I get a fun, non-CCG vibe off it that makes me want to see it in action. I like how clearly and how well the word-ingredients are used. I like how each player’s available lexicon gradually diminishes as the game progresses.

      Things I Personally Am Not On Board With: I feel like there might be too much in terms of set-up here — not with respect to, like, actually preparing a play-space or whatever, but in terms of the backstory established in “The Tale.” I find parts of it a little confusing. Are we playing the little silk-people in Anansi’s web (“The people in that world are [her] children”), or are we playing ourselves (“Some few of ‘us’ have been stirred by Her shout”)? I.e., are we there, or here? The line “people were made to Weave unconsciously” sticks out for the same reason. The silk-people weave unconsciously, or we real-people do — say, in our dreams? It’s not a big deal, but it’s enough.

      I don’t want to burn stuff at the table, so while the Lantern/candle is neat, it’s not something that’d see play at my table. We’d just… I dunno… throw those Words away instead of burning them.

      Things I Think Are Genuine Problems: Even though the rules proper only take up a single page, they’re oddly disorganized. Take the third paragraph: It starts with a few sentences on who my character is and what they can do (in very broad terms), then talks about my Words (and how they’re magic) and that I should answer each question on the verso with one word, then that using these words “unWeaves” them from the tapestry (but not what that means), then that if I don’t “let go” of them I’ll risk getting hurt, then that the tapestry of reality will be destroyed if I fail (though not what my endgame is). To me, that paragraph has at least three separate topics that need to be covered on their own, apart from the others. As-written, it feels like the author’s making connections between them that don’t exist and/or aren’t properly explained. (For example, the progression of ideas implies that unWeaving a Word somehow harms the tapestry, though this isn’t actually the case, as best I can determine.)

      And not to belabor the point, but the very next paragraph starts off talking about Snake’s Gift, drifts into the game’s core conflict-resolution mechanic, then comes back to Snake at the end. You’re burying the lede here, and making it harder for me to learn your game in the process.

      Rock-paper-scissors as a conflict resolution method seems problematic here — we may as well flip a coin — but taking damage is even more so. Your remaining Words are essentially a pacing mechanism for the game — lose too many and/or your Name and you’re effectively out, or at the very least left to the mercy of the rocks, papers, and scissors. The problem, IMO, lies in the fact that hearing one of your Cut Words has the same result as losing a Rochambeau: Cut and Burn a Word. So… what’s to stop Coyote from just saying all of your Cut Words as soon as he’s “within earshot”? By a strict reading of the rules, as soon as you have one Cut Word, you’re in imminent danger of losing all of them except for your Name. I must be missing something here.

      It’s also not clear to me if the players are working together against Coyote or are supposed to be in conflict with one another. I’d think it’d be the former, but some of the Burn abilities indicate that’s not the case at all. Likewise, do the Coyote and Spider players have these character sheets? I’d think no, because they seem to be co-GMs, but… the rules don’t say they don’t, so I dunno.

      This is a big deal, because the rules give me a way to help my fellow players (giving them Cut Words instead of Burning them), and also put them at a disadvantage (stealing their Cut Words). If Coyote and Spider have sheets just like mine, then okay, but if not, I’m not positive how Crow’s Gift is intended to be used in play.

      The candle as an hourglass seems… problematic. Unless I know how quickly or slowly the candle in question burns, anyway. Otherwise, we could end up playing way longer or way shorter than intended. Plus, I’m not sure why this is necessary when there’s already a clear win condition: Satisfy Spider’s Condition. What if we do that in an hour, but the candle’s still got another hour to go?

      I also have some misgivings about Spider’s role. It seems like the game is heavily dependent on Spider’s ability to come up with some truly epic quest for the players, or Coyote’s kinda screwed. If Spider’s Condition is, I dunno, “Climb Mount Midoriyama,” and the player overcomes Coyote’s Complication (“Blizzard!”), then… is it over? Did the player succeed? Is that Spider’s call (“deciding if your actions succeed”)? It’s not clear to me how players would make gradual progress instead of just going from Point A to Point B.

      If the game can have any number of acts, and each act can have any number of scenes, then… what’s the point of delineating how many acts and scenes the game has? This feels like either the vestige of an idea that was was discarded during development, or the kernel of an idea that needs expanding.

      Summary: Anansi’s Children has some really cool ideas, especially with regard to the Cutting and Burning of Words. I’m much less certain about the mechanics apart from that, though. It feels like there are some key assumptions and clarifications missing from the text. I’d be very interested to see what the game looks like after another pass. Good work.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 02 is reviewed by… 01 81 78 74

    • slabnoir

      The concept and color of this game intrigue me. While reading, I kept thinking about the movie ‘The Name of the Rose’. That’s a good sign. The theme and ingredients are integrated solidly into the game and are used in creative and interesting ways. I particularly like the “guilt made manifest” feeling that they were used to create.

      While I think I could make it through a session of play with the current text and some best guesses, there are a couple things that aren’t clear to me. I’m not exactly sure how the Fate Timer is supposed to work. If it works how I think it probably does then I worry that even on the first encounter the Doctor, with his high stats, has a very good chance of really working the PCs over. Especially since players can burn Fate in place of another attribute score. I’m also not clear on how The Lantern functions in play, but that’s not nearly as critical to play as the Fate Timer. The resolution mechanic doesn’t particularly excite me but it should get the job done.

      I’m also not sure how players are supposed to be able to destroy other Penitents. As far as I could tell from my reading, the PCs will live until the full moon, regardless of what happens to them. (Which puts a crimp in my plan to attempt redemption through PvP!)Death seems to be a narrative device used by the Narrator on NPCs when the Narrator deems it appropriate. That’s a perfectly valid way to handle it, I’m just not sure if that is the intent based upon my reading.

      One thing that I find really cool are the Stigmata, I think they’re sort of being wasted as just an attribute buff though. They have a lot of potential for offering various kinds of character customization or kewl powerz or what have you, if that’s a way you want to go with it.

      All the game really needs is to be fleshed out and focused. Considering the constraints of Game Chef, that’s par for the course. The content and subject matter are pretty evocative and with some clarificatons made to the text this game should be ready for some play. Kyle, if you want any further opinions or just to discuss this review you can email me at thickenergy at gmail dot com.

      -Chris Edwards

      • Kyle Willey

        I intentionally left death up to the Narrator; if you want to kill off players it’s absolutely fine (and encouraged). The main reason it didn’t make it in the final game was due to page constraints, when/if I release a follow-up it will be the first thing covered.

    • nstidham

      There’s a lot of promise here, but the game is a bit muddy in important areas. There are some facts that are kept from the player that should be shared: for instance, the “all Penitents feel supernatural remorse for their actions” guidance is really important for players to be able to play their characters as the game intends. Conversely, I don’t think that I’d mention the Doctor to players at all in their guide, or keep the info as nebulous as possible (“it is whispered that there is one who stalks the night, hunting Penitents” would suffice – but how would one even learn that, if nobody spends more than one lunar month as a Penitent?) As is appropriate for the Gothic, the narrator should be able to do a melodramatic reveal on that point.

      The text could be tightened up, ironically by actually providing more flexibility: the character creation section could just state that all Penitents get 6 points from traits, +2 for stigmata, without needing to give us a fixed list of backgrounds. (In a longer game, those backgrounds could still be included as examples, but for a concise project, the best option is often the simplest.) Some of the examples are wordier than they need to be, too, eating up space that could go into other areas. We don’t get much explanation of why Fate is important beyond being a ‘soak trait’ to take the hits for other skills, and since it apparently governs the chance of redemption, and there’s no reason to care if stats go to 0, put 3 in Fate, let your other traits ablate, and you still get the best possible chance of getting out before the full moon if the opportunity arises

      If this were to be expanded, it could go in some really interesting directions: there’s some interesting metaphysics going on, with the premise of a world that actively abhors criminals and reacts to them with a sort of magical immune system raising some questions about cosmology. (The section that explains what mimics and doppelgangers immediately makes this skinnable as a Silent Hill game, incidentally.) But there are big gaps that are more pressing: The Lantern should have more mechanical weight: if character redemption is important in the game, there needs to be a strong supporting framework to let the game actually fulfill that purpose. The text mentions that Penitents gain powers along with their stigrmata, but stigmata only give ability bonuses. Penitents are “powerful compared to a normal human, but they are far from immortal,” but how can they be meaningfully harmed? There’s no indication that the players suffer from having trait values of 0 (in fact, the pre-generated background all have at least one 0). How powerful can they actually be if they permanently lose a point from a trait whenever they fail a skill roll, which places them too much at the mercy of the dice? (If the stigmata actually give this deliberately to Penitents, like a sort of cursed immortality where they suffer but persevere, that should be spelled out.)

      As the seed for a more in-depth game, I like this: while it hurts the game in terms of relating to the theme, this actually has replay potential (there’s no guarantee the players will discover all of the details of the setting’s secrets). As something meant to stand alone, it would probably require a lot of hand-waving to make work.

      • Kyle Willey

        Yeah, I agree with a lot of your criticism; I probably did need to include a death-or-immortality-or-incapacitation thing in this, which I omitted partly to see how Narrators would handle it.

        As far as character creation, you’re absolutely right. There was even a time when I was going to put in the six-points system, and making the pre-mades examples, but I second-guessed that for no reason.

        Part of the reason the Stigmata are so lame is balance-the Doctor would get immensely powerful if it provided greater benefits, and also I didn’t want everyone picking a specific stigmata because it was the better one, but in hindsight it probably could have been done better.

      • nstidham

        Well, we all had a limited word count, so I can see nixing the freeform creation rules. Power descriptions for Stigmata would eat a lot of your space up, too. I think this game is promising enough to warrant a full version, so those are definitely things to consider for a second run.

        Are you familiar with Wraith: the Oblivion? It occurred to me that having each player play another Penitent’s Lantern in the style that Wraith had players take on someone else’s Shadow mixes things up a bit.

    • Christina B

      Likes
      • The Presentation is great. I love the cover page, and the artwork done behind the rules. It makes it look like a professionally published game, right away. I love the font choice (though the bolded titles are a bit hard to read in places), and the layout is really nice.
      • Mimics and Doppelgangers: very interesting concepts! I enjoy the idea very much. I think they would benefit by having a few examples added in.
      • The idea behind the game is very interesting; I love the dark mood, the setting, the character concepts. The adventure idea; character striving to redeem themselves when they will probably not succeed is nice and dreary. As-is, I think the game can be run by creative Narrators who are prepared to do some pre-game work.

      I admit, I think I got pretty into this game as I read it; I was reading it as though I planned to run it soon. I was imagining my players, and the Penitents they might create (and their backstories), as well as the scenarios they would play through. I love the idea of the game, and I feel parts of it really drew me in, and were really interesting.

      Inconsistency:
      It’s said each Penitent gets a Lantern to guide him to salvation. The Lantern section says it only shows up to selected groups. Also, how does the Lantern guide the players? Is it meant to be left of the GM to make it up? If so, clarifying that would be good.

      Questions and Suggestions for Improvement
      • First Example in character creation: The numbers are a bit difficult to read through. Perhaps listing them so they stand apart from the rest of the text, as you did with the backgrounds, so it reads better.
      • When reading about the Doctor, a game-layout is stated concerning the doctor must attack them three times. It might help to expand the “Running Lantern in the Dark” section to explain the general flow of the game, and include that there instead.
      • The Fate Timer: It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure I like it, as it seems to add an unrequired amount of complication. I don’t have any suggestions for something else though.
      • It is said that Penitents are stronger than normal people, but there are no examples of normal people stats for the system. Will penitents not be running into normal people during the game? Is it meant for the GM to just wing it? Perhaps the GM sets a difficulty, as with inanimate objects? I think this, along with an explanation of why the players are cast out after they gain their stigmata would be very helpful; and it would help get across just how powerful the Penitents are, and how they’re stronger than normal people.
      • Why have the classes? It strikes me that players could just assign 6 points to the attributes, and be done; thus giving a little more control over creating the character.
      • Setting of the game? A note as to what the setting should be, or a note to the Narrator to pick a setting would be helpful. A section describing the world is always nice; and it could include how much the rest of the world knows about Penitents and how they react to them would be handy.
      • I feel a note in the “What is a penitent” section or similar, detailing that the player characters are not likely to survive, would be potentially handy, and help get players more into the correct mindset for the game.
      • How does the rebirthing work, for Penitents who do redeem themselves? Will they have an option for healing, will they remember their life as a Penitent; do they recognize other Penitents and other redeemed?
      • Question: in the example given under Playing the Game: the character succeeds in his role, he and all his friends may cross the river. If that character fails the roll, he cannot attempt it again, but his friends can. If his friends succeed, do he then have the option to cross with them, or can he simply not cross the river? I’ll note that there is no ruling to explain why his friends get to cross with him explained previously.

    • Joel

      Lantern in the Dark piques my interest with the phrase “Gothic roleplaying game,” and with the ingredient “belief shapes reality.” The premise of heinous criminals atoning for their sins in an ephemeral nightmare reality sounds amazing.

      I’m not certain your implementation gets at the parts of that premise that excite me, however. The resolution system is straightforward enough, and I like the depletion of Attributes as “damage.” Not being able to heal helps create a sense of desperation. Beyond that, I’m left wondering what you actually DO in the game.You say the only options for Penitents to gain redemption are to “hunt in vain for Philosophers’ Stones” or hunt down other Penitents. “In vain” makes it sound like the ONLY thing Penitents do is hunt each other. That sounds pretty repetitive and dull to me. I feel like I need more texture to the world and the story, some way of pursuing redemption in a specific way fitting to my specific crime. The player’s section doesn’t give me any clue how I go about that, and the GM section contains a bunch of setting info that comes out of the blue and falls short of realizing the promise of the game. Mimics are animated objects that hate penitents and try to kill them as a matter of course? Doppelgangers are human versions of mimics? Sounds like a standard monster-fighting game, which isn’t what I hoped for at ALL when I read about belief shaping reality and Penitents seeking redemption.

      Your use of GM secrecy feels awkward; there aren’t enough secrets, or secrets of great enough import, to justify the hidden information. The Doctor is a Doppelganger? OK, that’s kind of neat, but what does it mean to the PCs? It seems like that could be something that’s either out in the open or left up to the GM to decide what big reveals to make. As it is, he just looks like a generic boss monster in a generic monster fight.

      Some of your ways of describing the game and setting feel off to me. “Shift to parallel universe” kicks me right out of “Gothic Horror and right into Star Trek or superhero comics. I’d probably go with something like “a world of shadows where the repercussions of their sins are made manifest,” or whatever works for you. Keep the gothic tone in all its ornate, sinister and florid glory. The ingredients have led you to a very unique and unusual game concept, which can be a good thing, but it means you’ve got some extra work to do to make the idea coherent and really “sell” it.

      If you want to develop this game further, I recommend finding its PURPOSE: to borrow Luke Crane’s classic game design question, what is your game ABOUT, and HOW is it about that? Think hard about belief, reality, heinous crimes, and redemption, and see where that leads you in focusing your game to deliver a rich experience exploring those themes.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 03 is reviewed by… 02 82 79 75

    • Kyle Willey

      Fin de Siecle:

      Resolution system is interesting and makes for a good framework, but really should make the analogies by the same direction (rolling under objectives gets things done, and rolling under obstacles means there’s no issue with it), rather than making it run both, as it is slightly confusing even though the rules mean you want the highest numbers in both. Other than this there’s not much that’s difficult to understand.

      Other than that one issue, the game is very well made, though I don’t really always see the “last chance” theme playing too strongly (though it is practically a steampunk Warehouse 13) in most scenarios, but it’s still pretty well done. I’m not 100% sure about which ingredients are used, but they are all included in the scenario at the end, making me a little wary. Either way, it’s still written appropriately for the steampunk genre and is a pretty good game in terms of simplicity and how you can use it.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • Dave M

      First, I LOVE this concept. Supernatural Fringe, it is sheer genius. The mechanic is truly inspired as well.
      Issues:
      – The PDF. The pages were in a bizarre order. It made it difficult to read and understand.
      – GM advice: This is pretty thin, the die mechanic makes a lot of it easier, but the advice arounf the rst of the GM’s responsibility is almost non-existant.
      – The scenario: Is well written, butit pre-supposes two possible endings, when the reality is, that with this fringe fenre, there are an infinite number of ways this could end…
      – This line: “When a protagonist attempts an action which, in the judgement of the MC, may not succeed or which may create complications, a dice must be rolled.” is bad advice for this mechanic. Ideally, the MC will call for a roll when the Obstacle occurring is at least as interesting as the action succeeding.
      – Ingredients: The game specifically describes the game as episodic, which flies in the face of the last chance theme. Furthermore, the ingredients are not part of the game, unless you count the pre-generated scenario. Even then, only the lantern is central.

      Again, this is an awesome game idea, that will shape up to an amazing game once it is finished.

    • jackson tegu

      Fin de Siècle / James Mullen

      Very approachable, a wonderful pitch and intriguing hook. I’m invested, it’s the top of page three. I enjoy how the stats are thematically appropriate, very excited about the idea of weaving “punctuality” into a fiction: i like how this gives the appearance of the timeframe sort of telescoping… like, that a situation could be moments or hours or the rest of that week. And written in a great voice!

      Let me just underline how i’m stoked on this before i plunge into my reactionary feedback. Or whatever.

      The first part of the roll-dice thingie may warrant a second look: if a PC says “I’m going to breeze past the doorman” and the MC says “roll”, then the PC can shoehorn in any of the three Objectives (My rapidity eludes him / i wait until he’s distracted by the mayor’s wife, and then quickly slip by / I greet him with a weak smile and a look down the nose as i walk directly through the door. “One side old boy, hm?”) Maybe some guidance to this effect? Maybe i’m looking at it wrong, and this doesn’t matter.

      Ah, a hair. May i split it? I believe that the term “MC”, as it relates to these diversions in any case, identifies a very particular though very much up for discussion style of GMing; one that i do not believe that this game employs. With this being the case, might you consider re-titling that role simply as GM, or perhaps as “Mystery Withholder” or some similarly quaint re-titling?

      Following from that, some guidance for how to behave as MC would be an excellent addition; perhaps i’ll even recommend that be your next step. It seems quite ready, though, as you well know. A fun lark! Thanks for sharing!
      -jackson tegu

      • jackson tegu

        PS i keep forgetting ingredient use. Doctor, sure, and the magic lantern was central to the module part (great use, by the way, as an example for the way the game should be played. Assuming that the other two are thread ingredients. Embarrassingly, as that i have many miles before i sleep, i’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you did good stuff with those. Last chance… nice title, but maybe you abandoned that earlier on, or i missed it. Either way, i don’t think that it needs it. Good work!

    • James Mullen

      As a couple of reviewers have asked, I shall reply: the idea of designing a game as if it will only be played once made me think of writing a scenario, then retro-fitting a system to support it. Hence, the last chance is the scenario itself and the game is effectively the appendix! I really should have presented them in reverse order, but no doubt that would have created other confusion. Oh, and the four ‘word’ ingredients are all in the scenario; consider it to be something of a game within a game locating all the references. ;-)

      Thank you to all the reviewers for your feedback: it is, as always, inavluable and much appreciated. I hug and kiss you all in a very Gallic way unbecoming of a British Gentleman!

      • Dave M

        James,
        Thanks. One more thing, for me Fringe eolves more from:
        1) Studying things you can’t contain
        2) Experimenting on things you don’t understand
        3) Practicing things you can’t control.
        Contrast that list with:
        o Premature Technology: a plausible technology developed years before its time, e.g. computers, nuclear energy, rocketry, etc.
        o Distorted Technology: the above but admixed with a Victorian level of understanding of the science involved, e.g. a sentient robot or atomic mutation.
        o Wondrous Technology: something totally implausible and beyond the reach of science, e.g. invisibility, time travel, speaking to the dead and so on.
        They are both applicable, but I feel like my suggestion gives more concrete advce for the GM. I could be wrong though, but I thought I wouldsuggest it.
        Dave M

    • Sp4m

      Summary: A Victorian sort of X-files, players are investigators charged with researching improbable inventions of the time. The game uses a very simple system of conflict resolution that is sure to keep things moving quickly.
      Roses: The world described by the author is compelling, and the system is simple enough to lead directly to quick play. In addition to choosing the common attributes, players invest their points in their characters general approach to trouble. This provides a nice narrative seed to describing a scenario.

      Density: The author makes excellent use of the space, providing both a (very simple) conflict resolution system, and sample adventure in the space provided.
      Ingredients: The ingredients inspired aspects of the sample adventure, but I do not feel that they are very strong. Doctors feature prominently, and the magic lantern creates a physical idea of something, more than the real thing (a mimic, as it were). Ultimately, it seems inappropriate that the killer (weapon?) in these cases is a mimic coyote. Given the themes of the story, it would be more appropriate for it to be some sort of fantastical monkey man, or other conjecture of evolutionary design.

      Points of Improvement: At the beginning of the text, you describe as success as =, leaving the reader to guess what to do if the die roll is = the objective value. However, later on you suggest that only a roll of < is a full success. I suspect there is a typo there. A little more expansion of the system is appropriate (but only a little), as character health and damage is never discussed, and the players are often times at rick of physical harm.
      Final Thoughts: I like the cut of your jib! This game is well written, very fast and easy to read, and provides an interesting world, with a mechanic that reinforces the game's themes. Well done.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 04 is reviewed by… 03 01 80 76

    • James Mullen

      Keepers of the Lantern
      I like a game that lays out its intent early and this does just that: a short, punchy intro tells you exactly what this game is about, getting the tone and theme in from the start.
      The mechanics are simple, as befitting the nature of play, and there is a strong link between the characterisation and the strategy: using your ‘hatred’ to target the other players and try to get them to react or reveal something about themselves makes for tense intrigue, so I can imagine some good meaty play coming out of this. The ingredients are also blended in so seamlessly that I almost forgot they were there.
      Probably the smartest mechanic I’ve seen in a while is Holding the Lantern: this is very original and creative and spins the psychology of play in a new direction. The effect of fatigue and enforced silence on one player ought to conflict nicely with their desire to keep doing so for as long as possible.

      The only thing I was unclear about from reading it was how secret the character creation phase is; is the next player meant to see what you have written down or should it be folded over, Exquisite Corpse-style, so that only the final player gets to see everything that was written previously?
      Even though this is written as a game poem, I wasn’t sure if 15 minutes was the right length. Would everybody get a chance to make a significant contribution in that time? I can also imagine some players being motivated or single-minded enough to hold the Lantern for the full 15 minutes, so a strong willed Starting Keeper might hold onto it for the full time, making everything the other players do irrelevant.

      My personal preference for seeing this taken further would be add a few frills to it: it’s a very stripped down game, with a very binary conclusion; some other roles in the mix that required the Holder of the Lantern to take some action would mix things up nicely (I’m thinking of card game “Are You The Traitor?”)
      Also, maybe something for the players to aim for individually besides the shared goal, just to mix up the intrigue a little more and add some more range to the narrative options available.

      – James Mullen

    • nstidham

      This is fun to read from the get-go; the text is presented very simply – the simplest of the four games that I have been assigned to review – but in a straightforward and engaging manner. The fact that there’s a physical component in the Lantern, and that it genuinely aims to recreate an in-game situation for the players is a great technique, I think, and fortuately mitigated by the time limit. My instinct is that the time limit seems a little short, because if there’s to be any kind of strategy to actually trying to keep the Lantern out of the hands of Coyote’s agents, it’ll take time to deduce a person’s allegiances through conversation and pick someone “safe” to whom to pass the Lantern. (That is, if there is any safe alternative at all: I know groups in which pretty much everyone would write “Coyote” on the cards at the beginning of the game!)

      That said, there’s something about this game that I can’t quite put my finger on. It feels like maybe it’s missing something, even though it’s not, and I can’t quite identify what it is that I’m looking for here. It’s very light, but parlor games of this type are meant to be. I don’t want to try to impose a notion that a game has to be “about” anything, either, other than the enjoyment of the experience of play – there’s room for that to be included, but the game doesn’t suffer for lack of a “higher purpose”. (I’m sure play could be very revealing about how the different participants feel about duty or belief in how they approach the game, for instance, if someone were interested in pursuing such a dimension.)

      I shall have to meditate upon this under a waterfall. Or perhaps while holding a Lantern.

    • shrikedesign

      The mythology and fictional premise is grabby and fun. I love the guessing, reading, and deceit of “hidden role” game like The Resistance, so this hits my sweet spot. The win condition is just what I’d hope for. The customization options would enhance replayability greatly for me — I’d want to try this full of Coyotes and Skeptics, and then try it again with one Coyote and no Skeptics.

      Unfortunately, I think the connection between the set-up and the path to victory is under-constructed. The only relevant decision a player makes with respect to victory is who to pass the lantern to. Trying to assess that based on the roleplay of a bunch of gossiping and philosophizing that may not even be in earshot strikes me as a complete crapshoot. I can enjoy “guess wrong once and the game is over, you lose” if I have some evidence to work from, but not if it’s purely random.

      I think that who hates whom, and who even believes in the prophecy, are colorful ways to add noise to the signal, but the signal (who’s Coyote and who’s not) needs to start out much clearer. The simplest solution I can think of is to make the number of Coyotes public.

      The specific position of Skeptic also seems at odds with caring about the outcome of the game. I do like the fact that the role is out there to be considered by other players, but personally I’d hate to play it. I could suck it up for 15 minutes for the sake of the other players, but if the luck of the draw handed me several Skeptics in a row across multiple plays, that’d be a bummer.

      I like the necessity of passing on the Lantern, but I’d prefer a strict time limit rather than letting the strength of players’ shoulder muscles determine it. “Let’s pass it to the 90-pound girl and keep it away from the burly dude” strikes me as a much less fun way to play than actually getting into the “eternal night” thing.

      I’m being critical here partly because I love the premise and would definitely play this game if these kinks could be ironed out. I’d be happy to discuss further on the Forge (or wherever) if you’d like.
      -David Berg

    • devlin1

      I’m going to deviate from my barely established review format, because I’ve had this sentence in my head since I first read this game, and I want to get it out. So, with all that build-up:

      As I was reading the text, I was going, “Yeah, awesome, I get it, this is going somewhere great!” and then I got to the end and I was like, “Wait, what happened?”

      All the game’s elements — the cards, the secret IDs, then heavy lantern, the short playing time — seemed to be adding up to a fun game, but then in the end it feels like none of that matters. Because the win condition, it seems to me, is predicated upon something that is largely going to be a matter of chance. There’s no reason for a Coyote to ever reveal themselves as such during play. If they want to end up with the Lantern when the timer goes off, the only reasonable course of action is to blend in with the Keepers. The who-you-hate bit, yeah, that can certainly “guide the roleplay,” as instructed, but since the Lantern Bearer has no way of knowing anyone else’s allegiance, the fact that one guy hates another guy is largely (or completely) irrelevant.

      The only motivation I can make out to act like anything other than a Keeper is to make things more interesting. Unfortunately, there’s no in-game incentive to make things more interesting, so I have a hard time seeing how or why any Coyote would ever show his true colors. Especially since the thing everyone’s debating is a fictional religion about which none of the players knows anything.

      I think it’d be interesting if there were some way of setting up some loose parameters for the religion either before or during play. Maybe something posted publicly — three tenets of faith central to the religion, and a way to establish contrary but popularly held opposing opinions. At least then everyone would have a baseline to work from. As it is, the religion itself is only implied. The only entity that’s actually named is the Coyote, but what it is these priests actually believe in, other than their duty, is a cipher. (On purpose?)

      That said, I really do like the tone of the game — the joking skepticism — and the way these priests kinda have nothing better to do than gossip and argue over increasingly esoteric and worldly matters. I can see it. That’s an evocative, intuitive social atmosphere.

      Other stuff: Three of the ingredients are well-utilized, but I’m not especially sold on Coyote. It seems like you could sub in nearly any other name in there and it’d make about as much sense. Essentially, it’s interchangeable with “enemy.” Coyote isn’t depicted as a trickster god, or in any other context I think we’re used to seeing Coyote in a mythic sense. There’s the barest hint that Coyote is the skepticism itself — i.e., the “trick” he’s playing on these priests is getting them to doubt themselves.

      Given the short playtime, I doubt most groups playing this wouldn’t play it a few times in a row, which goes against the only-play-once theme. I mean, you got the lantern-object, you have all these cards, all these people who want to play something, and then you just give up on it after 15 minutes? As the precursor to a LARP — an icebreaker or something — I can see it being a one-off, but that seems like an awfully specific scenario. I appreciate the short playtime, as I said earlier, but if it were longer, and/or if there were some mechanical teeth to engage, I think it’d make for a more-satisfying one-shot experience.

      Summary: Keepers of the Lantern is a clever idea with a lot of potential that feels like the beginning of a really engaging short-form LARP. The set-up’s great and ripe for fun. Good job.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 05 is reviewed by… 04 02 81 77

    • slabnoir

      So I’m totally in love with the structure of this game. It’s very elegant, and feels like a ‘choose your own adventure’ game wrapped in the shadowy garb of a dark fairytale. Really delightful. My only issues have to do with the clarity of the text in a couple spots and my own personal preferences.

      Regarding clarity, based upon my reading I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be playing my Special Cards in tandem with my numbered cards or separately along with their own narration. I could probably figure out what works best while actually playing though. The other area of the text I had difficulty with was the part about using Jokers. It took reading it several times for me to grasp the intent. It could probably stand to be stated more clearly. Really though, “flesh out and make the text more clear” applies to basically every Game Chef game ever.

      In a perfect world where every game was designed to please me, there would be some additional significance beyond the immediate narrative for using my Special Cards. I realize that every bit of fiction we produce can have emergent and compounding effects on the fiction that follows. But I’d like to see using the Special Cards perhaps affect the outcome of play in some significant way. Not having played, I don’t know if this may be something that just wouldn’t work very well. Don’t consider this desire to be a complaint so much as something on my wish list.

      All the ingredients listed on the tin are present in subtle yet play-shaping ways. Considering the overall tone and nature of the game I think that’s very appropriate. All I really think this game needs is clarification and additions to the text, such as some examples of play perhaps, that the Game Chef world limit tends to exclude.

      If you want any further opinions or to discuss this review you can email me at thickenergy at gmail dot com.

      -Chris Edwards

    • Kyle Willey

      This game is absolutely chilling for some reason, and that’s a good thing given the theme. It uses a card-based narrative system that’s pretty freeform and a little confusing if you don’t catch how freeform it is supposed to be. It could stand to maybe be fleshed out a little, because sometimes it feels like certain things that affect the narrative could happen to an unrealistic level, but this isn’t crippling because these events are luck of the draw and shouldn’t happen that often. The worse part of this is as Chris stated; there’s an issue with the fact that the narrative doesn’t necessarily flow around what happens in the special card segments.

      I’m not a fan of games that always have the same outcome with not very much ability to change the way things are going, but Aokigahara does this pretty well by allowing a fair breadth in the story without changing the ultimate end. It’s definitely a one-shot game, since playing it twice would become rather difficult with the knowledge of the foregone conclusion, but it’s otherwise pretty well done.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • Sp4m

      Summary: A 2 player cooperative narrative inspired by Japanese myth, Aokigahara use a card-based system to help players tell a gripping narrative of their duo’s final journey.

      Roses: It’s very simple presentation and structure make this a simple game to play, and the very rich setting will make it a great game to listen to. The characters are compelling, and the scene descriptions are vivid.

      Density: I think Julia makes good use of our limited space, constructing a story game that will play out in about an hour, give or take.

      Ingredients: Julia uses all the main ingredients in her story, with a little flexibility granted to coyote. mimicry plays a common role, with the use of masks and demonic possession playing a common role.

      Points of Improvement: I like the story being told, but it’s a little disheartening to go into it knowing that the characters have no control over their fate. That being said, knowing how a story ends doesn’t mean it’s not worth hearing. There are many opportunities for players to create a compelling narrative. Maybe the theme of Fate can be brought up in the narrative? Additionally, it might be appropriate to warn the reader not be read all the way through the text prior to play, otherwise, make it a point that the players know how it’s going to end from the very beginning.

      Final Thoughts: This looks like a compelling and simple story game. The simplicity is it’s greatest strength, as it will be easy to share with newcomers, and with little equipment and planning. I would be very interested to see this as part of a series of similar games.

      • stonebaby

        Thanks. I do warn players not to read ahead (on page 2).

        Your suggestion about the Fate theme is interesting. I really took to heart that the game would be played only once, hence the predetermined and rather final outcome. I intend for players to focus on the present in their story-telling. I suppose if the game has a message, it’s just that: “now” is important, and I wanted to make good use of one of the two things that are certain in life. It couldn’t hurt to state that, but I wonder if that would take away from the “punch” of the ending. I need to think about that some more.

        I appreciate the feedback!

    • Seth Ben-Ezra

      Aokigahara

      Okay, so I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for this sort of thing. The ingredients were integrated well into the design, the Japanese flavor works for me a lot, I love the moodiness of the experience, and I’m excited by the experimental nature of the game. I’m appreciating the work that’s being done in the realm of two-player RPGs, and this has the potential to be another interesting step in the evolution of that sub-genre. The scripted NPC is quite clever, and I appreciate the mechanical design that goes into structuring the situation in each act, giving each player guidance on what to say and how to play their characters.

      That said, it’s in this area that I have my one cautionary comment. I wonder if cardplay is insufficiently interesting or provides enough guidance. Actual play might prove me wrong, but at the point where the text says “Play your hand” is the point where I have trouble envisioning what play actually looks like. I love everything that leads up to this moment, but this bit falls a bit flat to me. You know…maybe….

      The rules on the special cards were a little confusing to me, too, though I’ll bet that they’d be a lot clearer if I were actually sitting down to play with cards on the table in front of me and everything. The design seems fine; it’s more of a textual thing that could be easily cleared up.

      Finally, I’d love to see each character summary sheet have a brief reference of the special cards and maybe the card rules for each act. I think that this bit of guidance would go a *long* way towards making the game easily played.

      I’m toying with trying to play this one. If I do, you’ll be hearing more from me. I really like this one!

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 06 is reviewed by… 05 03 82 78

    • Sp4m

      Summary: Players compete to survive in a death race, fighting each other with song lyrics and fighting against the arena itself.

      Roses: This is one of the most creative ideas I’ve read for this contest. It’s absolutely full of fun imagery, and the concept of using song lines for game advantage is cleverly implemented.

      Density: Kyle makes good use of his space, and has a good layout that helps make important information readily accessible. However, I think the author could have used a little more space to explain the game a little more.
      Ingredients: This game was CLEARLY inspired by his ingredients. It’s such a bizarre combination of things, I strongly applaud the author for his creativity.
      Points of Improvement: I’m not judging you based on layout, but the bold font is difficult to read. I’m not clear on how long the game is supposed to take, or how much is supposed to be read at once… the sample shows a single line of a song being performed per turn. With average bikes having 40 fuel, and an average attack doing 4 (not including environmental and bike defense factors) that’s 10 lines of music per bike. By the time each player has taken 40 turns, I’m afraid the game play may be rather predictable. I think this game could use a stronger emphasis on player interaction, such as a board around which players literally race their pieces.
      Final Thoughts: This is a very creative idea that looks like a compelling game. I’ve never considered anything like it, and Kyle definitely found an effective way to tie music into a combat system. I loudly applaud you for that. This feels like a START to a very interesting game, but I think it would really benefit from a board game element, like combat or racing.

      • Kyle Willey

        Yeah, I actually did a playtest a few days after I submitted it and it’s pretty clear that there needs to be a lot of rebalance of combat; it’s not too much to double the damage (or half fuel) or such to speed up the game.

    • stonebaby

      I apologize in advance for the short review. Please email me (stonebabygames at gmail) for more in-depth feedback, and as always, I’m happy to send you a scan of my markup.

      Very fun sounding game! I love the use of music as part of the mechanics. Effective use of all the elements (and you got some good ones, too!) The personal tone in the writing is great, although the verb tense inconsistency is a little confusing. (Lucky you, got the copyeditor to review two of your games!)

      I’m also not sure how long the game would run, and whether the mechanics allow for enough sustainable variation in play.

      I would love to see if more fleshed out, and am looking forward to seeing where you take it.

    • Christina B

      This looks fun, silly, and dark (which is a great combination). The front page looks as though it’s missing some cover art.

      I love the concept of the Lantern. The Disbanding sounds pretty awesome. I like the font choice for the in-character writing, but it seems strange to use it again to list the adjectives & similar, and makes it a little harder to read.

      After the example of the finished record, you lost me; in the rules for how songs work. It doesn’t help that the explanation is one long paragraph: I think it would be beneficial to break it into separate pieces or into lists, so it’s easier to read through, and easier to find key pieces. I feel I don’t really understand the ways the rules work, and reading through leaves me with more questions that anything.

      With some time, and a separate piece of paper, I could probably would out how things work;

      I think this game could really benefit from an example of play; at least I would find it useful.

      I’m not a fan of the “lose % amount of points” system: I prefer solid numbers. Not everybody can figure out percentages easily.

      Also… what is Rad?

      I enjoy the flavor throughout the explanation (“and to be honest your guitarist probably wasn’t anything stellar to begin with”); and the effects, adjectives, and scoring rules are pretty cool. This game looks like lots of fun to play, and probably even more fun to watch. It’s also strikes me as a game that would be fun to watch if the players had an alcoholic drink or two in them.

    • Mathalus

      You can’t see me right now, but I am doing a slow clap, which grows to a standing ovation. I applaud your decision to make mechanics-based-song … combat… thing. While reading the Starchildren: Songwriting System thread, I was wishing that your scoring system was crowd based, or crowd manipulative somehow. Was it your intention to have this be a reflection of the crowd’s reaction? Anyway, I do not have a solid suggestion on how to implement this, it’s just a wish. Thanks for going with the song mechanic in such a hardcore fashion.

      I liked how you used the theme and ingredients. Last Chance was self-evident as the characters try to go out in a blaze of rockin’ glory. Imagining the lantern as a giant radioactive hippodrome of death was a blast.
      I can’t wait for you to do another draft of this. I’d love some character sheets for this. Do you think that you could just put some skills on the character sheets and then you could circle the skills you pick, Apocalypse World style? It might speed up play. If you’ll do some character sheets and clear up the following points of play, I’d happily playtest this:

      Do you get an extra die for singing along with someone else’s song, or just for singing your song (rather than just speaking the words?).
      Should you write down the song first?
      Who goes first, and who goes next?
      Are we just doing lines of one big song, or are our songs interspersed? Or is this like a rock medley?
      Why does nothing happen when you roll a 5 or 6? Don’t you think something should always happen?

      You can find my email at the end of my Game Chef entry. Drop me a line and we can continue the conversation. I want to see the next draft. If you rework this a bit I’ll give it a playtest and record it, so you can listen to a bunch of peeps trying to sing songs of destruction. Also I’d be happy to smooth out the English for you if you are interested after your next rewrite.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 07 is reviewed by… 06 04 01 79

    • Kyle Willey

      The Coyote Lode is remarkably deep and full-bodied; when Troy says it follows the OSR style he doesn’t kid around; the game itself feels very solid and sturdy (if games can feel like that), with a very strong mechanic backbone with which to deliver content and a focus on having a very strong rule for doing everything. The focus on individual player roles is interesting, and I’m sure there will be some very interesting unofficial maps made over the course of a few sessions.

      Ultimately I don’t really have much more to say about it, partly because it’s exactly what it says on the tin. It’s high quality, well-written, and achieves what it says it does. Quite frankly, it’s exactly what I hoped for my entries to be, and it looks like a lot of fun. I can’t really think of any real ways to change it for the better, and my gripes would run counter to the intention of the game itself, but I’d be happy to discuss it further once I get more time.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • nstidham

      From the first paragraph, this zombie scenario evokes Deadlands territory, which isn’t a bad thing. The influence pervades: the group is called a “posse,” there’s a crack to hell in the mine, there are soul eaters roaming around, etc. It’s a risky choice to tread this ground, because it leaves the reader constantly aware of looking for what’s new or fresh here. Further, by explicitly embracing an “Old School” ethos, there’s additional risk – rightly or wrongly, OSR enthusiasts have a reputation for hewing to certain gaming practices that are problematic for gamers who have had a taste of more modern designs. That’s probably a non-concern, though, since labeling itself up front ensures that those who are predisposed to its embedded style of play will stick around, and those who don’t, won’t.

      In a way, this game approaches the theme in a way that’s very grounded: unlike other entries which rely on a big reveal to turn the game into a “one-shot,” this simply uses the rationale that the mine floods, like it or not, and then you’re done. The meta-rationale (that this is just an adventure, which the typical gamer expects to be one-use anyway) is also a very pragmatic way to implement the theme. As for the ingredients, the keywords are subtly used, but they’re there. (Mimic was the hardest to locate: it’s a creature in the bestiary at the end.)

      Is it necessary to provide a rationale for the zombies? Unless the characters are even able to find an actual cure in the world of the game (which doesn’t appear to be the case – gray ooze is a stopgap at best), zombies are tautological.

      The game mechanics are fairly standard: roll vs. standard difficulty, modified up or down by stats. The fact that you still roll for stats despite only having three character archetypes is a bit jarring, but, hey, Old School. For that matter, classes don’t seem to *do* anything, apart from doctors getting to use ooze on people. Feats provide more customization than whether your current character is a gambler or a gunslinger, and so it would have been just as easy to make “I’m a Doctor!” or “Sawbones” as a feat to allow healing and otherwise simplified to just “you have three characters”. After all, who’s going to waste one of their two meager equipment choice slots on that deck of cards?

      The flooding mechanic is novel but wonky: more than anything else in gaming, game time and real time don’t play together very well. The group can say “we sleep for the night” or “we go to town to get another character” and be done in less than ten minutes, even though the same real ten minutes might represent a vastly different span during a fight or exploration sequence. Is it implied that the mine is flooding at an extremely erratic rate? (Further, there are a lot of time bottlenecks: players have to tell their “leader” what they want to do for the round, and then the leader has to tell the GM – time basically spent twice to convey the same information. The GM has to describe every part of the mine “in precise detail” and the mapper has to draw it, which eats up a lot of each potential 10-minute chunk just recording information. Hey, Old School.)

      Given that the game is print-and-play, putting extra copies of the character sheet at the end seems a bit extraneous: we can just print more of the same page. Also, if certain equipment and movement rates are always the same, they should just be printed on the character sheet already.

      Ultimately, this game does what it sets out to do in a very workmanlike fashion, but there isn’t a lot here that stands out as especially memorable.

      • Troy_Costisick

        Heya! Just a quick reply. If I have my count correct, there are 41 rooms in the mine. That means, with a 10min interval, there’s enough content for almost seven hours of real-time play. I felt that’s enough for a 1 level dungeon using a one-shot campaign. And yes, as you infered, the flooding is intended to happen at an erratic rate. The mine is otherworldly and magical afterall. I didn’t differentiate the classes much b/c of the word count restrictions. I had to cut 1000 words from my original text just to get to the 3000+99 word limit for Game Chef. But your analysis does confirm how important descrete roles for the characters are. Thank you very much for such a thoughtful and thurough review! :)

    • Dave M

      Great game! Uses the iredients well. Also, ore comes in veins, not streaks. And the rules for feats are a bit vague. Do they take an action? Are they really one use only, as the appendix implies? almost half the monsters can’t be it with 2d6, was that intentional?
      Your use of the ingredients was brilliant. The only ingredient that doesn’t have a major presence is the mimic, but it still gets some attention.
      To be honest, I am not that excitedabout OSR or wild west games, but this game is so good, I might try playing it if my group is up for it.

      • Troy_Costisick

        RE: Monsters and 2d6

        You’re supposed to roll 3d6. Did I mess that up in the text somewhere?

      • Dave M

        Some of the feats offer awesome powers if you can hit with 2d6. Since I was just talking about Feats, I assumed you would follow my question, sorry.

      • Troy_Costisick

        Okay, now I understand. I appologize. Yeah, those feats are meant only for the smaller critters. As I was writing the game, I felt that it would be unfair to let characters use them on the larger “boss” critters. :) But listen, if you do get your friends to play this game, please contact me thru email or at storygames. I’d love to hear about how it went. My email is: tcostisi, hotmail.

    • Seth Ben-Ezra

      The Coyote Lode

      Slick work on this one! I love the porting of the dungeon crawl into a non-medieval setting. And it worked, oh yes, my precious, it worked really well. I also really appreciated the OSR aspects of this design. Reading this game made me understand how someone could get totally jazzed about this style of play. The rules on mapping were particularly clever, plus they slipped in one of the ingredients in a totally natural way. Well done!

      A couple of comments. First, I think that adding the player’s Stat to the die roll is a more intuitive approach. Yes, this is the whole “addition is easier than subtraction” thing, but I think that it would speed up resolution even moreso, allowing play to focus on the emerging fiction.

      Also, I wonder if there’s enough tactical diversity in the game. Sure, I know that clever interaction with the fiction is supposed to be the focus of tactical maneuvering, but I think I’d still like to see (for example) more variety in weapon effect beyond 2/4/6 damage. There’s something to be said for the D&D damage roll.

      Finally, is the gambler supposed to have some sort of special ability? If not, how is he distinct from the gunslinger?

      This one is definitely worth developing and producing. Good job!

      • Troy_Costisick

        Heya Seth,

        Thanks for such a great review! Regarding adding a player’s roll + Stat, I have to agree with you. I struggled mightily with that as I was writing. There were pro’s and con’s either way, and I was hoping to get some feedback on that very point. It is just more natural and intuitive to add your stat to the roll. So, that is a change I’ll definately make.

        I couldn’t include a lot of tacticle diversity b/c of the word count limit. I originally had rules for all sorts of different things, but I had to cut it. I saved the original draft, so once I make some changes, I’ll put it up for everyone to see. Oh, word count restriction is also to blame for the vanilla gambler. He was supposed to have a lot of cool sneaky abilities and bonuses for risky moves, but it had to go to make 3k words. :(

        Anyway, this game will be further developed in one form or another, I can promise. I am 100% confident I will publish it- ideally in some kind of boxed set that comes with graph paper and dice so it’s ready to go immediately.

        Peace,

        -Troy

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 08 is reviewed by… 07 05 02 80

    • Liam Burke

      Just a quick note to my reviewers that the link in the Game Chef games post doesn’t work properly. You can use the link I provided in my comment posting the game, or just use this one: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YVsccienUbSjFVMHKP6K5X2zU5yYiDgio6Vw0yBOBNg/edit

      • Kyle Willey

        Game length seems unnecessarily random (why not just three or four tokens per character?), but setup otherwise seems okay. The game itself is pretty cool, with a major focus on sort of dynamic storytelling with some mechanics-driven guidelines. The setting itself works pretty well, though it is not necessarily inherently linked into the rules. Still, Big Chiefs provides a great dynamic narrative with a simple game design.

        I’m not 100% sure about using craps as conflict resolution (in fact, I got it as a random ingredient myself and rejected it), and I haven’t actually tested the game, but the game itself seems to be pretty well made and thoughtful, with no glaring errors that I can see. I very much feel that it fits the spirit and feel of the competition.

        I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • Troy_Costisick

      Heya,

      My review was around two and a half pages long, so I posted it here on Praxis: http://story-games.com/praxis/comments.php?DiscussionID=555

      I’ll re-post it on The Forge when I get home for continuity’s sake. So if you want to reply there once I do that, Liam, that would be fine. I’m blocked from both The Forge and Story Games at work, but not Praxis (go figure).

      Peace,

      -Troy

    • stonebaby

      I hate the movie Dances With Wolves as well as most movies “going native” genre. I really like this game. It’s well written, the instructions for play are very clear, and it was enjoyable to read. Great use of the ingredients. The premise has a scathing satirical subtext, but it doesn’t seem to detract from the potential playability and enjoyment of the game.

      It’s difficult to articulate my one “con.” At times the tone is a little heavy handed on the “WHITE PEOPLE goes native and saves the natives.” I’m not even sure if that’s a bad thing. [Example: “Your character has the same name as you, unless your names is obviously ethnic, in which case you should find a nearby white person and use their name. (Don’t worry. there’s a lot of them around).”] The naming conventions in the rest of the game are great. The comment at the end seems unnecessary.

      I think it’s a great game that gets its point across. I look forward to playing it.

      Please email me at stonebabygames at gmail for more lengthy feedback. Normally I mark up a printout and offer a scan of the marked up copy, but there wasn’t much to mark up. Still I’m happy to clarify what I’ve written here, and to offer more thoughts on the game.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 09 is reviewed by… 08 06 03 81

    • slabnoir

      My first thought while reading the introduction, “Someone is channeling Carlos Castaneda.” That thought stayed with me from start to finish. At several points while reading I encountered what I think are glimmering fragments of genius. The whole game is essentially a battle of magical wills, and some of the mechanics and interactions of those mechanics seem truly inspired. It certainly has one of the more interesting takes on a magic system that I’ve encountered in some time.

      The bad news is that, unfortunately, I really have no idea how to play this game. Individual parts of the game have some clarity but I’d just be guessing when I tried to tie the whole thing together. The text contains a ton of forward referencing which makes it very hard to follow. This is basically the Cliff Notes version of a game that is going to require far more verbiage than the Game Chef limit allows to express its full potential. And I do believe that this game has some awesome potential hidden within its mad depths. With the current state of the text I can’t really delve any deeper into the specifics of the game’s functionality at this point.

      Ingredients-wise I’m going with the assumption that the four word ingredients were used as I they’re not listed in the game text and I failed to turn up any mention of them on Story Games, The Forge, or the Game Chef site. I do see all four of the ingredients present. The only one that seems on the weak side to me is Lantern, but that may be because the other ingredients are represented so strongly. That has got to be the scariest damn Coyote ever.

      This is one of those games that I really want to see get some continued love and attention from its designer. Given additional text, a coherent rewrite, and a little playtesting I think this could be a very fun, powerful, and original game.

      If you want any further opinions or to just discuss the review you can email me at thickenergy at gmail dot com.

    • James Mullen

      Brujo
      This is another good example of setting your stall out early; the introduction does an excellent job of stating the game’s agenda and I can already get a sense of the tone just from reading it.
      The basic mechanic, of flipping dice from square to adjacent square, is a wonderfully original idea which I can see feeding into play in all sorts of interesting ways; the top face of the die is not the only factor to consider, because you also have to think about how rolling it in one direction both a)provides a new number on top and b)changes your physical relationship to the other players’ dice. Very neat.

      I found the writing a little dry and text-book like; it really could have done with a little more flavour to help the medicine go down.
      I wasn’t sure what ingredients had been used beside Coyote and Lantern; there’s no clear indication of Doctor or Mimic and if Forge threads have been used, that ought to have been indicated.
      The bulk of the rules aren’t very clear; some statements seem to contradict others, e.g. where it states that the first time a ritual is cast, it automatically succeeds, but then the next paragraph states that the player needs to play a card to see if they can cast the ritual. Also, the text talks about general types of rituals but doesn’t list any types: are the types meant to be the number of ritual steps used, the effect or something else?

      This entry is crying out for a second draft, something that adds some more richness and detail to the imagined world and clarifies how the game is supposed to operate; a little streamlining wouldn’t go amiss either, maybe shorten or rephrase the list of conditions under which the Coyote attacks to make it easier to follow.

    • Kyle Willey

      BRUJO is one of those interesting games where the goal is kinda-sorta-cooperation but also somewhat competition and really hard to describe. The premise is that the characters are trying to avoid the inevitability of the end of the world by adhering to a Brujo who will be able to get them to safety; but if he fails (or turns out to be lying), he can doom them all. At least that’s what I got from it.

