Reading Perfect – unrevised by Joe Mcdaldno

Perfect was the last game I bought last year, on New Year’s Eve, the very day it was released. And this morning I read it. I knew what to expect, I had read the first edition a long time ago, and I had a finger in the proofreading of this new edition.



The book
I still haven’t gotten the print version of the game, but the PDF is 158 pages, and from the layout I think we’ll be seeing a standard 6×9 book once it comes from the printer. The layout is very nice and the pages do not look crowded. I think the game could have fit in half that page count without problems if a more space preserving layout had been used, it is a fast read. There are a few pictures by various artists, all nice but in widely different styles.

The setting
The setting in Perfect is Cadence, a twisted copy of Victorian England. A steam-punk dystopia. In the mood section of the setting chapter we find the following:

It always seems to be late Autumn.

The world is stripped of colour; it is bleak and desolate. Inspectors stand upon most street corners and pay visits to the factories and storefronts and homes of the city. They are ever-present and vigilant, waiting to weed out the criminally different. They have no intention of a fair trial. They use clever psychological attacks, strange tactics, and horrific technologies to brainwash and condition these criminal miscreants into better citizenship, then re-release them into the world.

The players take the roles of those criminally different citizens, and the stories follow them and chase by inspectors. Don’t be put off by the ‘criminals’ bit, in a society like the one in Cadence everyone is a criminal, you could play a sweet love story with the rules, at least until the inspector’s catch up to your morally deviant behavior that is.

The rules
The rules are very focused. No stats or skills for the characters, but instead social class, and Freedoms. A Freedom is a restriction on his actions that the PC has voluntarily taken on in order to gain a better position within the society. Do you see the wheels of 1984 turning in the background? Everything in the rules has similar very tight bonds with the setting.

The PCs are assumed to succeed with their crimes, the real question is do they get caught? And if they do get caught, what effect does the conditioning have on them?

The form
The form is GM less, in the same way that Polaris is GM less. And the stories of the different characters are separate, they might cross, but there the game could be played start to finish without the different PCs even seeing each other on the street. It can be played by as little as two people, one playing a criminal and the other the law, in the form of inspectors chasing the criminal.

The scene economy is strictly regulated. Each player goes through a Crime scene where a crime is committed, then a Discovery scene where investigators try to arrest the PC, if they succeed there is a Retribution scene where they try to correct the behavior of the PC. And finally a Reflection scene where the player’s turn is wrapped up, then it is the next player’s turn.

Players that do not play the active criminal or the law play various NPCs if any are present in the scenes.

The setting is very good. There could have been more information about Cadence, but there is enough to get play started. Most players should have been in contact with at least one of the sources of inspiration, so it is easy to fill any gaps. While the game claims to be a steam punk game, don’t expect any fancy rules or descriptions of astounding machines, they might be there in the setting but they are not given any room in the book.

The rules are good. They focus on the core of the game and only that. It seems they’ll do a good job.

The form is very good. I wouldn’t recommend this as a beginner’s first RPG, but for someone that knows their way around the hobby there is lots of advice in the book. Including a section on how to teach the game to others and a one page reference sheet with most of the rules, very nice touch.

Will I play it?
Yes! As soon as possible, but I think I’d like to have more than a four hour convention slot for the project. Maybe three evenings or something like that, to really get under the skins of the protagonists. An RPG that is playable by only two people, there aren’t many of those in my collection. And I do like the dystopic theme. – Official site for Perfect.



  1. buriedwithoutceremony said,

    January 1, 2011 at 22:59

    Thanks for the review, Wilper.

    The book version will be 5.5″x8.5″, actually. So: the exact same page layout as the PDF version.

    The text is only 30,000 words, so you’re right – it could have fit on a much smaller page count. I’m happy that it’s got room to breathe, and that it’s hung spaciously.

    I agree with your critique of my use of “steampunk.” I spent years deciding whether or not to use that word. Bizarre contraptions do rear their head in gameplay (in Conditioning scenes), but aren’t focal by any means. To quote my design notes (on page 141): “Perfect pays rigorous homage to the punk component of the genre, while nodding to the steam.” Perfect echoes the character of steampunk, not the colour.

  2. January 21, 2012 at 02:43

    […] now, finally, it’s ready. You can buy it if you want to. Wilper did, and he reviewed it the very next day. The review is really good and comprehensive, albeit […]

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