      BRUJO falls very much into the category of a framework of a game; it’s got all the rules required but it does so in a way that doesn’t provide terribly much setting and leaves a lot of things ambiguous-there’s an element of things not being what they seem at first, so it makes sense that players don’t know who is important at the end because this is only checked when the end is reached, but it’s sort of confusing. Still, it’s an interesting game, and it focuses on looking at players’ fears and regrets; naturally that may make it unappealing to some, but I’d say that it’s a great idea, even if not necessarily a particularly appealing one.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • Liam Burke

      Brujo, by Tayler Stokes

      I am impressed with the gutsiness of this designer, both in pulling in mechanical elements from a variety of sources to form the experience they’re seeking to create, and in intentionally targeting a disconnected, psychorealistic narrative in their design. I counted elements of board games, dice games, card games, Simon Says, and Truth or Dare — to say nothing of the fact that it’s a GM-less cooperative game almost entirely about Castenedan surreality, to the extent of bringing the player’s (not the PC’s) personal feelings into the game! Despite these difficulties, the game doesn’t feel incoherent or forced — the pieces fit together well and the game is pretty playable, if at times opaque. There’s a lot here in 3,000 words.

      My biggest concern is that it’s very difficult to explore the psychic landscape of a group of characters who are not well understood by the players, and the characters in this game are only defined by their anguish and dread. I worry that I would have difficulty even beginning the game, generating a character concept sui generis or playing a cipher for much of the session. I would almost rather take a set of characters I already knew from another game and insert them into this game. The text works around these difficulties by calling on the players to provide their private anguishes and fears, but if you’re already doing that, why ask the players to make characters at all? Why not insert the players into the setting entirely by asking them to play themselves? Doing so can only serve to heighten the psychodrama, after all. I find the predestined nature of the Brujo’s hand interesting, but I worry that an ending this potentially dark reads better than it would play, especially since if the Brujo gets an extremely high card, there is always at least one player who knows it. If the coyote took an Ace from me, it would be very difficult for me to allow somebody to attempt to be the Brujo without telling them the card I’d lost, at which point you devolve into mechanical negotiation. I think a reworking that allowed a false or failed Brujo to emerge while still allowing the survivors to try for a “happy” ending might be a little more amenable to play.

      Overall, I think this is a well-crafted entry considering the limitations of the competition, and one that would benefit heavily from some more development. It’s a game in a field popular to read and experience but not one that gets played much, and as such I think it has potential to reach an audience with sufficient care.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 10 is reviewed by… 09 07 04 82

    • Troy_Costisick

      Heya,

      My review was three pages long, so I’m not posting it here. You can read it on The Forge at: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32977.0

      Peace,

      -Troy

    • readysetgamepdx

      Let me first say that I liked the game and that I think that I would enjoy playing it and that I know of many gamers who would also enjoy playing it. In an effort to be as helpful as possible I’m going to point out the things that I think could be most improved. So please do not take this as a negative review, because it’s not.

      In a world of potent magic, Coyote, a strange and unnatural being roams the land with the mad desire to spill every last drop of blood from every last living thing. Only homunculi (the players), other strange and unnatural beings have the slightest chance of opposing Coyote.

      Aduelle is an interesting world, and it grabbed at me much more than the mechanics did. I found myself getting more excited about the game, and understanding what the game is supposed to be about while reading this section. I think putting it before the section on conflict resolution would better convey the heart and soul of this game. My gut feeling is that you want your reader thinking about the setting/themes/etc. while they read the mechanics, and not thinking about the mechanics while they read about the setting/themes/etc.

      The section on dice play was the most difficult section to read. It felt a little technical. Not that the dice play is terribly complex (which is a good thing, I say), but I think that for a bit of text this embellished I would have absorbed the information better if it were more concise.

      Why so many stats? There are a ton of them, and most of them have little to do with the little mysteries the setting information suggests. Depth is awesome and it does just what it should: build on the setting, brings a sense of mystery and bleeds style. Give me 2 to 4 more stats like Depth and this game may take on a life of its own.

      This game seems focused on combat. Just saying. If that’s what you want, cool, but there are so many more interesting things to do with this setting (in my opinion) and so many games that focus on combat. How about looking at the mimics? How does all this bloodshed change them? Are they becoming more like Coyote? Just a thought, but those questions seem both more interesting and obvious based on the various discussions on the setting.

      The memories retained by the mimics was by far my favorite part. It’s little intriguing mysteries like these that really bring the game to life for me. I don’t even know what else to say about it but PLEASE go down this rabbit hole and see what you find. Enthralling stuff!

      I am, however, a little saddened to see that the mechanical impetus has little to do with the memories bit. That is, the memories have no apparent influence on the mechanics and the mechanics have no apparent influence on the memories. I’m not making a suggestion here, but I am definitely saying “Can I have a game about that instead?” Personally I find it so interesting that it is inspiring.

      I would also like to mention that I found the Story Token pacing mechanic both elegant and effective.

      Overall I liked it, but I would want to explore the setting/magic/strangeness rather than the confrontations. I would like to see a fresh look on those things, rather than a conventional look of familiar subjects. But being what it is, I think it works fine and would be rather enjoyable. Its accessibility for most gamers is certainly a strong point.

      I’d be happy to talk with you about it in more depth, or read later drafts. I am genuinely interested to see what you do with this game. taylerstokes (at) gmail (dot) com

      • readysetgamepdx

        Totally did not realize Kyle was reviewing my game until now. No harm no foul, right?

      • Kyle Willey

        I already finished reviewing it before you wrote yours; and your review is pretty consistent with what I heard elsewhere, so I don’t mind,

        As far as developing Aduelle as a setting, it’s currently my highest extracurricular priority. Constructs of Azazael will probably see an expansion/second edition to take advantage of no page restriction and not being written entirely in one sitting of about four hours.

    • stonebaby

      Very interestingly strange world you’ve created here. I like the premise, and would love to see how you expand it! The mechanics seem effectively simple. I especially like the use of story tokens and how they help to pace the story. The ingredients mixed very well with the world.

      I think you have listed too many traits for the the characters. Physicality, Mentality, and Aptitudes are great, but I think each of these needs no more than two or three sub-traits, unless using all of them is optional. I suppose it would depend on the number of players and the length of the game, but if you have more traits, they’re more likely to go unused. Just a thought.

      Things that were unclear for me: All players are Mimics, a type of homunculi? Does the GM play the magi and Coyote, or can players take these roles? The way homunculi are described, I’m not sure they have enough autonomy or emotional capacity to be sympathetic characters for the players? Do they have their own motives and drives, or are they just controlled by the magi? I’m really lost on the significance and identity of Jutil. He created Coyote? Is he some sort of mega-magus? I’d like to see the world of Aduelle fleshed out and more motivation for the Mimics. I hope you plan to continue working on this game!

      I marked up the draft I read with more questions and editing (I can’t help it!). If you’re interested in a scan of my mark up, or you’d like more in depth feedback, please email me at stonebabygames at gmail.

    • Seth Ben-Ezra

      Constructs of Azazael

      I had a hard with this one. I like what’s being attempted here with the story point mechanic, especially for the GM. Quantifying GM antagonism can be a good way of actually freeing the GM to play hard in opposing the PCs. I’m also a fan of the quick mook-like rules with the ability to “explode” one up to a full statted NPC.

      However, the actual die mechanic fell flat for me. First, I did not see the gain of using eight-sided dice. In my gaming closet, I have a container that I call my “dice palette”. It’s about 12″x8″, and it’s full of dice…and has about 8d8 in it. I swear, the d8 is the rarest die, and no one ever has enough. I mean, I bought most of those dice so I could play Dogs in the Vineyard, and I *still* don’t have enough d8s. Unless I’m missing some specific benefit from using d8s, I’d advise retooling the system for d6s.

      Second, the handling time of “margin of success” systems like this can be fairly high. Consider the math problem that you’re working each time: 1) add up dice, 2) subtract the target number, 3) divide the difference by three, 4) (in combat) divide the difference by six. The math is theoretically sound, but the players will eventually want to punch you in the head. An alternative could be to generate story points based on results on specific dice. So, using d8s, maybe a successfull roll generates one story point plus one for each die that came up 6+. (This is similar to how One Ring does resolution, BTW.)

      Also, I think I’d like to see more concrete information on running the scenario. I don’t mean more world information (though that may be so). How do we start the game? What does it mean *experientially* to be a homunculus? Give me some specific look-and-feel details to help prime my imaginative pump.

      This could be a nifty game, but I think that it needs more fleshing out in these ways to really shine.

    • Sp4m

      Summary: Constructs of Azazael is an high magic adventure, where players use unrestricted magical powers to find and defeat a being bent on slaughter and destruction.
      Roses: This game as a very interesting setting. A lot of care was spent in creating it, and I am definitely interested in seeing more stories told in this world. I suppose it’s particularly interesting because of the implication that magic allows a “primitive” people to have a modern lifestyle. Instantaneous communication, effortless artsmanship, automatons… it paints a very interesting picture of a golden age. I’d be very interested to see how this world’s magic could make their society and technology even more advanced than ours.
      Density: Considering how much I’m thinking about the world, I’m amazed that Kyle fits in such a rich description in such a small space.
      Ingredients: He makes strong use of the ingredients, I don’t have any useful commentary about this.
      Points of Improvement: You spend a fair amount of text defining a game system to use for playing the game. I’m not sure this game really NEEDS its own system. I think people prefer to use their favorite systems anyway, so I can see this game’s future is more of system-neutral story module than a game of its own. Of course I’ll be the first person to admit that I am biased against learning new game systems, so take that advice with a grain of salt.
      Final Thoughts: I think Constructs of Azazael’s strengths lie in the author’s ability to really convey a rich world in limited space. the world is fascinating and rich. I’m very interested to explore the stories that can be told when players can shape change at will. I’m glad the author intends to expand on the world he’s made.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 11 is reviewed by… 10 08 05 01

    • Kyle Willey

      As someone who wrote a superhero game for Game Chef myself (admittedly in a very different way), I found Another Day, Another Crisis to be very enjoyable when I got into it. The catch there is “when I got into it”. The game itself explained what exactly what was going on after I saw the quick outline for turn order, which kind of made it difficult for me to piece together what was happening as I first encountered it. In addition, it’s not the most clear until you get to the glossary after the rules, so I’d suggest reformatting it or informing readers that there is a glossary to consult. However, when the major gripe you have with a game is that you’d shift one page behind another, it’s a good sign.

      As a game, it’s really great; the cards are witty, snappy, and genre-savvy. I can’t really think about much more to say about it (which is a consequence of a good game), but I’d encourage the author to expand it further and add more and more content. It’s not exactly a terribly serious and down to earth game, but it’s meant to be a light look at a great subject, and does that well.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • jackson tegu

      Another Day, Another Crisis / Jeff R.

      Opening a 47 page document, Jeff, you scared the hell out of me. Firstly, may i suggest before you spend the weekend glueing paper to card backs: card protector sleeves! Buy three different types, or get clear ones & three different decks of cards. I swear by ’em for prototyping. Plus use post-its for catchphrase cards; the wee little post-its i mean.

      You’ve got a very browse-friendly pdf, big font & nice spacing, plus that lovely card layout diagram. This game screams “fun” to me. I am very excited to play, and as that it’s a two player game, i feel that it’ll be easy to suck someone in. I MEAN find someone to play with. You say that the director should make sure that both players keep generating fiction – this seems a middle path. On the one side, you could not worry about it so much and let the natural progression of the cards make their own narrative, or say one sentence per card laid down or something; or on the other hand, you could weave the fiction into the mechanics. Apocalypse World does this well, in my opinion; you’ve probably checked it out already, but if no, do so. If the cards literally could not be played without there being a progression in the narrative of the hero, well, then you wouldn’t have to do that finger wagging about making sure you make the fiction. / now that i’ve browsed a few more cards, specifically the Drama cards, i feel like the players will be dying to flesh out the situation a bit, tell about what’s up. I’m less worried about what i was saying before.

      Upgrading cards in the hero’s deck is cool. How do you do that without destroying the cards OH WAIT you sneaky master. Ok, for real though, how you gonna not destroy the cards after this whole Last Chance thing is over?

      Reboots are a hella clever on-topic mechanical solution. Also, “Sometimes the entire universe gets restarted from the beginning” is pretty funny. Thanks for the character archetypes, they’re great for having an idea of what we’re doing here.

      Next steps: play the hell out of it. Ingredient use: Funny that you used them en-masse, but i feel like, since you even used the fact that you used them en-masse on a meta-level “there are many cards and villains, oh, here are some of them”… what i mean to say is “nailed it”. The unending game is a nice touch, too.
      -jackson tegu

    • Liam Burke

      Another Day Another Crisis, by Jeff R.

      There’s a lot of enthusiasm in this game — it’s clear that the author has taken a topic they’re interested in and mechanics they like and worked to create a marriage between them. The cards do a good job of evoking the superhero genre, hitting most of the traditional tropes and character aspects and providing the player with an opportunity to mix and match them to create a unique hero from time-tested pieces. Cards, with their shuffleable, concealable, interchangeable nature, are a great choice for allowing and encouraging customization, as well as setting interesting scenes and forcing the players to integrate seemingly out-there ingredients to form constraint-mandated interesting ideas. (Hey, it’s like Game Chef!)

      Fundamentally, though, I worry about the impetus to form lasting and connective narrative threads. The game relies on narrative ideas being triggered by the cards you draw and choose to play, but in doing so it runs the risk of becoming a finite state machine: the rules may mandate roleplaying, but if doing so doesn’t tie into the mechanical structure — if you could theoretically skip all of it and the cards and dice would keep on trucking — then there’s a concern that people will devote less and less effort to it. The text asks the GM to ensure that both parties roleplay, but that’s a lot to put on one player in a two-player game! The system does a good job of inspiring scenes, and to a couple of people used to elaborating stories together it could be a great help, but I am not sure how much assistance it would give players new to roleplaying or to working together. I’d like to see a mechanic, for example, where cards were more limited in their application, requiring significant fictional maneuvering to apply them; this would increase the value of clearly defined scenes and actions, and thus the narrative structure.

      This game seems like a solid beginning, with a lot of energy behind it, and with the right people I think it could be a lot of fun to play. With some effort and editing, I think it could be built up to offer a novel and playful approach to a genre that has inspired plenty of roleplaying games over the years.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 12 is reviewed by… 11 09 06 02

    • mappamundorum

      Whispers in the Dark.

      This is a very simple game, with a whist-like card game serving as a story engine. It has some interesting starting rituals, fairly clear rules, and an ambitious engine for turning the play of those rules into stories.

      It was an interesting design choice to make the 13-element oracle that turns the gameplay into a story as aggressively mundane as it is. Less odd, perhaps, was the decision to strongly tilt the oracle towards negative outcomes. This means that the game will likely generate the biography of an extremely normal person, possibly skewing slightly towards lives of personal failure. This is not necessarily a problem for storytelling, as countless naturalistic or literary films and novels will show, but I’m not sure that the engine of that oracle plus the four completing player roles is powerful enough to avoid stories that are uninteresting, overly depressing, or which lead all of the players to despise the main character.

      One thing that the rules do not adequately explain is how it is determined who leads the first card of the game. This is probably very important, because my strong suspicion is that the first lead is extremely powerful in this game of shifting-trump Whist. (Turing a singleton into a void or a doubleton into a singleton, or leading the low card from a long non-heart suit will each probably pay off with two, three, or even more tricks, and if the opener happens to have any top hearts they can play those first and still do either of those things.)
      A smaller issue is a slight lack of clarity as to what happens with regard to the final scoring when the Joker has been played. (Does that trick count for the high card, the person who played the Joker, or neither? Also, who gets the lead after the Joker trick?)
      Finally, it’s not at all impossible or even difficult for one of the players of a game like this to be completely shut out of a full hand, and the chance of on player of the game being forced almost completely into the role of spectator. (My initial guess at a fix for that would be to make taking zero tricks give that player the Legacy rather than the high-scorer, although I’m not sure the rest of the engine would still work with a player going for nil and others trying to set them being included in the possible strategic considerations of the game part of the game.)

      ‘Coyote’, ‘Doctor’, and the forge thread ingredient [not mentioned in the draft, but I looked up the game’s development thread to find it] are all represented fairly strongly. “Lantern” is used more weakly, and I don’t see much of the ‘Last Chance’/’Only played once’ theme represented at all.

      This does feel like a complete game, and an utterly playable one. I’m not sure where it should be taken next: apart from possibly clearing up some of the rules issues mentioned, it feels like it is as developed as it can be without some testing through actual play.

      -Jeff R.

    • Kyle Willey

      Whispers in the Dark is poignant and strong; I’m not 100% sure how exactly the players decide who chooses what happens, but that’s because I’ve never really followed cards very much. The game itself, however, is obviously well done; it covers the life of a person as they go from child to their final years. It’s more sedate and calm than some other games, relying on more of a mutual agreement, though the players each take on a different role and try to exert their influence to make the story one of happiness or loss.

      As far as the game goes, the roles of characters are very important, and even though they could almost be omitted and have the game still work, they contribute greatly to the feel of the game; each role has either a goal of helping, hurting, and generally guiding the subject of the story in a certain direction. It’s a really simple premise, so I can’t think of much else to say, but it’s worth checking out.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

      I also got assigned to review this twice, so I need to trade that duplicate with someone. If you’ve got a game you need to review and you don’t mind reviewing this one instead, please drop me a line.

    • readysetgamepdx

      Follow a character through the events of their life from childhood through old age.

      This game is so straightforward that I have a hard time offering real opportunities for improvement. I like the fact that a player does not need to be a gamer to be able to play. I have a feeling some personal content would come through as each player contributes, and I think that is a very refreshing thing.

      I did find one detail in the text as a possible barrier to readers. I, for one am not too familiar with the card play terminology. I fault myself for that much more than I fault the game for using it, but a little patience from the text on that matter would be nice.

      The intro text really got me into it. I want to play it!

      I wish I could be more help, I often feel less is more and I can’t really see anything to add to this that would improve the game.

      I am always happy to talk about it more, offer more feedback or read later drafts. Just hit me up! taylerstokes (at) gmail (dot) com

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 13 is reviewed by… 12 10 07 03

    • James Mullen

      The link worked the other day, but now that I want to review it, it’s stopped working :-(

    • Troy_Costisick

      Crash/Lanterns of the Dead Review
      By: Troy M. Costisick

      Here we have a very ambitious little game. Players are divided into two groups: an astronaut who has crash landed on a planet and the aliens who inhabit that planet. The object for the astronaut is to fix his ship and get home, while the aliens’ goal is to use the astronaut to fix some cultural problem they are facing.

      There are two books in this game: one for the astronaut (who acts as a semi-GM) and one for the aliens. Each group has to keep what they are doing secret from the other during character creation, and even when play begins, the astronaut player is to talk gibberish to the other players to reflect how someone landing on a strange planet could not communicate with the native inhabitants. This is very clever, and I imagine, very challenging to pull off.

      The chargen and resolution system for this game use a deck of cards. I find the mechanics rather novel and evocative. Making an alien is very complex, so I won’t describe it here, but making an astronaut is simple: you basically just figure out how broken your ship is. And I think this might be the first problem for the game. The astronaut player can’t have any contact with the alien players during this process. That means he will likely be left alone for a long period of time while the others hash out not just their individual characters, but the dominant culture for the whole planet! I could see this taking a very long time.

      Once play begins, the astronaut has to try to convince the aliens to give him what he needs to fix his ship and the aliens will try to use them as their savior or scapegoat depending on how things turned out during chargen. The astronaut is charged with “judging” conflicts among the aliens during play. This seems extraordinarily difficult since he is supposed to talk gibberish the whole game. I’m not sure this would work. The text also instructs the astronaut player to ask the alien players to describe the setting to him, but since he’s not allowed to understand them, I don’t see how that is supposed to work either.

      Separately, the more I explored the resolution system, the more I felt like the players could just start meaningless contests to exile all the low value cards from the deck, so that later on, all the high value cards remain and fixing the ship is a cinch. I can see the author anticipated this too, so for the endgame scenario, the rules are flipped. Normally, a high card give successful results, but to see if the ship successfully flies, you need a low card result. While I understand why, this turnabout is inconsistent and would likely be forgotten by people playing this game the first (and supposedly only) time.

      The ingredients were used well enough in this game to satisfy me, and I think after playing this once, players wouldn’t want to try it again. I can imagine the frustration levels would get pretty high. I can definitely see what Nick is trying to do here with the idea of a foreigner being stranded in an unfamiliar culture. I like it. I think it is an incredibly ambition and clever idea, but I also think the rules on how the participants can communicate with each other would make successful play very difficult to achieve.

      Peace,

      -Troy

    • Kyle Willey

      Crash is an interesting game in which the player takes on the role of an astronaut stranded on an alien planet dealing with the natives and presumably figuring out whether he wants to risk leaving, get their help, or stay forever. It uses a card-based system where the player wants to get face or high number results for success and low number cards and aces are bad results, which is pretty good for a number of reasons, but primarily it does a good job of making play both simple and dynamic with a lot of potential options.

      Lanterns of the Dead, on the other hand, is another interesting game that focuses on creating the environment in which Crash takes place; each of the players takes on the role of a native, and ideally they try to help or get rid of the astronaut who crashed, though they can spend a lot of time working on simply creating an interesting environment and social dynamics, which is pretty cool.

      They’re really interesting, and all I’d say it needs is a quick going-over to disambiguate some of the processes involved in linking the two components; it’s definitely one of the sorts of games Game Chef was made to bring about.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • Jacob Possin

      A really interesting idea. I like the use of body language and purposeful misinterpretation as a mechanic. This could be very fun with the right group. Like charades, but with a differing goal. Leaving the planet is a bit unclear to me. How is failure an option? As it seems that the most likely option is the astronaut successfully launching. That is not a bad thing, and it may play out differently than I Imagine.
      What is the ticking clock(the tension)? As written there seems to be nothing driving the astronaut to do anything until the ship is finished. The alien culture building was the most interesting bit for me. Overall this is a fine game, with an interesting premise. A game that is not necessarily a competitive, yet split in two teams.

    • James Mullen

      Crash/Lanterns of the Dead
      This game is beautifully presented, in a way that reinforces the concept that this is not a standard GM+PCs relationship, but two separate games that intersect in a common arena.
      This concept is further reinforced by the bold use of communication barriers as a central issue in the game, making it a real challenge for the astronaut player to achieve characterisation.

      I couldn’t see what the ingredients were beyond the use of the word ‘lantern’ in one of the ship’s components: I’d have liked to see the ingredients more centralised, less marginalised.
      The card system kept tripping me up: it wasn’t always clear who was meant to draw from which deck. Also, there are statements about the astronaut drawing a face card or the aliens drawing diamonds and clubs, when they both lack those cards in their decks. Are both decks meant to be shuffled into one deck at some point? It felt like there was too much reliance on cards to resolve things that might be better left to the players to decide for themselves.

      Some clarification is required to develop this game further: it is, after all, two games trying to occupy the word count allocated for one entry! I’d like to see it expanded on, with more space given to explaining how it all works and some guidance on how to present the aliens, as we don’t even know what they look like from this draft.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 14 is reviewed by… 13 11 08 04

    • Nick Wedig

      Superhero Survival Guide

      The game starts with a good premise. The players are everyday human beings caught in the crossfire of a struggle of superhumans. I like the idea of laying regular people dealing with the massive destruction of a superhero brawl. I also like the assumption that superheroes are just self centered idiots endangering the entire city for their own self aggrandizement.

      The basic system seems to be a system of dwindling resource management, with a really nasty death spiral. As far as I can tell, the death spiral is the primary danger of the game, and the bomb is actually fairly unlikely to go off in the course of the game. But each failure you make makes further failures more likely, which makes your death more likely all the time.

      I’m not sure that writing in voice is helpful. It hurts the document’s clarity while not adding that much to the flavor of things. I could see leaving the marginal notes in character voice, but when explaining the rules it would help if it was more direct about explaining a game.

      I really don’t know what it means when it says stuff like “all of your group must roll a value no greater than their Mental Acuity TACTIC rating in order to move.” What happens if we fail? Are we not allowed to start the game or move on until we roll below our stat on a d10? Characters average out at 5 in mental acuity, so you would have a roughly 50% chance of failing per players (so a 75% chance of failure with only two players and 87.5% with three, etc.) With a decent sized group, it seems like it would require a lot of rerolling in order to even get started playing. And since you’relosing Mental acuity each time you fail, you face a pretty decent chance of actually reaching 0 mental acuity and never being able to play at all.

      The biggest problem with the game is this: The fictional content only barely matters. I can narrate in my background (and nothing stops my background being a military supersoldier or amazingly competent in some other way) but that is a relatively small bonus (+1). And beyond that tiny bonus, my tactics, narration and fictional ingenuity are basically irrelevant. For the most part, a player doesn’t have a choice in what to roll when or in how to achieve their goals. The game is basically rolling on a set of random roll charts, with a thin veneer of roleplaying on top. Making the fiction matter more would make this game a lot more playable of an RPG. This could be done with more defined characters, a bigger bonus from narration and some important and difficult decisions for players to make. Possibly even make a map of the city and let the players choose their own way through the city, with the Overseer adding in details as the players discover them. (Some information on how to act as Overseer would be good as well, as currently the Overseer seems to just read the results of the charts and not much else.) Alternately, you could push this game in the other way, and make it less of a roleplaying game and into more of a tabletop card or board game, perhaps a risk versus reward cooperative boardgame with decks of cardsinstead of random tables. I could see this scenario and basic rules framwork really working out nicely in that sort of context.

    • mappamundorum

      The Superhero Survival Guide

      I am always in favor of games presented in an entirely diegetic manner, so this game at least has that going for it. Another one of its strengths is the economical evocation of a vivid setting.
      Some of these strengths, though, actually work against it. As written, is entire rules are apparently to be read before play by all of the players, and this game is such a simple one-shot adventure that once one has read the rules, I’m not sure how much more there is to be gotten out of the experience through normal play. I’d strongly recommend rearranging things so that only the Overseer is to have read the document before play, or else eliminating the Overseer position entirely and restructuring the game as a solo-style adventure (or ‘group solo’, if that makes any sense) in which the text is only revealed during the course of play.
      There may also be a much more complex pure board game lurking within this concept, in which players compete to move tokens to a shelter under a barrage of rules-mediated superhero battle collateral damage.
      There’s a little tension between the concept and the rules, since the PCs are generally regarded as ‘normals’ despite potentially having a nigh-superhuman (8+a situational modifier) skill. The mechanics are a fairly simple death spiral situation, which even though obviously an intentional part of the design, still needs to be looked at carefully in making sure that the earliest rolls don’t become too determinative of the final outcome.
      (Brief nitpick: the Coyote Attack table is mis-numbered 1918 instead of 1819, and references 1918c instead of 1819c on both occurances.)
      In general, this appears more or less complete and playable and with strong use of the four ingredients, and, as a ‘one-shot’, it fits perfectly into the theme.

      Jeff R.

      • Kyle Willey

        I knew I messed up one of the tables; I just didn’t catch which one in the couple glances back at them. I kid you not, every time I typed them in I had to erase them and go back.

    • Seth Ben-Ezra

      The Superhero Survival Guide

      This one made me chuckle. I love the idea of playing people trying to make it alive through a battlezone of superheroes. Most supers games focus on the supers. Having one that focuses on the poor normals just trying to get to safety was clever. I like how the mechanics of the game for the Overseer are essentially a bunch of “wandering monster” tables. This feature makes the game ideal for pickup play, which makes me a fan.

      I also love how the four ingredients were built into the four superheroes that you face. Nicely done!

      I wonder about the death spiral built into the game. Failure will only breed more failure. On the other hand, if the expectation is that most of the PCs aren’t going to survive, this can totally work.

      The text got in the way of my understanding the game, though. I understand the desire to write like an actual document from in the game world, and it’s wicked cool when someone pulls it off. However, at this stage of development, I mostly found it confusing. Like, what does it mean to “perform a physical” on someone (on page 2)? I *think* it means statting out an NPC, though what NPCs you’d need for this game (beyond the four superheros) is a bit unclear to me. And if it’s just the four superheroes, then why not just stat them out for us? Or the table names. I like the odd identification numbers, but they were not distinct enough to be easily referenced.

      I’d suggest writing another draft of this without the clever textual tricks to make sure that the procedures of play are clear. Once those are nailed down, though, I’d totally take another go at writing it up as a weird government manual. This one is worth pursuing.

    • Liam Burke

      The Superhero Survival Guide by Kyle Willey

      First things first: the presentation is witty, the writing nicely diagetic, and the concept is a fun one. Nice choices that work well together and put the game in the best possible light. I can easily imagine coming up with an interesting character and wading into this particular brawl. There are some scaling issues that eyeball a little curiously — getting past the Doctor requires less than one roll on table c, getting past Mimic immediately after him requires about six — but overall this is a nicely flavored, interestingly structured scenario.

      My biggest concern is that it is just that — a scenario. The system behind it is functional, but a little generic — but the game only has one setting and one adventure, so there’s no reason to make a generic system to handle it! The system might be fun if coupled with a structure for making new and distinct adventures, and the scenario would be interesting with a system that played up the important aspects of the setting and perhaps called out important aspects of the characters, but the combination of generic system with fixed setting has some weaknesses. A more focused system with perhaps predefined characters would accentuate the one-shot feel of the game even more, while allowing you to drill down on specific aspects of the situation you find the most interesting to explore.

      I think there’s definitely an interesting concept here, with lots of space to expand it in a variety of directions. I’d start by taking the key idea — the experience of being human in a superhuman world — and running with it. Whether you end up in bitter drama or wacky comedy, in a tightly written scenario or a wider-ranging system, a game that focuses on that theme and builds it out would be very interesting to play.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 15 is reviewed by… 14 12 09 05

    • Jacob Possin

      One person plays the survivor the rest play loved ones. Each has a set of moves that they can do. The mapping seems very interesting, though it is very tricky. I found the rules for it a bit complicated, but of what I saw I liked. I think that in future rewrites being a bit more clear on the subject of the map would be a big advantage.

      Overall a very interesting concept. It is a game that attempts to tell the story of the road, a boy and his dog, and other traveling stories set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. With a bit more editing and play testing this could be a marvelous game for telling that story.

    • Kyle Willey

      HVE Water is an interesting take on a game. It’s got a heavy focus on narrative and a sort of march towards death (as it were) should the Survivor not be cautious. On the other hand, there’s no need for the survivor to die, though he will never find the same civilization he has left.

      Ultimately, the game itself is pretty well-designed and fully realized; I would have enjoyed some lengthening and some examples of how exactly things such as the rolling work, but the HVE Water otherwise fulfills all the criteria I looked for. My one gripe is that it requires a fair number of counters to play, though you could use almost anything in place of the game’s official ones, the game switches colors for them almost arbitrarily which means that players would need a lot of counters.I’m not sure what more to say, since the game has a fairly complex mechanical framework that mandates play, but also a loose and dynamic narrative on account of the design of the mechanics. It is worth noting that the “GM” role is played by a committee of fellow players who can become Survivors themselves when the old one dies, which may influence play in ways that the text does not seem to encourage.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • stonebaby

      HVE WATER has a fresh take on the post-apocalyptic scenarios. Granted, the Game Chef theme this year really encourages it, but I was a little leery that it would be yet another post-apocalyptic game. I was pleasantly surprised. The set-up, creating a map and packing a back pack, is very clever and does a great job of setting the tone for a journey. At the risk of sounding like an English teacher (or editor in my case), I must note that the strongest parts of the text itself are the beginning and the description of how the Survivor plays. I like how these sections are in the voice of Loved Ones. Speaking of Loved Ones, if I understand correctly, the Loved Ones are quasi-GM’s, and if the Survivor dies, a Loved One becomes a new Survivor. These role assignments are very interesting, and I think they would work very well in this game.

      There’s some solid mechanics in here, though how everything actually works is unclear. If I had all the materials (i.e. the Element cards and other printouts) I think it would be a little bit easier to understand. I was completely lost on how to use the Element cards, but it’s clear that the concept is a vital asset to the tone and story-telling aspect of the game.

      Overall, while I don’t fully understand how the game actually works, I am very interested to see how you flesh it out. You took a common game and literary theme (post-apocalypse) and showed a fresh and interesting side. I want to play this game, and I hope you’ll develop it further.

      So here are the basics. The pros: fresh idea, original mechanics and distribution of roles.
      Cons: I couldn’t figure out how you used your two of your elements and the text is confusing and not fully fleshed out. In other words, it’s a draft, and that’s perfectly okay for a game written in a week.

      I am happy to give more concise feedback, and can provide you a scan of my markup.

    • readysetgamepdx

      How do you survive during a worldwide viral epidemic?

      This is a very unique game. From the map making, to the Needs, to the Loved Ones, everything seems to interlock quite nicely. There was never a moment where I thought a play convention was out of place.

      While this game totally nails the Last Chance theme, I really have no idea what ingredients were used. Maybe some Forge threads? I didn’t see any of the word ingredients here (though, a Coyote Element Card would be a no brainer).

      The voice of the text seems to compliment the theme of survival and hope, delusion and memory. Very well expressed in this regard.

      That said, I had just a little trouble fitting all the pieces together in my head mechanically. At first blush this game seems like a light romp with crayon drawings and some simple conversations. But by the time I got to the Need Gauges, Elements, Hopes and so on I was just a little lost. I think it all works, but until I get some hands on experience, I don’t think I can be sure. I’m not suggesting that things be changed, but at first I thought I understood how the roles worked, and then new things kept getting added in. There is a lot of game here. I wonder if a “Survival Guide” and a “Loved One’s Journal” to clarify the roles and their duties would be a more effective presentation.

      Would play. Totally happy to talk more, read future drafts and so on. I hope there are future drafts. taylerstokes (at) gmail (dot) com

    • LordPapyrus_420

      thanks for the feedback! This is really encouraging and helpful. I will totally be working more on this in the months to come.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 16 is reviewed by… 15 13 10 06

    • Kyle Willey

      By Gaslight is an interesting game based around a steampunk motif with an interesting twist. The game itself has some interesting things; each player is allowed basically the equivalent of a familiar from other games; they may use creatures to take simple actions for them and each player takes on the role of a doctor with various powers.

      My main gripes with this game are that I feel like I have no direction in what to do; there are rules present, but it seems to be very loosely limited in their uses to the point where there’s no way to know what a proper and improper outcome is. I’d like to delve deeper into the background of the game, but in the two pages I am provided I can’t really get into it and see what I’m looking for, and though I’m sure it’s intended to be more structured than it is it is so light that I can’t figure out what’s going on.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

      I also got assigned to review this twice, so I need to trade that duplicate with someone. If you’ve got a game you need to review and you don’t mind reviewing this one instead, please drop me a line.

      • LordPapyrus_420

        Victorian Doctors with supernatural powers hunting down the progeny of Jack the Ripper is all kinds of cool. I am excited about pretending to be an investigator with paranormal powers and exploring a nightmarish Victorian world.
        My main concerns with Gaslight come from not knowing quite what I am supposed to do. It seems like all doctors are the same and I can play the game either with or without a GM, but I don’t know how Gaslight wants me to GM, or to play it. If there is no GM who describes the scenes? Or says what the information gleaned by my supernatural powers is?
        I have a feeling you, the designer, know the answers to these questions, they just need to be written out.
        As for the core die mechanic. We roll two dice when we use our powers, but how about other actions? Like firing a gun, or wrestling Jack jr to the ground? I am unsure how you want people to play these situations in Gas Light.
        I would also like more direction on how to interpret the results of the Power die.
        The overall premise of the Game is solid gold, and the writing is really cool. It would be great to see some more development to help this game evoke on that wonderful tone you’ve set.

      • Kyle Willey

        David Miesser-Kubanek will be reviewing this in place of my duplicate review.

      • dmkdesigns

        Done below.

        David Miessler-Kubanek

    • Nick Wedig

      By Gaslight

      This game has an interesting, dramatic premise. You play Victorian era mystics trying to stop serial killers copycatting Jack the Ripper. Neat. The game is only two pages long (and most of the first is taken up by images), so this aims to be a tight, thematic game in the style of Ghost/Echo.

      The problem is that the tight constraints don’t leave room to explain anything. The game spends the entire first page setting up some flavor… but then I get lost on the second page when you start getting rules. I don’t understand how or why success is different from power on a die roll. I don’t understand how scenes play out or how we interact with the scenes as creatures or quite a lot of the rest of the game. I don’t know what the players are doing (are they working together? Opposed to one another? The text implies both at different times.) Apparently, there may or may not be a GM, but this is not mentioned until the very last sentence. If there is a GM, then that is important to know when explaining procedures. Or if there is no GM, then a lot of GMly duties need covered by somebody (who roleplays NPCs? Who frames the four scenes? etc.). There is much that is unclear to me on reading this game.

      I only see evidence of two or three ingredients. The document doesn’t make clear what four ingredients it was made for (I made the same mistake with my game), but Doctort and Mimic are clear. The title and victorian setting may be tied to Lantern, I guess. Imdon’t see any evidence of Coyotes or Last Chances or Forge threads (though I’d have no way to know if it were based on a Forge thread). Ultimately, though, the ingredient usage is not important once Game Chef completes.

      I’d be more concerned tat the text lacks clarity, and that is getting in the way of me understanding and enjoying the game. Perhaps with some playtesting and revision this game will flourish into something really inspiring and cool.

    • dmkdesigns

      By Gaslight
      by Joe Jeskiewicz

      This is a procedural hunting game set in what is called Victorian Renaissance.

      I liked the setting and the potential for this game to play out as more than a one-shot to develop the inner world of the Doctors and their professions as well as the workings of the environment.

      Background
      You play Doctors of Genetics and Practitioners of Mysticism — detectives hunting down mimics of Jack the Ripper. Your “boss” is someone named Inspector Dragen. You use your Powers and Creatures to deal with the conflicts.

      In the text it says prodigy, but I wonder if the author means progeny as the killers are said to be like Jack the Ripper as mimics — whether or not these killers are as good as or better than the original Jack seems irrelevant to the game.

      The long phrasing of Doctors of Genetics and Practitioners of Mysticism seems too much. I like the idea that in this world the word Doctor means just that — special people who have a foot in both. And people who act as healers are called something like physicians. But Doctors are in a class — both respected and feared — by themselves.

      The second paragraph seems confusing as written. I think that it could be more helpful to rewrite it to quickly spell out the flow of the game through the 4 scenes, etc. either in a very short paragraph or in a quick bullet list to follow.

      Setup
      The game progresses through 4 scenes which seems part collaborative and part competitive. The use of a GM is optional depending on the ability of the group. It would seem that the Doctors are in competition for nabbing the Ripper mimics.

      Powers
      Telekinesis: Movement of objects. It has rules for use of force, but not for care/accuracy — presumably by Success number.
      Psychometry: Getting game information from things. It has rules about Success and Validity (based on Power), however, I would be curious to see how this works in practice.
      Clairsentience: Locating other Doctors. This seems rather limiting in a way if this is all you can do with the ability and if it were me I would make it easier or even automatic given the scope of the game. I would have target numbers for searching for non-Doctors.
      Magic: Abilities worked through pet creatures. Speaking and Clairsentience capabilities. I am not sure I like how this works as written perhaps because is may be in place as a means to let Doctors operate in different locations without too much power only.

      The Powers do not seem to address two things mentioned in the setup and that is the ability of a Doctor to project oneself into objects or into genetically modified creatures. When I think of projection, I think of something more substantial than clairsentience or speaking through it. Objects are not addressed at all in the ruleset, unless the Creatures are the only “Objects” used for projection purposes. It could be that I misunderstand how much of the projection a Doctor has into Creatures.

      Creatures
      These are the pets of the Doctors. The rules for Creatures is perhaps the weakest section of the game. Do the Doctors actually create these things, or just modify preexisting ones through their Powers? I see no option for chimeras as written and I would think that creatures closer to human, like cats and dogs or birds might make it easier to imagine speaking than a spider. It also seems odd (perhaps in an intentional way) to have all of the Doctor’s proxies be handled by “vermin” to hunt down Ripper mimics.

      Scenes
      I like the simple story scene setup here. I would add section headers to make it more obvious what they are in the scene outline, for example: 1. Information Scene, 2. Crime Scene, 3. Nest Scene, 4. Confrontation Scene.

      There is mention of exorcizing Doctors from the Scene, but I’m not sure how this is done with the Powers — Telekinesis, Magic?

      How do you as a group or the GM set up traps for the third scene with the mechanics?

      I am also uncertain about how the resolution with the Killer follows with a group of Doctors, as well as the fallout for failure.

      Mechanics
      Use of 2d6 is simple with two components: Success and Power, which vary depending on what you are attempting to do.

      I’m not sure on the purpose of the Doctors competing/collaborating in this game? Is there a reward in- or out-of-character to push players to help or hinder each other for their relationship with Inspector Dragen? Or is this all roleplayed out according to the desires of a particular group?

      I am left wondering about how the resolution of the scene conflicts shakes out. As written it seems very arbitrary based on just a few dice rolls and with the potential for PC vs. PC success that seems even less clear to me.

      It also seems to be challenging to have the PCs set up the validity of the clues for the murder mystery. I can see how this would work with some groups who are open to “yes, and” style of play.

      Layout/Design
      There were a few typos.
      The contrast between the type and the black was not very good in print. In part the thinness of the font due to its point size and font family did not help. I think that the tone you are after can be achieved equally if not better without the need for a black background.
      The art elements were a good idea for tone, however, I think if this is something you move forward with, the use of a few well done black and white illustrations would work stronger. The play of Victorian style and undertones of the macabre can be done without hitting you over the head with black.

      Thoughts
      I felt that there could be improvements made from playtesting to refine and expand the mechanics on the powers/creatures, as well as the cooperative and competitive nature of the game from both strategic and roleplaying viewpoints. This is a great start to a short-session game.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 17 is reviewed by… 16 14 11 07

    • Troy_Costisick

      Lantern’s Legacy Review
      By: Troy M. Costisick

      This game has a ton of potential. I think it could be one of the most compelling games written in a while, but I also see where its rules could be open for abuse by the players. To summarize the system, Lantern’s Legacy is a conch shell style storytelling game where players take turns portraying a main character while the other players react to what that character does. Once a timer runs out of time, the spotlight passes to the next player until all the currency (Fate Tokens) is spent. Anyone who has played a good number of GM-less games would be familiar with the basic mechanics of Lantern’s Legacy.

      First, I liked several things about this game. I liked how the author used a lot of bulleted lists. This made things very easy to understand, and after reading this game, I wish I had used more bulleted lists in my game. I also found the theme of the game to be very compelling: characters caught in the apocalypse are desperate to preserve something in the new world about to be born. If that doesn’t spark your imagination, I don’t know what will. I see a lot of potential to tell some very moving and painfully beautiful stories of mortal characters trying to desperately save something they care about and deities selfishly promising anything in a desperate attempt to save themselves. The text is very short, so I encourage everyone to read it.

      As far as including the ingredients, I felt the author did a fine job. I use the games I’ve submitted in the past for Game Chef as a yard stick to judge others, and Jason did at least as good a job as I have, probably better. I think he halfway nails the theme. This is definitely a game about one’s Last Chance, but I think I would definitely play this game more than once. I don’t see anything in the design that would prevent me from reusing its mechanics (including the deities) while still being able to produce a unique story each time.

      The only concern I have about the game is that the mechanics seem ripe for player abuse. Everyone has to be on board and willing to play honorably and not be playing to win. They have to be playing to create a story. The game requires that the players trust the fiction and each other to produce a rightful victor based on creating a spontaneous story. A player bent on winning, or at least bent on deciding who was going to win, could spend a token to enter a scene and tie up the clock or derail the original intent of the Lantern’s player. I’m not sure there’s a way to design the game to avoid that danger. If someone wants to be a dick, then they’re going to be a dick. You just don’t play with them. So if you don’t think your group has that kind of trust, then this game is definitely not for you. I think it would take a very serious mind to play this game correctly.

      In closing, I think this game would actually work wonderfully well as a procedure for creating a world. Instead of the regular character creation systems most games have, players would play this then choose characters from the fiction to portray in the new world that operates under the Lanterns’ Legacies. I definitely recommend that Jason continue working on this game.

      Peace,

      -Troy

    • Joe Jeskiewicz

      I think this is an interesting premise. A great way to spend some time creating some stories and ones that could potentially run into future worlds. I’m not superb at finding what’s wrong, but the name Coyote seemed to be tossed in there, where another name might be more appropriate as a god. Or perhaps a few more potential gods might make Coyote seem in place. A couple more Native American deities would probably flesh out the ethos a little better, but it might show horn the game with a particular flavor.

      All in all, good job. I could see something like this hooking in with something with a little more meat that would serve to tell generations of stories.

    • Kyle Willey

      Lantern’s Legacy is very interesting because it takes a magical realism apocalypse with a pantheon of gods vying for control by influencing mortals by promises and demands about what the new world will be like. It’s very well-written, with a potential for some really poignant scenes.

      The game is very heavily influenced by narrative-each player gets some tokens that allow them to extend the time in which they can influence the mortals in question; giving potential options for what will happen at the end of the game; this is given by the player controlling the god who lost the mortal, meaning that basically they sit back and decide at the end whom should receive the tokens used to buy more time for the mortal.

      Once the coins run out, the new world is created by the player with the most coins, and each player narrates how the actions of the mortals played into the myths. It’s a very interesting concept, and pretty solid as far as games go.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • mappamundorum

      I think that this hobby has reached the point where asking “is this actually a game?” is not necessarily a criticism at all, much less a serious one. If something failed the “would this be fun?” or the “does this generate interesting stories?”, that might be cause for greater concern, but Lantern’s Legacy seems to be to pass both of those with flying colors.
      Now, Lantern’s Legacy does have what appear on the surface to be gamelike mechanics, with scores assigned during each round that add up to create a final winner. But examining them even a little bit reveals that it is impossible to actually ‘play to win’: if people were to make their decisions strictly on that basis, the ‘game’ would devolve into a kingmaker situation, with one player unable to win but able to decide which other the other players would win. (In fact, it might do so on the first round, with everyone other than the person who went first spending all of their fate tokens; the rules do not seem to prohibit spending multiple coins in a round)
      Again, this is not a criticism, because while the procedures of the Lantern’s Legacy don’t work in a gamist sense, they seem to work perfectly fine as a ritual, with each player making decisions during each round ‘honestly’; entirely in character and without regard to any overall strategy. The rules are very well-presented and, for the most part, exceedingly clear (the only exception was that I could not tell if the five Divine portfolios listed were examples or ‘pre-gens’ that are the only choices for players on the first read-through of that section), and the ingredients and theme all strongly represented. The only area for expansion that I see is in the examples; I would have liked to see some description of a Myth forged from Lantern Julia’s story.

      Jeff R.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 18 is reviewed by… 17 15 12 08

    • LordPapyrus_420

      This is a really cool game. I love that is is designed for play with a large group around a campfire and feel like it is ready to play as is.
      A couple of things jump out at me. First, as a campfire game I would want to know, are these rules as simple as I can make them? It would be great if this game fit into the oral tradition of campfire activities, like songs. In that spirit, does each role need to have 4-6 abilities or would the game be stronger with 1 or 2 per role? I think the essential rules here are, The Single Voice, Challenge Rule, Shadow Rule, Push the Story Forward, and Introduce Complications, The other rules could go in a facilitation section with suggestions on how to keep the game running smoothly. The only rule I really don’t like is the Shaman power to reward other’s storytelling. I would keep that out and either start folks off with extra pine cones or introduce another mechanic for receiving them.
      The second thing is names, some of the names echo traditional native american culture, since the game is about Coyotes and not Native Americans I think it would be stronger to make the names specific to Coyote culture, or whatever your idea of that might be.
      I just say this because people really used to sing fake Indian Chants around the campfire at summer camp and I would hate to see this game go there.
      Overall though, LOP looks like all kinds of fun and really got me thinking about the possibilities of that design space. Kudos!

    • Jacob Possin

      The writing is very evocative and the mechanic is quite simple. It is a pass the stick style story game. It feels a bit like a more mystical and serious game of Baron Von Munchousen. The game requires a fire and at least three people, though that amount could cause problems.

      There is a ritualistic nature to this game. Each of the character’s has specific sayings they must say at specific times. Also it is a game of one-ups-manship. Each story teller can get tokens for telling a good story. If the other person is telling a story, you can throw the token in the fire and make the story better.

      I like this game, though it has very few game pieces to it. This is very much a game for people who want to tell a story, there is little in the way of game to slow down the story telling.

    • Jason Pitre (@Genesisoflegend)

      Lies of Passage is a literal “pass the torch” storytelling game, where a group of young coyotes try to prove themselves to one of their elders. The game was clearly inspired by Polaris, using thematically appropriate ritual phrases as the core mechanic.

      I think that the one aspect of this game that appeals to me the most are logistical in nature. The game is designed to handle 5-30 people sitting around a campfire, using props lke pine-cones or sticks are props. The game even accounts for 1-4 adults who fill the nominal GM roles, managing the storytelling (as Shamans) or the pacing (as Old Ones). The game’s form factor seems ideal for larger organized groups of youth like scouts/guides or summer camps. It think this might be one of the best games at our disposal for introducing youths into RPG’s and that it is incredibly accessible.

      The game is very well written and edited, so there is very little that I find unclear. I have two concerns though. Firstly, I would worry about the safety of passing literal burning torches or oil lanterns in a group of young teens. Secondly, I could see certain individuals who would promote racist stereotypes rather than mutual respect due to the native american theme for the game.

      I think this game is ready as-is for distribution to a wider audience. While I don’t know if this will appeal too heavily to gamers, I think it could by enjoyed by a mainstream audience and could be commercialized easily. I am eager to find out what happens with this particular game.

    • Liam Burke

      Lies of Passage by Lucas Garczewski

      This is a beautiful game that grows right out of a common experience — sitting around a campfire with friends, telling stories that are mostly lies. It’s something most of us have experienced and we all have a good vision of, and so it’s a great model to use to build a game around, especially one that’s a little playful, a little fantastic, and not too complex. This game hits all the right notes in aligning theme, system and experience — there’s some real craftsmanship here. I love the props, the character advice to the adults, and the carefully considered mechanical structure, designed to keep the story flowing and changing the way good stories should.

      One thing that might cause me a little discomfort is the association of the Coyotes with Native Americans, mostly because it strikes me as unnecessary — the game’s already done relatively well in avoiding any direct invocation of Coyote as the appropriated culture hero we see so often, and we’re happy to live in the implicosphere as a park of clever storytelling animals, but the feathers and the silly names make that more or less impossible to keep up. I find some of the subtler evocative characteristics interesting, but I don’t see a lot of benefit from the more or less blatant mimicing of Native American culture. The game works fine without that.

      I’d be happy to play this game, perhaps with some of the bits I find less palatable worked around, but it seems to me that it’s clearly designed for a specific audience — a few adults, and a bunch of children. A possible avenue for future development (though the game is very well-done as is) would be to make that even a little more explicit, giving the adults a little more social and/or mechanical power to massage the social dynamic and make sure as many players are having as much fun as possible. Again, nothing leaps out at me as problematic or really requiring change, but, like any game, once you have a solid document, the next step is iterative playtesting. A few rounds of that could result in a game you could easily put on a shelf and charge money for.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 19 is reviewed by… 18 16 13 09

    • Joe Jeskiewicz

      A telling of the dreams of a dying person. This to me was depressing, good but depressing. I think it’s a good idea that needs a little more flesh. It seems to me to be a little shoehorned into a space setting. To me it’s part guessing game and part story telling. I would definitely play it a time or two, but the more I think about it the more depressed I become, sorry. If this were ported to another time frame and another setting, I could see me using this as a way to make deeper and much more meaningful characters for Wraith. I think that this needs to be cooked some more and the text and explanations given a little more umph.

    • jackson tegu

      An excellent premise. The overview at the beginning is wonderful, i’m stepping into the game feeling well acclimatized. I know what i’m supposed to be doing, and the feelings i’m supposed to be aiming for; thank you. This game is very beautiful, and i feel like it’s ready for needly specific feedback. Here we go!

      Why a three player game? Maybe for intimacy; a good reason. By why not four or two? Couldn’t you just alter the number of tokens for other playgroup sizes? Why 27 tokens and not 23? Or whatever, 15? In the Oracles, “the one you killed” seems too harsh – it seems cheap, and the other examples are so good. I love that you don’t tell anyone who you are. Oh, there are so many so that it’s unlikely that more than one apparition will choose the same! Perhaps, anyway. Great. Is that for replayability?

      I’m confused about the whole oracles / lists of key phrases (why are they in lists?) / triggers thing. Ok, so, i choose a Key Phrase… do i always choose from the same list, is that the idea? And i’m confused about how the Oracles feed into my (as apparition) “need”. Your next step could be giving counsel to the apparitions about how they bring their need to the table, how to make it fun for the protagonist to guess… and then guidance for what you want both players to do with the fallout, specifically. How do we know a scene is over?

      The end condition for “oh, they don’t die after all” seems strange. Maybe they still die, but with closure? That they’re happy, they have a fleeting smile before death? Maybe i’m just not getting it, or you could change my expectations slightly so that that could be a thing that i expect more.

      I think the beads are a good idea, but putting them in a second bowl means that you may have to re-count them at some point – terrible. So maybe have a printed design with 15 nodes on it, so it’s immediately clear at all times how close to death the protagonist is.

      Ingredient use: thanks for popping them out in the text, there. I like how you’ve been loose with the ingredients, let them live in your game and grow a bit. Your use of Mimic, for example – it seems like it progressed from an original idea, i like that. The candles are a bit cheesy, but i say that now and will totally love it at the table. I’m excited about the light changing over the course of play. Good job, Alex!
      Anyway, rad. Explain it more, i’m unsure about the exact way to play it for most fun… i want to know.
      -jackson tegu

    • Lucas Garczewski

      In this game you play a man slowly dying in his sleep, enveloped in the freezing cold of a damaged cryosleep pod, onboard a spaceship that can explode any minute now. Or maybe it will just drift in space for eternity, the steel coffin for your dead body. Before that happens, though, you dream your last dreams… What a powerful and intriguing idea!

      Read on at my blog…

    • readysetgamepdx

      Explore the final memories of a crew-member is suspended animation aboard a fatally damages spacecraft.

      I like the premise of this game. So sobering! The candles really drive this home. An excellent touch, that.

      I am SO happy there is no dice play in this. Not that I have anything against dice play, but it would shatter the atmosphere here. The surreal and touching nature of this game is what makes it, and the mechanics preserve it very well.

      A couple small things.

      In one particular paragraph the word ‘need’ is used in three different ways. Find a way to use a different word for at least one of them – it doesn’t matter which.

      Asteroid fields are, generally speaking hard dense enough to ever be in threat of an accidental collision. Space is big! Space is also hostile. You can find something that melds with the games theme better that is also more scientifically probable. Seriously, space is weird. You will find something, I’m sure.

      It mentions an opposite player a bunch, but with only three players I don’t know who that is. Please clarify this.

      This game is short and sweet. I’d play it, though probably only with folks who I feel can take the subject matter with tenderness. While I’m happy to talk more with you about it, or read later drafts and so on, there probably isn’t much need for it. The offer is warmly extended anyway. taylerstokes (at) gmail (dot) com

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 20 is reviewed by… 19 17 14 10

    • Kyle Willey

      This game is really interesting for two things; its mechanics and its setting and style. Its mechanics are somewhat of an enigma; they’re built in a way that makes sense but also means that superiority is super important; when you roll an additional six sided die and each can explode you run into the potential to have a lot of abuses; someone with high fighting abilities and a whip could decimate an enemy just by the extra dice they’d probably get. At the same time, however, the mechanics work well and are simple, and anything’s fair in play if it’s consistent and doesn’t involve too much conniving.

      The setting is moderately interesting; the players wander around a post-apocalyptic wasteland doing post-apocalyptic wasteland things until another post-apocalyptic wasteland turns them into a post-apocalyptic post-apocalyptic wasteland. Yes, I just wanted to write post-apocalyptic a ton. The setting’s pretty normal (for quirky post-apocalyptic settings, so it’s not just normal, but it’s within normal operating levels), until you get to the mimics that are added. It creates an unspoken social order where you have people who are super important (guys with lanterns that weaken and reveal the doppelgangers) and other people who are still useful. A normal setting takes a level in interesting and winds up being pretty darn cool. Plus, the world ends.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

      I also got assigned to review this twice, so I need to trade that duplicate with someone. If you’ve got a game you need to review and you don’t mind reviewing this one instead, please drop me a line.

    • Jason Pitre (@Genesisoflegend)

      This game is a one-shot tragedy where the few remaining survivors of the apocalyptic alien invasion. Packs of feral coyotes threaten the humans, while Alien mimics replace replacing and killing everyone. Fortuntely for the survivors, they have Lightbringers who can help to reveal the mimics and Doctors who tend to the wounded.

      First of all, complements on the author on completing their first Game Chef game. The game is focussed on combat and there are a number of interesting mechanics introduced here. The combat system consists of quick versus tests between combattants with enough differentiation to make for a few tactical choices. The interesting mechanic is the Fatigue system; making attacks can lead to fatigue and suffering enough fatigue will knock you out of the fight. This is interesting because by skipping an action, you can recover one fatigue. I can forsee a fun dynamic of where you have different members of the group attacking while their companions recover, speeding up the combat while satisfying the observing players.

      The game has used all four of the preset ingredients and none of the Forge threads. I do respect the high difficulty of incorporating the disparate ingredients, but I feel that the game might have suffered a bit as a result. Two of the ingredients became monsters and the other two became classes. That said, I don’t know what threads were available so it’s possible that they would not be terribly useful for a design.

      The game does a good job of explaining what PC’s will be doing; fighting off coyotes, discovering mimics and stopping them. The one area that I find most unclear is the reason _why_ they are acting. We always assume that PC’s are motivated by personal survival, so I was looking for deeper motivations or goals. If the PC’s are going to be nuked, it seems like their efforts are completely meaningless. I would like to learn about _why_ each PC is fighting and with luck, some kind of outcome that has a lasting consequence after the end of the game.

    • dmkdesigns

      Farewell, My Dear Post-Apocalypse
      By William Shattuck

      This is a game about surviving in a post-apocalyptic setting.

      I like the potential setting opportunities that this game asserts. And the character types are interesting as well.

      Intro section
      Tighten up the fiction account.
      I think that this game tries to do too much, or rather the intent stated states too much. I think that the game’s intent should be narrow, but the way the game works around the intent can be broader. More on this later.

      Characters
      There are four types: Lightbearer, Doctor, Merchant, Tough. Each is played by one Player.

      Lightbearers: Seem too limited to their function and not very capable outside of it.
      Doctors: Could have another non-healing ability/combat-related.
      Merchants: Would be nice to have a combat-related ability.
      Toughs: Another non-combat ability would be nice. The Coyote pet one seemed cool.

      Character attributes
      For some reason to me, the use of “Awesome points” as a term did not seem to fit with the genre.

      Character Fluff
      Like many traditional games, this game seems to promote stats over character concepts making description, Attitude, Philosophy and Background Story not-mechanically useful.

      Mechanics
      This game uses dice pools from stats.

      Combat
      This section states that each players is able to use one type of gun and two types of other weapons (with automatic ability to use fists), which gives all characters a degree of combat competency.

      Weapons
      Note: Guns in this game can cease to function, or even backfire/misfire, making them less reliable, but still more powerful than most other weapons.

      Wounds
      This game has a little bit of information on the use of Pain Killers and Anethesia, but none others.

      Scenario
      There is information on setting up a Gaming Caravan that I found useful, such as mission suggestions. However, I found the rules for the post-final mission to be vague at best. Something this final might deserve more guidance or samples for use given that it’s the end of the group’s game.

      Monsters
      There is information on Monsters and their abilities.

      Layout/Design
      Not applicable.

      Thoughts
      This game reminds me of a lot of traditional games where there is a loose game world and some modular threats (with stats) to throw at PCs. However, I do not feel that the mechanics relate directly to the game setting or premise as strongly as I would like or had hoped for.

      After reading the intro I was expecting more suspense and desperation built into the game system, but this seems to be a function of the GM to create and put before the PCs to encounter. The Character Fluff seems inconsequential to the group as well, even though the Personal Missions suggested might prove this incorrect.

      I think that playtesting this game can reveal more about the intentions of the game core as well as what direction to take it for the future.

    • Alex Mayo (@yellowmenace)

      I’ll say this up-front – I’m a total sucker for post-apocalypse scenarios. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s will do that to you. So imagine my delight when the theme of this year’s Game Chef competition was announced – ‘Last Chance’…guaranteed to deliver dozens of games about people eking out an existence in the ruins of civilization.

      William Shattuck’s Farewell, My Dear Post-Apocalypse is certainly cut from this cloth. The game text opens up with a really evocative bit of flavor text explaining exactly what happened to the world . An alien invasion which has left parts of the globe a dusty wasteland; notice I said ‘parts’ – apparently the invaders were selective…and the countries which remain untouched are aiming their nuclear arsenals at the blighted countries in the hope the alien taint can be scoured off the face of the planet with nuclear fire. I’m sure that will work out just fine.

      Rest of the review at: http://yellow-menace.com/2012/04/game-chef-review-1-farewell-my-dear-post-apocalypse-by-william-shattuck/

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 21 is reviewed by… 20 18 15 11

    • LordPapyrus_420

      forum
      This is really funny. But more then that, I like how it turns the lens of game design back on itself and makes me wonder, “Am I really that ridiculous?” and “Is forum itself, the culmination of the Forge?”. Whew, weighty thoughts indeed.
      In MFP play starts with creating a character, who is defined by their Goals (Learning Technique, Making Profit, Aesthetic Vision, and Building Reputation) their Notions (funny truisms about game design) and Accomplishments (frequent poster, published game etc… ). The player then picks a random Forge post and gives it a Notion and 2 Goals. The mechanics of the game center around determining how your character responds to the thread, how they disengage from the community (if they choose to do so), how notions and goals change through the game. and a scoring system which determines narrative control over the epilogue.
      Here are some questions I would be asking myself if this were my game.
      Where is the fun? For me the fun is posturing on the Forge as a character. I would take a hard look at any part of my game which takes away from that activity (Bits I’m lookin’ at you!)
      Do I need to keep score? Having a high score at the end dosen’t really change all that much. We tabulate the score then post in that order about our gaming futures. If you use Notions and Accomplishments as currencies instead. I’m much more likely to care as a player about my hard line stance of “Role Playing vs ROLL Playing” then some stinky points.
      Do I need Goals AND Notions? If you can roll Goals into Notions, I think you’ll have a stronger game. Notions have the potential to change and interact with the mechanics in a tighter way then goals.
      As is though the game is solid and playable, and a fun perspective of those wierdo’s who make games.

    • Wshattuck

      forum

      The Good: Taking the Last Chance theme to the extreme is a nice touch. As is the use of even more random threads as part of gameplay. Love the mechanics of using Accomplishments. And you have a very clever end-game idea.

      The Great: Really love the idea of using randomizer and “bits”! Very unique. Also, a forum-based game about a forum is something that I think anyone can appreciate.

      The Hmmm: Not sure how I feel about the roles of Notions and Goals. They’re subjective and overlap in purpose somewhat, which is a dangerous combination.

      Setting: Play in the Forge forums in a game about the Forge forums. Love the idea, and the “meta”-ness is an added bonus. Presenting the rules for the game as posts in the forum where the One and Only True Version of the game is to take place is also a nice touch.

      Substance: Fairly detailed rules, and fairly clever/original ones at that

      As an overall game: A very cool idea for a game, and it could easily be generalized to be playable outside of the Forge or the specific thread it was written in. The “bit” idea is golden, too.

      Suggestions: Change your end-game priority-based multipliers by either changing the numbers or multiplying them all by 2, so that they are all integers (just makes things simpler). Perhaps make the concept of Notions a little clearer, define it in more detail. If you want the game to be more generally playable, it should be trivially easy by making some tweaks to the game so that it can be played without specifically looking at Forge forum threads. Give some examples of play sessions, because it is difficult to picture mentally. And maybe have more use for bits and randomizer than currently presented. That idea has loads of potential.

    • Lucas Garczewski

      I swapped my review of this entry with Shari Corey.

    • sailorkitsune

      After my initial read through of “Forum” I was excited and intrigued. You have captured much of the feel of the difference in mindset between “Old School Renaissance” gamers and “Indie gamers”, as well as the discussions which clearly influenced the creation of The Forge in the first place. I also felt that the structure of the game, using The Forge to tell a story about gamers on The Forge was clever and interesting.
      More in-depth review reinforced my initial observations. I had a little trouble working with the mechanics as set up, particularly the Notions. It might be helpful to include examples of non-randomly generated notions, just to give players an idea. (This would be especially helpful, I think, since many of a gamers “notions” about gaming exist at something of a subconscious level). Additionally, I got a bit confused on the scoring and the use of Accomplishments. I think a second read-through of this particular section clarified these points, but again, examples might help to make easier.
      All in all, I was kind of sad that the play for this would be limited, as I found “Forum” to be a great vehicle for examining my own viewpoints on gaming, and to shed some light on some of the conflicts currently occurring in my own gaming circles.
      A Lovely entry, Thank you.

      Shari Corey

    • mappamundorum

      Meta-Forum-End Post

      To start with, I’m not a person who’s turned off by a meta-approach or even what might be called an excessively meta approach, and this game represents quite possibly the strongest use of the ingredients (Including a competely straight-faced use of one of the more perposterously complicated mechanisms to perform a coin-flip I’ve ever seen) I’ve seen any any of the last four of these contests, with both excellent use of the actual four threads and a ‘meta-use’ of sets of threads generated during play.
      There are a few questions that the rules leave me with. First off, the rules make a point of distinguishing between times when a player may or must change a Notion, but I can’t see any reason ever to not change a notion at every possible opportunity, so that distinction looks odd. I’m also pretty sure that it’s almost never going to be worthwhile to disengage. (I don’t see it ever being point positive, since the rules in general aren’t going to let you fall too far from your priorities. Unless you’re deliberately playing away from them, but I don’t think that the other players get to influence your gains enough to make that a reasonable stratagy, even if the other players are n fact strategizing rather than only playing at the surface level of the game.
      And the surface is certainly interesting enough to occupy players entirely, especially with a target audience already inclined to like talking about games in the first place. One thing about that was a bit odd, though: as one who wasn’t particularly aware of the Forge until shortly after the first ‘end of the forge’, that event seems like, well, a very big one in the forum’s history: the closure of abstract discussion on Theory in favor of grounding everything in Actual Play, to not be addressed directly in a game like this. Unless…
      Unless the author is again going deeply meta and this game represents, well, a ‘Last Chance’ to reopen Theory discussion by turning it into Actual Play, in which case, Bravo.

      Jeff R.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 22 is reviewed by… 21 19 16 12

    • Joe Jeskiewicz

      “I seriously doubt anyone will ever actually play this game, including me; however, as mentioned in the rules, post your final images here if you do.”

      From my understanding of Mr. Kincade, I think he might turn a time or two in his grave, while a plethora of Dadaists would rise from their graves and applaud with zombified hands. My understanding of Kincade may be flawed. And while I personally would eschew some aspects of the game, I think it would make an awesome world building exercise. I think it would be quite some fun, and could be duplicated in a shared digital environment. I know that there are art projects out there in which a bit of artwork is handed from artist to artist to modify and this would fit right in.

      I think if this moved forward that some ruminating on the wording of the rules might be necessary. And a few playtests to see if there is anything else to create/destroy. Good job though, fun read.

    • Jacob Possin

      This is a very artsy game. That is its strength, and its weakness. Part of me loves this game for its innovation and strangeness, as well as its dedication to the play only once idea. Part of me hates it, because I am a hoarder at heart and the idea of destroying anything during the course of play scares that part of me.

      In this game you systematically destroy a piece of Thomas Kincaide’s art(the game suggests a print). While doing this you tell the story of an apocalyptic wasteland. In the end the wasteland is all that is left. I recommend you read this game because it is difficult to describe. It delves into certain ideas about at and artistry that will definitely start discussion.

    • Robert Bruce

      I’ve got just the apocalypse in mind…

      This is a sweet game. Doctor, Lantern, and Mimic inform some of the moves, and coyote makes a cameo as the shining eyes laughing behind our end-times story.

      As presented, the procedures for play are organized and pretty clear. I love “Imagine what is beyond the boundaries of the image.” Perhaps it would be nice to free this game from just the post-apocalyptic setting and let it explore any kind of irrevocable cataclysm.

      Moves:

      A general note for the ‘in the game world’ sections: Many of these seem a little too abstract. Try to connect each one with values like loss, alienation, scarcity, abject fear, aweing despair. Take the emotions evoked by really powerful apocalyptic imagery, mention some of them explicitly, and tell players to inform their choices with them. This also guards against a simple parade of grotesque apocalyptica which meanders into the gonzo, parodic or insipid.

      Beyond the Four Edges – I’d like to see instruction to connect what is beyond to what is within. It’s important to keep moves anchored to the grist provided by the painting, it helps tie everyone’s apocalyptic vision together.

      Doctor the Report – My favorite move.

      Mimic to Rule – The ‘in the game world’ bit for this is pretty good. Do more than describe the corrupted as a major threat; it’s perverse, disheartening, sacreligious, inverted in a way that hollows us out with fear, which makes us suspect a post-human world.

      Lighter of Paint – A beautiful ‘in the game world’ bit.

      Ritual Territory Marking – Ditto.

      Up to Scratch – Seems to overlap with Lighter of Paint.

      The epilogue mechanic is pretty and doesn’t hold on too long.

      In the game I’m imagining, I’m playing with a group of people who all have respect for post-apocalyptic imagery and are interested in exploring the feelings that arise from that. Maybe something about this in the introduction, if you agree?

    • Alex Mayo (@yellowmenace)

      So here’s an interesting one. The premise: create a shattered, post-apocalyptic world by defacing a Thomas Kinkade painting (or rather, a print – as I’m sure an original Kinkade would be well outside the budget of the average gamer).

      Read the rest here: http://yellow-menace.com/2012/04/game-chef-review-2-inkaida-by-lester-ward/

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 23 is reviewed by… 22 20 17 13

    • Wshattuck

      A King of Infinite Space:

      The Good: It has a clever name. The layout is very good, makes for an easy read. Also, love the premise.

      The Great: Like the simple way that players can determine setting details. Also enjoy the fact that player roles are a mystery to be solved while still having a gameplay goal aside from solving that mystery.

      The Hmmm: It seems to imply that there are multiple scenes in a session of play but doesn’t describe how to go about doing so. The instructions also seem too short. Due to how unconventional it is, it could use gameplay example. And, unfortunately, it is disqualified, as virtually no ingredients were used. They probably could’ve easily been included if an example dream was given.

      Setting: Resolving subconscious conflicts within dreams as elements of dreams/the subconscious. What’s not to love? Really, the premise has great potential.

      Substance: Only gives a rough idea of how to structure a scene, and gives only basic details of each of six character roles. Although I do admire the simplicity, I think there is a danger in making things so simple that you haven’t so much made a game as an idea for a game. This may just be a matter of taste, but I prefer more grit/crunch/rules

      As an overall game: An interesting system geared towards storytelling and for a setting idea that has incredible potential (being an aspect of a dream instead of just a dreamer). It needs a bit more fleshing out, in my opinion.

      Suggestions: More. Give a gameplay example, give a little info on how to do multiple scenes, examples of prices paid/consequences. What I thought would be incredible is if The Dreamer him/herself also had stats that affected gameplay for all aspects, and/or if the Dreamer’s characteristics were gradually defined throughout play. Perhaps if you wanted to lengthen play a little, you could make it so that you have several dreams, make several choices, can have multiple Dark Passages/Bright Futures for increasingly significant questions, gradually defining more and more of the Dreamer until the Final Question, which will finally make The Dreamer know who they really are, for better or worse. Just an idea I had for a possible way to expand the game. You have at least a 1000 words short of the maximum for this competition and if you wanted to make the game better for use beyond the scope of the competition, you have no word limit. If you want to put in the effort, there is plenty of potential that you could tap into here if you just add More.

    • sailorkitsune

      I have adopted this review from Michael Miller.
      My initial read through of “Last Appearances” showed me a quick playing snappy game of goading and Braggadocio. The premise is interesting, and the mechanics easy to follow.
      Looking more in depth, I liked the set up and layout of the game as an unpublished comic book. I also particularly appreciate the token, card, dice mechanic as it nicely focuses the game on the roleplay of the three heroes. The only point of confusion I had is winner resolution in the event of the middle actor in the murder chain already having backed down. The rules state that no murder happens at all in that instance, but then how do you resolve who gets Madkitten?
      The primary reservation I have with “Last Appearances” is a requirement for the players to be conversant with the comic book heroes themselves in order to effectively roleplay the goading and boasting. After all, if I as a player am unfamiliar with the villains the Martian Manhunter has defeated, then I cannot effectively brag about bringing them down.
      All in all, a fun, snappy game, which has me wanting to read the comic books, just so I can play the game!

      Shari Corey

    • Jason Pitre (@Genesisoflegend)

      In this game, the players portray different portions of a dreamers psyche, trying to answer some nagging unresolved problem. The game appears to handle 3-6 players, although this not stated explicitly. In this gmless game, each player is randomly assigned a role. The more players that are present in the game, the more roles are available. Every game has The Seeker, The Guide and The Trickster, while larger games may include The Judge, The Nemesis and/or The Guard.

      The underlying premise of this game, where the psyche wrestles with a challenging question in a dreamscape, is compelling. This seems like it would be a beautiful component of an existing longer-term traditional campaign, where the group could zoom into the personal struggles of a single character for a session. This falls into the category of a storytelling game rather than a true role-playing game in my personal opinion, though this is far from a criticism!

      Both the theme and the ingredients are subtly worked into the game. It follows the “Last Chance”, in that the game can really only be played once. The Coyote led to the Trickster role and the Lantern led to the Guide. The premise is the healing some kind of mental distress, reminiscent of the works of Doctor Jung. Lastly, each of the players seem to be trying to mimic “the target”.

      I can see a few minor areas of improvement for the game. I was unable to tell what “the target” was and accordingly, how anyone would choose whom to point to at end-game. Some of the terminology such as “the question” and “the issue” are confusing, in that I am uncertain if the author is referring to the Dreamer’s question or the Scene’s question. The advice in here is solid gold for experienced storytellers and improvisers, but I don’t see this as a terribly accessible design for novices.

      The game would strongly benefit from a stronger structure, to manage the information in the text and the actions in play. From a logistical perspective, the game as written could take anything from 15 minutes to 6 hours to play, depending on the number of scenes played. I would appreciate a set number of scenes, both to manage in-game pacing and game time. Perhaps a premade list of scene types could be useful?

      This game has a great deal of promise and I complement the author on their work. I look forward to seeing what comes of it.

    • Lester Ward

      With Shakespearean chops coated in 20 years of rust, it took a while to appreciate the title. Once realized, it definitely adds to the game. The whole concept of playing out aspects of one person’s personality in dreamtime is a neat idea. The various roles mesh in interesting ways into the structure of play and the “four things” seem a welcome guide to what the players are supposed to do. One issue I can imagine having in play is that the necessity of keeping the roles secret may make this a tough game to teach to people, as questions and answers may reveal the player’s role.

      I don’t see much evidence of the ingredients, though perhaps they came from forge threads (which are not listed). Likewise, the theme seems to be ignored entirely.

      I like the mechanic of simultaneous pointing, and how it means different things to different roles; however, how to use this mechanic is a bit obscure in the text, instructing players to indicate “who they believe to be the target” without explaining what that means, or what “making their choice” is. It doesn’t seem to link back to the “four things” done previously in the scene, either. There is a germ of a neat idea in there, but it needs to be brought to the surface more clearly.

    • nickwedig

      King of infinite space:

      This is a very interesting game. I like much about the game, from the dream based storytelling (which might for once feel dreamlike) to the mundane decisions externalized and dramatized to the super simple mechanics. It has a solid premise and the rules serve to support that premise. The roles are interestingly varied in their behavior, so that no two characters have exactly the same job to do. And the Trickster and Nemesis roles can potentially employ a fair amount of bluffing to further their goals.

      But what are these goals? What are these fragments? How does a scene play out and what does a player do during the game? Are the Trickster or Nemesis trying to make the dreamer choose poorly? These things are unclear to me. This is a very nontraditional game, and so it needs clear explanations of its processes. What the game really needs are examples. This is not the sort of game that can rely on you knowing how to play it based on prior experience. So I need an example of play (at least one entire scene) and some more explanation what the processes are. As it stands right now, this feels like it is a really cool game in the author’s head, but the text doesn’t provide enough info to make it a playable game in my head.

      I think that expanding the text and making the game processes more concrete and explicit would make this game really successful. As it is right now, I might be able to run this game, but I wouldn’t be sure we were doing it ‘right’ or what the story would wind up like or what our goals for the game should be. But I’d really like to see the game polished up and made more concrete, as it seems like this might be able to make for a really interesting, compelling and innovative game with some more work.

      (Ingredient and theme incorporation are weak to nonexistent in the game as far as I can tell. But the moment that Game Chef is over, the ingredients are irrelevant while the game itself will hopefully live on.)

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 24 is reviewed by… 23 21 18 14

    • goblinblue

      Very good setting; superheroes have mass appeal and using well-known characters suggested by the ingredients makes this very accessible. The tone is also very witty and engaging.

      The ‘jailbait’ plotline has potential problems, but those could be easily be fixed by raising the age of the female antagonist. The presentation of the rules could do with some breaking up into separate areas: this looks like a game you learn by playing rather than by reading, so having the rules you need at any time clearly separated from the rest would be beneficial.

      Taking this further would present some copyright issues, but replacing the known heroes with invented ones would detract from the appeal of the game. It would certainly make a good underground game though and a little playtesting would iron out any bumps.

    • Kyle Willey

      The Game In Last Appearances #4 is interesting because it creates for itself a meta-setting. The one issue with this is that it doesn’t use neutral intellectual property; it has a good chance of falling afoul of DC Comics and they will probably be none too happy about the portrayal of the game. Still, it’s a very clever move, and even though the intellectual property presents some potential issues (they are, after all, DC’s characters), the set up is very nice and creates a fairly believable touch.

      The game itself is simple; verbal warfare dictated by dice to achieve a certain outcome. There’s an element of roleplaying involved, but truthfully it’s the rolls that matter, which is a slight flaw for a game so heavily involved in banter, since players no longer gain any real advantage for particularly witty lines (though there is the instruction to roleplay a good result as a wonderful line and a bad result as a horrible line, this means that the game is very heavily based on the rolls and doesn’t reward clever thinking). Otherwise the game’s basically just a count-down or count-up to each character succeeding or failing in their endeavors, which is fine but a little lackluster.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • sailorkitsune

      I have adopted this review from Michael Miller.
      My initial read through of “Last Appearances” showed me a quick playing snappy game of goading and Braggadocio. The premise is interesting, and the mechanics easy to follow.
      Looking more in depth, I liked the set up and layout of the game as an unpublished comic book. I also particularly appreciate the token, card, dice mechanic as it nicely focuses the game on the roleplay of the three heroes. The only point of confusion I had is winner resolution in the event of the middle actor in the murder chain already having backed down. The rules state that no murder happens at all in that instance, but then how do you resolve who gets Madkitten?
      The primary reservation I have with “Last Appearances” is a requirement for the players to be conversant with the comic book heroes themselves in order to effectively roleplay the goading and boasting. After all, if I as a player am unfamiliar with the villains the Martian Manhunter has defeated, then I cannot effectively brag about bringing them down.
      All in all, a fun, snappy game, which has me wanting to read the comic books, just so I can play the game!
      Shari Corey

    • Lucas Garczewski

      The game has a small set of simple and straightforward rules. However, those rules, coupled with the predefined set of if-then endings, let the players strategize and trick their opponents. This meta level of play makes the game quite an interesting exercise in bluff and cold logic, and adds a lot of potential replay value.

      Read on at my blog…

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 25 is reviewed by… 24 22 19 15

    • LordPapyrus_420

      Sweating Seven combines uses classic battleship mechanics in a new and interesting way using castle walls instead of ships. Instead of two equal forces the game pits several players against one GM who sets up their side of the board. The abilities and different defenses are interesting, and I like the theme of working together to storm a giant castle that encompasses a whole country.
      Right now the game hovers on the border between board game and RPG. The boardgame elements are best developed, I am uncertain how I am supposed to go about playing my role, or if anything I say as a character really matters in the context of our quest. It seems the RPG element is here for flavor and to give context to the siege. Thats totally cool, it is an interesting story, I don’t need to get hung up on what it is. I think the fun here is in the siege mechanics. Laying defenses for the players and having them try to figure them out. I would love to see this developed with some tactile components, stuff you can build and knock down.

    • Paul Czege

      I like the fictional situation, the disease motivation for play, the exotic doctor who can cure you. It’s basically seven ameritrash (if you know the term) games of Battleship in a row. I like the character types, and the details of their specific abilities, how they’re advanced, how they interact with the actions of other characters, and how they affect the walls. It very much satisfies the “only play once” theme for me. I’m not excited by the idea of seven games of Battleship in a row, but wanting to see the advancement of character abilities and how they interact at the more advanced stages of the game and wanting to beat the final wall would probably keep me playing. But then I can’t imagine I’d ever make time for playing it again.

    • Lester Ward

      The trio of main ideas here — a (wonderfully contrived) world of great walls, Battleship-like mechanics, and action-on-a-budget timing mechanism — flow together most pleasingly. I’m a total sucker for a number of the fiddly-bits in this game, particularly how there are no “turns” or “rounds” in here, yet the timing mechanism is concrete, easy to understand and compelling. The way in which the infected’s abilities work for and against the group are also a great touch. Abilities for the other characters are also good (though the number of “empty levels” is too high). I also like that this is intended as a short campaign game, with mechanical character development, rather than a one shot.

      I suspect GM skill would be rather important to bringing sessions of this game alive and more than just a slog through the mechanics. The text spends a bit of time on tying narrative into the mechanical play, but further examples on how to bring out the story would be useful.

      Great use of ingredients, particularly the Forge thread-inspired mechanical centerpiece (and thank you for listing them; some games did not). The theme is also well represented in the countdown clock to the main protagonist’s death.

      The text is understandable, but could be more clear and perhaps organized a little differently. I found myself reading certain parts and then immediately having to go back and re-read other parts I’d seen before. The character sheets could also be made a lot more understandable and useful with an improved layout.

    • Alex Mayo (@yellowmenace)

      You’re sick – like, really sick. Like, so sick that the only way to get better is to travel to a foreign land and brave a fortress with seven walls to find the only man who has the cure.

      This, in a nutshell, is the premise behind Samuel Briggson’s Sweating Seven. One or more of the characters is infected with a malady called the Sweat which will kill them in 240 hours. The rest of the party are adventurers who have agreed to help the infected characters break into a fortified castle surrounded by seven heavily fortified walls in the hope of receiving aid from the doctor who lives within.

      Read the rest here: http://yellow-menace.com/2012/04/game-chef-review-3-sweating-seven-by-samuel-briggson/

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 26 is reviewed by… 25 23 20 16

    • Joe Jeskiewicz

      “To Put Things Right” was well written, but unfortunately I personally couldn’t connect with the game. I don’t feel that I can give it a fair review.

    • goblinblue

      This is a beautiful idea throughout; the system is very strong and original, but flexible as well. It would be great to see further scenarios using this idea, as it makes a strong basis for freeform-style games. The choose-your-own-adventure style created by the different memories acts as a strong guide to play without railroading the players.

      The ingredients seem loosely connected to the game, but they are there and have obviously served as inspiration for the scenario presented. It would be up to the players to bring the drama to the table, but that shouldn’t present much of an obstacle if freeforming appeals to you.

      It would be good to see a cook-book for this game, giving notes and ideas for creating your own characters and scenarios using this system, or simply a collection of playsets for other settings. The system as written seems very tight and invites more to be done with it.

    • Wshattuck

      To Put Things Right

      The Good: Interesting idea of one player, many GMs (but I doubt it would be much fun for the multiple GMs). The Memories and the idea of changing the future are aspects really like about the game.

      The Great: The overall story that you can find when going through the Memories. It’s surprising and well done. Also, a kick-ass front page.

      The Hmmm: Seems that Doctor and Coyote are included only as character names (I could be wrong about that if The Doctor is a Doctor Who reference, lol). Not sure how lantern is included, unless “visions” makes it count metaphorically. Could probably use more Memories (which would be too many words, I know). The incentive for spending Influence would seem unclear to the player for some of these Memories (but, I admit, that might be the point). It’s also very rules-lite. I’m ambivalent about that.

      Setting: I love how the story seems mundane at first and proceeds onward into territory that is increasingly more bizarre. With more Memories, could flesh out the plot even more. Right now, though, it’s a little thin.

      Substance: Not much in the way of rules. The Memories take up too much of the word count. Might have been better to have less flavor text in order to balance telling the story with having a little more gameplay flexibility. One card seemed to suggest more to precognition than meets the eye, and I think having Memories to develop that subplot would’ve been great.

      As an overall game: An excellent idea for a system, an excellent idea for a general plot, but it could’ve been executed better. Without a word limit and with even more description of characters, plot, and a few more rules for gameplay, could be an excellent game. Actually, the plotline and gameplay vaguely reminds me of the Arkham Horror boardgame, just a bit more light in tone and rules, and without a board. And you should know, considering how much I love Arkham Horror, that’s a pretty big compliment.

      Suggestions: If you compete again, focus on using the ingredients a little more. Coyote wasn’t sufficiently coyote-like, and the presence of anything lantern –like was either non-existent or so subtle I missed it. Possibly include things like Memories and character cards as supplemental material, so you can write more for your core rules and have more Memories, thus adding more to the characters and storyline. Also, neat as the idea is, I think you might want to nix the multiple GM function for this game. And one final tweak: One of Memories refers to a character’s death as if it were event that might have already occurred before that Memory, yet the only way I found for that character’s death to occur results in an immediate game over as well.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 27 is reviewed by… 26 24 21 17

    • Jason Pitre (@Genesisoflegend)

      Game 27 does not appear to be available under the link.

      • docaquatic

        That’s strange. I had it set to everyone with the link can view, but the game link brought me to an empty document. For the time being, I set it as public on the web in the hope that it’ll help. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ufyBLlH0jZi8loex2bXiI-vHbdORROitu4HNFblnwqw/edit

        If that doesn’t solve it, I’ll put it in Dropbox in the morning. Sorry for the inconvenience.

      • stalwart1000

        General Impressions
        This game is a thorny one, isn’t it? I think the central premise is both morally and ethically wrong. That said, I’ll try to review it as best I can. The use of the ingredients is extremely clever, particularly mimic. The nugget of “using secret information” is a good one, but it is used as a simple prank rather than as a basis for gameplay.

        Playability
        There’s barely a game here. The game text relies almost entirely on the player’s already-existing social skills. It presents a single interesting twist to the situation. The rest of the game reads like an nudge in the ribs and saying “You know how to do this, right?”

        By the time I got to the final paragraph, I figured out that the game’s premise is reflected not just in the trick being played on the participants, but also on the readers of this game. There’s no game here We’ve been punked.

        To offer more constructive criticism, you could give secret information to BOTH sides of the issue. Each side could have its thing that the other side doesn’t know, with only the GM getting to know both while the game is being played. Since it’s an text-based game, after it is over and the secrets have been revealed, players can even look back and comment on why they did certain things for their secret goals.

    • Paul Czege

      Man, I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s a structure for three people to conspire to mindfuck another. Not interested in playing it. Not interested in knowing anyone who’s excited by the idea of playing it.

    • Jason Pitre (@Genesisoflegend)

      Therapy is an oddball storygame, which I say with the utmost respect. It’s a game of hidden information and trickery, where a Doctor tries to question The Patient with the help of the GM. There are three distinct playbooks, each of which provides the rules for the different roles.

      Therapy is innovative in that it’s designed to be played exclusively via text or IRC. The Doctor asks leading questions, the Patient answers based on some criteria and the GM provides obstacles to each of them. There is a trick in the game that I don’t want to spoil, but let’s just say that all of the ingredients are well accounted for.

      The text is clear, but I would have two concerns. First of all, the rules are more like broad guidelines than more directed procedures, so it requires more experience in playing storygames. Secondly, the trick seems like it might come across as a little mean-spirited depending on the players involved.

      It’s a good and interesting game for certain purposes and I am glad I read it.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 28 is reviewed by… 27 25 22 18

    • Lester Ward

      The “script as instructions” concept which starts this game is excedingly powerful, and feels very much like a discussion from the types of myth being emulated. In a few short minutes, it conveys the premise of the game, lets people know who they are playing and what is expected of them. It is so effective, in fact, that once I got past it, and sheets for each mask, I was sort of jarred by the “now here is the more standard description of how to play”, as it seemed sort of superfluous. I wonder if you might distribute the “Questions and Advice” section among the sheets describing each mask, and just eliminate the mundane rule section entirely.

      The ingredients are well represented, with the use of “lantern” standing out as being particularly awesome. The way it signals the start and end of a bit of stage-stealing matches really well with the “internal thoughts” concept. The theme is less evident, however, with only a casual nod in the premise. Nothing really says “last chance” to me about the design of the game, other than the narrative notion that its played as the stars wink out. (I do like the candle snuffing, both in premise and execution, however.)

      When I picture myself playing this game, the one thing I see being troublesome is the open-ended nature of the subjects being discussed. Were I to play the Fox, I’m not sure the result would be that compelling. Definitely feels like a game where the quality of play depends a lot on the quality of the players. That’s not a horrible thing, but it might be possible to tweak things to pull a raised game out of people.

    • Lucas Garczewski

      I liked the concept of this mystical, cosmic judgement. The symbolism of the animals was clear and appealing (especially that of Dog and Wolf). I think I would find myself at ease playing each of the roles, even though there’s so little information given. Well done.

      Read on at my blog…

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 29 is reviewed by… 28 26 23 19

    • goblinblue

      The personal and scene conflict die pools mechanics are neat and effective, especially the allowance to help other PCs with your personal dice. Using individual actions to build up a collective pool is nice, with the added twist that one of the players is subtly working against the rest because they are in actual fact Coyote.

      However, how do you determine who Coyote is? Cards are mentioned and dealt out, but there is nothing in the game text to say what they do. Also, what’s the Coyote player’s motivation? If you only play Coyote for one scene, then why sabotage the team’s efforts?

      There’s an idea here still in its early stages, with a lot of details to be worked out: the omission of any way to determine who Coyote is, and a motivation for that player to sabotage the team, make it hard to play in its current form. Once these points are tackled, this would make an engaging one-shot.

      • sailorkitsune

        Oops! That was a glaring hole in the write up! The cards are indeed used to determine who is playing Coyote in a given scene, and the mechanic is set up so even the GM doesn’t know. Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful feedback!

        Shari

    • Alex Mayo (@yellowmenace)

      My last game review due for Game Chef, Shari Corey’s Beacon of Hope, is a nice little bit of awesome which combines the End of the World, Navaho myth, time travel, and Lady Blackbird. Given my fondness for John Harper’s tightly designed wondergame, it’s no surprise that I find Beacon of Hope’s mechanics enticing – what really grabbed me, though, were the slight changes made to the system to steer it toward one-shot play – namely the addition of an endgame mechanic leading to a showdown with the PC’s nemesis, Coyote the Trickster.

      Read the rest here: http://yellow-menace.com/2012/04/game-chef-review-4-beacon-of-hope-by-shari-corey/

      • sailorkitsune

        Thank you very much for the thoughtful and positive review! To have my second game ever listed as “a little bit of awesome” is an accolade I would never have expected. As listed above, the mechanic for picking out Coyote in any given scene was, indeed, left out of the document, and will be corrected at my first opportunity. I also agree that the endgame still needs some work. If you have suggestions on incorporating the keys element, I would love to hear it. I also like Lady Blackbirds keys, but couldn’t get them to fit in one shot play.

        Thanks again,

        Shari Corey

    • Mathalus

      I love past event scenes. They can add so much delicious flavor to a character’s development and they offer the chance to explain current events. Don’t lose these.

      Great job with the hidden player mechanic. I want to steal this, so you know you’ve got something here.
      Does this need a GM? You have players and you have a reason for them to antagonize each other already. You’ve stripped a lot of roles from the GM already, why not just gut them? Instead of Say “Yes” or roll the dice, you could allow anything in the game you wanted, unless another player says no. By having players set difficulties for each other, you can bleed player conflict and character conflict together. Maybe you could just rotate scene framing responsibility like Fiasco?

      I’m not pulled in by the characters provided. I feel like they are too fleshed out, and not immediately grabbing. Instead of setting up stereotypes and then giving them stereotypical traits, try stereotypes with a few odd traits to select from. Think of it like lighting for a movie set. The stereotype is one light source, and then things that are odd, or against type, give the image dimension. Or something. I’m waxing.

      You already have a solid idea here, just firming it up would be great, I’m just throwing out some food for thought. Excellent job with this.

      You can find my email at the end of my Game Chef entry. Drop me a line and we can continue the conversation. I want to see the next draft. Say, by mid-May? :)

      • sailorkitsune

        Thank you! I spent a lot of time thinking about gm’d versus GM-less style for this game. I came to the conclusion that a gm-less style was possible, but not in the week I had to write it. I was also concerned that I was asking people to run their characters, and coyote, and do all the gm related work. That seemed like an awful lot of work, especially for a one-shot, which Beacon is definitely designed to be. Now that I no longer have to contend with the time constraints of the contest, I will be re-thinking a bit. I think I would like to offer both a gm’d and a gm-less version in the final product. I like your suggestions about adding odd traits to the character mix. I was also toying with adding some traits that each character might share with Coyote, so there is a way for “coyote” to interact from within the scene without giving the gig away! Mid May is probably a little ambitious for the next draft, but I likely can have something done in June!

        Shari

      • Mathalus

        Adding coyote-like traits is a win. I’d definitely do that. I hope you’ll let me look at the next draft, whenever it comes along.

        Morgan

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 30 is reviewed by… 29 27 24 20

    • Wshattuck

      Getting There in Time

      The Good: Quality and quantity in supplements. I like associating different stats with different dice based on skill level. Like the idea of positive and negative aspects associated with each trait, though not quite sure how they work. Good idea with semi-shared storytelling with GM veto. Also the idea of turning it into three acts and changing how conflict resolution occurs based on act. And always gotta love sci-fi twists.

      The Great: Love the Hope, Risk, Crux system (though, as I’ll say again, I don’t quite understand how Cruxes work).

      The Hmmm: 550 words over limit, 20% more words than everyone else. If not disqualification worthy, it makes me mentally detract points when comparing to other games in the competition. It’s possible that there are too many examples given, and the description for how to make a story is too long and involved. It’s not clear what the benefit of being the Chronomaster is. Yet if there were a clear benefit, it would make playing non-Chronomaster characters less appealing, almost like a chore, so maybe it’s best that way.

      Setting: Love the idea of masters of time, but there’s not much in the way of detailed setting or what chronomasters can do, aside from acting as an excuse to have virtually any sci-fi tinged setting one wants. The lack of detailed setting I believe is out of design, however, and an example setting is given in supplements,. I just think it would’ve served you better, at least for the format used in Game Chef, if you chose a more specific setting instead of giving details about how players can make their own.

      Substance: Makes sure to give detailed directions for designing sessions. Characters are a good combination of qualitative and quantitative. Supplemental material potentially very useful. The best description of when to roll and what the results should be that I have ever seen. It’s just not very clear on aspects and how to make/use Cruxes.

      As an overall game: Excellent game structure, but probably would’ve been better to spend time giving basic description for a more specific setting instead of ideas for a variety of possible, generic settings.

      Suggestions: If you had wanted to keep the same idea for Game Chef, I personally feel the idea of chronomasters would’ve been better as time manipulators in a single, bizarro setting than as simple time travellers (though I suppose the chronomasters would resemble Doctor Who less that way). If you haven’t already done it in your expanded, non-Game Chef version, I think it would help to develop the distinction between chronomaster and non-chronomaster more. That said, there isn’t much obvious room for improvement, since the work is already pretty good. All it needs to become better is some more detail, which you probably already have and simply had no room for in this competition.

    • Paul Czege

      I have no interest in Doctor Who, but I’d play this. It has more than a handful of interesting mechanics. It has a structure for the GM controlling the setting and situation, but the players framing scenes. If it works, I can see it being very fun. It tells you what to look for in the fiction to know when to roll to resolve a scene, so bringing scenes to closure is a collaborative effort of roleplaying. The things you’re looking for have mechanical and fictional outcomes, and feel like things (“Experience wonder”) that would be fun to try to roleplay toward. The rule for who wins in ties is tied to the three act structure of the genre. The good guys win ties in acts one and three, and the bad guys win ties during The Empire Strikes Back, ahem, during act two. The rules for when you transition to a new act are driven by details of the fiction. Unlike PtA, in which the game session determines where you are in the story arc and you have to fit the fiction into the session structure. Unlike MLwM, which has character stats determine when the story enters the climactic endgame. It has a mechanic for determining the die pool of the final threat by how well the situation has been experienced by the players. Really, it hooks the fiction of play to the mechanics in a double handful of interesting ways that I’ve not seen in other indie RPGs. If even a couple of them work as intended it’s a really smart game.

      It does violate the Game Chef wordcount limit, and then for added measure it violates the Game Chef word count limit. But it does read like a game that was written to be played.

    • sailorkitsune

      My initial impression of “Getting There in Time” was of a lively, interesting Dr. Who themed game, with easy to use mechanics, and focusing largely on the roleplay and problem solving of the situation.
      Looking at it more in depth bears out my initial impressions of clear easy to understand mechanics. I especially like the positive and negative aspects of the traits and the use of cruxes as focal points for dice rolling. I also appreciated that the Chronomaster did not seem super overpowered in comparison to his/her companions. The three act format seems a good choice as well; moving fairly organically from “something’s odd” to “We have a problem” to “OMG the world might end”.
      I am concerned that it is possible to leave players out of much of the roleplay, depending on how the scenes are framed. A suggestion to include as many players as possible in a given scene might help to correct this.
      Also, it seems that there is a lot of paperwork and bookkeeping involved, especially for the GM. I think that this is the more boring, not fun aspect of any game. Is it possible to minimize this in any way, or to mitigate it somehow so that the GM is also involved in the story? Perhaps something as simple as pre-printed sheets for the seed list and detail additions for scenes two and three, so the GM doesn’t need to physically re-write them.
      I was a little unclear about how many dice the GM rolls, when, for threat… Is this a matter of what scene the game is currently in?
      I would like to see some additional suggestions for setting/story. I think there is a lot of potential here for a fun game.
      All in all it seems a good take on the Dr. Who theme. I look forward to seeing more of it.

      Shari Corey

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 31 is reviewed by… 30 28 25 21

    • jackson tegu

      Coyote’s Winter / Mael Rimbault

      “The Winter may not be ending, but we are.”

      Beautiful, expansive writing. Though English is not your first language, your (not completely standard, but inspired and intelligent) use of it is wonderful. Really nice intro & context sections.

      This is a great early design by a person with a great imagination for interesting situations. I’m a bit confused about what the characters are doing in the game, but maybe i just missed that part. I like your advice to the players and the GM, perhaps you could move that stuff right up to the front, because it gives the much-needed mechanical context for the game; in short, it shows us what to expect to enjoy about the game. Like, that swansong bit should be before all of the mechanics.

      You could tell the GM more about how to play the NPCs that the PCs have bonds with… like, should they be helpful? Should they be argumentative? I would like to read more about that. And if you were to put in some examples of the bonuses and minuses in action, that would be helpful for me too. It was a lot of fiddly stuff to take in! And can the Coyotes defeat the Doctors? I’m not saying they should be able to, i’m saying that i don’t think you want them to be able to, so say that clearly, otherwise people will assume they can (like, that they could get that way by saying that they kill them before a roll or something. I know that’s a little ridiculous.)

      This seems fun. I wonder how long (three sessions? three hours?) it would take for the mechanics to go all the way through. And also, maybe when a Coyote turns into a human or a lonely animal, they could somehow speed up the mechanics for everyone else, so that MOST of the game has everyone being a Coyote together, and once the characters start changing, then they all change one after another, pop pop pop, so no-one is sitting around with a kinda boring half-character for too long.
      All in all, really cool.
      -jackson tegu

    • Dan Maruschak

      Coyote’s Winter

      The setting for this game is a “hidden world” urban fantasy where the mundane world experienced an entirely mundane apocalypse. This sets up an elegiac “the world has passed us by” tone for the game which focuses on the supernatural coyote PCs who are merely prolonging their inevitable demise at the edges of society. The game takes place in a dystopian city locked in eternal winter and ruled over by enigmatic Doctors who employ mysterious super-science, which gives the place a cool, stylized, Dark City kind of vibe. I think the tone and setting are a pretty compelling backdrop for a game. The Coyote and Mimic ingredients seem well utilized, and with Doctor and Lantern included more peripherally. The last chance theme seems influential to the fictional theme of the game but doesn’t seem strongly present in the play procedures.

      The mechanics of the game use a pretty familiar player/GM setup with player-authored traits that feed into a Sorcerer-style die mechanic. Since it’s similar to other systems that are known to work this game will probably function about as well as those other systems. Diving down to the next level, there are some areas of the mechanics that make me uneasy if I contemplate running the game. I worry that the trait system may have an incentive structure similar to some games that I have problems with: link. While the mechanical comparison of the dice rolls should be fine, deciding how many dice get rolled felt a little strange to me. When the dice system kicks in, the GM chooses how many dice to roll based on how many dice the player is rolling and on how much he wants the player to win or lose. Then the GM adds some extra bonuses or penalties. Since both seem like somewhat similar GM decisions it’s not clear to me why a two-stage process is necessary. I also worry that this may make player decisions that control the number of dice they roll seem irrelevant since the GM’s choice of how many dice to roll attenuates the impact of those player decisions on overall success or failure. In other games I’ve played where the GM bases difficulty on the player’s stats, I’ve felt the game become uncomfortably adversarial (which is rough when one side has unlimited power) or paternalistic (where player success or failure is determined by whether the GM is feeling generous or not), which left an unpleasant taste in my mouth from those games. I don’t know for sure if I’d feel that way in this game, but I think I’d be a lot more comfortable if the GM was oriented to be either explicitly adversarial (presumably with some rules, budgets, etc., to make things fair) or oriented a different way, maybe as an impartial observer of fictional conditions (for example, Mouse Guard accomplishes this by using skill factors to calculate difficulties. Apocalypse World does it by removing quantitative difficulty judgments from the GM and asking the group to watch for “fictional triggers” that determine when particular mechanics should be invoked). It’s certainly possible that these concerns are simply matters of taste, and the fact that it’s possible to even get to this level of analysis is evidence that the game is already very complete and playable.

      While I like the feel and tone of the setting, it seems like whether or not you create a meaty enough starting situation for each session will have a lot of impact on what happens in the game, so I’d be nervous about getting that part right. What happens if a player’s initial goal ends up getting achieved in the first few minutes of play? I’m not sure if that’s OK or if that indicates a flaw in the starting situation or the way the GM has been running things. The game also tells the players that their purpose is to eventually become human or a lonely animal, but I’m not sure if they are supposed to be driving toward that directly, or if they’re supposed to be pursuing other goals and those changes happen along the way.

      The game opens with a caveat about the author not being a native english speaker, and while there were minor grammar and word-choice issues that I’d flag if I were a copyeditor, I had no trouble comprehending the text. I think the setting and tone of the game are a very strong foundation and provide the kind of environment that’s very conducive to roleplaying. It seems possible to playtest it as written, so that may help clarify what is or isn’t working. Another thing to consider would be to write a “long form” example where a game is imagined and chronicled, since this can help identify any major stumbling blocks before putting the game in front of actual playtesters.

      – Dan Maruschak

    • Mathalus

      I love how much hatred your setting inspires in me. I want to crush the City and it’s Doctors and smash their Lanterns. I want to blend in among the admirable humans and lash out at the controlling doctors from alleyways and subterranean hideaways. All of your ingredients were well integrated. My favorite line in the whole game is, “He will keep his memories from his past as a Coyote as long as other Coyotes are still around, otherwise the Doctor’s Lanterns will rip that out of his head.”

      I was unclear about how mimicking a human worked. Can you mimic a human every single scene, and therefore never lose any points (either Coyote Traits or Human Bonds?)

      In your mind, approximately how many actions would there be in a scene? And should the GM worry about framing scenes for the players to put them in tight spots? Do you think this game requires a GM? If you are flexible on that point you should take a look at the set up for Perfect: Unrevised. It has some antagonism built in, but it really allows for player driven scenes.

      This game seems like it is playable right now. All you need to do is clean up the text and sex up the character sheet.

      You can find my email at the end of my Game Chef entry. Drop me a line and we can continue the conversation. I want to see the next draft. Are you up for doing rewrite’s by June so I can playtest this before the beginning of convention season? :)

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 32 is reviewed by… 31 29 26 22

    • Mael Rimbault

      Review of Heist available at :
      http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32988.0

      Best,
      Mael

    • sailorkitsune

      I have traded this review to Michael Miller.

      Shari Corey/ sailorkitsune

    • stalwart1000

      General Impressions
      Tight little game. Reads more like a board game than an RPG, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I was a bit disappointed that players getting caught is determined largely by luck, rather than the actions of the other players. Also, I don’t see much use of the “last chance” theme. What is there to prevent this game from being played multiple times?

      Playability
      The silent alarm does not appear on the map. Also, customers can activate the silent alarm? That seems odd. I would think that customers getting out would make the police arrive sooner.

      Also, the real time aspect could be very problematic in play. If everyone decides that they are going to roll as fast as possible, the time constraint could never really enter into it.

      The strict rules for movement seem like they would mesh poorly with the improvisational rules for skill use. But only playtesting would tell for sure.

    • Lester Ward

      I am most interested in the real-time notion of this game and, in particular, the idea of trading time off the clock for benefits. I wonder if some other notions of the game could be altered to embrace this idea more strongly. For example, instead of getting minuses or plusses to skill rolls, the clock is altered down or up. (In practice, it might be hard to find a clock that can be adjusted like that.)

      I like that most of the ingredients came from the Forge threads. These seemed a bit harder to get some use out of than the four standard ingredients. I suppose the theme is covered by the do-or-die premise of the crooks, though I would like to have seen the “play only once” notion brought out some more.

      The premise of the game is somewhat undermined by some of the more traditional game elements (moving on a grid, taking turns back and forth, skill rolls vs. target numbers). Many of these clash with the real-time pacing of the game (for example, suppose the GM takes a really long time deciding his or her turn). It seems like the game might sing a bit more by getting rid of some or all of these (and, perhaps finding a way to get rid of the GM).

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 33 is reviewed by… 32 30 27 23

    • Theresa

      Agents of C.O.Y.O.T.E.
      Time travel is always interesting and fun and confusing. One thing that immediately jumped out at me as a positive is that you can vary the complexity of the Goals. It strikes me that this makes for a game that is much easier to get into, because you can strip away extras until you get the basic structure down and get more comfortable with the branching possibilities.

      The one thing that I didn’t understand is why the antagonists in B.E.A.R. are supposed to be evil future versions of the Agents. It doesn’t really effect game play at all, but it also seems to be more than just flavor, like it should have an effect.

      I think if you just made them the bad guys without that connection it would make a more understandable setting, without taking anything away from the game play, which I think has a really strong focus otherwise.

    • goblinblue

      The time travel structure is inventive yet simple, easily allowing players to track events and changes; the way players move along the timeline is also clever and well integrated with the other mechanics of play.

      The text is dry: there’s very little flavour after the introduction. Also, time travel creates counter-intuitive narratives: the game could do with some more support for this, rather than just advising players to ignore paradoxes and carry on. Play might also be frustrating, as there is a strong chance that any modification created by the PCs will be countered by the B.E.A.R.s at the end of the round, after which the die used is discarded, limiting the players’ options to do anything else. There’s also no guidance on telling whether the players have won or not: it looks like getting a modification in each anchor would be enough, but it’s not clear how chaos events affect this.

      There’s a framework of an idea here, but it needs substantial work before its playable: the players’ actions are rendered less effective by the random nature of the dice, with no way of affecting them. The text itself would benefit from a more colourful tone that supports the content, rather than just being a dry list of rules.

    • Dan Maruschak

      Agents of C.O.Y.O.T.E.

      I found the idea of this game exciting enough to mock up some materials and simulate a playthrough. I got a story-ful boardgame feel from the game, and it seems like it has legs to me. The game suggests that it’s possible to play with a serious tone, but with the somewhat goofy acronyms (yonder!?) and “evil future self” antagonists I find it difficult to believe it could be anything but a zany romp, not that there’s anything wrong with that. One of the Forge thread ingredients seems well integrated, but the rest seem a little questionable to me. It should be playable as a “last chance” one-shot, though.

      While I think the game’s structure makes sense in the broad strokes, there are a few implementation details I’m unsure about. At first I was under the impression that the game was something of an RPG/boardgame hybrid, where you’d care about scenes and fictional causality, but the Modification rules suggest to me that it’s something closer to a “sentence construction” game, in the vein of Daniel Solis’s Do or Happy Birthday Robot. But if that’s true, then I’m not sure what to make of things like the “acquiring resources” section, which feel more like RPG material. That uncertainty about how much the fiction matters makes it hard for me to know how some of the procedures work. How do I know if the causal chain to the goal is met? Are the modifications like toggle-switches that convert the anchor points between positive and negative, or do the events at the anchors have an element of fictional positioning in them? I also wasn’t always sure what the modification events meant: The [I took an action] options seem like they’re useful in building a time-travel narrative, but some of them seem very passive (“Meanwhile…”) and it isn’t clear whether the COYOTE agent is supposed to be actively involved in causing the change to come about, just witnessing coincidences, being completely uninvolved, or what.

      When I did my simulated playthrough, I found it difficult to create the initial anchor events. The advice on page 7 helped, but I had a bit of a blank-page problem in trying to think up specific events, especially since you have to come up with them out of order rather than guided by some overarching plan for what BEAR is doing to bring the crisis about. I found the BEAR events stuff to be a little tricky: At first I forgot to move the modification dice to the BEAR pool (a reminder to do that somewhere in steps 6 to 8 would have helped), and when I rolled the BEAR dice it wasn’t clear which player should be doing the modifications (I was playing all three players myself, but wasn’t sure how to apply the time period restriction in step 15). Once the modifications to the timeline started kicking in, I got a little uncertain about whether all of the events at the anchor points mattered. If the stuff at 6 is a big, crazy mess, do we really care about the minor things going on at 2? Basically, it stopped being clear what was necessary and/or sufficient for the crisis or the goal to be “locked in” on the timeline. I also got a little confused about the “polarity” of some of the modifications, and I think I got so invested in one of the ideas in one of my anchors that I was having the COYOTE agents reinforce it rather than counteract it, but the artificiality of my test may have impacted that. Some of the BEAR events were head-scratchers for me, too. Like the “…it turned out that the BEAR interfered by …”, is that just supposed to be explaining why the anchor event is bad, or is that inserting new fiction into the situation that COYOTE should be compelled to deal with? And when “things get much harder for the agents”, I wasn’t sure how to handle that: I said their pictures were on the local news as wanted fugitives, but I wasn’t sure what sort of in-game consequences that should have when an agent went to that anchor and wanted to use one of the passive modifications on the underlying event. Should they have to deal with the complication before doing something like that? I wasn’t sure.

      I think this game has a lot of potential. I’d recommend looking at the creation of the initial anchor events and seeing if there’s a way to make that a bit easier to do, possibly by constructing the initial timeline out of a cohesive BEAR plan rather than building it up from discrete moments. I’d also look at whether the “evil future selves” thing is important to the game, since the current mechanical effects of BEAR seem like they could just as easily be accomplished by generic evildoers. I think the game could use some clarifying in terms of how “RPG-like” it’s meant to be (e.g. are the characters supposed to have real personalities, or are they just pawns for the purposes of creating a time-travel story, the fictional cause stuff I mentioned above, etc.), and some examples would definitely help.

      – Dan Maruschak

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 34 is reviewed by… 33 31 28 24

    • James Mullen

      CoyoteSong
      The Last Chance theme of this Game Chef is woven into the fabric of this entry and it’s a beautiful use of it, a way to salute and celebrate a place you’re leaving.
      The Lantern is used in a practical way that also fits the theme, the literal use of a lantern to light the way for the participants and I love the idea of a candlelight vigil.

      I don’t think this is a game though: not in a negative way, but in the sense that if someone had written a song for this contest, it might have been a beautiful song, but that wouldn’t make it a game. I suppose you could do this as a warm-up exercise of some kind, but the conditions required make that unlikely and I really feel it would undermine the intent to use it in so superficial a way.

      This entry is sweet and complete: don’t change a word of it.

    • shamblercow

      A ritual, Coyotesong is evocative and a worthy antidote for a culture which does not listen often or well enough. Setting the mood and evoking the ceremony makes it feel timeless and appropriate, and this game’s text does a great job of setting the mood and creating the appropriate atmosphere for asking simple questions of great import.

      This does not feel like a game; it feels more like an attitude and way of being, or maybe even an affirmation. This in no way diminishes its power. Even reading this made the pangs of regret have had about words left unsaid during the process of leaving a place, whether I enjoyed my time there or not. Still, it might be better labeled a mediation or conversation starter. It is a game in the same sense that an ice breaker is a game: it makes it more comfortable to talk about things that we often fear to actually say. I might try to move the questions earlier in the text, so that the questioner knows what they will be saying or doing as they seek to create the proper atmosphere to say or do it. As I read, I felt more and more tension about the actual activity, since the questions appear at the end of the text. Even so, the fit with the theme is perfect.

      I’m not sure that it is fair that I give any sort of criticism for this entry, since it expressly calls itself a ritual, and this description is perfect for it. What’s the opposite of an icebreaker? Whatever you call it, that’s what this game accomplishes.

    • Paul Czege

      I like the opening verse. I like the sentiment of it; I like the idea of appreciating the night gifts of the places you inhabit. I personally love seeing the stars, the planets, the moon above my driveway on summer nights, so that’s what I’d pick if I were going to play it.

      It’s not a game though. Nice try, but putting “game” in the title doesn’t make it a game :)

      As a ritual, it’s a little hitchy for me; it feels a little needy to verbally appreciate some aspect of the place where you live, and then quickly say, basically, “but now enough about you, tell me about me”.

      And I don’t see how it’s using the “Losing With Style” thread phrase ingredient it says it uses.

    • Mael Rimbault

      The review of Coyotesong is available here :
      http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32989.0

      Best,
      Mael

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 35 is reviewed by… 34 32 29 25

    • Joel

      This game makes a great impression on me right away with its requirement to drink lots of alcohol. That’s not mere flippancy; there’s something rich and evocative about sharing spirits with friends and the game immediately gets me hopeful for memorable evenings of reckless intimacy with glassy eyes and shining spirits. The idea of drinking with close companions as the world ends is perfect, and the concept of listing out things you’d love to do before the end of the world is evocative, bittersweet, and fun. I want to play just for that experience. I’m kind of scared of the vulnerability of laying my desires bare, and therefore all the more excited to try it.

      The tension of only speaking through the talking stick–spending all your time in that dreamspace of making story, in a darkened room with candles, no less–appeals to me a lot. I like that even the act of asking about or explaining rules requires you to take the talking stick, then hand it back—directing focus to the act of roleplay itself, and keeping side chatter out.

      Reading through the draft, though, I found some of the explanation of the game confusing. I found the Turn Sequence hard to parse, until I read the play example, then went back and talked through the sequence out loud. Once I sussed out the sequence, it looked really cool! My only worry is that with too many players, the scenes will get crowded with lots of Desires. Can I really satisfyingly play a scene with the lures of wild sex and exotic food and cliffdiving and swimming and mountainclimbing and horseback riding folded in? My feeling is, three Desires to work into a scene is plenty. My final bit of confusion is on tone: is the game supposed to be silly, or serious, or is it toally cool to bounce back and forth between the two?

      It feels like this game is pretty fully developed without much revision; just clean up and streamline explanations a bit. You already ferreted out some physical logistical difficulties in your playthrough, so continuing to optimize the game for its unique (and wicked cool!) play environment will get you far. On that note, I don’t love the Advocacy charts—referring to a matrix like that by candlelight feels like a drag. What if you simply put the name of the Advocate on the index card along with the name of the Desire, so the player could clearly see it? Anyway, I’m excited for this game. It feels like the spiritual successor to Bacchanal, which is a great thing in my book.

    • Theresa

      In many ways, I’m a terrible choice to review this game. Due to medical issues, I can’t drink alcohol. I love the evocative feel of the game and wonder how it could be adapted to a non-alcoholic game, but at the same, suspect that it would diminish the overall feel.

      From a technical stand point, I felt that it would have been easier to follow if examples were given with the rules. I had trouble following the setup, particularly the details on who got what drinks and this wasn’t covered in the description of the play test. I did feel that for some of the other confusing points, the inclusion of the play test helped clarify them and was grateful for that.

      • Fractal Advocate

        I imagine you could just use non-alcoholic drinks instead of alcoholic ones, although I’d still limit any particular drink to being in front of a player once.

        I suspect you’re correct that it’d diminish the overall feel, though.

    • sailorkitsune

      I have swapped this review with Lucas Garzewski.

      Shari Corey/sailorkitsune

    • Lucas Garczewski

      Unlike most drinking games, the object of One Last Night is not to make participants share and/or do embarrassing things. Instead it has players compile a pre-apocalyptic wish list – things to do before the world ends and we all die, and then play out the difficulties of choosing between them with limited time, as well as the joy of getting each done.

      Read on at my blog…

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 36 is reviewed by… 35 33 30 26

    • Fractal Advocate

      I really like the character generation setup, you get elements but not any control, so it’s more collaborative and less about character ownership. I like the booming but funny puppet voices bit – gives players a much better idea /how/ to act, and it’s not a detail most games talk about at all. I find it interesting that it talks about the beginning, so it’s already obvious that the universe will get created, the part the game is figuring out is just how it did so. The combination of those and the puppet show and coyote ‘mimicing’ the characters, it seems like the intention is to seperate the player from the character they’re playing. Which I think would work pretty well, and works with the whole fairly light game setup – I can’t see this game naturally moving towards darkness, despite the apocalyptic framing.

      Speaking of which, the apocalyptic framing seems kind of pasted on, given that it’s like ‘the end is now… so let’s talk about the beginning’. And then… never mentioned again. Even once it hits endgame, it doesn’t jump back to being about the end of the world. The rest of it, though – Doctor vs Coyote played with shadow puppets cast by a Lantern where coyote keeps Mimicing everyone – seems pretty solidly in the theme.

      The bit about becoming Coyote/The Medicine Man didn’t make sense to me under ‘The Hand Game’, since I expected that to be a subsystem explaining that but it also explained a larger rule. When I was trying to find it again, I couldn’t up to the point of questioning if I had perhaps imagined it. Eventually I found it again, but was again confused – now on how it worked exactly. How does the player signify they want to become Coyote/The Medicine Man? Does it interrupt the story, or are there certain timing issues?

      There were a few points in the text where I became confused by spelling/missing words/etc… I think I got the meaning, but it took me a bit. The coyote mimicing was funny and thematic and seems like it’d help increase the player/character divide, but it didn’t seem to inherently drive the story at all like I was expecting such an apparently integral mechanic to. Maybe I’m missing something there, or maybe driving the story forwards just wasn’t the point of that rule?

      I think a good editor could really help with the spelling/layout/etc here. Also, I’d drop the apocalypse framing, I don’t think the game needs it other than GC qualification.

      • Fractal Advocate

        Also, if you want more opinions or just to discuss the review, feel free to email me at fractal advocate at gmail dot com.

        – Abram Bussiere

        (stolen from slabnoir/Chris Edwards because it seems a cool way to review-handle)

    • Dan Maruschak

      Last Chance to Tell the Tale of Coyote and Medicine Man

      I like the idea of shadow-puppet based storytelling in this game, and the “Coyote talks in a funny voice while using a different puppet” method of representing the coyote taking another character’s form is a really good use of the unusual element of the game to achieve something you couldn’t do in purely verbal storytelling. Before I read the game I feared that the shadow puppets would be a gimmick but it feels like an integral and thoughtful element of the design. I felt the game also used the four Game Chef ingredients well, and the “last chance” theme was represented in the fiction and the game seemed playable as a one-shot.

      While I liked the theme, the shadow-puppets, and the “creation myth” aesthetic, I did have to put in some effort to understand the game text. I had a little trouble figuring out the paper-folding character creation section at first (do we keep adding to the same paper? Add new ones? How do we fold them?). When I got to the example character I figured that it’s just folding small sections back across the page as we finish adding each “line” of text to it, but I think this could be made clearer in the instructions. I was also a bit confused during character creation about the way that a character seems to both help and hinder the creation of something, but I get the impression from later procedures that these are mutually exclusive outcomes. If that’s true it might be helpful to make it clearer how the statements will work during character creation. The benevolent/malevolent thing also felt a little awkward to me in the way it’s presented: the example with the kindly old woman who likes to work in her garden ends with an incongruous “I am malevolent”. Maybe there could be a more natural way to work that in, or maybe pick some words besides benevolent/malevolent that aren’t so readily tied to personality traits?

      I got pretty confused trying to follow the procedure of playing through the creation stories, possibly due to the “outline” format being very light on details about how things connect together (for example, the first step tells you to play the hand game but doesn’t tell you what winning or losing it determines). I think I got the gist of it by using the example as a guide, but I know I’d be very tentative and constantly cross-checking with the example if I tried to run the game. From a fictional POV, I was surprised to see the example have the coyote “on screen” at the same time as a character that was being impersonated by the coyote. That feels like it’s “cheating” in terms of the storytelling conventions around characters that dress up like other characters. Normally I’d be turned off a bit by the way the stories seem to be mostly independent from each other rather than woven together, but I think the structure works well here in the “creation myth” context where we would actually find a more modern story sensibility to be off-putting. The “coyote pretends to be someone else” thing struck me as the most compelling element of the design since it builds on top of the shadow puppets concept and helps cement them as an important element of play. Although I had trouble parsing some of the procedures, I got a positive impression of the game from the examples, so I think my issues are related to unsuccessfully receiving the ideas the game was trying to communicate rather than having problems with the ideas themselves.

      While it’s not the kind of game I usually play, I think this game has solid potential with the right audience. The shadow-puppets bring a performance element that’s different from many other games while still leveraging a lot of verbal storytelling skills that many gamers have. I think the procedures could use some revision so that they’re a bit easier to absorb, and it might help to have an example following each step in the procedure so that you can see each part in action while you’re learning it. Including some example stencils for the shadow puppets and scenery could be helpful for potential players who may not know how to make good shadow puppets. It might also be worth exploring the idea of making the coyote a fixed rather than rotating player, to make more of the “coyote pretends to be someone else” mechanic by building some stronger baseline expectations about the vocal performance, although that would have implications for how fairly the screen-time is distributed so it’s hard to be sure which would be the right way to go.

      – Dan Maruschak

    • shamblercow

      Last Chance to Tell the Tale of Coyote and Medicine Man

      I like the theme and intent of this game quite a bit. The mythic elements which help establish the game, like Coyote and Medicine Man talking around the fire, help to create a real sense of what the game should be about. The framing device of the shadow screen and the shadow puppets brings in elements which seem unusual but potentially very potent for telling a story. The step by step Creation outline is very helpful.
      An outline of the procedure of set-up, as separate from play might help to make the instructions easier to follow. In character creation, I was a little confused about how the elements of the character fit together, although I loved that all the players can have a hand in creating characters.

      I was uncertain about the instruction: “All these should somehow relate to our culture.” All these characters or character traits? Whose culture? The culture of the game characters or the culture of the players at the table? Tying this advice into a specific place in the procedure of the game might help alleviate confusion.
      The text is a little hard to follow in some places. I would place the description of the Hand Game into the bulleted procedures of play in order to make it flow a little more smoothly. The overall flow of the text involves a lot of stop and starts. I like the examples and instructions for how to play the game, but the way they are presented seems to make it harder to follow the actual procedure for playing the game. A cheat sheet with step by step directions would make the game more new player friendly and easier to jump into.

      The examples of play in this entry are neat! I really like the kind of story telling that is being envisioned – it’s light, but mythic, which seems to fit the game nicely. This is a game that seems like it would play well to an audience. It would be interesting to have a sample YouTube video of the game being played in order to set some expectations and to clarify the procedures.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 37 is reviewed by… 36 34 31 27

    • Joel

      I like the freaky black comedy vibe, and the snarky tone of the text. You manage to make playing the most miserable beings in all existence killing each other in a futile battle sound weirdly fun. I like the brutal attrition of the rules: a desperate battle of tooth and claw where you’re whittled down with no respite. Very Battle Royale (or Classroom Deathmatch, which is Battle Royale in RPG form).

      There are some vague points in the text that leave me unsure how to actually play. For instance, you first say that your Traits can give you varied mechanical bonuses, like a greater hit range, or a larger critical damage multiplier. But then you say that you get a greater hit range for each Trait. So are the bonus powers customizable or not? The bigger ambiguities, though, lie in how you actually play at all. There’s a GM, I guess, but does he play all the opponents, or are you also each other’s opponents? You mention progressing to through the complex—how do you know how far and fast you’ve “progressed”…? How do you know when you reach the lamp? Does the GM map the complex out, or just sort of decide when you’ve reached the end? And does just one creature get to make it to the lamp and “win,” or can “four or five” make it?

      I’ve got some game balance misgivings as well; if dice are your hit points, then is bidding them away for advantages that will make your remaining dice roll better really worth it? And if the GM never loses her two D10s, won’t she just roll them all the time? I’m not clear what the “gotcha” ending is supposed to serve: is that a nasty surprise for the players, or just an ironic twist that the creatures don’t know but all the players do? My own reaction upon reading was “oh, the whole game is for nothing, then.” Is that the reaction you’re trying to provoke?

      This has the makings of a fun game with just a little bit more coherence. If I were clear what I’m doing and why, and what every player’s job is, I could probably engage with it a lot better. I’d probably also respond to a strong visual component, too; something cartoony but dark like Jhonen Vasquez or Rob Schrab. Good luck!

    • Mael Rimbault

      My review of “Like moths …” is available here :
      http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32990.0

      Best,
      Mael

    • Bryan Hansel

      Like Moths…

      First Impressions: The premise of your game, that a doctor is experimenting on animals by genetically combining multiple animals, reminds me of a movie – although I can’t remember which one. It’s an interesting premise and I can imagine having fun with the character creation, especially when it gets more fleshed out. It sort of reminds me of character creation in Palladian’s TMNT, except this is freeform and doesn’t really have restrictions. The second part of the premise, that characters fight to find a light that eventually kills them, seems like an interesting idea that seems to lend itself to lots of board-game-style crunch, but by taking the crunch away and making everything more freeform, you’ve removed some of that crunch. I’m interested in how that actually works during play. With the right group, I can see it being pretty fun.

      The Frying Pan: Doctor. Check. Lantern seems sort of tacked on, because the lantern just becomes this thing that the characters are drawn to, like moths to a lantern. It’s there, but the moth thing seems a step removed. One Shot seems like a copout. The premise of the competition is Last Chance and it already implies a one shot. I really want to know what Forge thread this was from, so I can see if it fits. Shark Teeth fits in with the animals, but seems sort of secondary. I’d like to know what Forge thread this was from, so I can see if it fits. The overall premise fits in as a Last Chance. I’d give you 3 out of 5.

      Word Count: Well done keeping what could be a long game within the word count. I think you could easily expand the game in the future with more character creation rules without worrying that it’d get too long. The simply resolution system fits nicely into the size of the game.

      Not So Clear: I think I get everything except the bidding system. What you don’t tell me is what happens to the dice that I bid. Do they go away? Do I get weaker if I don’t have them to fight with? Do I get them back at the next room? Etc…

      What I Didn’t Like: I don’t like that the characters die when they reach the lamp. It fits with the moth thing, but it doesn’t give me much motivation to try and win.

      Moving Forward: Here’s what I’d like to see from the game: a more detailed character creation system that isn’t so wishy-washy about penalties and bonuses. I think you should iron out the bidding system. I also think that the premise for this game could also make a good board game. If you did that, you could drop the GM and have everyone be their own character fighting to get the lantern.

      One-sentence Conclusion: An okay mix of the game chef ingredients combined to make an interesting premise and mechanics that with a little polish sound like they could be fun.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 38 is reviewed by… 37 35 32 28

    • Андрей Воскресенский (@KeylSunders)

      For our reviewers:
      I sadly forgot to name ingredients we’ve used in the game.I did named them while submitting a game, but it seems, unlike last year’s GC no one will see initial post. So, I just repost ingredients here. Hope, you’ll find it usefull.

      Ingredients used:
      Unworthy thread (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=3395.0)
      Stars over Africa thread (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=3885.0)
      Forced conditions thread (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=28414.0)
      Rwearding narration in GMless competitive games thread (http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=23292.0)

    • Fractal Advocate

      Dark ages in /less than a year/ and no one cares… Tribes in Africa think that eating each other on Easter is what Easter is all about… I’m guessing this supposed to be a semi-farcical thing a la Paranoia, although the only support for this view other than the intro is the suggestion to ‘talk in a funny accent’ when discussing what licenses to renew.

      I really like the various base elements of the system – abilities that can be lost, paying corporations to keep your licenses running, the ‘is this mission worth my/our time’ dynamic with the hidden motivations. I imagine there’d be quite a bit of fluctuating trust. The folded character sheet is a very cool way to deal with public/private information(although you’d have to be careful about seating setups with 5+ players because it’s really darn easy to see that). It’s a pretty cool way to set up mission-running type games.

      A few questions that I had when reading through: Can you use a tapped enhancement, or is it just to signify it can’t be turned face down? Why do you keep a small corner when selling tech to companies? For that matter, why all the card destruction at all?

      There’s quite a few things that make the game look hard to play. A lot of things are chosen by players talking it over, which could easily grind the game to a halt with their different motivations, and the endgame is just a huge opportunity for arguments that can’t be resolved except by players getting tired of arguing. The main issue is that the team decides as a group how to do things, which there is no IC or OOC guidelines for doing so. Also, while Genetics and Technology have a lot of endgame techs, Society has hardly any endgame things to choose from. Temptations are described as ‘things that might sway you from the greater good’, but some of these temptations are ‘greater good, just a different kind of greater good’. More importantly, a couple of the temptations seem to encourage you to not engage half of the rules.

      This game feels fairly unfinished to me, but the elements are there to build something. In general, it feels like it needs more rules instead of ‘figure it out somehow’ to tighten up gameplay. Most importantly, I’d give people more tools/guidelines for talking things over as a group.

      If you want any further opinions or just to discuss the review, feel free to email me at fractal advocate at gmail dot com.

      – Abram Bussiere

    • Theresa

      I like the motivations and temptations. I’m a big fan of mechanics that support character development. However, the setting leaves me confused. There are some great images there, but they don’t seem to fit together. I also was confused by the methods of earning knowledge and renewing licenses. I feel that actual examples of game play would have been helpful. Part of my confusion may come from using terminology (“tapping” cards) that I half-recognize from friends who play games like Magic: the Gathering, but which I do not myself play. It leaves me wondering if there are implications to the term that I’m missing. The end result is that I feel like there is something interesting here, but that I lack the tools to make use of it.

    • Mathalus

      This setting gives me whiplash in a good way. I like the themes of technological stagnation and virtuous research. Also, I am excited by your novel depiction of a Doomed-African-Timbuktu.
      I love how you have the players cutting up the cards and collecting bits of them. It’s a great nod to the Last Chance theme. I’m also thankful for the strong endgame conditions.

      I’m unclear on on how temptations are worked in. Is there a reward for succumbing to them?
      Also, will you be making all the Event Cards, or are the players coming up with those? If the cards are pre-generated, make up a bunch of cards, smooth some things out and send me the next draft. I want to give this a “half-shot” (an attempt to playtest it for half a session to see what works). You can find my email at the end of my Game Chef entry. Drop me a line and we can continue the conversation.

    • Szymon Gosek

      Sorry for being 12hrs late.
      The game feels quite complete and ready to play right out of the box. The starting description is really great! It pushes the reader into “cool trope world” with a clear goal (“Save the world!”). So the setting is clear and quite well defined. The “character pad” (name in front is just brilliant!) is another superb idea which I only saw in the old Dune boardgame.
      Since as I stated I am a FATE addict the motivation/temptation mechanic deeply touches my mechanic-is-story soul. But lacking examples (especially for temptations) its a little hard to grasp the whole picture.

      Cutting up cards is quite innovative, it does not appeal to my sense of playing, but I have to give it credit: its something new.

      The main thing that got me confused is high gamism – low game vibe coming out of it. It has some PVP elements but most of it is fought through talking with no rules and its easy to come down to “I shot you! No you missed!”.

      To sum up: cool world with, some nice ideas lacking examples and a little more polish around the presentation of the pitch itself.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 39 is reviewed by… 38 36 33 29

    • shamblercow

      The Murderers of Dr. Moreau

      This game has an interesting premise. To pit the few remaining natural creatures against mutated abominations could lead to some interesting experiences during play.

      The mechanics of the game are a little difficult to follow. It’s not clear why the Coyotes would want to attack each other, rather than just taking turns through the scenes until killing the Doctor. It looks like players can cooperate and still increase their predation and position without risking creating more frustration. Adding a factor or motivation which would draw the players into conflict would lead to more temptation to commit to duels.

      The flow of the text and the actual text itself is somewhat muddled. The advice about finding out whether coyotes can talk seems to be located too early in the text. It would fit very well right after the second paragraph of the Start, as it would be a great time to establish the parameters of play. The use of the term coyotes, for the children of Dr. Moreau and the real coyotes introduces confusion about which term is being used in which way when it shows up in the text. The terms Coyotes and real coyotes seem to be synonymous, and the terms coyotes and Beings seem to be synonymous as well. Consistency about the use of the terms, or choosing another name for the player characters might help. It’s not clear to me which type of coyotes the player characters were until I got to the end of the game.

      In the section on Tests in actions, it’s not clear to me what roll constitutes a success for the players. This might be where Frustration from duels would be beneficial, but I can’t parse the actual mechanic. An example of play would help immensely.

      The form factor of the game is cool – but while the one sheet printed on both sides is convenient and easy to keep track of, fitting the text onto two pages might have reduced its clarity. The game would benefit greatly from the clarification of terms and intent throughout.

    • sailorkitsune

      After my initial read through of “The Murderers of Dr. Moreau” I was charmed by the writing style. I felt that the slightly broken English was actually quite evocative of the post-apocalyptic setting and character of the game itself.
      More in-depth review revealed a game that would be easy to play, basically each coyote having predation, position and frustration, which are gained or lost in various contests or duels, largely between players/characters, in order to see who will get to act.
      I was a little confused by the relationship between position and frustration, but a second read through seems to indicate that If a character loses a duel, they pay one point of position to the winner, then “flip” a second position token over to denote frustration. I think an example might make this system and set-up a little more clear.
      I don’t understand how each scenes “theme” should be played out, and what impact it has on the story. Perhaps an example or two here will help, as well.
      As I understand the text, a coyote who loses all points of position has its fate determined by the other players, either the coyote withdraws from the mission and the game or it is transformed by Dr. Moreau’s potion into a being. I would like to see more information on the process of making this decision, and how it would be narrated in story. If the players decide that a coyote becomes a being, particularly in a relatively early scene, does the GM then narrate how that happens?
      I would also like to see a little more explanation about the initial setup where each coyote describes the first time it killed a being. Is this done mostly for Roleplay purposes, or is there a mechanical effect?
      All in all, I like the pack infighting and dynamic of this game and feel it is well supported by the mechanics. I especially like the use of the “Jungle Speed” totem as a resolution mechanic! With a little more detail and some fleshing out, this would definitely be a game that I would play.\

      Shari Corey

    • Bryan Hansel

      The Murders of Dr. Moreau

      First Impressions: The main thing that I like about this game is that you have set up sort of a wolf pack position system with the position mechanic. That could be fun with the right consequences attached to it. The idea of a doctor creating half-human, half-coyote beings is an interesting one. And a physical totem to use when disputing fiction is an interesting idea.

      The Frying Pan: Mimic. I’m not sure that you used this effectively or at all. Doctor. Check. Coyote. Check. Interesting that you have taken just keywords from that thread. I’ll give it to you though. Last Chance. I can imagine the theme as the last chance the original coyotes have to stop the doctor, but it isn’t really formally stated.

      Word Count: The game seems to fit nicely within the word limit of the contest.

      Not So Clear: I’m not so clear on the predation, position and frustration points. The way I read it, win a player loses, he give 1 or 2 position points to the winner and gains 1 or 2 frustration points. And I’m not exactly sure what I do to use frustration points in a duel. But what I’m really confused about is killing a being, because the more duels that I lose, the higher my frustration gets. This makes it easier to kill a being?

      Moving Forward: As you revise the rules, you should clarify the duel and killing being rules. Plus, maybe think about whether or not more frustration makes it easier to kill a being.

      One-sentence Conclusion: A good mix of the chef ingredients with an interesting premise baked into mechanics that just need a little work.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 40 is reviewed by… 39 37 34 30

    • Dan Maruschak

      True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes

      The game starts with some caveats about not being “easy to playtest”, but it seems like a complete enough game to me to be eligible for the competition, although there would be some logistical barriers if people wanted to actually play it. It’s definitely aimed at a more “experiential” kind of play, closer to a jeepform experience than something you might see in a tabletop RPG that focuses on designed interactions.

      Using dancing around a fire to achieve a different psychological state is an interesting technique to build a game around (I just read a book that argues that the development of this feature of human psychology was a key to creating group cohesion and trust which enabled early human tribes to function like “superorganisms” rather than a collection of purely self-interested individuals, so it’s some pretty deep and powerful stuff). Many of the character descriptions are specific enough to fire the imagination but vague enough to be conducive to the dreamlike feel the game is going for. They also felt like archetypes that many people could be comfortable playing rather than references to specific mythology, folklore, or tradition. That seems like a smart way to go since people might be intimidated if they felt the need to portray something authentically. Some of the ingredients are used more strongly than others, but overall it seems like a good use of the ingredients.

      The game says it’s aimed at a “cathartic experience”. I’m not sure catharsis is going to be reliably achieved since there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot that will bring people’s personal emotions out, but I can see how the game could lead to a general heightened state of emotions. The “blood” mechanic could eventually produce 2*NumPlayers statements that can’t be contradicted. If I were preparing to play I’d worry that it might be difficult to keep that many things straight, especially with all the dancing and other statements going on. I imagine that stopping to correct mistakes and get people back on the same page would be pretty disruptive to the effect this game is trying to achieve, so knowing that I might have to accurately remember a bunch of things would probably make me nervous. I also wonder if the “slips of paper in your pocket” technique might be a little clunky in play (when visualizing what play would be like, I imagined the people near the fire squatting down which makes pockets hard to access). Another area of concern for me would be the “when everyone has stated to have killed the coyote god” endgame condition, which strikes me as a little fuzzy. Since it won’t be easy to discuss things without breaking the mood it might be easier to have a crisper and more concrete trigger so that it’s simultaneously self-evident to everyone when to start the endgame. Maybe the ability to read body-language, etc., will make that a non-issue when actually played, though. While I think most of the character descriptions are likely to work the way they’re intended, I’m not sure I understand the Mimic or the Mingle.

      I’m not familiar with what people normally expect from games like this in finished form, but from what I can tell it already has everything that would be needed to test it. There are some things that could be done to facilitate large group play, like distilling the rules to a single page that could be easily handed out to each player, but I think the next step to developing it further would be to see if it actually produces the aimed-for emotional effect on players.

      – Dan Maruschak

    • Joel

      There’s a lot in this game that I’m excited about. Playing up the ritual nature of gaming to the point where the subject of the game IS ritual is very cool. I’m all about using games as transformative experiences, so the cathartic nature of Real Men Don’t Kill Coyotes appeals to me as well.

      I struggle with the way that cathartic experience is presented in the text, though. The game simply tells you, bluntly, “The object of the game is to have some sort of cathartic experience,” and seems to rely on declarations like this to get me, the player, to the place where that can happen. This continues in a couple of spots throughout the text: “You’ll feel when it’s time” to start talking, and “You’ll know when it’s gone” at the end of the ritual. I found myself longing for more guidance than that… if I’m truly playing for vulnerability and catharsis, I need to know that this process is taking me there safely and with intention. Not safely in terms of protecting me from vulnerability and intensity, but safely in the sense that the game, like my fellow players, is by my side, upholding me in the endeavor.

      I confess, also, that I was uncomfortable (and not in a good, cathartic way) with your use of Native American themes in this game. It’s not that using them at all is automatically out of line, and with these ingredients it’s something you’d expect to see in a lot of entries. Your game, however, felt off in the way it used the themes, in that the whole premise AND methodology of the game strongly mirrors aspects of Native culture as seen through outside eyes, and particularly aspects that are often appropriated by non-Natives as means of finding meaning and fulfillment by way of slumming it as savages and mystics. The fact that you roleplay Native people while stripping down and painting yourselves and actually dancing around a fire to “tribal” music puts the game in a context where I’m not comfortable engaging with. There are additional cues like the one-liner about Peyote on the title page and the quip in the Get Prepared section, “It will probably be a lot better if there are also some hot girls in there, but that’s just my opinion” lead me to feel that the game isn’t approaching Native culture from a position of respect. It looks much more like a frivolous lark where hip people of the dominant culture can get together and “act Indian” and come away with some “deep experience” that justifies it.

      If you want to take this game farther, then I recommend that you do two things: first, come to terms with its relationship to Indian culture, a culture that is not only marginalized but often treated like an exotic side show to be mined by white folks for depth and spirituality and flavor. Figure out if there’s a way, if any, to have this game do its thing while approaching Native culture with respect and humility. And second, clarify the ritual to the point where players can engage in its vulnerability-facilitating practices with informed intention.

    • AnoTypMon

      True Men Do not Kill Coyotes

      This game is like an intriguing woman. Probably I will never able to play it, but I will dream for long time, how amazing it would be experience. Because I want to play this game. Immediately! In the summer night, around bonfire, with the drums. 10 years younger …

      But – as it happens with intriguing womens – I fear, that clash with reality can be painful.
      On the one hand I would like to immediately jump into the game, on the other – do not know what i should tell when the game starts. The given example, though well explains the rule of “taste the blood”, leaves me confused, what a story the author had in mind.

      Also in this game is very importent to everyone playing the same game”. Maybe it will be good to include a few words about sketching the “setting”?

      The biggest problem I have with finding what should knows the players and what their characters. If part of this knowledge should be secret, maybe the player-reader who organizing the game should get the role of Coyote God?
      Also it is unclear for me, why the (all) killer(s) has to admit, and why they would not want to do that. And how will players know that it is time for endgame?

      “Taste of Blood” is a brilliant idea. Great “in-game” motif and also original “meta-game” rule, perfectly fitted into the game. I want to steal it: P.
      Also, the characters and their motives are well designed. But I wonder whether they should be completely randomly distributed. The ingredients used are cool, but I thing thet will be useful to remark that the explanation of why the characters have a “last chance” should be woven into the story.

      My suggestion is to describe the part of the game to clarify what kind of story “the author had in mind”. Overall, the game is very original and has great potential. I would like to read its next version.

    • Szymon Gosek

      True Men Do not Kill Coyotes

      So okay, since I am an active LARPer (whether I like it or not) I can’t walk past this one without saying: “Wow its a jeepform!”. I like that Alex, chose the non-compromise artistic approach: “You like it or you don’t, I’m not going casual or softcore.”. This game is strong and is a statement that we can make games that only a number of people will like and play.

      Another part that gets me is that this game proves that rules and mechanics are not only tables and dice but gestures, movements and touch! Incorporating “Taste of Blood” in meta-game an in-game at once is incredibly well done. Also the characters are well written, they immediately cast a persona into my mind.

      But as I stated: its close to a jeepform, so the players need more setting/description because its easy not to get on the same page with the story with other players. The next part I have some doubts is ‘feels-like-now’ based timing. Without some codified gesture or verbal form players can have some doubts that this is the right moment for everyone (its well done in the ending with touching!). Simply lacking those rules I can’t shake the feeling its a scenario not a game.

      This can benefit strongly from forming a setting or at least stating “how I play it” as a general guide line.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 41 is reviewed by… 40 38 35 31

    • Fractal Advocate

      Of note: The link on the list of games submitted doesn’t work, although the link on the ‘reply’ with the same info works fine.

    • trashmeetssteel

      My review is long, so I put it on my blog. Here’s the link:
      http://trashmeetssteel.blogspot.it/2012/04/first-review-coyote-doctor-by-julian.html

    • trashmeetssteel

      This year’s ingredients have been able to suggest a wide variety of games based on oniric premises. Coyote Doctor makes no exception: the players take the role of godlike entities that struggle to save the universe from a threat known as the Coyote. Somewhere and sometime in the universe there’s the Lantern, the only object that can destroy the Coyote. So the Coyote wants the Lantern and he’s destroying the entire universe to gain it, while the players try to obtain it so that they can use it against the Coyote.

      The four players have on their side six “concepts”, that they’ll spend to gain dice they’ll throw during the conflicts that will arise when they’ll find the “gates”, the three (four, in reality) steps they need to cross to reach the lantern and gain it. Between them there’s also the Coyote in disguise.

      The setting would be, I admit, interisting, even if it gives me a sense of deja-vù; you know, the evil one disguising between the good ones so that he can reach his objective… I can think about a lot of situation like this, in videogames, cinema, literature… But that’s ok.

      The problems are linked to the system. First of all there are a lot of unclear situations: the characters are meant to reach the Lantern for the endgame to unlock, so what about the three previous gates? If they can’t pass the first gate the game just crashes? And why is the Coyote playing against the character since the first scenes? If he wants to reach the lantern he should just stick to the party and wait for the last gate to open, isn’t it?

      Also the narrative authority isn’t clear: who frames the scenes? Who controls the NPCs? There are only four scenes in the game (one per gate, I imagine)?

      There are also some errors in the text that make the game not easy to understand, along with a series of other mysteries (why should you number your minor concepts from 1 to 4?) that sadly make this game actually incomplete.

      Referring to the cookery stuff: I’m not convinced about the way the ingredients have been used. Coyote surely appears (even if just as name, I admit), and the Lantern too (good this one, as a ray-of-hope for the universe). Doctor appears only in the title and basically have no reference to the game, also because the coyote is trying to destroy the universe, not to heal it. The mimic one would have been used greatly in that disguising mechanic; I’m not sure it has been used, though, as it isn’t specified in the handbook. I can’t say if the author used a forge thread for the game, as also this point isn’t specified in the text.

      I have to say that the game’s premises are cool, so not all of the work necessarily has to be trashed. I really like that disguise mechanic, if it surely need to be debugged, so I would start to work from that.

      Anyway, I’ll have to give a pat on the author’s shoulder, ’cause I think that the game isn’t fine enough to proceed in the ladder.

    • Mael Rimbault

      My review of “Coyote Doctor” is available here :
      http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32991.0

      Best,
      Mael

    • Fractal Advocate

      ‘Platonic idealism is real, and some jerk is destroying those ideals’ is a really good hook. Godlike entities trained in healing universes as characters, though, gives you very little guidance on why you are doing so. Or if you’re at risk if the universe is destroyed while you’re in it. I really like the division of major/minor concepts, it seems like you could make some fun combinations and it would lead towards god-like personalities.

      How long each scene is(and thus how long it will take for all concepts to be eaten) is left unsaid. The sentence which says when to switch from eating minor to major concepts just trails off. That Sickness can eat itself, and still keep on eating things, is odd to me conceptually. It looks like the idea when fighting a gate is that you roll one Concept or pick a free die for Lantern if you can’t, but it’s not stated. There’s no guidance for what you do if you fail a gate. Do you just lose? Does that mean one more scene?

      I am a bit confused about most barriers/etc being pure freeform – you just do it as long as you want, as Coyote player, but the players can narrate their way past forever? The three powers you all have as godlike entities seem to make this easy, but the limited by concept element seems to mean you can only do it if you have the appropriate concept. The latter is much cooler, but then why is the former stated?

      Overall, the theme looks really cool, but it looks like you’d have to fiat a lot of game to play the current version, and I don’t entirely grok the reasoning behind the mechanics. I’d suggest clarifying the scene/gate dynamic, though.

      If you want any further opinions or just to discuss the review, feel free to email me at fractal advocate at gmail dot com.

      – Abram Bussiere

    • Андрей Воскресенский (@KeylSunders)

      Little off-topic to start with: I actually like it, when author does not bother himself with layouts and other décor before finishing. I think, it’s fair to show, that game is a draft, and GameChef is a contest of drafts, imho.
      Coyote Doctor is yet unfinished, but quite fascinating small game. Perhaps, it starts a little dull (it’s really hard to come up with something new in the field of apocalypse) but as soon as differences appear, everything gets better.
      Here, we become god-like entities, who gets limited in what they can do, because the ideas of possible actions vanish. That’s where fresh ideas starts (I was afraid, first, that we become limited because, like, the world cannot bear fully powered a god within itself, or something). But, apocalypse’s at hand, the primal concepts of universe asre disappearing – and so do we.
      That reminds me of Endless Story – and that’s cool.
      More specifically: present GM as Coyote is good, and possibility to change the player over that role is even better. I don’t like completely GMless games, and here I see nice solution, where everyone has a chance to stand off, but not everyone’s equal (nothing against equality, but in some situations GMless games just can’t provide surprise or unknowness)
      I already said, that using concepts as tool, building brick and DNA of gods (did I get you right here?) is really strong move. And the image of Coyote, “taking the Lantern from the corpse of the universe“ is purely awesome.
      Also, I can’t get rid of the associations with The Doctor, and that is also great. Please, tell me, was that similarity intentional, or that’s just me and the ingredient?
      What that draft lacks in my opinion: initial conflict can be made somehow less typical – or, better to say, it can be presented in a fresher manner. You’ve done a great job, using very little number of concepts as a base of the game and getting the most out of each. I’m sure, If you’ll put one of the ideas, already used under new angle everyone would benefit.
      It stays unclear to me, what the players are supposed to do before reaching the Gates. That part should be self-obvious, I think, but not much is said and bewilderment remains.
      I’m not sure about hiding coyote’s actions through concepts. What concepts does he use – some of the bigger list, or the one’s that belong to the PC he embodies? Perhap’s there’s a way not to play coyote and character at once? That is the hardest part here(
      And also: why does this game be only played once? Just because in-game threat ends?
      Actually, that’s just a curiosity. What I’d recommend from the point, where the game is: to rethink the concept and, perhaps, get rid of ingredients, that was inserted just because of the rules; and insert some place to make hacks. That game just asks for that, imho. Test it, test will show all flaws both of us can’t see. Finish the layout and finish the game. I do want to play it once.
      Thank you, for the game, if you want to discuss it further – keyl.sunders gmail com, and I’m fully at your service.

    • Fractal Advocate

      While you have to work as a team, there’s a possible hidden traitor, and some people may win more than others. Very cool, and captures my attention. I like this in a gamist game.

      Ingredientwise – Coyote, sure, this is a game about coyotes. Mimic seems possible with the Turncoat mechanic if they play it close to the chest at first, and with the ability to mimic things. Last chance to make sure Coyote exists again, sure. Lantern’s thematic element seems kinda light to me in that there’s no reason it’s a lantern specifically, but sure, it’s a symbol of ‘light and order’. I thought the thread on emotional stuff was pretty much not there, but looking at it again, the game is all about ‘do you trust each other’/’can you cooperate’. So well incorporated I kinda missed it, I suppose.

      It looks like the game is very much intended for a certain number of players – two players seems kinda weak, for example. Some guideline on what numbers the game is optimal with would be cool here. The bidding mechanism and special cards also seem really cool, although I wonder why the first card chosen is shown to everyone – is this due to the need to make sure people aren’t cheating with the lantern? You could have the GM glance at the deck. Tools seem much stronger than essence dice, which is too bad, because I think they are far less compelling. Holy Sword and Staff of Fire look like some of the best things in the game. Perhaps this is to encourage people to steal from each other? More importantly, the dice are not very well spelled out, or I missed it if they were. 7 matched dice, including 2 that are d10s – d6s? Later: smaller dice: d6s and d4s?

      After spelling out player roles very specifically, it leaves the GM role extremely up in the air. It’s hinted at they should have some idea of the adventure in advance, which sounds possibly suggestive of OSR play. However, the very loose role of a GM is particularly problematic in a PvP-heavy oneshot game – all they have to draw on is any common play experiences to decide what is ‘fair’. Also, the rules that limit what they can do based on dice are very unclear, and kinda counter-intuitive in a metagame sense – if players are the competitive type, they will bid big dice making it harder, steal and take essence from each other, making it harder, and the DM will have bigger dice, making it harder. If they are cooperative, everyone will bid small dice, steal and attack less, and the DM won’t have much to throw at their cohesive front. One action/player turn is cool, but means that coyotes may be so busy tricking each other that they don’t get ahead…

      Wait, is that is the point? Is this entire thing a sneaky way of saying to the players ‘competing with each other just hurts you’? Is this why it’s designed towards oneshot? That’s pretty cool, if so, although I imagine it would be comparatively boring playing it with cooperative players compared to competitive ones.

      If not, I’d also give coyotes both a ‘roll towards progressing the adventure’ and a ‘roll towards advancing themself/stealing stuff’ on each of their turns. I’d make the role of the GM much more clearcut either way – I’m imagining you ran out of room to spell things out any more than they were.

      Overall, there’s a lot of cool ideas in this game, and although the logic behind a lot of the design choices isn’t clear to me, it does intrigue me. I’d be interested in seeing the fleshed out version if you end up making it.

      If you want any further opinions or just to discuss the review, feel free to email me at fractal advocate at gmail dot com.

      – Abram Bussiere

      • Fractal Advocate

        Ahg, I totally posted this under the wrong entry. Please ignore it.

        If you’re a moderator, please delete the above reply.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 42 is reviewed by… 41 39 36 32

    • AnoTypMon

      Burning Opera is in fact one and the same “role-playing poem” played in turn by each player, but in interesting way framed into story about actors in a burning theater.

      For me, especially interesting in this game is its “casketed” (story within a story) construction. The section “Sliping into the fiction” about creating a story’s decorations and concept of Lantern are a little pearls of design.

      Unfortunately, this interesting construction was a little undermined by unclear for me mixing, confusing, identifying? actors with real players.

      I understand that this is jepform, serious game, etc.

      But I think it would be easier for a player, roleplay fe. a farewell to her daughter by character, than himself. And the emotions should be the same, or even stronger, due to lack of shy or self-control. Not to mention about the burning real players’ names, what may be abusive.

      Interesting is the idea of Protagonist’s injury, but I think it was worth to emphasize role of this later in the game. Generally, I would see that the growing danger is important in the game.

      And why, instead of a difficult (especially for Coyote) determine when the scene should end, any player could not just “call the Lantern”?. It will be also easy way to “collision-free” interrupt of scene too intensive for somebody.

      By the way, the “setting” begs the limitation of “physical” space (eg, drawed by chalk). Who descends from the stage – will die. Mayby the space could be to decrease after each “art”?

      The ingredients were used in an interesting way and with equal importance. I like the apt remark at Meta role coyote.

      The game is written clear and legibly. Only a fragment of distributing roles looks a little complicated. Perhaps becouse the lack of resolve who has what to choose.

      Despite these observations, for now Burning Opera is solid, complete game, ready by play by people who like this kind of games.

    • Bryan Hansel

      Burning Opera

      First Impressions: This seems more like a way to set up an improv than a game, and it feels like some kind of role-playing poem, which is cool. I dig the reality inside of reality, and really have to wonder what kind of character would act out a play during their last moments – perhaps that could be included in the rules. I like the meta roles in the game working as directors and would rather see those roles remain separate instead of having them combined with the actors. Perhaps, one person could take both roles switching masks when needed if there aren’t enough players.

      I like the idea of ending the play at some point and switching roles, but I’m not sure what the in-game consequences of an injury are. Does the player then hobble around if he ended up with a burnt leg? Maybe instead of an injury, the place where they’ve set the play gets smaller for the next round. In the final round the space becomes so small that they can barely move.

      The Frying Pan: Last Chance was used well as it’s the last chance to do a play before the fire. Doctor translates well into the meta role. Coyote seemed a bit tacked on to the role. Seems to me it should have been more of a trickster role as that’s a common coyote role. Mimic works. Lantern sort of seems tacked on.
      Word Count: Fits well within the constraints.

      Not So Clear: The way that you’ve explained thing makes it really complicated to understand. It’s really a simple game, so I think you could easily simplify the way the rules are explained to make them seem far less rigged and structures. It seems like it’s one of those games that I can explain (after grasping the rules) by talking about the game vs. giving someone the rules. I suggest writing the rules like you’re talking to someone about how to play the game.

      Moving Forward: Simplify the rules. I don’t really find the way that you’ve set up a scene’s ending. I feel like there needs to be something a little more concrete here, because the end could happen at any time even if there’s no resolution to the scene.

      One-sentence Conclusion: A fully baked game that uses all the ingredients that just needs a dash of salt.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 43 is reviewed by… 42 40 37 33

    • shamblercow

      Latern

      Using a real-world timer as an in-game mechanic is a very interesting decision. It feel like it would lead to some interesting tension and that it creates an automatic pace that is kinetic and visceral. It also requires those characters in the scene to get to the heart of the matter very very quickly – there’s no time for a slow burn, unless the players are able to draw the resolution of a character’s arc through several conflicts. When creating my character, I tried to draw four of the character’s bucket list through the fifth, in order to create this sort of tension.

      I created the following character: Yarr, an Information Broker from Shamwow who fought side by side with another character. I assigned the stats Cruelty:3, Loyalty:2, Desperation:2, Conviction:1. I only rolled a health of 1, so it ended up being 5. This was enough for me to create a short backstory from the elements and to create interwoven Bucket List items. I’m not sure

      The order of some of the elements seems unintuitive. Players place their points in the motive stats before they are told what they mean and how they’re used, and the range of successful resolution.
      There is brief attention paid to using the Desperation stat to roll to get off world when a planet is about to be destroyed, but there’s no other instruction for how players should move from world to world – the behavior is only codified in the case of the planet being destroyed.

      Questions I had about the text: If a character was on the last world in the system, and it was being destroyed, and the character wanted to accomplish one last goal, would they have to roll Desperation, or could they roll something else? If a player is rolling to get off a doomed planet, is it fair play for the antagonist to try to run out the clock (since there is a cap of 2 minutes)? Can the destruction of that last world be averted with the Bucket List? How does this interact with the fiction? If a planet’s number is rolled twice during the same phase of the Entropy Clock countdown, is it destroyed on that turn? Is there any mechanical limit on the Antagonist’s choices about Physical Harm?

      I love this game’s central theme and operation, and think it could make a fun evening of gaming. It would improve clarity to put the resolution mechanic earlier in the text, and revise the flow of character creation so that players can make meaningful choices about how their characters are constructed.

    • trashmeetssteel

      The idea behind Lantern is cool. The universe is imploding into a giant black hole, and only a few planets remain. The game is about finding out what the characters do before the universe finally ends.

      The game uses a particular real-time mechanic: every 5 minutes we’ll have to roll to see wich planets are affected by the environmental stress caused by the black hole. After the second time a planet gets and environmental stress, it explodes. A character on that planet may spend a point from a motivation or a health point to protect the planet to get environmental stress, so that it can exist longer. If the 5 minutes end before the scene does, the players have 1 more minute to finish it. Then, as said, you roll.

      The other mechanics are not so particular. Every character has his stats (the motivations), Cruelty, Loyalty, Desperation and Conviction, as well as his health points and the bucket list, a list containing the things he wants to do before death.

      The gameplay is divided in scenes: at his turn every player call for a scene starring his own character. The player at his left is the antagonist, that basically acts more or less as a GM (and he has a lot of authority too, as, for example, he can set the number of rolls necessary for the character to make it to the spaceship when escaping from an exploding planet).

      I have some perplexity about the setting, I admit. I’m a fatalist and I find hard to understand how could be interisting a plot that basically have a so much ineluctable end. I mean: also in Montsegur you know how it’s going to end, but there are various endings available per character, and playing you find out how those characters come to that ending. Here in Lantern the ending isn’t linked to what the characters do: they’ll get anyway crunched in the black hole, and there isn’t any way they can save themselves. The introduction says that if there is some really good reason they don’t necessarily have to die, though, even if it should be a rarity, so I can imagine the players trying to save themselves in any way they can (I admit: I haven’t tested the game so maybe I’m wrong about this point).

      I have the impression that the system doesn’t support properly the object of the game. That stat system is a lot physical, and I’m not convinced about the health points. I would have put some sort of “consequence” mechanic, where the harm was only one of the possibilities. The HP are good for games strictly based on combat, and this isn’t. The stats aren’t clear too in their meaning, but I think that this is a consequence of having only 3000 words to write the game; in a future version of the game I would work on these ones. And I also would try to find a way to help players to have a game based upon their character’s bucket list, as I think that at the moment the real deal is surviving.

      I’m not convinced at all about the cookery stuff. Maybe the theme, Last Chance, is ok, but the ingredients (the four words) are used only as feeble setting elements. The lantern is the name of the black hole, as he emits some sort of light from inside (uhm… you don’t really see a black hole, I think), the mimics are people trying to record what they can of the universe before it’s all lost (and what will happen to their museum-like domes as they get eaten by the lantern? I don’t even see how these guys can meet the other assumptions of the setting), the doctors are scientists willing to find a way to let the planets survive a little longer (I suppose the characters will want to meet these guys as soon as possible), while the coyote is only mentioned as the beginning of the game, “The Coyote’s Head”, a large spaceport. I think that all of these could have been used way better rather then only being names of some setting’s elements.

      As said, the game have interisting premises, anyway. After the Game Chef I would completely eliminate every reference to the ingredients, and I would work on finding a way to obtain a game based more on the character’s bucket list, and less on those physical stats. And I would completely eliminate the possibility to survive the crunch, because that’s the real deal: the annihilation has to be final and unappealable.

    • jackvice (Giacomo Vicenzi)

      Premise: I’m sorry for my poor english. Maybe I will be misunderstood in some parts. I’ll try to be as much accurate as I can with grammar and lexicon. I’ll also try to avoid to type a “wall of text”. Finally, I made a custom 5-points structure to type down a review, based on J. Walton’s suggestions. Everyone is free to take this paradigm to review a game, I won’t get angry ^^

      1. What I like about this game: well, the entropy concept is really cool. You decided to go for a macro-event and then focus on specific ones using characters, still not forgetting how the universe will change due to the minor situation, and vice versa. This game gives a lot of free room for the PC to wander around, and this means they also have more freedom for the bucket list. Good Job.

      2.Theme and ingredients: I see the Last Chance theme is very well expressed; not an Apocalypse game as many around here (still we’re talking about the end of something, the Universe). The ingredients are all set, maybe a bit “forced” in some cases though (like for the Coyote’s Head, which is just the name of the starting point of the story, but could be easily any other name or place). Still that’s not a major problem, really, I just suggest for the next time to try to make the ingredients fit in a more important role, overall ^^

      3.Innovation and “risks”: this game has no innovation in mechanics. I see it more or less like a partially simplified version of d20 system games. The narration structure is also an “already seen”. Also the “focus scale” (universe and planets to single events) has already been seen in a easier way in Microscope (if you’re interested in, see: http://www.lamemage.com/). The only original thing here I do see is the “entropy”. About “risks” then, I can’t say much; Lantern can be easily branded under the gigantic group of simulationist games we all know (i.g. D&d). I hoped for something more “risky” and less conformist (wich is more or less the heart of Game Chef, as Walton said most of the times). The wordcount is ok, you have been good making the roles fitting in it.

      4. doubts and perplexities: the biggest doubt I had about this game was concerning the simulation part of it. Rolling dices every 5 minutes, generating planets and characters randomly… it really looks like a videogame (Will Wright’s simulator like) where you just look how casual events changes the whole frame, stepping in once in a while and looking passively what happens. I really think this part distracts from the game itself, takes too much time to figure what to roll, what happens, cutting off the 5 minutes to play. Also generating random PC doesn’t give the game the depth it should have (you can’t love something given you by random choice) . The Troubles/Complication tab is also unuseful: not every Trouble could fit the scene, then why randomizing?

      5. Conclusion: I think this game needs something more to be original and to work well. Mechanically, I don’t even think it can work right (d[x] dices? have you figured out the Probabability Theory and Statistic behind that? Have you tested it?) even if the structure is a well known and working frame. I suggest the Chef to have a look to different kind of games first, figuring out how he can face game design in a new, easier way. Carry on improving your game knowledge ;)

    • rsid

      I realize so very belatedly that I didn’t include my ingredients anywhere in the game–Coyote was intended as more of a shout-out; the actual ingredients I used were Doctor, Lantern, Mimic and a Forge thread about a setting with biodomes in space here: http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=6234.0 .

      Thanks for all the thoughtful reviews! I appreciate you taking time to look the game over.

      @shamblercow Agh, I totally forgot to include the clarification on whether a planet can be destroyed in one turn (I’d go with ‘no, re-roll that’). I’m glad you liked the game! As far as the questions about world destruction go: I wasn’t going to make a character stick to desperation to finish their Bucket List on a dying world, just to leave the planet. I was thinking that running out the clock would be fair game for the antagonist–but running it out with in-game hurdles, not out-of-character stuff. The destruction of the last world could be averted by burning completed Bucket List items, but any time you burn something to save a world you’d need to narrate your character going through some efforts to, well, do that. I hope that you wanted me to go ahead and answer all these! But thanks, certainly I’ll fix those holes in the text & edit it to read more smoothly.

      @trashmeetssteel You’re totally right; I feel like the physical stats were, in retrospect, a mistake and I should have pushed the game more towards just motivations and bucket list. (You do see black holes though! Or rather, they sort of spew columns of burning matter from opposite ends before sucking it back in, and you’d see that. /too much astrophysics for me :p) You might be right about not letting people survive too, given how much of the point is the story being meaningful in spite of the end.

      @jackvice I’ve played Microscope before, and it’s a great game–I definitely wasn’t trying to go quite that indie, but I do think I played it too safe with the character mechanics. Most of the feedback I got when I was writing the game was that generating a good bucket list ex nihilo was too hard, and people wanted something to go off of. I was hoping to get people started with general prompts they could fill in. I did tinker with the entropy dice probabilities some, and I actually do think they work (though admittedly I didn’t have a ton of testing time and this could be false). You raised a lot of good points though; mechanically I do need to weed out the less interesting stuff and focus on what’s actually new.

    • Szymon Gosek

      Lantern. A Game of Entropy.

      Out of the four games that I got to review this is the only one that deals with “its the end of the world” in clear way: the universe is collapsing, deal with it.
      The mechanical part of the game is where its strengths and weaknesses lie. I like the random generated universe but I think instead of rolling 1d20 and re-rolling it there should be a 1d6 (or d8…or d-whatever) per player. I like variable dice mechanism but d[x] is just… well… scary.
      The health is well done but its heavy on the rolling instead of using counters/cards.
      Characters have relationships (metagame, yey!) but players play NPCs.
      Motivation & Bucket-list (metagame^2!) but… the focus of the game is based on the player stats.

      Don’t want to sound as it would be a bad game! After a bit of polish and tinkering this could be a cool storytelling, randomly generated board/card game. Especially if the setting could be integrated more to the main rule description part.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 44 is reviewed by… 43 41 38 34

    • Joel

      I find the premise of Last Call of the Totem Spirits intriguing; Spirit Animals are a mainstay of alternative spirituality and hippy-trippy ;popular culture, but they’ve not been used much in games that I know of. Also, there are plenty of “End of the World” scenarios coming out of Game Chef this year, but yours is the only one I’ve seen where you have a “last chance” to prevent it. So that’s cool.

      When it comes to the rules of play, though, my excitement deflates. Assigning attribute numbers that will then be rolled to accomplish different tasks throughout play is a familiar RPG foundation, but by itself it’s not enough to excite me about playing. I kept waiting for something more, but didn’t get it. The use of the Totem Animal as a stat to cover actions reflective of that animal is neat, like Nature in Mouse Guard. But otherwise it looks like a standard Roll-Plus-Stat-Bonus VS Target # system, which doesn’t live up to the enthralling potential of the premise for me.

      I’m also unengaged with the overall structure of play, and unclear how to GM the game. “One of the players must take the role of Game Master. If you ever played a roleplaying game before (this is not the first rpg you play, right?!), you are familiar with that concept.” is NOT a sufficient explanation, not to mention presumptuous and offputting. The structure that you DO give looks very formulaic: visit animal tribe, receive quest, complete quest, get accepted by tribe, find Coyote, Coyote flees to the next tribe, repeat. I have no idea from this description what I’m supposed to be doing as Gamemaster OR player. Sounds like the game actions are already mapped out and I’m just there to supply bits of dialogue? It sounds like every quest cycle is the same, just with different animals, and that the Quest MUST succeed for the game to progress. What happens if you fail at the quest, or one of the steps in it? Does that have repercussions, or does the GM keep throwing out opportunities until you succeed? Plus I have no clue what a quest might entail, beyond that if I’m a wolf, I might have to fight a horse.

      This leaves me wondering what the game’s ABOUT, really? If it’s just about proceeding from task to task and fight to fight and animal pack to animal pack until I reach the end and the world is saved, I’m not interested. I need something more: either the questing and magic itself needs to be varied and interesting, or else the game needs to be about something deeper. Something like the personal discovery of finding your spirit animal and learning what that means for you, or the unique way each animal community copes with the apocalypse and a broken ecosystem, or the strain on mind, spirit and relationships as you strive to prevent the end of existence. That’s what bubbles up for ME, but you obviously need to find what’s meaningful for YOU. If you find THAT, I feel you might find your way to a compelling game.

    • rsid

      Name: The Last Call of The Totem Spirits
      Shamans go on a spirit quest to find Coyote hiding among the animals and convince him to save the world.

      Use of Ingredients: All of the ingredients are incorporated pretty well, as is the theme.

      I enjoy games that play with shape-shifting, and generally find the idea of some stats being fluid very cool. I like what you’ve done with the flavor text, and I like having the option to use the quest random tables as a way of giving the GM a clear idea of how to get started, even if they don’t end up using them. I feel like a little more similar stuff about what the world, animals, etc are like would be in order.

      I do think, though, that the game lends itself to too much inherent railroading. It sounds like the animal quests will get really repetitive, and as they’re now described I’m not sure how well they serve the wider frame story. If the world is ending, it seems like this should have more effect on what’s left of the world i.e. the animals should be concerned enough about Iya that giving onerous errands to newcomers isn’t the first thing on their minds. Trying to tie the quests in to the coming apocalypse would probably better preserve a sense of urgency throughout the game. Also, it might be cool if the PCs got to be involved with Coyote saving the universe, or had some other apex moment they were looking forward to at the end of the adventure. Just my two cents.

      Also, I’m don’t think the dice mechanic is as granular as I’d want it to be, if that makes sense. Since it takes 9+ to succeed, if your attributes are split up evenly at 6, then you’re pretty much going to win any uncontested roll if you get a 3+ rolling 2d6. And that’s not including the extra d6 you get if this is apropos your totem. I’d suggest having something intermediate between success and failure so that PCs can still get some of what they want most of the time, but not everything. Are you familiar with Apocalypse World? It’s a pretty great example of a simple 2d6 roll system + attribute/stat bonuses where applicable, with a range of success-partial success-failure results. I’m not saying you should just adopt it of course! But it seems like you’d need a good reason to reinvent that wheel.

      A couple of quick questions–do characters heal from encounter to encounter, or can they roll to try and heal each other? How does resisting a Magic roll actually work? While you say you roll Magic against Will, in regular play you just spend Magic points to do things. So when Magic is contesting Will, do you roll your Magic score straight? Or 2d6 + the Magic you spent?

      All in all, I’d say that it seems like you need to tighten up the focus of the game. Right now, the animal quests are really disconnected from the apocalyptic over-plot and as such it’s hard to get really invested in either. There’s some good flavor in the game, but it doesn’t quite gel together for me and it seems like the mechanics could use some tweaking.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 45 is reviewed by… 44 42 39 35

    • AnoTypMon

      Coyote Apocalypse

      Wow, I don’t remember another game that uses players’ dexterity in other way than Jenga. It looks interesting and fun fit the promise of the game. I also like the GM budget.

      That promise and idea of coyotes-spirits is cool. The idea of “play mat” as well. Both of these things fit together.

      But the game also has a lot of other different “engines”, quite independent, not matching each other. The game also has a lot of special rules, In this case they looks like a “dark legacy” of “traditional” role-playing games.

      BTW, I think that the possibility to play an “agent” should not be totaly random. It completely changes the style of play and kind of adventure.

      The ingredients have been used in a good and interesting way. Aside from very cool conception of “coyotes”, the Lantern as nemesis is also great.

      But creation of the setting and the adventure was virtually totaly left to GM. I understand different times, places, etc.. but the “goblins” in the example are a little weird for me. This freedom look rather as a lack of ideas.

      Currently the game looks playable, but In case of further work, I suggest rethink what You want to achieve and the use of Ockham’s razor.

      • Stan

        Thanks for the review. I confess that leaving the adventure to the GM was entirely due to word count and time. The shuffle board dice rules ate up most of my word count. I’m curious about what parts you see as a “dark legacy.”

    • Fractal Advocate

      While you have to work as a team, there’s a possible hidden traitor, and some people may win more than others. Very cool, and captures my attention. I like this in a gamist game.

      Ingredientwise – Coyote, sure, this is a game about coyotes. Mimic seems possible with the Turncoat mechanic if they play it close to the chest at first, and with the ability to mimic things. Last chance to make sure Coyote exists again, sure. Lantern’s thematic element seems kinda light to me in that there’s no reason it’s a lantern specifically, but sure, it’s a symbol of ‘light and order’. I thought the thread on emotional stuff was pretty much not there, but looking at it again, the game is all about ‘do you trust each other’/’can you cooperate’. So well incorporated I kinda missed it, I suppose.

      It looks like the game is very much intended for a certain number of players – two players seems kinda weak, for example. Some guideline on what numbers the game is optimal with would be cool here. The bidding mechanism and special cards also seem really cool, although I wonder why the first card chosen is shown to everyone – is this due to the need to make sure people aren’t cheating with the lantern? You could have the GM glance at the deck. Tools seem much stronger than essence dice, which is too bad, because I think they are far less compelling. Holy Sword and Staff of Fire look like some of the best things in the game. Perhaps this is to encourage people to steal from each other, however. More importantly, the dice are not very well spelled out, or I missed it if they were. 7 matched dice, including 2 that are d10s – d6s? Later: smaller dice: d6s and d4s?

      After spelling out player roles very specifically, it leaves the GM role extremely up in the air. It’s hinted at they should have some idea of the adventure in advance, which sounds possibly suggestive of OSR play. However, the very loose role of a GM is particularly problematic in a PvP-heavy oneshot game – all they have to draw on is any common play experiences to decide what is ‘fair’. Also, the rules that limit what they can do based on dice are very unclear, and kinda counter-intuitive in a metagame sense – if players are the competitive type, they will bid big dice making it harder, steal and take essence from each other, making it harder, and the DM will have bigger dice, making it harder. If they are cooperative, everyone will bid small dice, steal and attack less, and the DM won’t have much to throw at their cohesive front. One action/player turn is cool, but means that coyotes may be so busy tricking each other that they don’t get ahead…

      Wait, is that is the point? Is this entire thing a sneaky way of saying to the players ‘competing with each other just hurts you’? Is this why it’s designed towards oneshot? That’s pretty cool, if so, although I imagine it would be comparatively boring playing it with cooperative players compared to competitive ones.

      If not, I’d also give coyotes both a ‘roll towards progressing the adventure’ and a ‘roll towards advancing themself/stealing stuff’ on each of their turns. I’d make the role of the GM much more clearcut either way – I’m imagining you ran out of room to spell things out any more than they were.

      Overall, there’s a lot of cool ideas in this game, and although the logic behind a lot of the design choices isn’t clear to me, it does intrigue me. I’d be interested in seeing the fleshed out version if you end up making it.

      If you want any further opinions or just to discuss the review, feel free to email me at fractal advocate at gmail dot com.

      – Abram Bussiere

      • Stan

        Thanks. The reason I decided to have people show their pick is to speed things up so others wouldn’t waste time looking for a card that was taken – I cut out a bunch of advice and intent due to word count. I’m not sure that it’d work for more than a one shot as I think the backstabbing/alliances will stabilize quickly. Can you imagine totally screwing someone and then playing with them for several more sessions? You’re right, this isn’t going to work with groups that are too cooperative or who hold a grudge -like there are only certain friends that you introduce to Diplomacy. I put the victory conditions right on the character sheet to encourage competition but that’s not going to overcome basic personality. A couple in the group might also ruin it as they might cooperate too much from the beginning.

    • jackvice (Giacomo Vicenzi)

      Premise: I’m sorry for my poor english. Maybe I will be misunderstood in some parts. I’ll try to be as much accurate as I can with grammar and lexicon. I’ll also try to avoid to type a “wall of text”. Finally, I made a custom 5-points structure to type down a review, based on J. Walton’s suggestions. Everyone is free to take this paradigm to review a game, I won’t get angry ^^

      1. What I like about this game: I really enjoyed the idea of rolling the dices from a distance and/or letting them fall from the top of the Essence Map. Very creative. I also loved the fact there’s everything in the Character Sheet that a player needs to play the various situation (like in “My Life with Master” by Paul Czege). Good ^^

      2.Theme and ingredients: I can see the Last Chance, still it’s not so strong as in other game I reviewed. Seems too many people took as theme “Apocalypse”, still it’s not, it’s “Last Chance”. But it’s ok, you can see there’s a sense of hurry, a last chance, indeed. Ingredients are quite equally important for this game. Good job.

      3.Innovation and “risks”: Well, as said before, the most innovation I see in this game, is the dices’s use. You earned a point (at least from me) for that brilliant idea. I aknowledge there are some other games that use the physical state of the dices to resolve situations/conflicts, still I never seen your method before. Out of that, i don’t see anything particularly original in the rules. It’s more or less about taking turns, acting using stats, rolling against a DC (difficulty class, DL in Coyote Apocalypse) or another dice, under a GM’s sift. I saw dozens of games that work like this, so yeah: you didn’t risk that much. The word count is at it’s limit, you tried to cut off I assume, since there are some important things to explain, wich are missing (see below). Still I think you tried hard not to run over that cap, so it’s more a suggestion I do here than a warning.

      4. doubts and perplexities: “The CA rules are abstract so don’t worry about adapting the mechanics exactly” (quote); when I read those words, I became speechless. I coudn’t believe that, after the whole effort you put in your game (i suppose you did, at least) you could say such a thing. This is exactly “rule zero” from D&d Game Master’s Guide (and is also the game’s most discussed statement). Why making a system, if you can break the rules? You actually don’t need that “rule zero” to make your game work. Don’t do the same mistake that has been done with D&d again, ever. This also let us reviewer note, you’re totally unsure on what you did, or you was too lazy to think about solid rules (or test ’em out). It that the truth?
      The other main problem is, you don’t explain what is going on. You give it to the Player’s imagination; there’s no guide on the situation, there’s no guide for the GM. Is just “here are the monsters, here’s the Coyote’s purpose…have fun”. Yeah, but how did you imagine the game should be played like? I don’t mean you need to write down an actual game session (it would go against the spirit of Game Chef itself; players are “tought to fish” not to “be told how it’ll be a possible fishing trip”, as Walton said), but you also forgot to do examples, to explain how the whole situation should look alike (independently of the actual setting of the play). “Do whatever you wish” is not a way to resolve the many problems a group of players may encounter during the game, mostly when they lack of ideas.

      5. Conclusion: I suggest you to have a look to the many RPGs that have been designed in the past decade by different people and “school of thoughts”. You can still have a game that is about combat, skills, magic and adventure, but without all those rules that took your whole wordcount and didn’t let you explain how you really imagined your game in your mind. I really, really rely on you; I’m sure you can evolve this Game Chef entry to something even more original and better, and I suggest you to work more on it. Keep the “thrown/rolled dices” idea, IT’S GREAT. I’d even help you to improve it, personally (you can find my mail if you look for my entry and open it up, it’s on the footnote of it).
      Out of that, I don’t think I can play it as it is, right now, with my friends,at least not without misunderstanding it’s real sense (even tough rules are quite solid).

      • Stan

        Thanks for the reviews, just a quick clarification. “The CA rules are abstract so don’t worry about adapting the mechanics exactly” is advice only to the specific act of the GM adapting an adventure for another game system to CA. When going from one complex system to another, you can generally find comparable things in both systems. When you adapt something from a reasonably complex system to a simple system, the complex system has more parts and not all of them will have a match in the simple system. CA doesn’t have a ton of parts so you have go for the feel over the details. Suppose you wanted to use a Call of Cthulhu adventure for CA, you’d have to size up the various monsters as being mostly strong, mostly scary, mostly magical, and focus on those key aspects.

    • Kairam Hamdan

      Name: Coyote Apocalypse

      This is a mix of competitive/collaborative game based on the transformative, chaotic characteristics of the Coyote Spirit. This can turn the game a bit difficult to grasp at first, particularly for novice players.

      If there is an infiltrated agent among the players there’ll be a winner if the other players fail, so the winning rules need a bit reworking/rephrasing. As they are, they only work for a victorious new Coyote player, not for a victorious infiltrator (or could he deceive the Lantern in the end just to become the new Coyote?).

      The use of a player’s capacity (dice rolling) is interesting and I’d like to give it a try. But I believe the rolling method for all Essences is too unreliable as is. It could use a specially built platform/device so it gets less vulnerable to hacking (I imagine players can get a bit to good at throwing after some practice, unbalancing the game against novice players). I know some players who’d feel very awkward when throwing dices in specific spots at random values… and modifying other players’ rolls.

      The game incorporates well, if in an orthodox way the ingredients: coyote and lantern. The use of mimic is only superficial as one of many abilities tied to the Trickery essence of a player’s coyote (this is the real low for me in this game). We could say that the emotional tread contributed little for the game at a first glance, adding a treachery aspect already in the coyote ingredient. But then the mixed collaborative/competitive nature of the game can be said to be based on it. The Cooperation rule can also be a big plus in the right hands, although I’m not sure how well it goes for a pair of coyotes (here both can be in a more helping mood, or not!). Maybe it could guide the forms taken by the coyotes in the game, like the necessity of transformations in couples… or something that affects the mimic ability, reinforcing both ingredients (say, you can only mimic someone you already worked with in cooperation).

      The system of resolution is general enough and doesn’t go into details, leaving most things for the GM. I believe this comes from the little space and time available and is in accordance to recent trend in RPGs, (even though the difficulty in the example of a 20 feet jump for a running man seems to be low at 8 and the Lantern hps seems a little low [but playtest is the best way to determine this]). A general scale of difficulties would really help! The system is supposed to work well in any setting, but for me the mix of Cerebus, Phoenix and Thunderbird is odd at least. The cards (and the tools list) should be more adequate to a specific setting.

      It made me curious to see how good it is in play.

    • Kairam Hamdan

      The size of the Essence Map should also vary with the number of players or this number should be made specific in the rules.

      Best.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 46 is reviewed by… 45 43 40 36

    • Tom Lawrence (@Meserach)

      Note for reviewers, there’s currently no link to the supplemental materials – the “BAttle Cards” which underly the games battle mechanics – on the main entry page. You’ll want to see them to get how that saspect of the game works, though. Here’s the link: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/147613/BattleCards.pdf

    • rsid

      Name: Most Likely to Succeed. A beat ‘em up tabletop arcade game forged in the fires of highschool trauma.

      Use of Ingredients: Nicely done, on the whole, particularly the playable only once.

      I liked the blood and guts feel to this—while on the whole I’m not a huge fan of games that trade entirely on using real-life events to generate emotion in the fiction, the high camp aesthetic you’re giving it here makes that go down easier for me. I still don’t like the idea of actually following the instructions and going back to confront people from high school who upset you (and who certainly didn’t consent to being involved and would probably rather not receive notes describing you killing them/them killing you even if they were huge jerks back then), but that doesn’t seem particularly integral to the game. I actually like the hardcore mode more on that count, because it implies the other person also signed on for the experience.

      I loved the battlecards and the way you incorporated roleplaying and what feels to me like a tabletop arcade fighting game. The social and physical combat worked well together, and I found the battlecards funny and interesting. I’m not sure the main player is likely to have enough tokens for their side of the game though? It seems like there just aren’t enough ways for them to get tokens, either in battle or by burning achievements, such that they could defeat more than one or two memories. I didn’t have a chance to test it out though, so not sure on that one.

      The playbook could stand to give a little more guidance on how to actually get going, particularly for the person playing the principal (I’m sure a lot of the oversights there are word limit related). As it is, the principal has to build the asylum and conspiracy/phantasmagoria, and I’m not sure how they’re supposed to go about doing so. You’ve got some chunks of yearbook for the phantasmagoria, but what should the asylum and overarching plot look like? I’m not sure at the moment whether you intend them to be pure fiction, or to also somehow be extrapolated from real life. And while the injunction to follow narrative logic rather than reality is great, some examples of play or guidance on how to adjudicate that seems in order. Who decides whether cutting someone’s head off to keep their friendship made sense or not? How do you assess whether someone (win or lose) overcame their trauma? This last part seems particularly important, given that you have this really cool fight mechanism, but then say that the outcome of the fights might not even be relevant to the ending.

      All in all, I like the fighting mechanism and the Sucker Punch aesthetic, but I think you need to give a little more guidance on how the game as a whole would actually play out and I would caution against negating the results of all of the fights, as that’s where the meat of the game is. Still, I would totally play this with some small tweaks/clarifications (or try to find someone else to play given that I don’t have a yearbook :p), albeit probably with less emotional sturm und drang than intended.

    • Bryan Hansel

      Most Likely to Succeed

      First Impressions: When I first started to read the rules, it sounded interesting, like some kind of physiological thriller in which the protagonist doesn’t know whether or not he’s living in reality – and then the yearbook thing. I’m just not going to rip up a high school yearbook. I kept one from the year I graduated and I’m not going to rip it up for a game. Enough time has passed that I really don’t have strong feelings towards the people in my high school class, so perhaps I’m not really the demographic for this game.

      I really like the first sidebar that tells you how to play a character because it gives a good indication on how you see this game playing out and the caricatured version of a character fits in well with your imprisoned in the mind theme.

      The Battle Cards give a nice feel to the game making it more physical and at the same time, they expand the definition of a story game by adding a little action and strategy.

      The Frying Pan: Last Chance fits in nicely, because you only get to play this once.

      Word Count: Because so many of the rules are on the “battle cards” I think that it’s a bit of a stretch to try and say that the game is under 3,000 words. I’m not dinging the game because of it, but it definitely pushes the boundaries of the rules.

      Not So Clear: I’m not really sure what happens during the conspiratorial whispers and interplay. How exactly is the world created. It seems very freeform, which may the intension and if it is, then you should state that. Plus, how do the things said in whispers relate to what the principal knows. Do the players discuss this or do they come up with it on the fly?

      Moving Forward: Skip the yearbook thing and make some kind of character/world creation system that doesn’t involve “traumatic” memories for high school that some of us don’t really have. I think by doing this, you’d have a more solid game that wouldn’t be off-putting to some. And, work on the stuff I mentioned in the Not So Clear section of the review.

      One-sentence Conclusion: A game with a fun card mechanic that requires you to explore your own emotions by destroying your yearbook.

    • trashmeetssteel

      Most Likely to Succeed is a curious game where a player is going to destroy his high school yearbook in an attempt of putting his own demons to rest.

      I admit that I have some serious problems in figuring out how the game works: I’m not sure to have understood what a “yearbook” actually is: our yearbooks, here in Italy, basically are a collection of photos of all the classes of the school, with no articles, columns, or other written things. So I find myself in trouble when I think about *what* of my personal accomplishments possibly could have been recorded in the yearbook, and I can’t figure out what could I rip out of it. So I’ll just imagine how my yearbook could be.

      That said, the game is really interisting: the protagonist will live again certain events of his personal life, in an oniric-like way. His character has been imprisoned in an asylum where he’s subjected to psychological torment thanks to which he’s able to put his trauma back to rest. At the end of the game the Principal will decide if he’s going to leave the asylum.

      Every scene is set in the phantasmagoria, a dreamlike place that resembles the character’s/player’s high school. He’ll deal with the various memories of his life (every other player is a memory, and one is the principal) and will eventually battle everyone of them.

      The battles are particularly strategic and involve the use of cards. I was initially skeptical about the card thing, because every time someone attempts to add a strategic flavour to the game the incompatibility between narration needs and strategic choices arise. Anyway, I found a cool mechanic in the cards: if you can’t narrate how you use a card (and every card must be narrated in a certain why), then you can’t use it. What’s more, in the card mechanic I found 3 of the 4 ingredients the authors used (all threads but the first one, which by the way I still can’t figure out how it has been used), so I think they are ok.

      I really liked the flavour and theme of the game: it reminds me of one of my favorite videogames, Rule of Rose, and it also reminds me of a movie, Jacob’s Ladder, that inspired the Silent Hill series. Too bad I can’t play it because of that yearbook problem.

      I like the fact that all the game orbits around one player: usually I find this a poor mechanic because there is a player “playing more than the others” but this time I think that it’s fine because all the game focuses on one player own experience, and the other players are just there to help him dealing with that.

      I didn’t playtest it, so I can’t say if some problems arise during the battle. I think that, as a draft, the game is basically ok; after the Game Chef I would work on the necessity to destroy the yearbook. Yeah, it’s a fundamental part of the game, but it makes it impossible to play to those who don’t have an yearbook, and honestly I don’t think there’s plenty of people willing to destroy their’s just to play a game.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 47 is reviewed by… 46 44 41 37

    • Tom Lawrence (@Meserach)

      Review of “A Small Piece of the Sun” by Keith Stetson
      Review by Thomas Lawrence

      A Small Piece of the Sun is a Native American-flavoured Prometheus fable, notable in RPG terms chiefly for its unusual GM structure (having effectively one player, the “Coyote”, and 4 co-GMs).

      The biggest strength of the game lies in this structure. Each GM-like figure (“Totem”) has a defined area of fictional competence, through which they simultaneously describe the setting, frame scenes, provide opposition and judge player action according to their own (secret) standards.

      There’s a mild concern here that it isn’t completely clear how a group should negotiate exactly which totem should speak when. The Fire totem is given power to arbitrate disputes, which is a sensible failsafe, but having such a failsafe is not a substitute for some sort of prompt or structure for when to start speaking.

      I have to confess my heart sank initially on seeing this game. I had serious reservations, viewed over the competition as a whole this year, that the Coyote ingredient was leading to a large number of games which featured what I found to be uncomfortably appropriating use of Native American mythology and culture. Fortunately this game dodges some of the more problematic pitfalls in this area, and it would be unfair of me to single it out for particular criticism on this score. I would tentatively suggest to the author that the game will be strengthened through as much respectful study of actual Native American myth as possible, and that it is a shame to essentially just use a Native American flavouring on a generically-European trickster god/Prometheus myth. The use of the other ingredients is fine, although the justification for “Doctor” is a little weak.

      I like the stone throwing mechanic in flavour, and it was thoughtful of the designer to include instructions for an alternative mechanic if the stones were impractical.

      I felt like the game lacked guidance on how long each act should last, in terms of number of conflicts? This doesn’t need to be specified – there’s nothing wrong with leaving it to the collective judgement of the players and trusting to the narrative logic of the fiction – but there’s a mismatch between the lack of guidance on this and the hard limits on e.g. trick tokens – the game would play very differently depending on how many obstacles there are total. In particular, the use of trick tokens by Coyote to avoid obstacles will vary from either incredibly powerful to useless depending on the intended length of the game.

      I love the idea behind petitioning the totems, and their boons and banes. I think it would be fun to be Coyote, and to try and work out how to please the totems. I am slightly concerned that mechanical penalties for upsetting each totem, in combinations with the complexity of each bane list, mean that the Coyote may struggle to work out what they need to do before they accrue a large “debt”, as it were, of banes. This is also partly a product of my uncertainty over the game intended length. How long does Coyote have to get to know the preferences of each totem? In a shorter game Coyote may end up just feeling they were punished or rewarded arbitrarily – but then over a longer game

      The “light setting description” aspect, contributed from the Forge thread ingredient used, is mostly well done. I’d have liked to see some slightly less literal suggestions for ways each totem could deploy their element – at the moment the lists focus largely on weather conditions. I also think it would be better if suggestions given for the “mystical powers” of the Fire Beings. On the plus side, the abomination names are flavourful and the sketches given of each totem walk the balance well between being well-defined and differentiated and leaving room to explore in play.

      The game does feel pretty complete. My chief advice for taking it forward, once unchained from the word limits of the competition, would be to first explore the game length issue I raised above.

    • Kairam Hamdan

      A small piece of the Sun.

      This game is kind of unfinished, a fact we can expect given the short time allowed for the contest.
      It uses the lantern and the coyote ingredients in a somewhat expected way (in broad terms: Native American myths). The ‘light setting and detailed characters’ ingredient can be seen as present (if characters are assumed to be PCs and exclude the other characters introduced in the game), but the doctor ingredient plays a small role, it can be seen as already included in the coyote ingredient (coyote helps/heals the first people) or as the simple ability of the Totems to heal the Coyote.

      It seems to me that the game has a low replayability, due to the constant list of the Banes and Boons on the Totems’ sheets. Maybe each player could be given a bigger list to choose a few from (choose 5 out of 10 items…). But this limited replayability could be in accordance with an interpretation of the Last Chance theme. Or we can have very creative players (or groups of players who really don’t think alike) so in each game the players interpret their guidelines in different ways…

      Another thing that bothers me is that some players (Totems) will just watch the other players’ game during a long time (maybe three quarters of the game: chapters 2-4 in 4). To solve this maybe the Totems could interfere in the third chapter helping the Coyote (if the Coyote has more boons with him) or helping the pursuing fire creatures (if the Coyote has more banes). Nevertheless the duration of the game is somewhat open because there is (yet) no established number of obstacles to be put in the first chapter, one for each Totem, two? Well, this could be determined considering the limited amount of trick stones the Coyote has (in fact it should be made explicit to him to use them only in emergencies or save them for the following chapters where there’s no one he can call for help. [He can use them there, right?]).

      A big part of the game is missing from the game entry (for word-count reasons, maybe?) and is only presented on the supplement. The entry should at least include the part run by Fire (chapter 2 and 3) to give these chapters a balanced treatment. As it is, the game seems to have only a (first) part of it developed.

      The mechanics of the first part is appropriate to the theme and are really light. I haven’t playtested this game, though to see if it really works given the strong input from all players and a gamut of interpretations involved.

    • Szymon Gosek

      A Small Piece of the Sun.

      Oh hands down, the presentation quality of the game deserves a praise alone. Many of our games are just scaffolds and look like temporary, quickly done creations. This one does not! After opening it you get a crisp, clear and polished design its better then many of commercial products. Big thumbs up!

      After that I got into the character descriptions which reminded me to tarot card interpretation and… that is cool. You got some basics and guidelines but besides its fair game. The rules are clear and detailed, provided examples and faq leaves almost no questions unanswered. But a few…

      The biggest is: where is the Fire?! I know its in the addendum… but its an element of the game, the game said I should play it (him?) but… its not in the game.
      I like using stones as parts of the system but… I thought that they will be something more than fancy d2’s/coins. Also I would put some limit on the narrative play and some system to manage Totem discussion (so one does not dominate the play).
      The part on the pvp is not quite clear for me. From reading the document I got a strong pvp (boons, obstacles) but at the end its “its not about conflict”. Maybe its my attitude (I can’t play family games without figuring out a conflict…) but it should be pushed one way or another.

      One last thing: OMG it has a flowchart, Keith it is AMAZING.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 48 is reviewed by… 47 45 42 38

    • Keith Stetson

      LAST CHANCE
      They say that the best artists know who to appropriate from and that is definitely the case here. Intentionally or not, this game collects some of my favorite bits from PSI*RUN, Savage Worlds, Apocalypse World and maybe others. I love the use of aspects and assigning rolled dice to them to determine the outcome of an action. Being able to succeed in part and fail in part, in my experience, can make for a super-rich narrative. I also like the simplicity of the dice rolling; if you’re good at something you add a bigger modifier to it. Ta da. The heroes being simply better than the bad guys is also terrific. They’re the Wild Cards! This game is pitched like an action movie and that’s the gist of it right there.

      Pacing wise, I think the scenes are a great way to go. I like that when you’re out of scenes you’re out of luck. On my first read through I didn’t quite understand how many scenes a player starts with, but I may have missed it.

      I love the idea of assigning skills during play. I can picture myself wrestling with giving a skill a +2 now at the possible expense of a crucial +0 later. Why the limit at +2, though? I feel like, let the players go nuts to make a roll early on and see if it bites them in the ass later. But then again, I wouldn’t want someone using a +8 in the final (suddenly boring) scene.

      I like that answering questions has mechanical consequences. I do wonder if turning all the dice to 6 pips for answering a question might be a bit overpowered. Also, why are these particular questions important? Why should my character (or I as a player) care about the answers?

      Character creation and gear seemed a little out of whack to me. Character creation was super light and usually in games with chargen that light one doesn’t see any sort of detailed gear list. It may be my bias, but I thought they were fighting against each other a bit.

      Unfortunately, I’m not sure what elements you chose so I can’t say how well they’re integrated. I saw the corporation was called “Lantern Corp” and it was the “Mimic Virus,” but I’m not sure how or if you used Doctor or Coyote.

      I feel like mechanically you have a lot of important things worked out, but there is not a strong narrative hook. I have these great tools but I don’t feel the urge to use them. Now that you’re free from the 3,000 word limit, go nuts giving us a reason to use them! Give us hooks, give us twists and make us invested in the whos, whys, and hows of the Lantern Corp’s sinister Mimic Virus. Any follow up questions or anything, feel free to write to me – keithstetson + yahoo

      • gryffudd

        Thanks for the the great review! Overall, I think you’ve pretty much nailed my feelings on where I need to work on it. And yeah, the influences from Psi*Run and the others are because I really love those games and wanted to do something with some similar aspects.

        A few answers to specific questions:
        1) The number of scenes is up to the GM. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cop-out. I need to have a bigger section on how many scenes I think would work. Maybe 4-6. Maybe that’s not enough.

        2)The limit of +2 was only so that the character’s +3 skill would always be their niche. Another player couldn’t give their own character a +3 or +4 and be suddenly better than your specialist. Just niche protection, really.

        3) The questions, I think should fit whatever the scenario is and whatever the players/GM think might be interesting. I’m hoping people would pick or create ones they want to answer. Needs a bigger sample list.

        4) I’m iffy on gear. I think in this sort of setting it may be a necessary evil, but I should look into making it fit better. Or maybe it could be removed for the ability to narrate a useful piece of gear into existence for a scene, similar to how some of the Cortex+ systems do it.

        Yeah, the missing ingredients was my bad. Thanks muchly for the review. Now to get back to my own reviews. So many really great ones to read.

        Pat G.

    • gryffudd

      Arg, realized today that I forgot to put in the ingredients I used.
      Lantern
      Mimic
      http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=23579.0 (an early Psi*Run thread about using questions as a part of the character
      http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=4262.0 (about the characters affecting the overall threat level as they play, though it talks about PC success making things harder in the end, where I went the opposite)

      Sorry about that.

    • Андрей Воскресенский (@KeylSunders)

      This game captured me from the first page and then – 2nd paragraph. The paragraph describes, what movie we are going to play and cover picture confirms that expectation. I didn’t happen to play (watch?) psi*run, but I love Resident Evil series.
      (After all, this pitch is a little consonant to what I wrote, so, no wonder I like it :) )
      The game is nice and purposeful. Both ingredients I could locate are used in a straightforward manner, to add color, and that is, actually, good. I mean, one word ingredients shines best when used as names or to tag something, not to build whole concept over a single coyote) I take it, other two components are forge threads – a shame, there’s no links. That does not make the game worse, but my curiosity is left unsatisfied)
      Anyway, mimic virus and lantern corp are both great and promising, but you really should have inserted more meat here. Why Lantern? How and what do mimic-infected actually mimic? Perhaps, some space for that could have been taken from equipment descriptions. Those are really too much. Now, I mean, that resolution and mechanics are really nice and coherent to game idea, but quite lightweight. In that situation, loads of crunch just wouldn’t have solid ground to base them upon. At the same time, questions and answering to them is important part of the game, but those three parts (resolution, questions, equip) doesn’t fit to each other. Resolution looks perfect with questions and little worse, but usable – with crunch. Bit crunch and story hooks together… no( Perhaps, solution can be found somewhere in the direction of skills assigning part?
      I mean, idea of assigning skills during play is awesome (here, I should have said it from the start, ‘cause awesome it is) – and it puts one more coin against pregenerated inventory. Maybe, equipment can somehow be generated during play as well? And, by the way, aspects of the scene can also be defined in such a manner (although, beware, that will put you too close to Cortex+ or, perhaps, FATE)
      Another very nice moment, that urges to be completed is necessity to fit into fixed number of scenes. That reminds me about john Wick’s wicked intention to run games with in-game time identical to real time. That’s hardcore and that’s cool. However, this can result in some ugly story in the end – PCs are racing toward their goal, character development in process – but misfortune happens, and after few fails characters run out of scenes and loose. PC can loose, no problem, but there’s definitely some set of guidelines over how to handle the pace of the story is needed. (On the other hand, may be that’s just me overexcited with Hamlet’s Hit Points?)
      Now, It seems, I’ve ruined the structure of my review completely( I like your game, it was fun to read and I really expect it to be fun to play. If my English betrayed me, or I’m overly impossible to understand, or you just want to discuss your game further – feel free to send me something – keyl.sunders()gmail. And finish your game, please. It’s really good.

      • gryffudd

        Thanks for the nice review! Yeah, forgetting to put the ingredients in was a bad mistake on my part. The Forge threads were: http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=23579.0 (an early Psi*Run thread about using questions as a part of the character) and http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=4262.0 (about the characters affecting the overall threat level as they play, though it talks about PC success making things harder in the end, where I went the opposite)

        I’m glad you liked the game, and I agree with the faults you found. Equipment needs to be done differently. Defining equipment in the scenes where it is needed would be a possibility. I need to think a bunch about that. Working out the number of scenes need some guidance and definition. I will have to check out Hamlet’s Hit Points. I may have a copy somewhere.

        Your english is terrific. Much better than any of my non-English languages. :) Thanks again for the encouragement.

        Pat G.

    • jackvice (Giacomo Vicenzi)

      Premise: I’m sorry for my poor english. Maybe I will be misunderstood in some parts. I’ll try to be as much accurate as I can with grammar and lexicon. I’ll also try to avoid to type a “wall of text”. Finally, I made a custom 5-points structure to type down a review, based on J. Walton’s suggestions. Everyone is free to take this paradigm to review a game, I won’t get angry ^^

      1. What I like about this game: this game reminded me the RPGs I used to play when I was a teen, the games full of action, weapons and beatings. That’s the thing I liked, so far. Questions were also a good idea I felt enthusiast on, at least at first.

      2.Theme and ingredients: So uh…where’s the Theme? The ingredients? I mean; it’s ok for the Mimic virus, but where’s the “Last Chance to stop armageddon” you mentioned at first? Is that really the best way you could put in the Theme, out of the title of the game itself? And speaking about Lantern: is Lantern Corp really the focus of the game? You talk about it only ONCE, you don’t describe what’s the corp about, you don’t use specific mechanics about it. I feel like (and I’m sorry to tell), the ingredients here are not what Walton meant them to be (“Try to incorporate the ingredients as centrally as you can, as part of the premise or the rules or however else makes sense to you”). I thank you to put the list of the ingredients, or I couldn’t eighter recognize if you put in the threads or not. I see the Questions from Psi Run, still they’re not as focused as in that game. The second thread fits well, as far as I could see.

      3.Innovation and “risks”: well, I actually can’t see some real innovation in Last Chance. A D&d like character sheet, with a PsiRun “splash” in it (wich, as said, is not really that important, is just a bonus for the game, it doesn’t create the “drama of the choice” like in Psi Run); a rule book that does look like most of the “old generation” games (d20 system and such), still simplier. Nothing suggest me to prefer this game over another if I wanna play a tactical ops session.
      3200 words was a real hazard; you surely noticed that this kind of limits are set also to try to avoid games with many, extensive rules or verbose descriptions. The fact you couldn’t keep under the 3k words limit just confirms that theory. About risk: you designed Last Chance in a well know game frame. You didn’t put any real, prominent innovation.

      4. doubts and perplexities: actually, the rules look quite good and well written, I don’t have real questions about those (maybe you could put some more examples to explain some situations). Still, even if you gave some hints on what players are gonna play (The Lantern Corp, the “Armageddon”), there’s nothing in the rulebook that explains guidelines about how the mission will take place about those hints. No suggestions for GM about enemies, about what to explore, just a list of PNGs. I didn’t expect another list of maps, descriptions and such, just a rough guideline to get in that actual Lantern Corp, take what needed and return (possibily) alive to the HQ.

      5. Conclusion: I feel like, you didn’t make a hit with this game. Simplifying d20 System is not the true spirit of Game Chef. It’s innovation, is inventive, is creativity. I’m really sorry to say that. I expected something more “fresh”. Still, if this is your really first game (as it was for me this year), don’t despair. Have a look to the many, MANY games designed in the last decade, and you’ll find a lot of other ways to play the same situations and still have fun (and an easier game). I also suggest you to read this (https://gamechef.wordpress.com/2010-submissions/ Look for “a city” N° 29. It’s a 2010 Game Chef entry review, written by Walton), and figure how a game similar to yours have been reviewed, and why I did the same.

      • gryffudd

        Thank you for taking the time to look through and review the game. Your english is fine. There are definitely some things you mention that I need to work on further.

        Pat G.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 49 is reviewed by… 48 46 43 39

    • gryffudd

      The Last Word is interesting, though it’s not the type of game I have much experience with so I’m not sure I can say much about it. It’s a game of group storytelling, with one player, the Lantern, telling the story based on a prediction of an impending doom. The other players, the Mimic, Doctor, and Coyote, interrupt to make alterations to the story that the Lantern then has to work in. While this goes on, an Apocalypse clock counts down. If it runs out, Coyote wins. If 10 story bits get made cannon without anyone else winning, the Lantern wins. The other two have their own win conditions as well, but seem to be more on the side of the Lantern than Coyote.

      As mentioned above, I don’t have much experience with this type of game, but it looks functional and playable. The interaction between the four players looks like it could prove quite interesting. If my local play group was more into non-traditional games, I’d be willing to give it a try.

    • AnoTypMon

      The Last Word

      Very interesting, original, and ready to play right away game.

      The choice of roles, and thus the use of ingredients, is brilliant. The same sets of their “moves”. Funny and accurate “deconstruction” of writers’ team :). I especially like the Mimic’s moves, on the other hand Coyote’s moves a little disappointing. The idea of fans is great too. Small problem is that the two main characters are more important than others.

      Prophecy, apocalipse and the “last chance” theme, was well integrated into the game. Endgame is also nice and very original. But in my opinion, not suited to game. For now I’m not sure: Is “The Last Word” is a fun party game? Or maybe more or less “dark” game in the style of the Norwegian Style?

      But it can be established between the players, because the game is ready to play and maybe I’ll try to test it as I had the opportunity.

      My suggestion is leave the apocalypse and create a game about writing the best seller, with the same brilliant roles (Coyote could be spy from competitive publishing house), but with larger set of cards. Something like Once Upon a Time meets Chez Geek.

      The optional set of rules: it’s probably more than role/story/whatever- card game. Its look ok, but I do not understand gived examples(?) : Should or should not the “story element” for every suits but the same rank, be the same?

      • Orion Canning

        Yes, the ranks for all four suits should be the same. I may have blundered and made it not clear enough, but the list at the end isn’t meant to be an example list of cards, it’s a way to randomly generate the themes for the four suits. I was originally going to use it to randomly generate story seeds for the main version of the game and for reasons I can’t entirely recall at the moment switched it over.

        I’d really like to hear some suggestions on Coyote’s moves, I was trying to make him a wild card who would throw wild and outlandish ideas into the story that wouldn’t necessarily fit, which led me to the idea of throwing elements from the wrong genre into the story. But I’d like to hear your ideas because it felt a little weak to me as well.

        As far as the game possibly being too dark to be a fun party game, I’m not sure that it’s impossible to be both, as I have a lot of fun laughing about my characters doing awful things in Fiasco, but there is a definite shift in tone if the players lose the game and are forced to be puppets acting out their own demise. You are right that is a bit dark.

        I was largely inspired by stories where people discover the script to their own life or a story they are a part of. I really should have put this in the games credits, but the Movies “In the Mouth of Madness”, “New Nightmare”, and “Stranger Than Fiction” were a large inspiration, and I wanted to capture that feeling of being inevitably moved towards a dark fate that is already written, but from the perspective of the writers instead of the characters in the story. Yet even though they are writing their own destruction I see it as sort of a dark comedy of errors as they are oblivious to it.

        So though the game might make might a great party game on the basis of the roles of the writing team and the other large chunk of my core concept, which was exploring whether an auteur’s vision can coexist with collaboration and compromise, I’d have to drop that other half of the concept, which might not be a bad thing, but I’m not sure I want to do it.

        If you end up playing I’d love to hear about how it went or read an Actual play. Feel free to contact me at Orion.canning@gmail.com

    • Tom Lawrence (@Meserach)

      Review of “The Last Word” by Orion Canning
      Review by Thomas Lawrence

      I don’t like to being on a negative note, but I need to put this up front to let you know how important it is; please please use a different font, and lost the background. I found the game literally painful to read until I gave up and copy-pasted the text into Notepad in a sensible font. No “flavourful” or “characterful” font is ever worth making your text actually even slightly more difficult to read, with the possible exception of section headings and the like. Change this!

      That out of the way, beneath the errors in font choices and visual design, there’s the kernel of an interesting game here.

      The killer app is definitely the idea of a writer’s room as the subject for an RPG. The level play involved (the players play as writers who are themselves creating a story) is clever and interesting, and the way that the motivations of each writer and the tools they have available are utterly distinct (I like how the Mimic’s list of scriptwriter cliches, and the Doctor’s very practical toolset, is at odds with the Lantern’s mythic list).
      The play structure advice is confusing. As written, it seems the intent is to have an undefined number of chapters which are each divided into either three or five acts. This terminology is confusing and seems if anything backwards – shouldn’t it be a few acts each of which is divided into chapters? And then at one point “rounds” are also mentioned, but that doesn’t seem to work with the rest of the text. I suggest better wording, different terminology and more clarity in this section. Possibly diagrams or an example of play would be helpful going forward. This is definitely the area I would single out as needing the most work going forward.

      The core gameplay goal of trying to keep a concept intact through the meddling of intermediary forces with differing agendas, both opposed and orthogonal, is definitely unique and interesting. I am uncertain how far the action of the game would work to make this goal actually well-contested and interesting, though. It feels as though the Lantern has enough authority overall to nearly always make her concept clear; and the method of awarding points for whether the created story was close enough to the card chosen seems a bit wooly. I think there will be a tendency for players to give too much benefit of the doubt to the Lantern, once they see the card revealed. A stronger mechanic might be that the other three players have to collectively decide which of a selection of cards was the intended one, rather than the more nebulous judgement of “closeness”. However, with a player group with a strong collective capacity for aesthetic judgement it would probably work well as written.

      A final note: the appendix on the idea of a gallery is a strong idea; the concept of defining roles for more passive players in an audience-like position is a good one.

      • Tom Lawrence (@Meserach)

        Oh, I should add re: use of ingredients: I liked the original use of Mimic (recycles old ideas) and Doctor (as in a script Doctor). Coyote is a boring generic trickster spirit like he is in nearly every other game this year, but there’s no point singling you out particularly on that. Lantern as a general metaphor for prophecy is okay.

      • Orion Canning

        Thanks a lot for this review, It was very critical but iI think you did a great job of pointing out a lot of the game’s weak points. I know I I have difficulty with explaining complicated rules clearly and it’s possible I even mixed up my own terminology in trying to describe it without realizing. I also felt the mechanic for giving points was a little soft and definitely relies on the players to be objective and critical at the same time, but I wasn’t able to think of anything better in time. I really like your idea of seeing if the other players can guess from a multiple choice, but I’m not sure how writing the concept would fit into that, and I’m wary of making a preset list of concepts out of fear the game would become formulaic. If you have any more ideas about how to make this work better please let me know, thanks!

    • rsid

      Name: The Last Word
      Role-played mafia-meets-bridge, where the rpg is about writing a book that is secretly an apocalyptic prophesy.

      Use of Ingredients: All very prominently featured, and I thought they worked well.

      I love the premise—having a team of writers struggling over creative control, but with cosmically high stakes is a great concept. Trying to guess who Coyote is is a fun twist, and reminds me of the kids’ game mafia (in a good way). In some ways I almost want to draw that out, and have identifying Coyote be a part of the mechanics, though I guess if everyone realizes who Coyote is they can try to work together to block that person narratively anyway.

      I’m a bit confused by the act structure, and the description of how to play in general. I’m not sure having acts, as they’re defined in the text, really adds anything to play. The how-to guide is very densely written and it seems a bit muddled–it took me a couple reads to parse out. I do think it would benefit from having more guidance on how many chapters is a ‘good’ number, and possibly some more structure imposed on who can interject into the story when. The grammatical errors/typos really bug me too, (I’m an its/it’s nut) but that’s trivially fixable and I hate to nitpick when I really like the game overall.

      This is going to put some heavy creative strain on the Lantern, who must maintain the shell Lantern character, come up with an engaging story to tell, and somehow incorporate everything the other players throw at her. That’s not necessarily bad, but letting the other members of the team do a bit more of the legwork of storytelling with her might take some of the burden off.

      I totally want to play this game. It could use some polishing, but it’s a great concept all around.

      • Orion Canning

        I wanted to draw out the Coyote aspect too, but ultimately I didn’t for the reason you mentioned. To make the focus more on telling the story I had to make Coyotes role transparent because it would be too easy to tell he was trying to mess up the Story. I ultimately decided the came of trying to figure out who coyote is before he ruins things while he tries to turn players against each other was a different game. The alternate rules are more or less that, but with all four players having their own role and trying to outwit and turn the others against each other, sort of like having 4 different types of coyotes. There’s a 3rd alternate version of the rules I’m interested in writing that would have all players playing the same role while one of them was an impostor, and it would play the closest to Mafia. Let me know if you play and I’ll try to forward you a newer version when I complete those alternate rules.

        As far as the acts they are just there to put spots in the game where you can stop and take score to resolve whether Lantern is succeeding or not.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 50 is reviewed by… 49 47 44 40

    • Orion Canning

      50 Coyotes in Dark Alleyways by Peter Borah (PeterBB)

      Shoot, this review ended up being long. I hope I can keep it up with my other 3.

      So right off the bat I’m liking this game. I see a very simple, common list of things I need to play, simple easy to understand rules, and a compelling and fun concept that gets me more and more interested the more I read.

      I’m all for keeping the focus on the story more then the mechanics, there’s definitely a balance but story has more weight to me, the mechanics are only there to serve it. So I really like your conflict mechanic, because it assumes that the hero is successful almost all of the time, therefore cutting out a lot of die rolls. It’s giving a lot of trust in the player, which I also like. And it leads to a “Yes, but…” or “Yes, and…” way of resolving conflicts, which I feel not only leads to a more interesting story but a much more even keel of collaboration between players, as opposed to one person simply not being allowed to do what they wanted to do in the story, which leads to frustration and butting heads. It’s the right combination of competition and collaboration, the player’s conflicting goals are merged into an interesting story conflict instead of a creative conflict.

      Another thing I love: When games want you to feel like your character is a badass, whatever that means to you personally, and then gives you the tools to make that happen. It’s not appropriate for all stories, horror for example, where you might want the character to be put in situations where they are helpless. But in any story where there is meant to be a central hero, or a group of central heroes, this is how it should be. The thing is, most games have the set up that the player’s characters are supposed to be heroes, but too often the mechanics get in the way of that by either make death such a threat that it forces the player to be extremely cautious and reserved to keep their now timid hero alive, or having enough randomness involved that inevitably chance will conspire to make the hero do something incredibly incompetent while attempting something they are supposed to be really good at. In your game you have a hero who can’t die and who almost always succeeds, just as a rule, so that is great.

      At the same time no one should be calling this a fluffy bunny hippy game, (as if fluffy bunny hippy games were a bad thing in the first place) because there is still plenty of risk that things will happen that damage the character. In fact it’s encouraged by the rules that the players try to make this happen a lot. And none of the damage means crossing out a box or lowering a number on a sheet, it’s all in forms that lead directly to dramatic emotional and interpersonal character development. Everyone wins that way, especially the story.

      Another good thing I see in the rules, telling the player how to trust in the rules and each other and let their roles become vulnerable to being changed by the other player’s ideas.

      Part of me does wonder if maybe you should put even more trust in the players, by getting rid of dice roles entirely. You could give the mystery players the freedom to decide when something bad happens to Alex and how bad it is. Here’s how I’m thinking it could work, each player has a more limited number of Mystery tokens, maybe only 3 each (more or less depending on the number of players). Spending a single token is the same as getting a 7-9 result. The only way to get a higher result is if the mystery players collaborate, each player can only put in one at a time, so to get a 10-11 result two mystery players have to agree to play a token at the same time, and then they get to collectively decide how to mess with alex. A 12 or more result would mean 3 players have to play a token together.

      I’m not saying I’m entirely against the dice, they can definitely add suspense and variety to the game. But I worry that some games might end up feeling dull or overwhelming if luck ends up favoring one end of chance too heavily, and could lead to some moments of disappointment if all the players were really hoping the dice would go a certain way. Sometimes it’s better to put that power in the hands of the players, trusting them to make the right story decisions so that in the end, if they made an awesome story they know it was entirely in their hands the whole time, making them feel even better about it. At the same time, not being sure what the other player will do can be just as suspenseful and unpredictable as dice, often even moreso.

      Also, people can learn to be better story tellers. They can improve at playing your game over time. Dice can’t.

      There’s also a middle ground option. You can spend less tokens to roll the dice and take a chance, or more to guarantee a certain problem affects Alex.

      I also really like the tokens being used as a pacing mechanic to help determine when the game should end.

      When I got to the part that said “So much for tokens and dice” I found myself digging around the rules to find out exactly how many Mystery Tokens get handed out to each person, and I wasn’t able to find it, until I gave up and continued reading. Maybe you should mention you’ll explain how to get them later in an earlier section. I really didn’t want to read the mystery sheets so I could play the game properly, but to give you a proper review I forced myself to read the first one so I had a good idea of the seeds you were giving people (Maybe I should read them all, and if it comes down to a split decision, I’ll probably have to).

      What I did read was extremely compelling and exciting. There’s definitely a lot of mystery here, just on this single sheet. There’s some specific things going on here that I really love. First of all, splitting up the mystery between multiple players so everyone is excited about trying to find out what is going on. Combine this with the reward of a mystery token for framing scenes and not only am I eager to frame my own scenes, but I’m eager for the other mystery players to do theirs as well so I can see what else is happening. It’s not always easy to create a sense of mystery and discovery in a shared authority game like this, since usually one person has to know all the secrets so that everyone else can try to discover them. But you found a great way to get around that, good job!

      I’m reminded of dinner theater murder mysteries, and those “How to host a murder” games. They use a similar method of dividing up the mystery between everyone, and generally are only playable once since once you know about the mystery it’s sort of spoiled.

      I also love the seeds you are giving here, it really feels like everything I need to tell a good story. You advice with how to use the character seems especially useful and inspiring. The combination of Motif and motivation are great too, because they give me a seed for a concept, and a theme to follow. I feel like I have lots of room to be creative while still having lots of guidance, enough to make me feel like I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. And that’s perfect.

      I am so excited to play this game. One more thing I’d like to see. Because I can easily see this game becoming something of a campaign to follow Alex’s continuing adventures, I want to see some guidelines and suggestions for people who want to tell another chapter and make their own mystery sheets. I feel like you probably had a great concept in mind for how to divide up the Mystery sheets to make them work well together, and so you would probably have great advice for people who want to do the same thing. Telling people how to come up with a good combination of Motifs, motivations, and characters, and how they should write the scene descriptions, that would be really awesome and give your game a lot more replayability and longevity. (I know, it doesn’t go with the theme. Well screw the theme! I want more then one chance.)

      Thanks again for the awesome game, and good luck!

      • semiel

        This made my evening! Not only because it’s a really affirming review (which it is), but also because you really seem to get the game. You like it for all the reasons I hoped people would like it, and your advice about the weak parts is spot on. My to-do list for this game was, before I read your review:

        -Make it playable as a campaign, by writing rules for how to make your own mystery sheets (and possibly also writing more playsets myself).

        -Change the resolution system, probably by making it diceless.

        I like your suggestion for the token mechanic, that’s really elegant and I think it would work well.

        Also, good catch on the “tokens and dice” bit, that definitely needs to be made less confusing. (Just to clarify: the current rule is one token per key scene, for a total of three possible per sheet. The “24 tokens” at the top is wrong, I changed the number of tokens per scene but forgot about the total number.)

        If you decide to play the game, I would _love_ to hear about it! (poeticexplosion/gmail) This is the first game I’ve ever written, so the idea of someone outside my circle playing it is incredibly exciting. If you decide you should read all the sheets, but want to play anyway, just play Alex. The Mystery players will take the sheets in directions you had never even considered. That’s what I did for the playtest, and it went really well.

    • Keith Stetson

      COYOTES IN DARK ALLEYWAYS

      First impression: Holy shit, I want to play this game NOW. It’s got so much cool stuff going on that I’m not sure I can break it down well enough to discuss it coherently. I’ll try.

      I love how Alex’s qualities define the game’s qualities and that it can be scaled to whatever level you want. It does seem like an Indiana Jones-style game works best, but I like options and this game has them – including in the dice roll resolution. The scaled results a la Apocalypse World fit in nicely here.

      I think more games should take as their mission the goal to inspire this question: “holy shit, seriously?” Coyotes in Dark Alleyways comes right out and says that’s the goal for 4 of the 5 players. I want magic, emergent qualities in my games and I love that fact that if I hadn’t read all the damn mystery sheets (crap) I wouldn’t have any clue what my fellow players were on about. Partial information games are FUN.

      Theme wise, Doctor and Coyote are very strongly represented. Lantern and Mimic are also employed, although not as centrally to the theme. That being said, I still think this is one of the best incorporations of 4 ingredients that I’ve seen.

      Mechanically, I see that “Tokens and dice rolls are a limited resource,” but I don’t see what they’re limited to. There are only 24 tokens, but it seems like each Mystery can only ever get three, meaning there are 12 tokens floating around in the void. And does it say anything else about limited dice rolls? I could just be missing it, but if I’m missing someone else will so it ought to be clearer. Since this determines the end of the story it definitely needs to be beefed up in version 2.0. Also, I always think an example of play or two is a nice thing to have.

      A note on style: I don’t always like frank, conversational tone in RPG texts, but it works here. Instead of coming off as flippant, it serves to make things more understandable. I enjoy it when I like things I usually dislike. I think this tone really underlines all the messages about trusting in other players and the rules.

      And one nitpick: I think for a game this cool, the title is a little weak. Granted, I have no idea for a BETTER title, I just think it could use one. When I say “Coyotes in Dark Alleyways” was one of the games I was assigned to review, I expected it to stink a big one. Fortunately, I was wrong. One question Game Chef asks us to answer in reviews is “Are you excited to play this game, right now?” I can answer that question easily with Coyotes in Dark Alleyways: abso-fucking-lutely.

      • semiel

        Thanks for all the kind words!

        Just to clarify: the 24 tokens is a holdover from a previous version, you’re right that it should say 12. The dice rolls are limited by the number of tokens you have, because you have to spend a token to roll. You’ve got all the important bits, it’s just bad writing.

        And you’re right about the title, it sucks. :P Let me know if you have any thoughts about an alternative!

        If you decide to play the game, I’d love to hear about it! poeticexplosion/gmail. :)

    • Pedro Ziviani

      – Coyotes in Dark Alleyways, by Peter Borah

      This game really got me intrigued with the whole “one PC, many GMs” concept. I like the idea that the PC, “Alex” is supposed to be created in a collaborative manner, with everyone in the group pitching ideas. While the questions sheet that drive the character creation is good, however, I feel that one crucial point could be better explored during character creation, namely Alex’s motivations and overall plan in fitting with the rest of the character concept – I just fear that if this is not well explored during character creation, some player who are playing Alex may feel a bit lost and get a feeling that all they are doing is reacting to what the other players throw at him.

      I do like the Mystery Sheets idea, which the other players use as a guide to how to get Alex in trouble. I would have liked, however, to see more guidance about how to control what player goes first and how the different Mysteries interact with each other during the game. I keep thinking that, even though this game is overtly designed as a play-only-once game, the Mystery sheets could hold the key to bring longevity into this game – they could work akin to playsets in Fiasco, with new sets of Mystery Sheets introducing a whole new experience.

      The game dice mechanic felt like a bit of a let down to me, in that it’s pretty standard fare and doesn’t feel especially well suited to such a free-form game. Still, nothing wrong with the rules, it’s just that I’d like to see dice mechanics that feel as fresh as the rest of the game. I think the game would work better with some sort of diceless system, or a fast card-based mechanic.

      Regarding the Game Chef ingredients, the Coyote and the Doctor are well represented as integral parts of the game concept, but the other elements appear only in the Mystery Sheets. Even though the Mystery Sheets are well written and promise great fun in game, perhaps because I see the potential in them to be swapped for whole new sets every time the game is played, I would have preferred to see all the elements as core parts of the game.

      All in all, I found this game to be is well written, fresh, and well thought through, and it left me intrigued to give it a try. Still, I would love to see the author developing an expanded version with a bit more structure to help out those who are learning the game from the written material only, and with an eye on extended play.

      • semiel

        This is a very on-point critique! My top priorities at the moment are creating a more appropriate resolution mechanic, and making it suitable for extended play, so I completely agree with you there. The other comments are also useful, I’ll have to mull them over.

        If you have any more thoughts, or decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear from you! (poeticexplosion/gmail)

    • trashmeetssteel

      In the past months I’ve read a discussion, on a forum, about finding out a way to create a good “story-before” role playing game. I didn’t follow the discussion so much, but I’m still thinking about a way to obtain that game experience. My personal answer to the question is that it could be obtainable by playing a pre-made story (or such) which is shredded in pieces between the players. This means that every player only knows his part, and the others know theirs.

      This game is interistingly similar to what I had in mind: there’s a protagonist (Dr. Alex Stokes), which can’t fail in what he’s doing. He’ll have some troubles, but he basically can never fail, because he’s awesome and he’s a badass. The other players will take on the role of the mysteries: they’ll act more or less as a GM.

      Every mystery is determined by a motif (what he is), some key scenes (scenes thanks to which they can get tokens to be spent for rolls), some key characters (NPCs that will appear and that are linked to the mystery) and a motivation (a narrative element that will emerge when possible).

      Talkin’ about Alex’s player, he’ll have to fill out a questionnaire about his character’s life and talents.

      Just following his own guidelines everyone will partecipate in the creation of a story described as a “thriller movie” (cit.: “you are in a thriller movie, and you are a badass!”). I’m not sure that the genre is ok: with these premises and mechanics I would expect to have a pulp-like game experience. Mysteries like that and characters that can’t fail (but we want to know HOW that’s possibile! :P) are typical of a pulp-like fiction.

      I have also the impression that the dice mechanic has some problems: mysteries start with no tokens, and they gain them only with the scenes. The problem is that these scenes may sometimes be difficult to set, so the game could stack in a situation where there are no tokens, so no conflict between players can arise. This is a criticism not supported by actual play, so I can’t say if this is true.

      The ingredients could have been used better in the mechianics, but I think all is ok.

      I suggest to continue the work on the game: this draft may easily be transformed in a game playable more than only one time: just let every mystery player fill out a “mystery sheet”. Then everyone receives one random mystery sheet from one of the other players. This way everyone will have something unexpected in hand, and will know something about what an other player has, thanks to which he’s going to be able to push the story in a more determined, yet untold, way.

      Work on that one ;)

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 51 is reviewed by… 50 48 45 41

    • gryffudd

      Man, I love this game.

      It’s partly the nostalgia it brings up in me, remembering 10 or 15 years ago when I used to watch the WWF (as it was back then) weekly. Steve Austin, Mick Foley, The Rock. Great fun. This game brings it all back, and in a way that’s new to me, with different players playing the In Ring and Real World versions of each wrestler, and possibly the manager as well, with each of them in competition with the others to fulfill their win condition while telling the story of these athletes and showmen, how they got where they are and why this match is so important to each of them.

      Of particular note is the way that the moves combine with each other, with successes on one move adding dice to the next move in the chain, as long as the other wrestler doesn’t counter it (and then move into a chain of their own). Very evocative of the way the moves are used in the ring. Also, Smothering Claw? Ha! Mankind was my favourite character back in the day. That reference made me smile.

      The writeups of the character facets has me interested in seeing the Real World facet’s questions answered. The tension between the In Ring character’s desires to keep wrestling and the Real World character’s potentially conflicting desires (at least for the Doctor of Pain character), where winning for one is not usually winning for the other, makes me want to see how a game would turn out.

      The system seems clear and uncluttered. Smooth and simple, which I like. I like to read systems for inspiration and this one is definitely inspiring. If I could convince my players to try it, I’d definitely play it.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 52 is reviewed by… 51 49 46 42

    • Joseph LeMay

      Sorry, guys, I had sent an email to Jonathan, but if he hasn’t gotten to you, I just sent out another copy.

    • Orion Canning

      Well, here are my First Impressions of First Impressions (I’m probably not the only one to think of that joke.)

      Well I’m still reading and don’t have a grasp on it yet, but my first thought was: Candy Land! Yes, you used the Candy Land mechanic of drawing cards to determine how far forward you move, and that amuses me. Feels suitable though.

      The list of stats questions used for world building are really wonderful. I’m looking for questions that are redundant or too similar to other questions but I don’t see any (this might be a problem with character stats but I’ll get to that in a minute). Some are a lot more interpretive and open ended then others but that’s fine, even the more specific questions could lead to broader insights about the world. It also seems to me like the different suits have general themes, and if a game leaned heavily towards a specific suit it seems like it could dramatically shifts the tone or setting of the game. It would be easy to create, modern, fantasy, sci fi, even horror or romantic genres with these questions, which I suppose goes even further to elucidate player preference depending on the direction they push in. I also think it works well that a lot of the questions lead to other questions, which the players will be compelled to fill in, without needing to ask them outright. I like games that have an open ended setting for some reason, I suppose it makes it feel more versatile to me if you can expand the same them and mood to fit many settings, though I think I often leave it too open. A world seed system like this could probably benefit a lot of my games immensely.

      Some of the Stats might end up ultimately unwieldy. For example, the Sadness stat. What does it mean to be better or worse at Sadness? How do I train it? I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad stat, there could be great answers to those questions, but it’s more ambiguous then many others and a lot of people might not know what to do with it. Someone might be inspired by it at the same time. At any rate, any time you put into refining the stats into a list of items that are all equally inspiring and strong will be good here. Probably none of them should sound like an outright bad thing, things that have the possibility of being a strength.
      Also on the Record sheet it seems implied that I should combine my question with the question of the other player and somehow come up with a world detail that satisfies both? I like the combined record sheet but if that is not the case it might need to be redesigned with designated spaces for each player’s answers to their questions. If it is the case then it should be a little clearer in the instructions that questions are meant to be answered in pairs.

      I’m loving the initial character creation questions. I always enjoy when games define characters through their relationships, my main experience with that being from Fiasco. It is in some ways a philosophical statement, as if to say the most important things in our lives are our relationships with other people, it’s what defines our characters. It’s also a powerful tool for creating initial conflict, the spark that sets the story off on it’s dramatic arc, and I think you had that in mind as well. Last it provides us as players with a strong motivation for our characters. I like how, especially considering your intention of having the game illuminate the player’s style, the questions may seem at first glance to be loaded, but are actually entirely open ended.

      For example if I get the question, “Can you kill them?” I could easily take it to imply that my character should want to kill them. However, even if I gave my character a good motivation to kill the other character (since there must be a reason WHY murder would be coming into question in the first place) I can always answer the question in the negative. Maybe I care far too much about the character to hurt them, or have a strong code of conduct or set of morals that forbids it, or my loyalties are otherwise too strong, or perhaps I’m just incapable of pulling it off, no matter how much I’d like to. Quickly I begin defining my character just as much as my relationship with theirs, which is another great thing about starting off with defining relationships first, it kills two birds with one stone. My answers provide just as much insight into the other player’s character as it does mine, while giving us a strong connection/ foundation.

      I like the story building mechanic of moving across the board and running into various challenges and meeting success or failure. I think I would like it better though if each space led to a brief, roleplayed scene, perhaps with the player whose turn it is playing their own character and framing the scene based on how they describe the danger, and the other player taking on a sort of GM role, roleplaying NPCs. When both players agreed the scene had arrived at a pivotal point where the question must be answered, the roll would be made to determine how the scene resolves, leading to it ending good or bad for the main character, similar to Fiasco (I do believe being similar to Fiasco is never a bad thing). I think that sort of playstyle would also make the game work quite well in a group of 4. I’ve half a mind to try the game like this already (Whether you write it into the rules or not!)

      Also, as far as I can tell there’s no reason to make the dice rolls a percentile the way you have it written, the 10 sided dice has no impact on the roll, only the tens digit dice, because all stats are in difficulties of 10 and only increase or decrease by ten. You could easily simplify things by dividing all the stat values by 10 and having the difficulty rolls be a simple D6, D10, or D12 roll. There’s no reason to needlessly overcomplicate the mechanics, so I definitely recommend doing that.

      Some specific comments on the different spaces. For hearts, I feels like the Unrequited selection when Drawing a Queen doesn’t make sense, because that’s supposed to be the relationship my character wants to forge. Why would my character want to forge an unrequited relationship? Unrequited relationships can and should stem from a failure roll on one of the other relationships. I also think Friends and best friends are too similar and therefore redundant options as is possibly Lovers and Soulmates. Remember to make them all desirable relationships. Some ideas I can think of are desiring admiration, jealousy or envy, absolute loyalty, to deceive them or take advantage of them (a patsy), To have what’s theirs, either by taking it from them or sharing, desiring their hatred, their lust (lovers?), their hand in marriage (soulmates?). Think of emotions people might try to inspire in other people, or what they could find rewarding in the interaction with that person, be it selfish or mutual.

      Spades: The focus or split yourself idea is really cool, I quite like it. Again, some stats could be difficult to describe training, but interesting open interpretations of that could work out to be awesome and surprising. I’m also wondering if it might be more interesting if you created a new related stat of your own instead of picking from the list when splitting. Not sure.

      For clubs: I’m not sure what you mean by solve in time, perhaps you should reword it as Race against time? Also I’m a little unclear what Friendly Fight means, Fighting with your friends? Otherwise these are great, introducing high stakes adventure, danger and conflict into the story.

      Diamonds: I feel like Resources are a little ill defined and could probably benefit from a table of seeds like Clubs and Hearts. Here’s a possible list: Property, Followers, Influence, Building or Craft Materials, Trade goods, Troops, Weapons, Defenses, Wealth, Agent or Ally (thinking of skilled individual advisors, scientists, tactitions, and other talented individuals who would serve as a resource), A Powerful Magical or Scientific Device, Knowledge

      Questions could use a bit more advice on what makes a good question to ask. Maybe some examples would be useful here. Questions are always good though, and again using the question to frame a roleplayed scene that answers the question would be a lot of fun. For the finale, again, advice on what makes a good final question is needed. And again, I believe a scene framework for the finale would flesh it out into something much more interesting. The idea of answering the ending first and working back in time is really cool, but I think I need an example of how it should work.

      Awesome game man! Another one that that I’d be excited to play with a lot of cool ideas. Good job!

    • jackvice (Giacomo Vicenzi)

      Premise: I’m sorry for my poor english. Maybe I will be misunderstood in some parts. I’ll try to be as much accurate as I can with grammar and lexicon. I’ll also try to avoid to type a “wall of text”. Finally, I made a custom 5-points structure to type down a review, based on J. Walton’s suggestions. Everyone is free to take this paradigm to review a game, I won’t get angry ^^

      1. What I like about this game: I finally have been impressed. This is the last entry I review for Game Chef 2012, and I’m really pleased with it. I really love the overall idea, the use of cards, the generic (still focused on a theme) stats. I think it’s a really good way to let someone else know you (and vice versa). Is not just “Breaking the Ice” (by Emily Care Boss), is much more. And I like it. The fact it may also talk about emotions, and it talks about players’s personal life, made me really enthusiast on it. Wonderful.

      2.Theme and ingredients: I was amazed how you made the Theme fit: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”; the most original reading of Last Chance I’ve ever seen this year (and I reviewed a cool 8 games, 4 for “Pummarola Ediscion” and 4 here, in the international section!). Ingredients also fit well. Great work!

      3.Innovation and “risks”: I think you were inspired by Murderous Ghosts by Vincent Baker (is a two player game, played with a deck of cards, indeed. Aware of its existance?), but you used those mechanics in a totally different way. As said, I see also a similarity with Breaking the Ice, still your game explores many other arguments than just love (but is maybe not that much emotive? Just playing your game will tell me). I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with First Impressions, at least concerning innovation. Wordcount is not “abused”, still you had many tables to put in that game (and tables steal free space for other words). The risk in playing First Impressions? Talking about something really intimate could be a problem for the players, but if the premise is actually to know each other, I don’t see troubles at all (in my humble opinion).

      4. doubts and perplexities: maybe I’d explained the rules in a more explicit way. I know I’m not English and perhaps is due to that I needed to read some statements twice, still being a little more “verbose” could help. I think that dices were not needed for the game itself. I understood that you wanted to give the choice to the players to set difficulties and give the chance to both to roleplay failures and a successes, to see how they react, but isn’t that dice system too complicated? Couldn’t you just use the cards to generate that random situation? (I.e. Major Rolls: the other player draws a set of cards, more cards is more difficult. Card have values. If the higher card is lower than the Stat, you succeed, otherwise you fail. You choose for the Minor Rolls. And the values you assign to the Stats will be obviously lower then, according to the card value). This is just a personal suggestion, it works fine like that already.

      5. Conclusion: I’ll try to play, at least once, this game sooner or later. I think it can be improved after Game Chef, still the idea is set. and that’s enough. I feel enthusiast about it, it looks great!

      NOTE: I’d also love to talk about First Impressions privately, I have few more suggestions to give you. If you’re interested in, my mail is vice.jack@yahoo.it .Thanks ^^

    • Tom Lawrence (@Meserach)

      Review of “The Last Word” by Mendel Schmiedekamp
      Review by Thomas Lawrence

      A profoundly strange game with a strange mix of lots of fiddly, specific mechanics (strange dice, a game board with tokens AND playing cards), but unanchored by any specific fictional concept. Instead First Impressions is intended to encompass almost any kind of fiction using oracle-like tools.

      There’s a lot going on here packed into a small space, some of it successful and other bits I find confusing. To start with praise – the use of playing cards as a multifunctional inspirational oracle is interesting and generally well executed. It’s particularly interesting that each player gets a hand of cards and gets to decide which oracle to use each card on – this element of constrained player choice leading to an emergent fiction is the best things about the game. I eevn like how this ties into a stat allocation – the game correctly recognises that the choice of stats says a lot about the world of a game, and this makes for an interesting spin on world-building techniques. The use of Questions to direct play toward action is also smart.

      The idea of a roleplaying game as an icebreaker for two people and an exercise to introduce different playstyles to one another is a good one, but I am not sure that this game provides for a strong execution of this concept – although the way the record sheet produces a transcript of each player’s journey and choices contrasted with each other is a neat piece of design.

      I love the idea of game boards as a method for directing roleplaying. The execution here is a little dull, since the board is really just a slightly random progression of four different card suits, with a few question mark spaces for answering Questions mixed in, and doesn’t feel as if it has been designed with a particular structure in mind. It also strikes me that a player’s progress through the board will be highly variable based on the suits available, which could lead to some strange mismatches in progress between players. Perhaps that’s meant to be part of the fun, but it oculd easily lead to situations where one player has not advanced far when the other has reached the finale, cutting one player’s story “short”, in a sense.

      The accumulation of new Bonds, Resources, Victories and Stats through play by landing on the suit spaces looks like it would work. I particularly like how the method for creating Bonds works when you land on Heart spaces – the idea of trying to convey a relationship without stating it is a strong one. The other suit spaces aren’t as interesting – I don’t fully understand what is meant to happen on a “split” with the Spades space – what determines if my new stat is “related” or not?

      I’m afraid I don’t understand the finale rules at all. I have read and re-read that paragraph but cannot figure out how it is meant to work. I can see that the player will reach the finale with two unanswered questions, but how you’d decide what the “initial” and “final” questions are meant to be is quite opaque to me. Really the finale just feels like an odd stretch in order to include one of the random thread ingredients, and as written it doesn’t work for me. That’d accordingly be my top priority for reworking if you’re taking this game forward.

      The dice mechanic seems unnecessarily fiddly; a kind of warped percentile dice system. I’m not convinced of the utility of a ones digit when the stats all start out as multiples of ten anyway – yes this can change through play, but I doubt whether all the mechanical effort is worth it. There’s also no mechanical pressure for a player not to just seek to use their (currently) highest stat every time – presumably the idea is that the player should be answerable to the constraints of the fiction on this, but if so it might be wise to include play guidance to that effect, perhaps with a judgement role for the other player as to how appropriate the use of a stat is. Fundamentally, the skill rolls just aren’t very interesting, given the drama that may attend them – just roll the dice, over or under the stat, without any mechanical teeth beyond the Bonds/Resources/Victories being spent for rerolls. It feels both fiddly and undercooked.

      Overall it’s an elaborate structure for creating an improvised world and story, but it feels overly messy as a design in places, while being overly simple or tedious in others. The best aspects are definitely the playing card oracles and the use of Questions to direct fiction.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 53 is reviewed by… 52 50 47 43

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 54 is reviewed by… 53 51 48 44

    • gryffudd

      Oath of Steel is a game with a really interesting setting. I wish I could make my settings this cool. It took me a while to get things straight as to who was who and who was opposing who, though, so it might be a good idea to make the intro stuff a bit clearer. It could just be me, though. Sometimes I need to read something through a few times to get it straightened out in my mind. Given the 3,000 word limit it’s hard to get enough word-space to write clearly sometimes.

      The players play immortal champions trying to defend a powerful entity as she tries to reconnect to the source of magical power before an army defeats them and rids the world of magic. Theres a lot of interesting detail in the two-page description of the setting. My hat goes off to the author.

      I think I would need more guidance as to the creation of Events and Threats, if I was playing this, though people with more experience in collaborative story type games would probably be fine.

      I did have a few confusions with the characters, which are premade, with the possible actions each can take listed on the sheet (which I like). Most of these are minor things, but they stood out to me. First, each lists Distinctions, Roles, Specialties, and Drives. The rules refer to choosing traits from each trait group, but trait group isn’t defined. I’m assuming each of the above is a trait group, but Drives are written as questions, so they’re probably not traits. It’s not clear, though. Second, when taking action, it can be magical, physical, or a mix of the two. There are two different ways magic power can be used to boost an action though, and one is flat-out better than the other. I imagine one represents magic-only, while the other is magic-with-physical-too, but it isn’t clear.

      Lastly, players can wager on an outcome. If you get the right results coming up on a roll, you can win back magic power, which is otherwise finite. It’s not clear what happens if none of the number you wagered on show up in the roll. Do you lose the power wagered, or just not win any extra? With the 3,000 word limit gone now, I imagine most of the things that confuse me would be easy to clear up.

      As mentioned above, the setting is really cool. The layout is good, a pleasure to read. I’d be willing to play it if I could interest my local players.

      • Jeffrey Fuller

        Thanks for the great review. Your criticisms are spot on. I’m glad you enjoyed the setting. As I mentioned in a response to ndpaoletta’s review on his blog, the wager omission is huge. Basically, if you lose the wager you lose the power points. I’m incorporating everyone’s feedback into my todo list, and plan to release another version of the game after game chef is done.

    • Pedro Ziviani

      – Oath of Steel, by Jeffrey Fuller

      First off, the layout is clean and elegant, and got me right in the mood to read the game.

      The setting is very interesting and the author does a good job of describing a rather complex setting including its background within the limited space afforded by the 3000 word limit. I like how the impact of the discovery of magic is described in the background section.

      As impressed as I was with the setting, the gameplay section left be a bit confused. The way the narrative is shared between sounds cool, but the text left me wondering how exactly an event and a threat should be like, and I’d liked very much to have seen examples of those so I could understand better how to create them.

      I like the idea that the Champions are reborn without their memories whenever they die. However, that did leave me wondering if this concept removes some of the risk and danger front the game. As the number of events and threats are fixed and known to all players from the beginning, I am a bit worried that the game may feel too much like just going through the motions, with PCs coming back from the dead in the event of failure only to get back again on the pre-determined events and threats. It may be that I am getting the wrong idea about how specific or broad the events and threats are, but then without examples in the text I can’t be sure.

      The wager dice mechanic is a clever idea, with players betting a number of magical power points on a given number being rolled on a pool of D6s. I don’t recall seeing such mechanic before, and it sounds like a fun way to bring tension into dice rolls. I also like the Drives, the questions that are supposed to guide the framing of each character’s scenes.

      Concluding, I found this game to have an imaginative and rich setting coupled with rule mechanics that, while sound interesting, are a bit confusing and could benefit from examples and more extensive explanations.

    • Joseph LeMay

      Oath of Steel (Review by Joseph Le May)

      I swear to defend the Nations of the Spire against all enemies…

      As a soldier, I have perhaps a bit of bias towards this game, if only because each player is required to swear an oath none too dissimilar to one I spoke only a few years ago. I found this aspect of Oath of Steel to be of particular interest; on a psychological level, it seems to me to represent a larger step towards buying into the fiction than you get with most RPGs. Also, I feel obligated to admit that I’ve become fairly recently enamored of GMless/full designs, and this is certainly a well-executed draft.

      I absolutely loved the premise itself, spelled out in the first two pages, as well as the evocative and informative character sheets. The system too seems fairly straightforward. I’m interested to know why you would ever burn yourself out if the alternative is reincarnating with full magic points, though. That felt somewhat…cognitively dissonant, I want to say? I do love the intentionally collaborative nature of the whole setup of the game, but I fear that without any examples, folks that haven’t played that sort of game are likely going to be staring at a bunch of blank cards thinking “Okay, so what the fuck is an EVENT supposed to look like?”

      I also felt like careful attention was paid to making the characters very much individuals, so that while mechanically everyone is the same, those questions (reminds me of Psi*Run actually, in a really positive way) and descriptors really make the characters pop out and grab you. I’m probably more excited about the questions, actually, than any other single aspect of this game!

      One criticism, as far as clarity, I would like to levy is that third bullet point under “Getting Started.” I can’t really tell if you want me to make a list on that third of my three cards, or if you want me to put a separate THREAT on each of many cards. Additionally, I noticed that while you never specified a number of players, you have waves going 1-5…and six character sheets. So what gives? Do I double up on some waves, or make fewer cards…or just select four of my five friends and have the other one play his DS while the rest of us play your game? Actually, he should probably be the guy to go and get the pizza for the rest of us…nevermind. Point is, I’d like to know the intended number of characters and whether that is particularly relevant to the setup.

      Overall, this game is pretty, starts off with a bang and doesn’t quit! Me likey!

      Thanks!

      • Jeffrey Fuller

        Thanks for the review. I’m glad the game clicked for you. The next revision of the game will definitely clarify how reincarnation works; the character does NOT reset their power points. Only the physical form of the character is restored, not their power. The residue of their power is actually what rebuilds them each time. Additionally, the questions in the game will have a stronger tie to the setting in subsequence releases. My goal is to have all the mechanics directly tie to the setting. So, in the future resolving questions will allow players to directly influence the setting for future replays of the game.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 55 is reviewed by… 54 52 49 45

    • Orion Canning

      Well this is an awesome concept (I need to read Dracula) And the voice of the narrator is right on. It makes the rules a very enjoyable read and really gives a great example for the style the players should be using as they play. Bravo in that regard. Oh and aren’t I now oh so tempted to write my review as an epistolary. I wanted to write my own rules in the style of a found document, but didn’t have the wherewithal to do it in a week long period, so your work here is commendable to say the least.

      That said, the structure of the rules was bit damn confusing, and I found myself skipping back and forth a bit before I really got a handle on it. For example if I want to understand skill checks I’ve got 3 or 4 different parts of the rules talking about it, scattered all throughout. Structurally it could be cleaned up a bit, or maybe it would be best to have some sort of rules summary or cheat sheet written in more plain and straightforward language for quick reference.

      Alright Let’s get right into it. I like how the list of heroes also reads as a list of suspects. It’s definitely reminiscent of the cast of Clue or an old fashioned murder mystery whodoneit. Skipping forward to the cards: The quotes on their cards are quite brilliantly written and it’s almost difficult to believe they weren’t pulled straight from a Victorian monster novel. They do a wonderful job of giving brief insight into the characters.

      I was a little confused at first. “Where are prop cards?” I thought. Ah, right, they are blank index cards. I also wasn’t sure if your hand was meant to be secret, including the unused cards left in front of you. I’m assuming not, since it did not say so, but I expected them to be because of the secret nature of the monster. I know these things are going to be explained later but it would be better to clarify them a little more in the beginning, especially the importance of keeping your hand secret.

      Two things about this game interest me very much. One is the unreliable narrator, which is very suitable to the source material and the theme, but one I haven’t seen to much of in story games. Part of my interest is I tried to use the idea of an unreliable Narrator in a game I created with Robert Bruce, Reality House, where characters would give contradictory accounts of events and the truth would be determined by whether other characters supported or denied their version of events. The tension there was in waiting to see whose side the other players would take. In your game the tension is created by the passing of secret documents (secrets and lies) Always good for building paranoia, especially when it’s possible the player is only looking for a little simple guidance. Passing notes definitely has a threat of slowing down gameplay, but hopefully the tension it creates would balance this.

      I also really find the idea of a GM playing a largely silent backseat role, dealing in secrets, quiet nods or shakes of their head, and hounding out documents of important events, very interesting and compelling. I can imagine myself surveying the players with a coy smirk as I indulged in stirring their paranoia with nary a word. Oh, look you’ve got me talking funny now. Anyways the approach definitely sets a certain tone for the game, one of looming mystery and malevolence.

      So let me skip to challenges and damage. It’s a little confusing at first but I think I’ve wrapped my head around it. First the GM picks a suit, shows off the ace, then draws a number of cards according to the difficult. Each number card matching the suit is a benefaction, point to the hunters. Each not matching is an impediment, point to the monster. Face cards are trash. So, questions. Does the GM show all the cards he draws to the players? Or does he only reveal them once the players have played as many cards as they want to? With so much secret information going around you must be very clear about what is transparent and what’s not. Also, it seems like the odds are against the players in these checks, since impediments are 3 times as likely as benedictions, though maybe not the case since they are aware of the suit. At any rate I’m wondering if it would be more balanced if the players won on a tie. Something that would have to be settled through playtesting I wager.

      Alright, so you lose a challenge as the narrator, this means your cards get locked. Can I narrate someone into my scene and then have a challenge hurt them too? What happens if two hunters get into a gun fight? There needs to be rules for direct conflict like that. If you lock a skill card, you are pretty much useless in a challenge where the narrator chooses that suit, since any cards you play cancel themselves out. Moreso if you lock two of a kind, but once you’ve done one you might as well do the second. Double useless is still no worse then useless. Is it so bad if prop cards get locked? Seems easy enough to just avoid that prop from then on, since it’s entirely up to the narrators and they aren’t going to want to put themselves in trouble. Is there a way for the GM to get the narrator to use a bad prop? Maybe you should comment on that in the GM section.

      Okay, on to the monster. First of all, I think the skill cards need to be tweaked a little so that if the game still works if people know what the monster skill cards are, as it is they are a dead giveaway. The monster is the only player with a card they can play while not in a scene, which causes a monster to attack the narrator, so that seems like it would be a dead giveaway. All the players should have cards they can play when not in the scene to make this less obvious. Also, because the GM can also make the monster attack at any time, this ability is a bit impotent, so maybe it should give a bonus to the monster attack too, an additional impediment maybe? For the spreading the curse card, what happens to the newly cursed player? Should they be given a set of monster cards? How would that be done secretly? Maybe all these cards work the first time if the players know nothing of any of the other roles cards, but I’d like the game to have more replayability despite the gamechef theme, so it would be nice to see this tweaked in a later version to allow for that.

      Other monsters would be awesome. Vampires are the obvious one, what else? Maybe a zombie overlord type who turns people into mindless zombies under his control, a malevolent ghost or spirit would also work. Jekyll and Hyde would be perfect. What about the invisible man, though they would need to be able to turn their invisibility on and off. Or simply a jack the ripper-esque serial killer. The leader of a lovecraftian cult? An occultist using dark magic and curses to kill people in freak accidents? Lots of possibilities that I would love to see, and having those possibilities would make th monster more difficult to detect and add to the replay value.

      Another thing I’m eager to see happen in the game, the point where the players begin turning on each other in paranoia, throwing impediments at each other and possibly killing the wrong man. But like I said before, there needs to be rules for direct conflict, there should be a threat of things getting very bloody between the players. This is after all, a bit like Mafia, (AKA werewolf) where one player is secretly trying to kill the others off, and getting them to turn on each other is half the fun.

      So this game looks like it could be a really awesome experience, both in terms of paranoia and gothic horror and the unique twist of telling the story as an epistolary, which could be a lot of fun. There’s also a lot of room for the game to fall apart, with players constantly getting put on the hot seat to come up with good narration. However with lots of ways for the Narrator and other players to hand the Narrator seeds good players should be able to help each other out if anyone gets stuck. The hardest role is the GM’s, a role that is very strategic and sneaky and could take a lot of skill to do right. I’m eager to try my hand at it though. With some cleaning up and clarification this game could end up being the go to for old fashioned victorian gothic horror.

      I feel like you took a lot of great risks with this. I look forward to playing it!

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 56 is reviewed by… 55 53 50 46

    • Thought Check Games

      Hey there! I’ve put my review up here: http://thoughtcheckgames.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/game-chef-review-our-last-best-hope/

      Super-brief summary: Great idea, with a neat looking form of story-pacing, and a very vibrant mood, but with some vagaries in the rules and a central mechanic which I worry might be too fiddly.

    • Tom Lawrence (@Meserach)

      Review of “Our Last Best Hope” by Magpie Games
      Review by Thomas Lawrence

      Right out of the gate, Our Last Best Hope has a strong fictional theme and obvious directions for the action of the story. The concept is simple but immediately grabby and well suited to one-shot play.

      The use of Myer-Briggs personality typology is cute and a good way to get people to think about newly created characters quickly and differentiate them, and is well suited to the ensemble action disaster movie milieu, as does the simple but effective mechanic for deciding on relationships between the players, although this mechanic feels suitable only for a small number (three or four) players and would not scale well to larger numbers. (in fact, it’s not clear in general how many players the game is designed for, and it seems like the balance of the game might be thrown off with too large a number, so there should probably be some specificity about this).

      The two-act structure is well thought out and creates a strong framework for play. And I love the death cards! That’s an excellent feature; the idea of having a character that know how they will die and hence what situations they can and can’t throw themselves into is great, and there’s an immediate satisfaction in seeing how the deaths resolve.

      I feel like there needs to be more guidance on how the GM distributes story points. There’s some specified instances where they have to do so, but then there’s also a vague instruction to award them for “good roleplay”, but it isn’t clear what this means exactly. Considering the importance of this currency to the game, this aspect needs nailing down more precisely.

      In general it looks as though the game will overall be subject to something of a “death spiral” problem, where failed rolls engender more opposing dice and then lead to more failed rolls. The degree of random variability in the dice mechanic will smooth this out somewhat but I suspect not enough. Some sort of “negative feedback” mechanism, where hard-pressed teams manage to win back and overcome, or successful teams suddenly face new problems, might be a sensible move.

      I’m not a huge fan of the dice mechanic in general, which involves potentially a lot of counting, summing and subtraction to get to results. It feels fiddly to me, on a first impression.

      Overall it is tough to get a strong feel for how well the game would actually play without doing playtesting, which I didn’t have time for. So much depends on whether the dice mechanics do create the death spiral I fear or not. But I can say that, of the games I had to review, it is the one that most immediately appeals to me to want to play.

      • Mark Truman

        Tom,

        Thank you so much for your feedback. You’ve highlighted a lot of my favorite parts of the game, and I’m glad to see that you think they would work as well!

        As for the “death spiral,” I totally see your point. In some ways, we want choices to matter, meaning that if things go badly they should be more likely to go worse in the future. But at the same time, it seems totally lame for a few bad rolls to suddenly thrown the whole game down the tubes. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on ways that the counterbalancing mechanism could work.

        Thanks!

    • Joseph LeMay

      Our Last Best Hope (Review by Joseph Le May)

      Our last best hope is something I can see myself playing at my gaming table pretty much as-is. I’m very excited by its premise, which is a classic disaster movie scenario in which the Earth is about to go kaput, and only [insert PCs here] can save us all (think Armageddon or The Core)!

      I actually like the simple, effective dice mechanic. I could see some people complaining about totaling up sides and then subtracting, but I have at least one board game with a more difficult main dice mechanic (FRAG!), so this is right up my alley. I really think that the Story Points bouncing back and forth are a slick device for creating tension, with some players firing them off one after another and others hoarding them to buy dice for the event pool, which is totally cool.

      Perhaps my favorite aspect of Our Last Best Hope is the Death Cards. With all those black dice flying around, someone is sure to flub a roll sooner or later, and when they get harmed enough, they can die permanently. However, with the death card, you eliminate this whole “can’t roleplay while you’re dead” nonsense. I really like that it empowers the PC’s player to decide (within the limit’s of the card’s description) how their character will die, instead of botching a roll and just croaking on the spot, dying a pointless and ignominious death.

      Additionally, the rules allow you to choose to die rather than be knocked out, but take the threat out simultaneously, not to be replaced with any new threat. In this respect, they are similar, in a really good way, to Dread’s knocking down the Jenga tower on purpose. A nice touch I’m glad to see in the game.

      Overall, I’m finding it difficult to level any criticisms at this game, but I’ll give it a shot. My main question is this: with Story Points in already potentially short supply, why make the player spend one to turn bonus successes into Assets, if Assets already cost a point to activate? So not only do I have to roll really well, but then I have to spend my resource in order to gain the privilege to be able to spend more of my resource to increase my rolls…?

      Regardless of that nitpick, I have to say that of the games I have reviewed, this one seems the most immediately playable, though I would probably house rule away the content of my previous paragraph.

      Thanks, Mark!

      • Mark Truman

        Thank you for the wonderful review! I’m glad to see the game connected with you.

        I agree that the use of Story Points you’ve described is a little silly. We’ll cut that from the next draft.

        Thanks1

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 57 is reviewed by… 56 54 51 47

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Rage, Rage, Mark. You make great and obvious points about the mechanics which I hope to test in the next year or so. I’m glad that my major concepts/themes made it through. -David-

    • Keith Stetson

      RAGE, RAGE
      First off, if you’re wondering if people will get the title: yes, my mind immediately went to the poem and I love your literary inspirations. I had never read that Frost poem before and enjoyed it a good deal. I thought your own poetic text on page one (the cover?) was also a great hook into the game and doubled as a table of contents.

      Conceptually, the game is very cool. It seems like all the elements of it are centered on the task of telling one very specific kind of story and it has some very cool tools for so doing.

      I love the Courage/Madness dichotomy. I especially love that they help you in different way s – you can either get in on more scenes with Courage, or perform better at tasks with Madness. I like the built-in interconnectedness of the PCs via Hope and Fear. It automatically gives players a way to react to each other, as does the Kind designations.

      Thematically, the game is an excellent use of the Lantern ingredient, as well as the “Courage as currency” random thread. Although more metaphorically done, the Doctor ingredient is also strongly represented.

      I don’t think I understand the End Pathway and its significance in play. Is this the same thing as The Lantern (e.g. “the PCs will use their connection to the Lantern to heal or harm others by accident or with purpose”)? Is there an actual Lantern as well? I was confused by some phrases that didn’t seem to have clear referents, such as using a courage point “To sustain the Light in the Lantern,” or “that person then rolls 1d6 to move the Shadow of Fear into the game for their Character.” I’m sure these things are clear to you, but as an outside reader they did not come across in a comprehensible way. You were likely butting up against 3,000 words here, so it’s understandable if lamentable.

      Overall, this is a great concept that with some clarification and polishing could be a little gem of a game. I hope you continue to work on it. Any questions, feel free to write me keithstetson at yahoo dot com.

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Rage, Rage, Keith. It was one of those games that summoned those poems more or less from the get go with Lantern and the thought of hope that the lantern light would not burn out and leave you alone with your fear. Then all of those variations on what a lantern could be and mean rushed forth as starter ideas. I think for this game I really like the way the endpoint is clearly defined and it’s up to the PCs to do something about it, even if all you do is surrender to the End.

        And yes, there are many confusing parts in the mechanics as I have not had an opportunity to playtest it so hopefully the rules will become clear after reviewing it with fresh eyes and a group. The End is just that, the end of things. The End Pathway is the story chosen or generated that’s used to setup the game with the End. So you can mix and match the Ends with End Pathways. The Lantern Pathway is not written properly in that section. I think I may have been referring the Lantern section on page 6, but again, this is not clear. I think that I was viewing the use of the Lantern as a focal point for positive and negative actions with other characters. I also did not get into the use of spending Courage to keep the light going and postpone the End, kind of similar to preventing the End in board games such as Shadows over Camelot — giving a bit of yourself most likely through a dream or flashback after paying the point.

        The whole Shadow Moves was my way to construct both a kind of initiative and a way to make the End come into the game mechanically, like in board games such as Forbidden Island. So I failed to explain that something related to the Fear written on the card of the person rolling the d6 would enter the game in 1d6 rounds. This changes to the next person who has their Lantern Pathway change from Hope to Fear. So it could become a death spiral as more Fears are revealed and enter the game — I just don’t know yet how that will go in play, but I did want to make a game where you could “lose” hope.

        I am not thrilled with some of the vocabulary used, but went with what I did to get the game out the door, so any suggestions on better names/processes/etc. would be helpful.

        If anyone would like to continue to discuss this, I would be happy to as well. You can reach me at shadowwars at gmail dot com.

        Thanks,
        -David-

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Rage, Rage. I think that you were able to understand and see most of the operation of things in the game, which is a nice surprise given how rough the game is currently. And thanks for appreciating the intended themes and concepts. -David-

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Rage, Rage. The game will benefit from playtesting to nail down specifics on mechanics along with examples of play.

        I’m still debating the need for a GM in this game as it doesn’t seem necessary if the group can self-arbitrate conflicts and scene progression and resolution towards the End.

        Best,
        -David-

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 58 is reviewed by… 57 55 52 48

    • gryffudd

      At 45 pages, this is definitely the biggest game of the four I’m reviewing. It looks terrific. Nice layout and use of art.

      Rules-wise it’s fairly intricate and seems functional, within my limited experience with group-story-creation games. Players are creating the story of a number of people lost in a magical area they can’t escape, trapped there by Coyote, who is trying to find its own way out. The players are trying to find a way free without bringing Coyote along. Also, they’re trying to find out what happened to the Doctor, who has gone missing. The characters are well-designed and I like that each has questions to answer that link them to the others. A necessity in a game like this, I imagine, but something I’d like to see in more traditional games.

      The scene writeups are interesting, but I’m not sure how fast they are intended to resolve. You need to get through at least 15 of them before you can reach an end scene. To do it in one session, that’d mean an average of under 20 minutes per scene, plus time for the ending scene. Not sure my play group could get through it that fast.

      All in all, it’s an interesting game. I’d be willing to give it a try with the right group, though I’d probably need someone more experienced in these types of games in the group to make sure it was being run properly.

    • dmkdesigns

      Snowy Mountain Syndrome
      By Jason A. Petrasko

      This is a game of mystery and suspense that seems to play out a little like a choose your own adventure in the great old pacific northwest.

      I liked the great descriptions of the setting that fit the tone and intentions of the game as I understand them. I really feel drawn into the game from the beginning and the conflict options seem to reinforce that as well.

      Intro (Backstory, Fantasy, Themes)
      Good quick setup for the game. Gets you quickly in the tone and environment.

      Setup
      Straight forward.

      Players
      This seems to be handled alright, given the complexity. A game group will need to just be flexible on roles for this game.

      Phases
      After reading the game over, I am still a little confused on the phases. I understand what is meant in the text. It just didn’t seem to flow well in the reading of it.

      Character Definitions
      For some reason, the term, “Character Definitions” doesn’t seem right to me. Character Archetypes sounds better to me.

      Precepts of Play
      Glad that it was stated in the fifth bullet point that this world is in between the Coyote’s domain and the mundane world.

      Rolling the Die
      The last sentence of the first paragraph did not make sense to me.

      Breakdowns & Collapse
      The section on being weakened makes sense, but seems to add another layer of complexity to track.

      Epiphany & Crisis
      Good.

      Meaningful Words & Rest
      Good.

      Being the Sky
      I like how the Sky GM role works in this game. Wording seemed odd in the second and fourth bullet points.

      The page that lists stuff
      Call this something and have it indexed/listed in your table of contents.
      Consider rewriting or using formatting for the numbers and terms consistently.

      History: What we know about the Coyote
      The second statement seems weak and problematic about the Doctor knowing a way to discover the Coyote and never told anyone before disappearing.
      The 4th question, Who in the group has the best mental image of the Coyote struck me as odd.

      History: What are the Leaders?
      I would change this to “Who.”

      Character Definitions
      Fairly straight forward and good. Typos and grammar issues.
      The Curious Daughter: The nature of her father is not addressed — does that matter? I would think that is more interesting than her adventures/feelings with the troubled boy. She could have had adventures or feelings with any number of the other characters, but her father is the one who forced her into the wagon and wants her to remain in it. This would give the player playing the curious girl more freedom to develop curious adventures and conflict with a father figure.

      Scenes
      I really like the idea of the scenes. Some of them seemed better fits than others. Some scenes left me scratching my head as they felt too off-topic. I really liked the scenes that tested the relationships of the characters and what they are fighting for and against vs. the ones that were random encounters with “monsters.” The monster encounters left me feeling uninterested in playing the scene unless the fight had something more interesting at stake or provoked a revelation about another character and/or the Coyote/Doctor/way out of this frozen hell.

      One contradiction was that they were all supposed to take place at night and a couple don’t. I would either remove the “only at night” part from the rules or changes the scenes that seem to skirt or violate this. Scenes 5 and 11 for instance.

      Note: The rewards or suffer a threat thing does not make sense still. Why would you choose to not take a reward AND take a threat?

      Scene 6 seems unnecessarily complicated with the addition of a new character.

      Scene 7 seems like just an excuse to have zombies in the game — zombie wolves even. It removes me from the premise/tone of the game.

      Scene 8 seems like you wanted an antagonist outside of the Coyote. I start to doubt the validity of the Coyote at this point.

      Scene 9 seems to invoke Narnia with the lion. Do we need a lion in the frozen wasteland? Does that make sense? What about a bison or some other “noble beast” instead? With the bison you could have it be a spiritual moment/omen and then have it faced with being killed for food (improve vitality but loose spirit) for example.

      Scene 10 was just odd. I don’t get it really. What is learned or gained from this encounter? Spirits of dead characters warning things instead? Are they spirits warning the characters about their sibling the Coyote or tempting them to let them into their body? What’s the point?

      Scene 16 was good, but I wasn’t sure how to handle the [1] [2] [3] progress spots.

      Scene 17 just seemed lame to me. I would suggest something more like one or more characters falling through ice into cold water instead. Or a couple characters out hunting and either there is a hunting accident or a conflict with another predator over the same meal.

      Scene 18 seemed unearned. What about a grudge coming to a head instead of a random gunfight? It could still be a “duel” of sorts, but setup differently where personalities in conflict make it important than just shooting/murdering someone.

      I was surprised by a lack of scenes which focused on a lack of resources, or choosing to lose a person, or part of them (like a leg in a rockslide) in exchange for X resource. If someone is sick and cannot be cured, you would likely kill them or abandon them, right?

      What about a freak indian attack? Or real coyotes coming to either help or chase out the Coyote spirit? Co you have packs of coyotes trailing the group or does the real Coyote leave “food” for other real or spiritual kin to consume?

      The Six Ends page
      I think that since you started to suggest how to handle a dead Coyote that a written up ending to substitute should be provided.

      The Six Endings
      I found many of the actual endings to be rather disappointing, mostly because of how they felt contrived. Also, do we have to know the fate of the Doctor? I did not like the de-agonization of the Coyote figure — it seemed like you were cheating. I think also, if the group is able to narrate and come up with their own middle story material and then make it to the end that there should be some say from the group how this is so.

      I would have the six endings, but rename them to fit with the level of survival, which is already hinted at. 1 is the best survival option to 6 where there is a total party kill — though if there is one survivor to tell the tale that might be nice. Each ending would have a theme and some conditions and the group would get to narrate how those conditions applied to the survivors, making it their own ending that flows from their experiences of the game beforehand.

      Stumbling Points
      Types: Read the whole game slowly out loud to help catch the typos.
      Terms/Numbers: Maybe bold or italicize or make numbers the numbers and/or game terms to help them stand out more.
      Pronouns: The use of pronouns was sometimes confusing — spell out exactly what you mean to be clear.
      *: I must have missed what the asterisk meant, but I saw them in many places.

      Layout/Design
      Sidebars (that small text inside the art-margins): Were not used consistently throughout the game, but no biggie.

      The supplied art was alright for tone and such, but I felt that it was not very necessary given some of the strong prose. The margins of the art next to both sides of the text seemed too close in the game text.

      I would use full lines instead of dashes/hyphens.

      Thoughts
      I would really playtest the hell out of this thing and edit hard on the scenes. I just don’t think that all of the scenes are as strong as they can be yet, but that the foundation is in place for something good here. Also, and I think this is my taste, as mentioned above, I don’t like how the endings are presented as written. And if there is anything that can be done to simplify the mechanics further that would be great, but really, a nice job here.

    • Mendel

      My review is here:

      http://archimedes-closet.com/artemisia/projects/SnowyMountainSyndrome.html

      Jason, let me know if you are interested in a more substantial analysis (such as scene by scene or character by character).

    • Thought Check Games

      Hey there! I have a full review here: http://thoughtcheckgames.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/game-chef-review-snowy-mountain-syndrome/

      Super-brief summary: very well-made and full of all kinds of neat Stuff and a fantastic sense of atmosphere, but in need of some editing for clarity (and some clarifying examples if possible).

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 59 is reviewed by… 58 56 53 49

    • JasonP

      Into the Void by Kira Scott is right up my alley. The premise is something I may have developed myself, and the mechanical ideas aren’t far off from what I might have dreamed up. However, I have always had a problem with clarity. This isn’t a problem faced by this author. Into the Void is clear in definition and quite direct with its intent. I found a subtle shift in tone early on to jar me a bit reading it, but that is a minor issue at best.

      The first thought I had upon reading the introduction was: “man, this better bring the pain its promising.” I mean the setup is so strongly built to watching the suffering of man in a prison of steel and conduits wrapped in the darkness of space, how could you not think that? As I read on I became convinced that the game will do just that. I was faced with lots of questions, so of which I’ll address in a moment, but more than that the things that work in this game really work. The way connections are defined between characters comes to mind, the way the GM gets to create the big bad in secret and hint at it through play (though it may never even rear its head – awww!)

      If I had to complain (and I do!), what I’d like to see are more concrete manifestations of the fiction in play. For instance, when the game tells me to use a Ship’s Agenda to help spark ideas in the fiction, I didn’t expect it to be blank. I wanted it to have vague suggestions, perhaps something like “adjust telemetry”, something to spark my creative juices. I feel that the madness track could be too long with 25 entries, but it’s hard to tell without playtesting. I’m sure some of my other questions, like “why would I ever target a balance between inner and outer traits if a difference of one gives me madness?” could likely be addressed easily so it’s hard to hold that against a Game Chef Entry.

      All in all, I’d love to give a more polished version of the game a spin and that is the goal of any entry in this contest!

      • kirascott

        Hey Jason! Thanks for the thorough review. I appreciate the thoughtful feedback. Your questions are very helpful. I may bug you later for more. I’m really glad you felt like it was focused, I was trying really hard to do that, so I count that a success!

    • Joseph LeMay

      Into The Void (Review by Joseph Le May)
      So. Space Madness. First of all, the answer is YES. This game was dripping with theme (excuse me while I mop up some of this theme here, I accidentally left my print copy open to “The subtext,” which I personally found to be one of the absolute clearest explanations ever of a game’s objectives with regards to the type of fiction it provides, like ever. Really well put.). Also, the chosen ingredients were very well represented in Into the Void. I think that designing the Madness makes this officially the first game I’ve ever wanted to GM more than I want to play it, so kudos there as well.

      Regarding clarity, I think it would have helped me personally to have the examples of inner line and outer line traits separated, as well as having a filled out set of example sheets, because at first I found the system mind-bogglingly labyrinthine and confusing. Regarding points 5 and 6 of character creation, it isn’t made clear whether it is acceptable for multiple players to choose the same other player for Outer Line Traits. Is everyone supposed to have the same number of them or are we supposed to be free to choose who we will? If the former (which I suspect is the case) I’d suggest codifying that with something like “the players to your immediate right and left.”

      I love the way the Saturn V rocket’s stages are used as the template for the phases of the game. Hold on a sec, lemme sop up some of this theme here real quick. ;) Anyway, I found the entire setup elegant and helpfully written (on a second pass, because I found the text itself densely packed and thus, for me at least, a slow read), but I could not disagree more with the lack of a codified transition from stage 2 to stage 3. Could you explain why you chose the “whenever you’re ready” route? I just found it disappointing because I really wanted to have the GM included in the Reveal, having her not know whether the Madness was truly some crazy ghost ship, an evil star, or an Elder Horror…or just Davis, completely off his rocker, setting folks on fire in their sleep. By leaving that decision in the GM’s hands, you remove her ability to play to find out, which for me is the most fun of this game’s potential moments (as I play it in my brain, anyway).

      Overall, with its tight, incredibly well-themed design and awesome handouts (which I forgot to even mention above, I have to give this game just one more YES. You’re going to Vegas, Kira! Oh wait, this isn’t American Idol, after all. Hm.

      P.S. Is there a reason that this game couldn’t work with four players, or six? Just curious.

      • kirascott

        Hey Joseph! Thanks for such positive feedback. Did you get the theme of my game, cause that was really important, obvs ;) For real, though, good points all around. I agree with you, the GM should be able to have a hand in playing some more… I was trying to make both player and GM roles fun, cause I like it when I’m the GM and I get to have fun too! I think if I had more time, I would definitely had done sample character creation and scenes… I think that would clarify EVERYTHING in my rules. I definitely vacillated between “do this whenever you feel like you’ve hit a sweet spot” and “after one round, move to stage two”. I don’t like it when things are structured so much it restricts game play… but I think that indecision makes things a little more confusing, for sure. Thanks for giving me some stuff to work on!

    • Orion Canning

      Well, space madness! I always liked that episode of Ren and Stimpy where they get Space Madness, stuck with me since I was a kid, and all the movies on your list are on my favorites too. So I’m right behind you on this being a good idea. Maybe you would enjoy this AP/ short story from a game called Suspended Animation. http://movieseveryday.blogspot.com/2011/08/ap-suspended-animation-by-ross-cowman.html . Ah, shameless self promotion aside, You do a great job of explaining your motives and goals with the game as well as describing what the game is about. The Lantern sure is a great name for that last hope of mankind spaceship, isn’t it?

      You’re approach to creating the seeds and setting for the game by having a short list of questions is so simple and straight to the point that I think I’m going to incorporate it into my gamechef game. Why do I overcomplicate these things in my head with so many random generation tables? The way you clearly guide players to the important questions they should be asking to stay in line with the games theme is just right.

      The way you deal with character creation also reminds me a lot of my entry for last year’s Gamechef, Go Puck Yourself. There was someone who saw the best in you and someone who saw the worst, and both were true. In your game the best traits are how you see yourself, which rings true, and the worst are how other people see you, which plays into the themes of paranoia and loneliness. In go Puck Yourself the person you loved was the person who saw the worst in you, and that reminds me of how you did connections as well, but in your game it’s, again appropriately, set up so everyone you have a connection to is going to have a negative perception of you. It seems like we were thinking on very similar wavelengths.

      One problem that might come up is if everyone chooses the same people for their connections, and it might be smarter to have it just be the people sitting to your left and right, as much as the “tangled web” of having connections go every which way might seem appealing, but ultimately it ends up being functionally the same, unless of course more then two people make connections to someone. If someone does get left out of being picked as a connection, does that just mean they have neutral opinions of everyone else, none that are negative? And if so is that alright?

      I like the general progression of game play a lot, it certainly follows these types of films and stories well. First the characters are introduced, in scenes of internal monologue to show how they see themselves and life on the ship, and then scenes between characters to show their relationships. The scenes are introductory at first but continue to create plot and character development. The catastrophic event creates the inciting incident for the story’s main conflict, which is both the battle against madness and the bad thing that might not exist. Void encounters come into play as the pressure set on the characters start making them crack and we see how it is affecting their sanity, Finally it builds to the climax where the crazy people finally go over the deep end and begin actually endangering the mission and crew and have to be stopped, or it’s revealed that they weren’t nuts after all and the stuff they thought they were imagining was real, and has to be stopped.

      My only problem is I think you need to more strongly define a scene framing mechanic because I wasn’t sure how it’s supposed to go. When you talk about space log and interaction scenes you write that if you want more traits you should have one of these scenes, but how do we do that? Do we take turns deciding what will happen in the next scene? Does the GM get a turn too? Does the GM set all the scenes? Do all the players decide the next scene as a group? I’m not sure and it needs to be defined more clearly.

      I was also a little confused about how madness builds up. Does it happen at the end of any scene you are in where you are out of balance at the end? Does it happen if you are out of balance at the beginning. Do you get more madness for being more out of balance?

      I also feel like maybe there should be more catastrophic events happening as the game goes on as well, to keep pushing towards the climax and keep the tension on. Maybe each player takes a turn deciding a scene they want to play next, then when it’s the GMs turn they create a Catastrophic event and then it goes on like that until the end. I’d also like there to be a little more structure telling us how to decide to move from phase to phase. For void encounters happening it could be just a bit more clear, when two characters both get to three void, on the GMs turn they can choose to do a void scene or a catastrophic event? Or maybe the GM gets an extra turn for these. For the revelation, maybe just after everyone at the table has gotten a certain number of turns, or after a certain number of catastrophic events.

      Other then those things I think the game is very good and ready to play and the ingredients and game play are all there. This is another good entry this year I’ve read foraying into the mystery and psychological horror genre and doing some really interesting fun things with it. I look forward to watching all the characters slowly lose their minds, and either end outcome is equally exciting and fun, so I’d want to play it at least twice to see how both types of endings play out. Once again, a good solid entry. Great work! And sorry for writing this at the last minute. Contact me at Orion.canning@gmail.com if you want to talk more.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 60 is reviewed by… 59 57 54 50

    • kirascott

      It’s easy to be seduced by the premise and the accessibility of Dark Beast, Dark Name. I can totally picture my group of friends playing this game. The mood is quickly set with the opening text, the candle lit in the center of the table, the playing cards spread out. I can hear The Fountain soundtrack playing in the background, taste the red wine to be sipped, hear tales of confrontations with the beast in our sordid fantastical pasts. I am eager to hear the tales of my compatriots, and see the mouth, eyes, and hairy lumps of this beast drawn out exquisite corpse style. If I were to compare it? I would say it reminds me of the Baron Von Munchausen round robin storytelling game, but with way better mechanics. The risk of revealing the real-life secrets of each player is reminiscent of party games like “never have I ever”. Fun!

      I think that the rules and tone they’re written in are mostly easy to follow. I like how Scott just starts getting into how to do things and the order they should be done in. I would’ve liked a little paragraph at the beginning stating what the game is about, expectations, time it will take to play, that kind of thing. But that might just be to my taste.

      I think I would have all the materials I would need to play the game, and I have a good idea of how things would go. There were a few things that I think some clarification would be helpful on in the text. I’m not sure how you develop the beast’s true name, or what function the drawing of the parts of the beast have. These seem important since the beast is such a central part of the game. Both of these things (naming and drawing) sound really fun, but seem slightly tangential as far as a mechanics go.
      Also, I have a more specific rules quibble. I think it would be helpful just to copy paste the part I’m talking about.
      “5.) The players look at their table and try to recall The Beast in their minds, then on the marked index card they sketch the features of The Beast corresponding to the value on the card(Horns, mouth, teeth, etc…) connecting these features to the markings and lines already on the card. They also write the letters from the table on the unmarked index card.
      5.1.) If a player can make a same color pair from this card then he/she gets to keep the card as another point of Clarity. (Jack has 7 of Clubs, he can match 7 of Spade, but not 7 of Diamonds or 7 of Hearts)”
      These two rules are a little confusing. Are players trying to match the drawn card with one of their clarity cards? Are they allowed to look at their clarity cards, are they face up or down? Why are they writing the letters from the table on the index card, so they can’t be used again? A little bit of clarity and tightening up the text here I think could go a long way.

      A lot of those comments I just made are pretty nitpicky, and more focused on helping your make the rules really tight and clear. Overall I think this is a really clever little game. Very concise, very focused, really creative in the mechanics detailed and the type of play it’s encouraging. I want to see artwork of beasts that people have made! I’m excited to try it out at my local game day! Scott, let me know if you wanted to discuss anything further: anansi at gmail.

    • dmkdesigns

      Dark Beast, Dark Name
      By Scott C.

      This is a game of confronting secrets.

      I like this game because of the sheer simplicity and quick fun that can be had with it through simple props and play with drawing and letters to come up with something unique each time.

      Setup
      The game is made for 4 people: 3 Players and a GM.

      The Players take on PC roles who are trying to help a friend and defeat the Beast. The GM plays the Beast primarily.

      There is a candle and a standard deck of playing cards involved.

      While I am uncertain if I understand the Beast creation section of the game, it sounded fun to do.

      Gameplay: Write down a Player secret. Get three cards. The matching of markings and lines and letters part didn’t make sense to me completely, but I think it could be fun. Play out scenes regarding your character and Doctor. Use cards.

      Player Secrets: Players actually are supposed to write down a personal secret as part of the game, but aside from it potentially getting revealed (and your PC losing) it doesn’t seem to be important in and of itself, or be useful for the rest of the game.

      Each Player is assigned a character and suit (namely the face suit: Jack, Queen, or King). When that face suit shows up the related character must respond with a scene. If all of their suit cards show the PC is defeated and the Player secret is revealed.

      However, the GM/Doctor/Beast is assigned to the Aces. So similarly, the GM must respond when each Ace appears, and if all four Aces are played through the Beast is defeated, assemble the image and speak the true name of the beast.

      The Candle: The use of the candle seemed superfluous as written. Perhaps it can be a timer for the game to have the Beast be defeated before it reaches the end?

      Thoughts
      I think that I’m most curious about the use of a secret from the Players in how it relates to the game at large as I don’t understand that. Otherwise, I think the game works pretty well if you are okay with the randomizing of scenes flowing as they do. I like how you could be trying to both stop evil and help a friend at the same time with the ritual.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 61 is reviewed by… 60 58 55 51

    • JasonP

      Coyote Pass by David Miessler-Kubanek starts out with dense text. What I mean by that is that it’s just that the premise is compact and full of explosive ideas. The whole idea of people trapped on the Edge of Forever and trying to escape their situation is compelling enough, and then you add smuggling and mobile traits, and duties, and authorities. Oh man – I’m just swimming in cool ideas here. This leads me to what I think the hardest part of play would be: defining the generalizations before you start. I mean some ideas of the author’s vision presented in text would go a long way here. Which leads me to my first critical thought: some definitions feel empty. They raise questions that I feel need answered before play. The Authority is the authority why? What effect does the Edge of Forever have? I just want more definition before I get to focus it with my creativity.

      I love the way the roles of everyone at the table are defined so clearly. More games need this kind of explanation. Reading that I was able to get a clear idea of the mentality to take before any part of the game begins, which goes a long way toward creating cohesive play. The courage currency is the best game currency I’ve seen in a long time, and you can see the goals of the designer working through it. Setting the highest currency reward as helping another Coyote is surely communicating a cooperative theme. This theme follows through to the section on Hurt, and how to recover it, well done.

      The rules on the other hand could use a serious rewrite. I was able to glean how to use the authority invocation rules and how they affect the presence tracks of both Law and Underworld but only after reading a later section. The real problem is the dice rolling for conflicts. I have no idea of the magic that is supposed to happen between: roll two d6 and lookup on this chart. The chart has entries for a single die result. The rules need more baking, but the structure and ideas are still tasty!

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Coyote Pass. It seems like you got the gist of the game and that makes me happy. The mechanics totally need some playtesting. This was my third idea that I submitted to Game Chef and it is the one I am personally most passionate about and wrote it out in less than 24 hours so yeah a rewrite or 10 is in order.

        I kind of view the Law as the order and the Underworld as the chaos. Each a different side of the same coin that is established as the major movers and shakers in this limbo-like Edge of Forever space. Sorry I don’t have more specifics yet on that but for me that seems like something easy to either create for the default setting or for the game group to decide: Asgaardian vs. Frost Giants, or U.S. vs. Mexican mafia, etc. A kind of questionaire for the group, maybe something like a list of things from customs, “Do you have anything to declare?” might be a fun way to do it.

        Thanks on the Courage currency thing — Forge thread ingredient that I was lazy enough to use in all three of my games, but in different ways I think.

        For the dice, yes, that needs more clarification. I think what I was going for was something like this… you roll 2d6, so in effect, you have two chances for something to happen to you with the following outcomes (on a continuum). If you roll any odd numbers, something goes against you. If you roll any even numbers, something goes for you. You could roll two odds, two evens, or one of each. And any doubles mean if you roll two 2s or two 5s then it’s a critical where something unexpected good or bad could happen in addition to what the level dictated by the rank on the dice pip indicates. I like this because the odds (as in 1, 3, 5 on the dice) are against you and if you roll evens (2, 4, 6) you can beat the odds by getting even(s). So you could hurt someone and they could hurt you in the same exchange, for example.

        I think for me, I really like how this game plays with identity and how events can change people. Smuggling yourself with other people. We trade pieces of ourselves with the world all the time in exchange for other things (experiences). Sometimes it’s a temporary thing and sometimes it changes who we are. Trauma, enlightenment, and so many planned and accidental events shape us while we go about our business or actively try to decide who we are and where we want to be in life. It’s like our clients are family, friends, our own psyche want things from us. What are we willing to do in exchange for that and where will we be when it’s done?

        -David-

    • Thought Check Games

      Hey there! I have a review up here: http://thoughtcheckgames.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/review-coyote-pass/

      Super-brief summary: an extremely interesting setting that I would very much like to see something done with, but which is coupled with game mechanics that don’t seem workable or complete to me.

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Coyote Pass. And thank you for the comparison with Dogs in the Vineyard — that’s quite an honor.

        I went over a little bit on the dice mechanics in a response to the previous reviewer’s post, though it may still not be clear enough (still in-my-head-speak I think).

        There is something about this game that really gets me going. I don’t really know how long I could play the game as the PCs change quick if they push for things. I just really like the way it pushes and pulls on characters inside the vague setting. I’m not certain myself what aspects of the setting to really develop myself vs. letting a game group do that. Obviously I’m torn with how much mundane vs. supernatural to go here. You could make the supernatural thing hidden or behind the scenes, or overt where you rub elbows with and throw fists with deities. Any feedback on setting detail is appreciated, but I can conjure up any number of possibilities for one-shots from Sengoku Japan and Europe to a kind of Stargate smuggling series and more.

        Also, there would be concern over if some of Coyotes completing their Debts and leaving the game before the other players could — though what I would do is make it clear to the players that this could happen and have a number of pregen Coyotes or give them ones generated during play, such as dead Innocents. But that is another issue all together that needs to be addressed in some way.

        Without playtesting the game I’m not sure exactly where Traits begin and end compared to other games, like DitV or FATE, etc. I don’t know how easy they could be abused yet. I was reminded of the PDQ system where you lose access to your character’s stuff when you take damage, and that’s kind of similar here so that you lose the things you are searching for/trading and therefore losing your capability to act in the world. So I can see them as a kind of hit point and Aspect relationship.

        There is a lot of jargon here and I hope that it will eventually either be clear or be edited down to make the game more accessible for a game about trading pieces of what you want with what you need to survive and maybe get out of here.

        -David-

    • Scott. C

      #61 – Coyote Pass – Coyote Smugglers, I like the intro very much, this is a game with very high stakes! It feels like there is a solid frame to work with in the design of this game, but many of the variables/characters are to be discussed and decided on by the players. This is cool but amorphous, and maybe for advanced level story rpg players. The skeleton of the game-play is there and the example characters are clever and descriptive, but I did feel slightly lost before I reached them in the book. Some good possibilities for interaction between characters and npcs/external forces are there though. If you were to go and put more work into this I think clearer descriptions of a play session and getting us familiar with these base characters(the ones you have made as an example), before we go and mod/make/create our own. Great use of the ingredients!

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Coyote Pass. I think that a lot of this amorphous play comes from my love of sandbox games, but this makes the game difficult to connect to as well.

        What I’m hearing here from feedback is more setting-specific information, which is both awesome and daunting to me as I don’t know where to really start. I am wondering if I should come up with some playsets/skins for this or something else instead of one definite setting source. Maybe more ideas will solidify when I return to this game in a bit.

        And yes, play sessions would be great to show how things work with all the jargon, etc.

        Thanks,
        -David-

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Coyote Pass. I’m very thrilled and impressed that you were able to get as much out of the text as you did, including the intent, the importance of the Innocents and so much more.

        The Authority in this game was my way of both having an in-game push for and against the nature of Coyotes with Coyotes operating as necessary agents that work illegally (vs. the Law) and independently (of the Underworld). To me, this game has a kind of urban feel to it where there would be something/someone in charge who publicly doesn’t and can’t support you (the Law) and competition/collaborators (the Underworld). So… my thought was that I wanted the Coyotes to have an in-game pressure cooker that would bring either or both into their business when they acted like Coyotes or took to anything risky (games of chance). I liked the way if felt to have cops or gangsters potentially finding out about your business and intruding on it, angering Clients, endangering Innocents, and ratcheting up the stakes/tension for you on the way to completing Contracts. As in Rage, Rage, there it was a way to move an in-game threat forward and into your face. Also, after I wrote it, I liked the idea that any game of chance in- or out-of-character increases the likelihood of the Authority messing with your business, similar in a weird way with Dread and the Jenga tower crossover of in- and out-of-character tension. Like living in the Edge of Forever has this crazy metaphysical nature connecting your every action to the powers that run it and when you do something that could change the place it would ripple back to them and they would be moved to investigate.

        I will have to examine the game to see how it could be played diceless, but I think that gambling/taking risks in some fashion, which is what you do as a Coyote is important so I’m not sure how to translate that uncertainty factor. Suggestions are welcome.

        You mention in your blog post, “There’s two or three sets of interactions that I think can actually be folded back into the main engine of play (Debts), and made even smoother.” I was curious as to how you imagined this?

        I look forward to your thoughts.

        Best,
        -David-

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 62 is reviewed by… 61 59 56 52

      • Matthew SB

        Mark, thank you so much for the kind review. I’m glad the game text worked for you, and very much appriciate the feedback for Monsters of Glam starting off on such a positive note. Should you find yourself with any additional feedback or comments, I would love to hear them. jjspackle (at) gmail.
        Cheers!

    • kirascott

      There is so much to love about playing a glam rock band on their last tour. Reading through Monsters of Glam, I became more excited about the premise and the mechanics and how they seem like they’d work really well together. The game reinforces the drama off stage, which is what going on tour would be all about. The character types seems like great fun archetypes of the glam rock band genre. Using guitar picks as randomizers is a great aesthetic choice!
      I think the game utilizes the ingredients from the randomized forge threads pretty well in theme and practice. The last chance tour fits well with the main theme. I’m excited to play!
      One area that could maybe use some tightening up is definitely due to the time constraints of designing in a week. The text is a little hard to follow at times (could edit and simplify some of the rules I think). The other thing I’m not a hundred percent on is what will drive the scenes. 5-10 minutes might be too long for a spotlight scene? I can see how they function like scenes in Fiasco, which I think is good, but maybe a bit more structure there might be helpful. Also, it seems like there should be one more thing happening while the band is on stage… but I couldn’t tell you what, just seems like some more interesting drama could be happening there.
      Overall, I think this game is pretty solid. It sounds super fun. More blood and glitter in roleplaying can’t be argued with.

      • Matthew SB

        Kira, thank you for this generous feedback. I’m glad the concept spoke to you: it certainly does to me. You critiques seem fair and well considered. If you have more thoughts or feedback, on the points you raise or other issues, I would welcome the discussion. jjspackle (at) gmail.
        Cheers, chef

    • dmkdesigns

      Monsters of Glam
      By Matt Sullivan-Barrett

      This is a game about playing glam rockers on their last tour, enduring dirt and pursuing drives along the way to hopefully make a difference in the world.

      I like that this game is what it says it is through and through. The mechanics and play all reinforce the game.

      Setup
      Not only is there a clear and concise description of what and who you are in this game, but included are a few great ways to help bring the game together with some online help. This is for the band name, the title of your album and the album cover image.

      A Rocker is You
      This section is fairly straight forward. I like the use of guitar picks for the randomizer.

      Playing the Game
      It’s nice to see that this game has both an on- and an off-stage scene option. The off-stage ones are personal and the on-stage ones are about group dynamics related to how they perform for their audience. Both scenes provide opportunities for the characters to improve or disintegrate over the course of the tour through Styles, Traits, Drives and Dirt.

      The gameplay is short and sweet with three Stage scenes before the end.

      Into the Spotlight, End of Scene, Take the Stage
      These sections do well with explaining how the scenes work for the game in a short amount of space.

      Curtain Call
      This is the endgame calculation section, which is also repeated on the character sheets. It also includes instructions on how to move forward with using this game again (it changes after each play).

      The Tracklist victory ruleset is great for this game.

      Supplemental Material

      Dirt/Drive Suggestions
      The only thing I would add here would be to include more suggestions for both the Dirt and Drive options.

      Character Sheets
      The only PC sheet that seemed to have an issue was the Artiste one where in the Styles, Pioneer section the last sentence seems cut off.

      Layout/Design
      Overall, good. It might be easier to read with multiple columns and larger section headers for some areas and formatting a few other places just a little to help visually separate and navigate the content.

      Thoughts
      This is a great game that should get toured, I mean playtested a lot. The ruleset framework seems very solid as written. There is room for the Players to go crazy in scenes, yet still use the stats to moves things up and down without getting in the way. The only thing I can think of now is a threat of a sequel where the world/fans/bandmates threaten to get you back together after years apart and what that means for you as retired rockers who want to remain independent/forgotten/idols or sellouts who give in to the Man or prove that you’re a washout. Regardless, nice job here. If only there were concert tickets and t-shirt options.

      • Matthew SB

        David, thank you for your very thourough review. Your attention to detail is greatly appriciated. If you find yourself with additional comments or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me. jjspackle (at) gmail.
        Cheers, chef

    • Matthew SB

      A mea culpa regarding two omissions from the Developer notes.

      First, I neglected to mention Ribbon Drive in the list of influences. That is a great game, and certainly contributed to the suggestion of having a internet radio playing for inspiration. http://buriedwithoutceremony.com/ribbon-drive/

      Second, while I refer to it as the Album Cover Meme, I’ve had at least one person(my mom) ask if I came up with the three step album cover creation process. Nope: it is an internet meme from 2008. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/make-your-own-album-cover
      I was first exposed to it here: http://mightyatom.blogspot.com/2008/01/album-cover-meme.html

      Buns. Hope those omissions of attribution did not cause any misunderstandings!

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 63 is reviewed by… 62 60 57 53

    • Matthew SB

      Three Card Coyote is a game of gods and men set in the American West during the time of expansion and gold rush. In it, most players take on the roles of pawns of the gods, engaging in a kind of scavenger hunt to win the “Ultimate Power” for the god they are an avatar of. On the surface, it kind of reminds me of John Wick’s Enemy Gods, only more focussed and silly. I think the focus makes it easy to pick up and play, and the silliness makes the competition inherent in the game more friendly. Definitely a successful and functional game chef entry…props.

      I very much like the diverse selection of gods available, but it seemed odd that most pantheons had a single god representing while Greeks had three and Norse two. I thought the board-game map was a nice focus for play, and would help drive the scavenger hunt for the Door, Key and Lantern. It was not clear whether these three things are singletons(proper nouns), or whether any set of matches could stand in if that is what is drawn for the Lantern, for example. Other things that were not entirely clear: whether players *really* need to expend an action card to walk across the street; when and how you would be comparing a whole hand of cards; what happens in a stalemate in the first or second action of a round; where the “hidden cards” come from in a stalemate in the third action of a round. In an odd note, one could get to the end of char-gen before realizing the game is set in the American West. These issues seem to be victims of time and word-count limits, and I’m sure early editing passes will address them handily.

      In thinking about playing this game I find myself with two areas that seemed like they needed more direct attention. First, what exactly the Coyote(GM) does in this game is nebulous, other than manage the set pieces and deal cards. And it is unclear how the role is fun, as opposed to the other players who are romping around raising hell. Perhaps some agenda or guidance for the Coyote would help. Second, the Showdown section of play seems like a placeholder for something more fun and exciting. The Showdown sounds like it should be a frantic blaze of glory at endgame, but I think some work is needed to get it there.

      It is easy to see how this game could be successful as a fun pick-up game. It is a solid start, and definitely worth continued development IMO.

      • zircher

        Thanks, that’s a great review and analysis. I just got a ‘cold play test’ report and they had a rough start. [Ok, engines on fire and crashing into a mountain kind of start.] Once I explained a few things, the light did come on. But, I can see that I need to add a lot more text to explain the mechanics. I also got one thing totally dead wrong. In three card stud you can’t have two pair. It should say ‘a pair’, duh.

    • dmkdesigns

      Three Card Coyote
      By Todd Zircher

      This is a game about characters fighting to gain the power of the Coyote Trickster god.

      I like this game’s use of setting as a board game, collecting the objects to finish and win.

      Setup
      There is a GM player and everyone else plays both a Celestial (god) and a Human character that the god is working through on Earth in the 1800’s Old West. You choose from a list for each. One of the Celestial characters seemed very out of place — Chuck, who I believe is from the Chuck NBC tv show. I also don’t think that “Helena” or Atlas should be included as Helen was a human and Atlas was a titan — not an Olympian. The abilities of the Celestials seems very open for use/debate.

      The Humans are searching for three objects (Door, Key, and Lantern) to complete a ritual in order to gain the power for the god. I liked the lists for determining the nature of the component objects. The map for locations was a nice addition for tracking objects.

      The Humans are not allowed to directly attack one another until the Showdown (when all three components are found).

      Layout/Design
      You should include labels to help indicate section breaks, chapters, etc. to improve reading and information digestion.

      Thoughts
      Initially, this was the most confusing game to read through. However, after rereading it several times in places it makes more sense. The concepts and framework of the game is simple, but there were a number of stumbling points along the way because of the organization and writing. It seems like it could be a fun one-shot game. The use of humans as celestial avatars makes sense, but seems to add another layer to get into to play. If there were a way to simplify this it might help.

    • Scott. C

      #63 – Three Card Coyote – I like this game, I could see myself attempting to play it tonight! I love the idea of exploring a town RPG-style, but by using playing cards and suits for skills, actions and battle. The possibility of having these two different influences(a Celestial and a Human) to your play style/decisions is a compelling notion, creating a different combination of skills for each player to use. Even more could be added to this concept, more charts and tables and definitions of their Celestial and the Human he has chosen as his pawn/avatar(?). The western theme is appropriate for this Coyote-loaded Game Chef, but other settings would work wonderfully too. Expanding the town and the places you can go, things you can do(puzzles beyond exploration), or adding more description to the ones already there would be a logical next step. I have friends who are into cards and poker, but skittish about roleplaying, I think this could really bridge the gap for them in a really neat way. It’s funny that it being cards, there has to be a shoot out or showdown at the end, with winners and losers, this is not always the case in RPGs. Thanks for your time!

      • zircher

        Coolness, I got some polishing up that I want to do in time for Halloween. And, your right on the money about expanding it with more deities when I don’t have a character limit. I’m thinking about running this as a one shot for Monkey Con (a virtual convention that I manage via Skype in October.)

    • Joseph LeMay

      Three Card Coyote (Review by Joseph Le May)

      Three Card Coyote is a game-within-a-game, with players taking on the roles of dieties vying to become the next chief amongst themselves. How do they settle such a question? Over a friendly game of cards, of course!
      As these otherworldly beings conduct their little game, corresponding human hero(in)es represent their interests in the little town of Helena (formerly Last Chance Gulch) represent their interests in the mortal world. As the gods play their cards, the humans react to their plays by discovering items of power called the Lantern, Door, and Key (and each of these may be any one of a number of objects or places) and then conducting the ritual that unlocks the items’ power and the god whose earthly avatar completed the quest is declared the victor and given Coyote’s power for the next few centuries, until the next time it must be passed on…

      I loved the premise, the art, and the layout (though one thing regarding the card art cofused the heck out of me, which I’ll get to later). The drafting mechanic for deciding which player plays which god/mortal was a solid-gold steal straight out of Settlers of Catan, and an absolute keeper. Brilliant! I also enjoyed the idea of the metagame aspects being part of the game (so that, as per the example in the book, when Thor does something in the saloon, Cthulhu in the stables would still know what was going on); the whole game-within-a-game concept really grabbed me. Overall though, I would have to say that my absolute favorite rule was that your avatars may not under any circumstances physically battle one another until the final showdown at the end. This serves a twofold purpose: In the early game, your characters are forced to be more clever with their actions, preventing one anothers’ victories in more unconventional ways than just stabbing or shooting the other player’s guy. Then in the final Showdown part of the game, the pressure gets really ramped up to 11 to get the items and combine them before you get whacked by the other guys. Total free-for-all. Me likey.

      So, about that confusion. My main gripe with this game is a section on the fifth page with a lovely, elegant explanation of various poker hands…and no apparent explanation as to what I am supposed to do with them. As near as I can tell, everywhere else in the rules there is only reference to playing a single card at a time, so when do these come into play at all…? This is the type of thing I would need cleared up, along perhaps with examples of play (to include a reason why I would ever fold), before I could really consider actually trying to play it.

      Thanks to Todd Zircher!

      • zircher

        Ah, you’re so good for my ego. (grin) The card hands come into play when resolving the thrid turn of the cards . This is where the raises, bluffs, hidden cards, and other poker bits come into play. Yeah, a play example is sorely needed to clear some of the elements up, but it certainly sounds like you got the gist of what I was going for. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement.

        Future development of this game will be at: http://www.tangent-zero.com/coyote.htm

        TAZ

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 64 is reviewed by… 63 61 58 54

    • zircher

      An enjoyable read, I like the setting and can see a lot of zany missions resulting from that. The system borrows heavily from Savage Worlds (whether intentional or not) and manages to carry enough internal consistancy to make it playable. I didn’t get a strong feel for the theme of Last Chance, but it’s in there in the sense that every mission is a first and last chance. The ingredients are well represented and I like how they appear as sets of powers and skills. What I’d like to see in the future for this work to embrace this as a Savage Worlds hack/source book. Leave most of the mechanics to SW and concentrate on the fluff and details that make the setting unique.

      I am concerned about the use of copywritten images. Doodling on top of other people’s work really does not constitute a derivative work. I’d suggest hitting sites like OCAL (Open Clip Art Library) and either use public domain images or derivatives of those.

      • pstmdrn

        Thanks so much for the kind review. It seems like you really picked up the feel I was going for and it is good to hear you think it would make for a good SW sourcebook. My friend and I are in the process of developing some other ideas intot hat format. Might as well throw this in! Also, I understand your point for the art. Please consider this work a ‘mock up’, something i would give as reference to artists. They game I designed has a particular visual style and aesthetic (sort of Agent of S.H.E.I.L.D meets Native American) I wanted to make sure was present. Thanks again for yout thoughtful critique.

    • JasonP

      Task Force Trickster by Jonathan Janssen is a game that had me reeling. It has, in this form, a wild layout and crazy colors with a lot of ‘toon art. That said, it mirrors the base wild and crazy idea of the game perfectly so I won’t complain. As I read the basic premise of play, I feel disjointed and removed by its very alien nature: created beings sent out by a Coyote God to maintain the lie of what is real, likely only surviving for a given mission. However that is mitigated in this case by the format which cleanly ties these ideas to a traditional roleplaying framework. As I started on the core rules, I was at that point once again at easy with how I’d approach this game.

      The setup for party play here, and make no mistake the game is about party play, is perfect. Succeed at missions or die is a great lead in, and sets the stakes in the fiction outright even if the characters don’t realize it. Each of the four agent types seems well constructed offhand, each having a place in the missions where they will excel. The basic rules, a stat+skill standard system is well described, very much so when you consider the space constraints of this competition. The tricks of each character are much like powers or charms, and fit the mission idea well. There is a ton of detail in combat, skills, and tricks. It feels dense and hard to review without seeing how it would actually play out in testing.

      The only thing that bothers me about the game is that a few of the very interesting ideas presented are in the end just color and not related to the rules themselves. The author does describe ways in which they can be brought in, such as issues with the mismatching of time periods but it feels like lip service to interesting ideas. The coyote base outside time and space caught my eye early on but was only glossed over as a place not to be explored in play. I’d love to see scenes at the Coyote Base for more than mission setup. Regardless this is a solid looking game and a great effort with appetizing results!

    • dmkdesigns

      Task Force Trickster
      By Jonathan Janssen

      This is a game about secret agents who repair and create tricks for Coyote through time and space.

      I like this game because of the fun romping around opportunities it affords a group of gamers for a few hours.

      Character Creation
      This involves a general concept creation as well as choosing from one of four types: Coyote, Lantern, Mimic, Vessel. Each type has special bonuses and abilities. There are stats for all as well. What I thought was interesting is that the powers that be at Coyote Base get to create and uncreate their agents as needed like products ordered in a catalogue.

      Skills and Tricks
      Skills are the things everyone can do and Tricks are special abilities, some of which are only available to certain types of characters. Tricks have limitations and are open to interpretation from character to character.

      There is an extensive list of Tricks for players to review.

      Mechanics
      There is a target number range.
      Dice mechanic includes adding, or rolling and adding another die when the maximum number on a particular die appears. I believe that this is sometimes called “exploding dice” in other games. Examples of what Skills work with the stats.

      Combat and Missions
      Combat has a fair bit of rules written for it.

      Missions are given an overview with the mention of a Dr. Nuwisha as the person who briefs the Agents at Coyote Base. He leaves out details from the mission. The agents are usually sent on missions without the full disclosure of information and also may arrive unprepared. Some of this is negotiated as a group or decided by the GM. Thankfully, there are some examples of missions provided.

      Advancement
      There is a section on how to advance your agent should it live long enough.

      Character Sheet
      Overall, the PC sheet seems fine.

      Layout/Design
      The mixture of artwork seemed very campy and made me grin and laugh a lot along the way.

      Thoughts
      This game reminds of Paranoia in many ways because of how zany it appears, minus the communist, conspiracy, clone stuff. It seems like a light-hearted action for sake of action game where moral consequences are glanced at while on route to resolving the threat or to provide the tricks through time and space on behalf of the Coyote. It could have more development done on the setting and mission options.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 65 is reviewed by… 64 62 59 55

    • pstmdrn

      Please do not think I say this lightly simply because I am going to say it to all the games I review, but your game truly inspired me. The thing I struggle most with Game Chef is thinking outside of the box. My game design mind works like the rather ‘crunchy’ games I grew up with (D&D, White Wolf, Cyberpunk) eventhough I love more open format games.

      Anyways, there were several aspects of your game I thought were great. First of all, I loved how it involved around spirits and centered on the coyote myth. The abilities of each spirit are defined just enough without being overly complicated. Also, your stone resolution system is creative and dramatic! I also enjoyed the element of surprise and mystery. My problem with many ‘open format’ games is that sometimes they are not direct enough, but yours has a clear thread of events to work toward.

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Spirit Quest. I’m glad that you liked it.

        This was the first of three game ideas I had and I abandoned it to work on the other two before returning to it and rewriting it almost completely in one afternoon so it is very rough around the edges and perhaps forced in other areas.

        -David-

    • Matthew SB

      Spirit Quest is served up in a very evocative fashion. The poems at the beginning of sections are both resonant and a focus on what is to come in the text. The game seems enjoyable and well conceived. I definitely felt the game provides a rich structure for an evening of storytelling and roleplay.

      That said, I did feel lost in the chapter on Progression of Play. Specifically, it was not clear what was actually going on at the game table and in the fiction during each of the Seasons. It appears that one Totem tells a short story, and then the other Totems respond with scenes of some kind, but the process in practice seems less clear. Playable, but without confidence that it is being played as intended. I do very much like the process of Challenge Responses, and even Color Responses seem like they would grow the fiction nicely. I would worry about the Spring totem getting hammered with Challenge Responses when they only have 2-3 tokens to advocate for their tribe…

      I think with a small effort to clarify what is meant in each step of the Season in Progression of Play, this lovely game would be fully baked.

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Spirit Quest.

        I think that a lot of this version of the game was me madly trying to figure out how to handle conflicts in a simpler version as well as to engage the group collectively no matter who is in the spotlight. I had abandoned the whole group party of spirits troupe for this model that feels more nebulous on one level, but also more rewarding on another.

        I don’t really know if the scoring section works as it was a projection based on what I though might happen with a tendency of some players being conservative with tokens and unlucky with dice rolling. But I did want there to be a high curve for failure without making it impossible. But ultimately, I wanted the narrative to play important roles in the spiritual journey that tests the PCs; to have them demonstrate their character to the Great Spirit through its helper Coyote.

        I also am not sure how well it will play out competitive vs. collaborative until it gets some serious playtesting and I’m sure that play session descriptions would clarify expectations as well.

        Thanks,
        -David-

    • kirascott

      Spirit Quest is a very well thought out game with a lot of moving parts. The most satisfying thing about all those moving parts is that they look like they would all function during play. The progression of play and how the rules are written is very point by point, thorough, and fluid. Symbolic mentions of tribal stories are really strong, what with the poems, and I like the implying instead of the hitting you over the head with a particular tribal culture real or imagined. Although I can’t imagine playing this as one of the more “modern” tribes! It seems like a very native, indigenous, or low tech level tribal game. I like that about it though.
      I think one of my biggest quibbles is an aesthetic one! The tone of this game written very matter of fact, yet the setting and characters are very whimsical, community oriented, spiritual. I’m sure this is one of the easiest things to fix after game chef. I’d like to see more text, more description, to help me get into the all of these very archetypal roles. Maybe a little bit more of that poetry you’re hinting at at the beginning.
      Some of the rules could probably use some playtesting too… it seems like some of the scene resolution mechanics are a little wonky. I really like the use of the ingredients though, especially the courage/dice economy resolution system. That sounds really tight, and really fun. Scene economies are well described too, I know how many turns each player will take, about how long they’ll be, what we’re supposed to be doing (more or less, although I feel like some supplemental play ephemera might be helpful here, maybe a tribe family tree for each totem or something to keep track of NPCs, adversity, challenges our tribes face… to illustrate the blossoming story).
      I think this is a well written game! It seems pretty playable as is, it’s interesting, it’s kind of subtle in it’s description but seems like it would produce some really creative play. Well done! If you want more feedback or have questions about my review, gimme an email at anansi at gmail.

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Spirit Quest. It seems like you were able to decipher the game text beyond what I had hoped. I’ll have to take a serious look at the consistency of tone in the game — thanks for pointing that out.

        Of the three games I submitted, this was the first one I had an idea for and nearly did not submit as I was busy with the other two (Rage, Rage and Coyote Pass). It seemed too much like a board game to me of adventures in my first draft so I’m glad that this second draft reads well.

        I’ll definitely have to create some sample characters, tracking ideas, and play description after I’m able to playtest the game.

        Best,
        -David-

    • Thought Check Games

      Hey there! I have a full review here: http://thoughtcheckgames.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/review-spirit-quest/

      Super-brief summary: a very solid entry, that feels mechanically sound and narratively strong, the only thing I could ask for would be more fluff about how the world operates.

      • dmkdesigns

        Thank you for taking the time to read and review Spirit Quest.

        Regarding the nature of the Totems being in a spirit world or on a land we know, I’ve not given it enough thought, but may need to do so. I guess if you are playing animals that a description of the metaphysical landscape would be useful. In my first draft of the game that I abandoned to finish “Coyote Pass” and “Rage, Rage” I had an idea for a game board that the characters would follow around through the seasons with the idea of the starting point be in our world where their tribes existed and as you move further around the board you become more “spirit” and that’s in part why you gain more Courage potential and the final confrontation with the Great Spirit at the end (for a linear board) or in the center (of a circular board) for the Edge of Forever. I wasn’t sure if I should have spaces on the board or other representation for the Coyote coming into the game. Ultimately, I’m glad I didn’t worry to much about the game board.

        I’m glad that you liked the game entry.

        -David-

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 66 is reviewed by… 65 63 60 56

    • zircher

      I like the originality of this entry. The theme is interesting and the dynamic ‘deck building’ and execution phases create an air of mystery and anticipation. I’d certainly like to see this one embelished and polished. The contest theme of Last Chance is well represented by this being the final exam for the Kolbold Engineers. The ingredients are covered with the best results seen with Dungeoneer and A Simple Silly Fantasy Game. I’d like to see a better focus on the skill tree. While there is some resource allocation going on with the tokens, it would be more interesting to see how the individual skills of the Kobolds would affect trap design. The use of index cards is a clever and economical way to go about dungeon creation. Right now, I get the impression that the ‘dungeon’ is a very linear gauntlet that the adventurers have to run. I think it would be more interesting if the rooms could branch out with multiple hallways with dead ends and the like (say a given room has 0 to 3 random exits.) It would also give the dungeon a more traditional look. Since you have clerics, adding more undead to the skill tree would be a good idea.

    • dmkdesigns

      Kobold Engineer
      By Laura Simpson

      This is a game about kobolds who build dungeon traps to kill adventurers in order to become the next kobold engineer master.

      I like the fun this game has with turning the kobalds into the protagonists in such a lighthearted manner.

      Overview
      Fun idea.

      Setup
      This includes a handful of pregenerated kobold characters, each with their pros and cons.

      Build Phase
      You make trapped rooms and hallways — there is a big chart for this. I would recommend moving the first column (Cost) to be the last one so that Category becomes more important.

      Dungeon Phase
      You make or test adventurers to test the traps. There is a massive chart that looked redundant.

      Running the Dungeon
      It seems like the facilitator runs the traps against the players who take on the roles of the Adventurers that were created.

      Move Phase
      The Adventurers move as a party through the dungeon — no party splitting.

      Sneaking Phase
      Avoiding the kobold engineered traps.

      Outcome Phase
      The outcome of the game so far for both Adventurers and Traps.

      Scoring Phase
      Figuring out the math from the dungeon encounters.

      The Reveal
      Who wins and inherits the role as master dungeon trap engineer.

      Layout/Design
      Not applicable

      Thoughts
      This is a fun and simple idea.

      As a kind of card/board game, I can see how this could be expanded into a sort of Munchkin kind of fun game, but I would want more roleplaying opportunities.

      There are things that I would suggest to improve it, though it would also increase the complexity. One would be to find a way to design in how the kobold characters can influence the game through play. This could include changing Traps (perhaps sabotaging other kobold traps, or improving your own) by using scoring points or tokens or something. It just seems like if the kobolds are this clever that they should have a means to use their cunning after the Traps are constructed. Or find ways to intercede in the dungeon directly for/against the Adventurers to help them bypass competitor’s Traps, or get hurt more in their own, but at a risk to oneself.

    • Scott. C

      #66 – Kobald Engineer – Was really excited about this one, I love the idea of playing the bad guys(don’t we all?), competitively laying out traps for a set of adventurers. The pre-written Kobald characters and personas are funny, and made me want even more description and back story to their internal bickering(perhaps make it more about their personalities than about their stats/bonuses, when having players choose a character?)The reveal at the end is great, capricious and clever, this could be tailored for the winner and the losers(perhaps with a prologue of sorts). An index card map is a good idea, I could even see some people creating these rooms by drawing/sketching them out on the cards, or down the line even using Lego to create the game-board. Having another set of friends play the adventurers(while still keeping track of who killed who & with what trap) in the world that the Kobalds create, sounds like a solid next step to me. All in all, by adding more characters to choose from and fleshing them out in greater detail, expanding and polishing the structure of the game, perhaps even having a separate set of rules for the adventurers, I could see this going over big at gaming conventions! Really cool, thank you!

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 67 is reviewed by… 66 64 61 57

    • pstmdrn

      Please do not think I say this lightly simply because I am going to say it to all the games I review, but your game truly inspired me. The thing I struggle most with Game Chef is thinking outside of the box. My game design mind works like the rather ‘crunchy’ games I grew up with (D&D, White Wolf, Cyberpunk) eventhough I love more open format games.

      Your game has a special place in my heart because it reminds me of my late 20’s and the times I spent debating art, politics and society over coffee in various universities, cafes and bars. You’ve done an excellent job of recapturing the feel of what this activity is like. My favorite aspect is how the Scientist and the Coyote are used as catalysts to keep ideas fresh. I also find your Endgame resolution fascinating and creative. My only drawback is that the game might be a little dry for those who do not already enjoy that type of discussion.

    • Kyle Willey

      Okay, Young Turks at the Cafe is pretty surprising; it is entirely different from what I expected in many ways (well, partly because I was picturing chess). And it’s great. It’s a game about storytelling revolutionary ideas moving into action, creating social change, and more. It’s not meant to be overly weighed down by mechanics, but it relies upon dynamic narratives and the players go through scenes in which they figure out what their course of action will be.

      It’s really, really light, but in a good way; while I’d love fleshing it out more and maybe an example of play, it’s not deficient for this, and since it focuses on creating a narrative I’d say it’s okay for this to happen. The game’s depth is much more than I first pictured; and I love the introductory page which posits the game as an invitation to a psychological exercise. Quite frankly, there’s not much to say since it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want to have an experience playing at changing the world, Young Turks is remarkably powerful.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • dmkdesigns

      Young Turks
      By Zachary Donovan

      This is a game about discussions of ideas and what, if anything your characters would do about it.

      I liked this games used of discussion as a means for getting inside issues. It was like roleplaying within a game.

      Preparation

      Setup
      Use of index cards, dice, and an area on the table via paper called Fruitful Void.

      A note on Character Creation
      The last sentence ends abruptly.

      The Establishment and the Question
      This is where you create the stage for this game with agreeing upon a set of values and sociological assumptions to play through using a vessel and a question relating to it.

      Roles
      There are two roles played to shape and move discussion through the game: Doctor and Coyote. Other players may play invited characters.

      Play
      Structured into five weeks, each beginning with a Cafe Scene, then to a Lantern Scene, and after the fifth and final week the Endgame.

      Cafe Scenes
      This is where things begin for the discussion groups.

      Lantern Scenes
      This is a followup with use from the prior scene as well as details from the Fruitful Void and rolling dice.

      Endgame (Mission)
      The Mission is for the characters to put the ideas being discussed into action. It violates the Status Quo and is done so privately, though somehow a final Cafe Scene is supposed to happen for those who choose the Mission.

      Those not on the Mission can choose to betray their comrades to The Establishment or keep silent. If anyone betrays the comrades the mission fails. If no one betrays the comrades then the mission succeeds.

      Engame (Final Montage)
      Players narrate the final scenes for their characters.

      Layout/Design
      Not applicable

      Thoughts
      The game has a great deal of writing about discussion of ideas and how to frame that over the course of several scenes. However, it hinges on a matter of trust that can either cause instant failure or success on a whim. The idea of conspiracy seems central to the resolution vs. the Establishment.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 68 is reviewed by… 67 65 62 58

    • Matthew SB

      Walk Through the Forge is a dynamic game of change, which brings together a number of nifty design elements into what appears to be a very playable game.

      The four authority roles are a great way to divide up work, and also to establish value for central activities. The Cartographer role stands out the most here, but the Facilitator and Masters of Science and War are also structured to ease and add to the game experience neatly. I also very much like thinking of the artifacts created by these roles being archived after the game is finished, as a record of what was forged.

      Character creation is simple but directed to playability. I like that the characters are expected to be growing and changing constantly, having that baked into every scene as one of only three categories of player actions is nice. The instructions for scene framing give lots of direction and focus, which is good.

      I thought the coin economy looked functional, but a little opaque and maybe a bit limited. I thought I had missed what blue and red coins are used for, and had to re-read the document more carefully to confirm they each only had one way to be spent. White coins get spent all over the place, though. Maybe a chart collecting all the ways the different coins can be spent, gained or lost would be helpful. And some advice to Scene Leads on how they might choose to divide different coin colors at the end of scenes: Give Red ones to encourage more fighting, White for plot development, Blue to fuel the passage of time and change. Assuming Blue and Red coins can be handed out by the Scene Lead.

    • Zachary Donovan

      Walk through the Forge is very interesting. I like what you’ve done with the distribution of authority in the game – you made explicit, particularly in the facilitator, a number of crucial aspects of games that I don’t think are addressed nearly often enough. I also enjoy the central role that the map plays in defining the setting – reading about setting scenes and the map definitely had me jumping up and down going “I want to play that! I want to play that right now!”

      I was a little confused by the coins on the first pass through. I understood that they were a currency – I understood that they were meant to sow consensus by allowing players to reward desired behavior, but I think “blue coins” and “red coins” and “white coins” didn’t convey enough of what they actually represented. maybe this could be helped by calling the red ones “danger coins”, white ones “experience coins” (or “element coins”), and blue ones “countdown coins” it might clarify the document a little bit.

      From here I see two expansions that I think would make this a fuller, richer experience and give me, personally, all the tools I’d need to play. One is a more detailed description of how to draw inspiration from the Tarot deck. Not having a Tarot deck sitting next to me while I read the game made it sometimes tricky to envision how I would do that. Second, I would say this: I love how you’re playing up the Narrativist Wargaming ingredient, but I think your system supports much more than that. I think that, if you wanted, you could expand this system to support not only tales of epic warfare, but any story where the displacement of social power into the physical world is a central factor.

      Quibbling aside, I really love this game. Your text packs a lot of mechanical details and a lot of advice in, and through the use of evocative naming (“defer to the masters”), you also manage to pull in a wonderful flavor that makes the game feel specific and alive instead of generic and dry. Good job. :)

    • JasonP

      Walk Through The Forge by Dev Purkayastha / FGJ Games is the game I put off last to review. I did so because the basic idea offered up felt lackluster at best and did not resonate with me at all. However, once I started to read the rules and see the craftsmanship behind the game, that all faded away. This makes Walk Through The Forge one of only a handful of games that has changed my mind about it as I read. That said I’m going to focus mostly on my impressions of various parts of the rules. The game doesn’t have much of a presentation and for a GC game that’s fine, as it let me get right to the meat of the matter.

      I think the facilitator has it rough. Well, without a playset to draw from. I mean, just trying to create “a list of principles to guide how this world works” seems daunting. I’d like to see what makes a good principle. That would help clear up my thinking regarding this a bit I think. The playset is a great idea though, and perhaps the game just always needs one. The oracle deck is a brilliant move and a nice way to drawn in ideas from the vacuum to inspire creativity at the table. The use of map and cartographer is just stunning. I keep picturing the map as an extended imagery scene in the fiction like the traveling scenes in Indiana Jones and thinking: how awesome is that?

      The Master of War and Master of Sciences are both damn impressive ideas and I like how those players get to shape the game. On the other side of that coin, I’d love to see some fixed features built into each. This would help shape their choices of rules. The whispers of war is a really cool use of a niche condition in the mechanics. Particularly the open-ended questions, though I’d love to see a reward for addressing those in scenes. The fact that blue coins mark character deaths and all must been taken off the map to reach the end is a nice dual purpose currency. The coins handle pacing and force characters to die so the end can be reached. I’m glad the sample playset was included and still think one should be a requirement to play, perhaps offering a playset construction ruleset too?

      Can you smell that? Anyway you cut it this is a fine loaf of gaming right out of the oven. Pass me the butter please.

    • dmkdesigns

      Walk Through the Forge
      By Dev Purkayastha

      This is a game about the telling of character stories about an epic war and all of the connections to it in the world. It does not seem to be about a specific war, but rather the protagonists involved.

      I liked this game more than I thought I would given the way the ingredients were presented. I’m not sure how the roles would really work with the gamers I know. I was expecting an actual war game and instead feel like I have highlights of characters who were in one or more wars.

      About This Game
      The game is a living game, that is, one which changes from setup during play. It has an end. There are four roles, which more or less breakup the responsibilities of a traditional GM. However, the Facilitator retains most of the preparation and rules sharing responsibilities. The Cartographer handles things related to the map. The Master of War handles rules for conflicts that involve violence and death. The Master of Sciences handles rules for task resolution and conflicts that do not involve violence or death.

      Getting Started
      You will need index cards, coins/tokens, a tarot deck, and paper to draw and note things on the map.

      Playing the Game
      You use cards from the tarot deck as inspiration for scenes. The players whose protagonist matches the card will lead the scene and start describing things. Other players can add a host of things to the scene by spending (and sometimes earning) tokens. This can include confronting the protagonists with peril. The roles share responsibilities for handling outcomes from the scenes when necessary — and yes, protagonists can die.

      One section which was unclear to me was the one that discussed “If any protagonist thinks they have made progress towards a goal, they may note ‘partial progress.’ If they already have made partial progress, they may mark this goal as a success. If they have made mistakes, they must remove their ‘partial progress.'”

      Whispers of War
      I thought that this was an interesting out-of-character player addition to the game.

      Endings
      This section shows how characters are remembered, rather than the war itself as a character.

      Sample Playset and Sample Progagonist
      Glad to see these included with the game.

      Layout/Design
      Not applicable

      Thoughts
      This game has a surprising amount of procedural structure in it along with some open-ended narrative gaming options — including how the players handle rules from game to game. It reminds me of In a Wicked Age to some extent. Having said that, I don’t know if the roles are necessary if a consistent ruleset it devised to handle those things for the group — it seems like excess overhead, though on the other hand it still hopefully engages every player at the table to be present or ready to act even if their protagonist is not involved in a scene. Outside of playtesting, I’m not certain what to suggest here. It is an intriguing game.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 69 is reviewed by… 68 66 63 59

    • greyorm

      Since this wasn’t in my document, note that none of the named ingredients were used, instead I went for the full volley of Forge-generated topics, specifically these:

      http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=26131.0
      Grammar & Grimoire: An Aklo-based magic system for CoC & horror generally

      http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=24463.0
      GM-less games

      http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=22323.0
      [Downtown] My first attempt at writing a game.

      http://indie-rpgs.com/archive/index.php?topic=29082.0
      “realistic” HTH/Melee Combat system

    • zircher

      A powerful and dark story story telling game that grabs on to the Last Chance theme and doesn’t let go until the bodies hit the floor. It’s pretty light from a game mechanics perspective, but it really fits the theme of sinful words that corrupt and mutate. I really like the ‘give’ action, the ability to take the harm on to your own person. If the author continues expanding on this core concept, it would be neat to see a list of words and what their effects are or can be. I think it would be interesting if the only way to gain words is if they are used against
      you or uttered in your presence. I’d also love to learn more about the Masters of the Word and how they can control or manipulate their effects. Would love to play a fully fleshed version of this game.

      • greyorm

        Thank you for the feedback!

        Interestingly, the one thing I would never actually do is list the words…what is more terrifying than what you imagine them to be? How could I possibly pen vocalizations so disturbing that merely speaking them makes others shudder in loathing or want to hide? I worry attempting to do so could make the words a comedic element rather than instilling dis-ease and revulsion. So I prefer to keep them undefined, if that makes sense?

        However, a list of what sorts of effects the words create, what kind of power they can grant, is something I would like to define and include. Or at least a decent starting list of some kind for illustrative purposes. You also mention something I already have in mind: the only way to learn more words is to have them used against you or uttered in your presence.

        Among other parts, I will hopefully be expanding the role of the Masters, and explaining the greater control they have over the words (if one can even say such a thing). Again, thanks for the feedback and the interest!

    • kirascott

      I reallyreallyreally like the idea of The Words. The setting, the description, the poetic juciness of street magic and martial arts at once summons stories like Hellblazer and Lovecraft to mind. I can feel what this setting would be like to play in. Violent, horrific, anti-heroic characters trying to fight their inner demons and save the world sounds right up my alley. Right up the alley of the Last Chance theme too. So the mood and the theme of this game are spot on.
      The words themselves are this really intriguing concept. The elegance of the game text hints at what the words could be, while making the reader feel like the words are being spoken. I really feel the danger and magic and awfulness that the words are supposed to evoke. I’m not really sure how to use the words in the game though. Are they tied to your stats somehow? What do they do, exactly? Some more clarity here along with the flavor text might be helpful. The game also claims martial arts, and yet I see none! What? I was excited about that part, get that in there. I’m also a little unsure of what characters will do during play. They’re supposed to save the world, but who is opposing them? What are they fighting?
      I think that this game is nearly baked! The card mechanics seem like they’re simple to understand and they would work. I really like the excessive descriptions you can get into with your character’s powers and mutations, and how it’s very easy to visualize the setting. I think with a few more details and tweaks, this would be a great game. Really excellent writing, well done! If you want more feedback or have questions about my review, gimme an email at anansi at gmail.

      • greyorm

        Thank you for the kind words! I agree, the game needs work (I only had three days to work on it), but am glad so much of it did come through. Your review pinpoints a number of areas I need to focus on, very helpful! And I apologize about the martial arts…I was disappointed I didn’t have time to work them in enough, and all they received was a mention (that the horrible things stalking the streets are most or even only susceptible to physical violence).

      • greyorm

        Excellent pointers! Thanks for the review! This definitely helps me narrow in on what to revise and flesh out next. I do have potential plans for the cards beyond just being a randomizer, but those didn’t make it into this version. My original version had four attributes for characters, but I pulled two because they were underdeveloped. I may be adding one of those back in, which should create another interesting dynamic that interacts with the other two attributes, but am uncertain about whether I want there to be a “spark of hope” for characters beyond leaving the situation entirely (my current view is that, for this game, the “death spiral” a feature rather than a bug). Much to consider. Thank you again!

      • greyorm

        Many thanks for the review! Very good points that I will keep in mind. And thank you for the kind words, I am glad you enjoyed it!

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 70 is reviewed by… 69 67 64 60

    • pstmdrn

      Please do not think I say this lightly simply because I am going to say it to all the games I review, but your game truly inspired me. The thing I struggle most with Game Chef is thinking outside of the box. My game design mind works like the rather ‘crunchy’ games I grew up with (D&D, White Wolf, Cyberpunk) even though I love more open format games.

      I think your game is really innovative. The symbolism of coyote linking the souls is very evocative and flavorful. I also love you resolution system as a combination of stones and dice. It is very innovative, especially how the dice are used. I always pictue dice being used one way, but your game really helped to be able to view thema different way. My favorite aspect is how the storyteller grows as characters resolve their issues.

    • greyorm

      The concept of dying people suddenly able to cross into the spirit world and effect change in the physical realm is an interesting and evocative one, especially paired with the meddling spiritual entity/mentor idea, and I really like the idea of matching dice and using 5’s and 6’s as a separate currency.

      There were a couple of points that were unclear or were not explained in the rules, and I was concerned about what looked like an identity crisis between being an improvisational, player-driven game and a scenario-based, pre-designed game, with no solid instructions on how to thread those two parts, and concerns about what sorts of situations required the players to roll in terms of how fine-grained conflicts are supposed to be.

      Overall, I think it a good first draft and is an excellent start to what could be a very interesting game, in need of polish and fleshing-out, specifically in terms of explaining what play should look like and to solve some issues with what kind of game experience it wants to provide.

      I’ve put a longer and more comprehensive review up at the Forge that will hopefully prove of some value to you!

    • Zachary Donovan

      Hi Jonathan,

      I have to say, I found your game challenging. Not at all in a bad way – It made me emotional and upset just the way I have felt when confronting the death or possibility of death for my loved ones. I think you have created an elegant and compelling framework for exploring the end of life.

      I don’t really have any complaints about the game. The text could use a little clarification – I think at one point you mention that Coyote should specify what the city feels like, spiritually, and I was all “what city? oh, I guess the spirit world is a city? Or maybe we’re just assuming that, statistically, this game will be set in a city.” I also was, at first, unclear on whether there was one bag per player or only one bag for the entire group. Other than a little editing, though, it seemed very cohesive.

      Overall, I can see why you are already hacking the game. It feels like a complete idea, and one that can be reused and modified to suit many different things; maybe it touches on some eternal truth – the theme of the struggle between self-identity and death is certainly a widespread one. I don’t know if I would ever have the guts to play this game, but I would have serious respect for anyone who did. Keep up the good work!

    • Scott. C

      #70 – The Terminal Hours – Whoa, heavy! Sorting through emotional/spiritual obstacles on your last dying days. This is very cool and right in line with The Last Chance theme, I think the GM/Coyote as a Doctor interviewing a patient is an ingenious step, I think that is a great way to get them right into their character and an elegant way to flesh out their story!(Side Note:You mention you’re modding this for a Horror game as well, I always liked the set-up/trope of the Final Girl in the hospital at the beginning and the Doctor/Detectives saying ‘Now what just happened?’, just sayin’ consider leaving that as an option, maybe?!) I like the countdown of hours, not sure how it would work if one player got very few hours and another had many, might be a little of balance. But the hours are a good memento mori, the whole game might just be! In the spirit quest portion of the game the transition of world events into the spirit world is very neat and could very well be developed even further, with constantly jumping over the border of life and death(perhaps in regimented turns?). The relation of spirit animals to their traits and behavior is well thought out and quite sage. This game and games of this sort could benefit from more examples of play, or a play through session written out, for it is an ‘advanced type’ rpg, and I get a bit muddled sometimes. Good use of the ingredients in Game Chef-ery terms, the luminescent moss line is a GREAT touch! Really looking forward to the Horror game! Thank you!

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 71 is reviewed by… 70 68 65 61

    • Kyle Willey

      My biggest gripe with this game is that it relies quite heavily on setting up stuff and requires a fair deal of supplies, which is partly me being cheap and lazy but also because it requires a prodigious amount of cardboard boxes and electric lights, which makes it somewhat prohibitive to play if you don’t have them. It’s also LARP-based, which means that the unhandy, clumsy, and poorly-equipped like myself will have a somewhat difficult time, but I’m going to try to overlook that for this review (since it does say that it is supposed to be daunting to set up)

      The game itself, when you get past the setup, is quite good. It’s a storytelling game in which most of the players go around narrating the lives of the four individuals, while avoiding getting caught by another player who is trying to reveal the giant monsters (represented by the players) moving around the city. It’s quite good when you get down to it, plus there’s a whole lot of fun for players who are remarkably dextrous or not as they try to navigate the city without causing destruction (ending the game) and avoiding detection (and trading spots with the player with the light). Oh yeah, and it’s played in the dark. So while it’s not a game for everyone, myself included, it’s still very well-made and designed solidly.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • Kyle Willey

      Handle with care:

      My biggest gripe with this game is that it relies quite heavily on setting up stuff and requires a fair deal of supplies, which is partly me being cheap and lazy but also because it requires a prodigious amount of cardboard boxes and electric lights, which makes it somewhat prohibitive to play if you don’t have them. It’s also LARP-based, which means that the unhandy, clumsy, and poorly-equipped like myself will have a somewhat difficult time, but I’m going to try to overlook that for this review (since it does say that it is supposed to be daunting to set up)

      The game itself, when you get past the setup, is quite good. It’s a storytelling game in which most of the players go around narrating the lives of the four individuals, while avoiding getting caught by another player who is trying to reveal the giant monsters (represented by the players) moving around the city. It’s quite good when you get down to it, plus there’s a whole lot of fun for players who are remarkably dextrous or not as they try to navigate the city without causing destruction (ending the game) and avoiding detection (and trading spots with the player with the light). Oh yeah, and it’s played in the dark. So while it’s not a game for everyone, myself included, it’s still very well-made and designed solidly.

      I’m trying to keep reviews short, partly because I have to do a lot, but if you want more feedback or clarification you can drop me a line at kylesgames [at] live dot com or on my website and I’ll reply. I’ll be busy with finals soon, so if I don’t respond I’m not just blowing you off or anything (allow until May 5th for a reply, please). I also hang out around 1km1kt (kylesgames) and at rpg.stackexchange (my name) if you want to drop me a private message there.

    • dmkdesigns

      Handle with Care
      By Jackson Tegu

      This is a game about storytelling in a city focused on the lives of four people, told through the giant monsters who roam the city.

      I liked this game’s use of play with space and story. It both went back to our childhood sense of imagination and our adult sense of purpose and examination of self.

      Setup
      You need to construct your city (see below), find miniatures to use as four protagonists. Also a deck of playing cards, without jokers. And make your municipal light truck.

      Familiarizing
      To play this game as written you need to have space and supplies. Supplies include several cardboard boxes for buildings, black paint, velum or waxpaper, and LED electric candles. Make signs for the buildings.

      Pacing with cards and moving the miniatures
      You use the miniatures to help tell stories by moving them through your city.

      The municipal light truck
      You make it with a macaroni noodle box, a toilet roll tube, and a bike LED light. It is driven around by the player without a hand of cards. The role changes when they find a monster.

      Monsters talking & monsters masquerading as buildings
      Monsters speak the stories of their protagonist. They can also pretend to be buildings to avoid the truck from finding them.

      Objects
      Monsters can move objects around the city for the protagonists to encounter.

      Dawn & Epilogues
      When all 10’s from the deck have been played the game shifts. The Epilogues for the protagonists are shared.

      Specifics & Clarification
      Don’t knock over a building or the game ends, and other rules.

      Layout/Design
      Not applicable

      Thoughts
      It is a game that has a fair bit of play going on with larping and sharing the small stories through large creatures. It seems to be heavily reliant upon a group able and willing to construct their own playset. Perhaps, offering a playset to download or order might be useful.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 72 is reviewed by… 71 69 66 62

    • greyorm

      The blurb for this game interested me quite a bit, but upon reading the entry I found much less to play — if “play” is even the right word here — than I’d expected. In fact, I’m not sure there is much in the way here of a game. Rather than an RPG, this is more a kind of (non-public) performance art or intimate team-building exercise, as it consists of a simple, formalized ritual for sharing memories while walking at night, coupled to a brief bit of pseudo-charades. I suspect it can be used to bring small groups of people together and allow them to know each other more intimately.

      While the four ingredients are used, or at least named, the ‘doctor’ ingredient is only mentioned in an abstract fashion that has no part in the play (or performance) and exists only as a mention in the written text. As a Game Chef entry, I think it requires a much heavier game component and stronger integration of the ingredients into the play experience; however, for what it is, I can’t recommend anything that it is missing or needs.

      Ultimately, it stands as a unique and creative entry, well-written with evocative myth-language and appropriately chosen quotes.

    • Matthew SB

      Wow. This exchange and honoring of memories is very powerful to read, the spoken text so rich and evocative. I wouldn’t change a word of it. Some of the non-spoken game text seems almost out of place following it, and the ingredient use is shallow and unnecessary. But I don’t think that matters at all. The game itself is like a kind of magic.
      Lovely.

    • nickwedig

      To Travel These Pathways

      I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out what to say about this entry.

      It seems as if this entry is trying to make something more artistic and poetic than the average roleplaying game. I can’t really say if it was successful or not in its goals, as those goals themselves are unclear. The text consistently chooses poetic allusions to its meaning instead of clearly stating its meaning. This may work fine for other media, but a game text is partly instructional. And I am lost on even the most basic of questions that a game needs to answer.

      As far as I can tell, there isn’t really any game in here, just a conversation you have while walking through a forest. There don’t seem to be any characters in the game per se, nor does the thin fictional veneer of a giant dying in bed tie into what the players do in any but the most abstract of ways. (The “in Short” section doesn’t address the giant at all, which is telling.)

      (Similarly, each Game Chef ingredient seems tacked on rather than essential. The game would be improved by, for example, removing the talk of coyotes and simply speaking of players as players. If the Lantern were unmentioned, or the Doctor, the game would not suffer at all. I don’t think that this is a flaw, though: if the ingredients inspired you, then they have served their purpose. if they were a creative straightjacket, then you are now free from them,)

      Are the memories I describe supposed to be my own? The giant’s? A coyote’s? Some additional player character’s? Since walking and talking are the most basic events, I need some clarity of what exactly I am supposed to be doing. And then once I start telling a memory, there are no guidelines on what sort of memories I should tell. Funny memories? Sad memories? The text seems like it has a very deliberate tone, but this tone is in no way conveyed into the game itself. The stories that the players tell could be anything at all, which may or may not fit the game’s goals.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 73 is reviewed by… 72 70 67 63

    • zircher

      I really like this game and of all the ones that I have reviewed (officially and unoffcially) it strikes me as the one I’d like to play the most. It is a little weak in the theme, I love to see a question for the mimic and the mimicked; Why is this your last chance? That would cinch it. It certainly knocks the Mimic ingredient out of the
      park. Coyote is solid and brings to center the plight of illegal aliens (human or otherwise.) I’m down with the moves mechanic and would love to see it expanded up with more/custom moves and perhaps the ability to add situational modifiers for good acting and the like. Things that I would like to see in the future: a culture guide for the local area and more information on the crossing (maybe expanding it with a flashback mechanic?)

      Total nit-pick, I thought you either had to choose from the original ingredient list OR the random forum threads. But, I’ve seen more than one entry that chosen from both lists. Liminal is still a legal entry with coyote, mimic, and lantern (barely.) This might be something that just needs to be cleared up in the future game chef contests.

      • Orion Canning

        Your idea to add a “Why is this your last chance?” question struck me as so simple it’s brilliant. Why don’t I think of these things? Oh and to clarify it’s totally fine to mix and match from the two lists. Quoted from the rules page: “Use 4 ingredients, split across the two sets any way you like (including all from one set). … For designers who find themselves strongly drawn to one set or the other, Master Sous Chef Joe Mcdaldno will choose the winner of the Lopsided Inspiration Award, given to both the best game that uses all 4 word ingredients and also to the best game that uses all 4 thread ingredients.”

      • Robert Bruce

        Thank you for both the review and your excitement, it’s useful and heartening. :)

        Your idea for ‘Why is this your last chance,’ as Orion said above me, really blew me away. Of course! Even without the constraints/opportunities of Game Chef, it’s still a wonderfully provocative question.

        Your idea for situational modifiers for good acting has really got me thinking. The current design punishes you for being weird, but the only reward for being on-character is not having to roll dice, the satisfaction of feeling like you’ve figured something out, and of course avoiding trouble. It’s realistic that awesome acting on the Mimic’s part would build trust, and there are different ways to represent that mechanically.

        I think I’m taking this game all the way, so stay tuned.

    • Zachary Donovan

      Haha, man this game is awesome.

      So, first of all, props on the structuring of the game text. The game feels very… normal until you get to the Alien moves. then everything just goes completely crazy. What, I can turn other people into Mimics? Wait, I can frame scenes and shit? WHAT IS GOING ON? It is an awesome moment. The advice for playing the Mimic is also fantastic; in a solo game I wrote a while back called Winter, I encouraged the player to talk to themself, out loud, and I like that you are doing that here. The idea of getting into the headspace of a Mimic by trying to act like the players you are roleplaying with seems like it would just lead to weird, freaky behavior in the best imaginable way.

      It seemed to me like I had no idea what would happen when I started bringing the Alien rules into play. Could I, I dunno, force someone into playing a Mimic? Mimify lets you create a new character, and it says you control their actions, but it doesn’t say anything about how you do that. It also doesn’t require you to give up your current character, so… do you control multiple Mimics? And the scene-setting stuff, that just blows my mind. So, you’re not a Mimic anymore (unless you control other Mimics through Mimify?), and now you get to cast The Mimicked players as just… anyone? That’s insane! You’re breaking my mind!

      In short, this game is awesome. I love it. I am going to make my friends play it, as soon as I can find the time, just because it is so weird and cool and excellent.

      • Robert Bruce

        It’s really exciting to see people want to play my game; if feedback is the fuel, that is the flame. So thank you.

        As for the Mimic character sheet, I was definitely imagining this scene where your friends come in to tell you they’ve made their migrant and you’re busy imitating a conversation you just had with them. LOL. FREAK!!

        ‘Mimify’ was a bit of a late addition, so it could definitely use some clarification. It’s meant to give you the power to turn NPCs into body-snatching mimics (you decide the how, although I should maybe add how deliberate this process has to be, like maybe not an airborne cloud that Mimifies everyone in a 10-block radius). You get to control them as if they were your own character. The Mimicked will still have the responsibility of introducing characters into scenes and framing scenes, at least until you Cross.

        My vision for ‘Cross’ was that you embrace your true Mimic form, toss away the potential to remove your Suspicion, and Mimify lotsa stuff. You frame, cast, and end scenes instead of the Mimicked. The change in director probably accompanies a change in direction, from character exploration to the horror climax.

    • abi stokes

      First off, apologies for the late review.

      What an intriguing game! It’s challenging to take on such a complex matter–but I think you’re doing a great job. Your notes on stereotypes are helpful for getting players to consider the migrant worker as a person rather than some sensationalized character.

      The role of the Mimic is a difficult one, and illuminates the assumptions we make about people as well as the difficulties of trying to fit in as an “alien” or other. Which makes a really strong bond between the game itself and the subject matter. I can see how the Mimic-player could feel really disoriented and alienated, and I think it’s an appropriate product of play for the subject matter.

      Some notes/questions:
      -You may want to make some sort of guiding mechanism that selects who plays mimic.
      -The objective of the mimic to blend in or take over or whatever: I’d like to see more–perhaps a list of prompts, or suggestions for how the mimic-player might determine her own objective.
      -You may want to specify (or ask the group to specify) whether it’s established that mimics exist or not. This was unclear to me, and it bugs me in the way that zombie lit often plays its characters as ignorant of the concept of zombies (oh no, “walkers!” Inconceivable!). My thought here is that mimics should be common knowledge, because this adds more fear and stigma for the mimic-player.
      -Again, really good notes on page 2 reminding players to think of the migrant worker as a person.
      -While the mimic is banished, is she doing anything? (like perhaps coming up with an objective?)
      -Does each player make their own migrant, or are they all making one migrant? I wasn’t entirely clear.
      -What incentive does a player have to use alienate?
      -mimify: is this an action taken on migrant workers, or other NPCs?

      Overall, I think this was a bold and challenging game. It addresses real-world issues in a very graceful way. I’m really excited to see future revisions of this game, but I also think it’s playable as-is.

      • Robert Bruce

        No worries, thanks for the excellent questions, suggestions, and praise. It’s really relieving for me to hear that you felt I showed respect to the issues I’m trying to get at in my game. One of my playtesters expressed concern that the subject matter could be problematic, and I really wrestled with what to do about that.

        -“whether it’s established that mimics exist or not” – What I was imagining was the concept of the Mimic as rumor and urban legend. We don’t all go around assuming it’s real, but we’re quick to recognize the signs because the idea triggers something inside of us (much like zombies!). I could also dig a setting where the Mimics are known, perhaps an outbreak in Arizona that was successfully suppressed through racial profiling mixed with martial law. Now California looks to its own border, uneasily…

        -“while the mimic is banished, is she doing anything?” – The Mimic character sheet has guidance and a procedure for what to do while banished. It’s not entirely clear in the main text that the Mimic should be doing the thing on that sheet while she’s gone.

        -The Mimicked all make a (1) migrant together.

        -Alienate is meant to let your Mimic take an active stance, rather than the reactive stance which I think is the result of the rest of the game’s structure and authority.

        -Mimify is intended to be used on NPCs in general.

        Thanks again :)

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 74 is reviewed by… 73 71 68 64

    • pstmdrn

      Please do not think I say this lightly simply because I am going to say it to all the games I review, but your game truly inspired me. The thing I struggle most with Game Chef is thinking outside of the box. My game design mind works like the rather ‘crunchy’ games I grew up with (D&D, White Wolf, Cyberpunk) even though I love more open format games.

      First off, your advent calendar style of game play is very neat! It’s so fun to have that element of surprise. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure, but I’ve never minded games with a bit of a gimmick if it is used well. I am not trying to say your game is ‘gimmicky’, but the act of tearing away to reveal game info is quite novel. I also like how you divided power over the setting amongst the different characters. It is very flavorful. Also, the characters and their possible actions and motivations are very defined. My only draw back to your game is that it may only appeal to my players that lean towards LARP and with a flair for the melodramatic.

    • stalwart1000

      General Impressions
      Gothic romance is sorely under-represented in RPGs, so I really enjoyed a game that embraces it as whole-heartedly as this one. The advent-calendar character sheets are a great way to use the “last chance” theme.

      Playability
      Your guidelines state that players should hint at their final outcomes without establishing them. However, with the advent calendar-style sheets, player’s won’t know what those outcomes are.

      Earlier in the text, you say “tear off the window for the next numbered Revelation in that sequence” while later you say “Revelations in both columns can be uncovered in the same Mystery,” Both of those rules can’t be true.

      Rules give options for how to spend 2 points of Nature to block another player, but then states you may only have 1 point of Nature at a time. I think you meant no more than 3 at one time. Otherwise, why three circles on the sheet?

    • nstidham

      Immediately, I see two design decisions in this game that appeal to me for the most obvious reason – namely, that I’ve used them before in my own work. Joel’s approach to the theme, making the game a destructible artifact consumed by play, was my own take on it as well, and I had previously built the Diceconomy games on my site to be GM-less 3-player games driven by the tension of the characters’ mutual dependence upon one another.

      There are a couple of additional strengths to consider, as well: the game design is tight and makes sense, making it approachable to potential new gamers. Sometimes constraint is a useful principle to which to adhere, and making the game a series of straightforward either/or choices with a clear end goal is, I think, a good choice. Also, as a literature post-grad with friends deeply involved in studying the very literature that this game pastiches, I’m always on the lookout for designs that would appeal to new players who don’t come from the traditional pool of geek pop culture interests, and I’m excited by the idea that I could pass this to a couple of my colleagues who would never play, let’s say, D&D but still might find some enjoyment in role-playing.

      I don’t want to dwell too much on where this game could go as a revised product, even though the document itself acknowledges the intent to make a more polished incarnation; I would look forward to such a product, with perhaps the caveat that paying money for a game that’s meant to be destroyed is a significantly different prospect than simply downloading and then trashing a game. The rough DIY version presented here would suffice for most peoples’ purposes, I should think, with some layout and typographical flourish, rather than more expensive material production.

      The one small quibble I have is that the game seems to lend itself to a more active, standing-up style of interactive play, and yet is written under the assumption that it will be played seated around a table. Placing a stone on a character’s Nature, for instance, wouldn’t work so well with a theatrical style of play, and getting up to perform scenes only to have to return to the table to manage a Revelation or an expenditure of Nature breaks the inertia and makes the table feel like a tether on the proceedings. That aside, this looks like a strong game that I would be interested to play.

      • jackson tegu

        Thanks, Dev.
        Very much appreciate your review.
        If any specific other thoughts about driving the municipal light truck occurred to you while you were reading, or stand out now, i’d love to hear them.

        Yeah, it does lean pretty heavily on the social contract at the end, there.
        I’m always worried about saying too much in the way of concrete hooks about characters’ stories. You’re right, though, I could push harder in this instance.

        That kid koala track is beautiful.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 75 is reviewed by… 74 72 69 65

    • greyorm

      Goofy. Irreverent. A “Robert’s Rules of Order” outlining a formalized process for tearing down and destroying the mental images a group’s most loved things. Desensitizing. Probably resulting in you eventually punching each other in the face. Clever, in kinship to The Game (I lost the game…you just lost it now, too). Most of the ingredients used seem contained in the game — in an abstractly-symbolic way — though the “dice-heavy” ingredient appears missing completely (though perhaps the focus was on “Gamist romp” instead). The rules…work. What else can I say?

    • abi stokes

      What a hoot! This game is simple, could be played within the larger arena of life–it is, in that sense, pervasive. The rules are downright cheeky (do I sense a bit of satire)? This game has a very youthful sense of play to it. Phases 3-5 don’t seem like phases so much as exceptions, and 5 feels unnecessary (which, for the sake of this game as an artifact, is simply delightful).

      I couldn’t find the coyote.

      You may want to get a little more specific about the scale of the game. At first read, I got the impression that this was to be played in a set aside space (battlefield), but as I kept reading this seemed more like a game that is played while living (see 4.4).

      I can see how this game would only be played once, as the particular nice-thoughts get ruined in the process, and as there must be a year between instances (and, honestly, who’s counting?).

      I would love to see an endgame phrase that is impossible to pronounce, rather than the phrase in 4.1. This would maintain the “Last Chance” element (the game ends when you die).

      I do quite like this game, and look forward to playing it.

    • Joel

      This may be the strangest game I’ve ever read, and that’s saying something! I admire its boldness in pushing players to act in a bizarre manner. And the stipulation that a new game can only be started a year after the last game ends is certainly an imaginative implementation of the Last Chance theme. In fact, since I only get one shot at playing the game for a year, and the game can be aborted at any time by any player, it makes me hesitant to play my FIRST game, cuz I wanna make sure I’m playing in optimal conditions and with engaged participants.

      I’m unclear on the usage of some of the ingredients. I skimmed through the Forge threads “Misspent Youth” and “A Diceheavy gamist romp” but couldn’t suss out anything in there that contributes to this game, and I don’t see Coyote in there anywhere, either. Mimic I can see; the whole game consists of mimicing key phrases, taking on each other’s Offices, etc. By the way, the naming scheme of the Offices—“The Coordinator Of Entropy,” “Now-Coordinator Of Entropy,” “Now-Past-Coordinator Of Entropy,” etc—makes me smile.

      I guess the game is a meditation on the transitory nature of life and its pleasures? It’s off-putting and intriguing all at once with the stark enigma of its tone. The brusque procedural language was hard for me to engage with; clear, but kind of inhuman—however, that might be a benefit if it helps bring the players into a sort of altered state where you’re following strange instructions for unclear reasons based on an implacable alien authority. Y’know, if that’s what you’re going for.

    • dmkdesigns

      The Entropy Game
      By LordPapyrus_420

      This is a game about players following a set of in-game procedures, which seems counter to the idea of entropy.

      Though very silly, I liked that this game was different from all of the others I’ve ever read and involved players in a quasi larp format.

      Setup
      It proceeds through a set of ordered phases. Each has conditions to be met with success and failure options, including a way to stop the game partway through and to return to it a year later.

      I do not understand how the use of planking relates to the tests in the previous phases, however, it is important for winning the game.

      Layout/Design
      Not applicable

      Thoughts
      I’m not sure I understood the intention of the game outside of what was stated in the document. Sometimes a game is symbolic of a different purpose, and sometimes a game is just a game. The game seemed to be anything but entropic the further you got in it.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Game 76 is reviewed by… 75 73 70 66

    • jackson tegu

      Area 51 Blackout / David Berg

      My read-through notes start off as follows: “Very compelling intro situation. Wait, WHAT!!???” Yeah, this is a really cool idea. I’m excited to learn about the 0-3 GMs thing, and a brief flip-through leaves me thinking that the layout is very approachable. I very much like the example image, and the character sheets and locations. Very simple and usable.

      Without time for a second read through right now, and with huge apologies for that, I don’t have too much to dig into in your game because it looks really solid. From what i gather, there’s a tension between the three Personas where they need one another for help navigating the NPCs they’ll encounter, but don’t want the others to succeed in their goals. This is really cool. It seems a bit counter-intuitive that i could Channel one Persona, thus triggering a Switch where the other one takes control; but i see the mechanical reasons for it. Maybe you could fiddle with that a little, so that it was more likely for the one you’re Channeling? (Such a minor detail.)

      I like the idea of the 0-3 GMs, but i’m not sure how that’s supported, beyond “The GM mechanics run themselves, they just need someone to do the manual labor.” I mean, 3 different people gradually describing different parts of the device is a really cool idea, but the game (at this time) doesn’t support them in doing so. All the same, i think this is a great idea – almost like a choose-your-own-adventure, wherein one player adjusts the game state and then sits back down with the others to play. / Similarly, i’m not sure that the 0 GMs would deliver a very compelling narrative, but hey – i just read it through once, what do i know? (hint: not that much). Would their conflict bleed into the fictional part of the GMing side of things? Maybe.

      Next steps are playing it a lot. How long does this play in? Love the pre-defined locations & NPCs, makes it seem very approachable, and also love the method for figuring where the protagonist might go next. I wonder about the fiction behind that, though… it feels a little bit like a point-and-click adventure; i wonder if it would be too distracting that the protagonist can’t just go to that place they heard about earlier, they can only go to the places they hear about now. You’ll find out through play.

      • shrikedesign

        The location limits are a result of my attempts to track the game state (progress along tracks) while using seeded content (e.g., this here card is both position E9 and a Secret Control Room). There’s an easy way around this, which is to decouple the two. So if you move to the Secret Control Room from success on E7, then it’s E9, whereas if you move to it from failure on E5, then it’s C3 (or whatever). Nuggets and NPCs could be tied to positions, rolled randomly, or picked from lists. I’m not sure which is more annoying — having to shoehorn in some in-fiction reason why you can’t go back to a location mentioned earlier, or having to take some extra steps as GM to establish a location, rather than just picking up a card.

        As for the 0-3 GMs, I guess a claim that eye-catching deserves clearer explanation. Basically, as I see it, the one job the GM really must do is in-the-moment portrayal of setting and NPC. Any effort to tie stuff together is pure gravy. Accordingly, who’s responsible for GMing at any given moment can be very flexible, and there’s really no reason for it not to simply accommodate the number of people at the table. Got 3 players? GM when you’re not in character. Got 6 players? Each GM can pick a track, so the GMs get to be audience and surprised by the stuff the other GMs come up with, each putting forth their vision for a specific aspect of Area 51. I can’t claim that the game is optimized for multiple GMs, I just think it’d still be fun played that way. Although I guess if you pick a track and then the players don’t go there, that would suck. Perhaps each GM should be able to attempt to dissuade their track’s character from being a team player and sacrificing their personal goal, hitting them with reminders of how their way is the only real solution…

    • jackson tegu

      P.S. Flashes were a little confusing; maybe introduce that info a little later? And on the locations, put in a colon or something between the letter and number, the Innocent’s locations look like the numbers are in the teens. ie I:5 versus I5.
      And i forgot to mention the use of ingredients, i think it’s really cool that you incorporated a lot of mechanical ideas from the threads. Nice work. All four threads! Mcdaldno, look here! Didn’t see the Last Chance thing on a mechanical level, which was fine; a solid endgame mechanic. Can i refer to something that reminds me of design 6 years ago as “Old school”? (I should clarify: standing on the shoulders of design-six-years-ago, but avoiding the pitfalls of that time with a deftness that shows you’ve been paying close attention.)
      -jackson tegu

      • shrikedesign

        Good call on the colon. I hadn’t thought through “Innocent starts with the letter I”.

        I hope the endgame mechanic isn’t too constraining. “You get 15 hours, and each thing you do takes an hour” feels fine by gameplay standards but is maybe a little weird for fictional standards. So I’m not sure if that’s a pitfall or not. I could replace the static 15 with some sort of flexible number that goes up or down when you do stuff, a la Dead of Night… nah, I don’t think that’s actually an improvement here. Hmm.