Reading Breaking the Ice – A game about Love, for Two by Emily Care Boss

Recently I have been thinking a lot about games with friendly themes. Games without any combat mechanics, and maybe even without conflict mechanics, set in friendly settings. I have known about Emily Care Boss’ game Breaking the Ice for quite some time, but never really looked into it. But this weekend I got the opportunity to do so.

Breaking the Ice
The book
My copy is a 42 page PDF, I think it is supposed to be a 9×6 book, or maybe slightly smaller. There is some nice cartoon style artwork by Barry Deutsch. The text is laid out in a single readable column, but something about the editing confused me, and I had to read through the game twice in order to get it. Since it’s a rather short game that wasn’t a big issue.

The setting
The game has no setting as such, but it is always a story about two people going on three dates. There is a section in the book with suggestions for how to decide on a setting before playing.

The rules
The rules in Breaking the Ice are tightly focused on the growing attraction between the lovers. By rolling and re-rolling pools of D6s the players learn how the dates are going, and how the lovers find common interests that will strengthen the bond between them. Character generation involves collaborative mind map drawing starting with the character’s favorite color in the center, and then playing a game of word association from there to find the character’s traits.

The form
The game is one of the rare two player games. The players take turns being the active player and the story guide, however both roles involve mostly stuff usually associated with GM’ing. Not quite a player less game, but almost. The many examples in the game show play as being done in third person, in a rather abstract birds eye view of the story. In the end the players answer three questions about the dates and decide if the relationship grew into something steady.

The setting is OK, there’s not much there but the game gives enough information to guide the players while they decide on a setting of their own.
The rules are good, very focused on the subject of simulating dating.
The form is good, there are clear instructions in the game for what what the players should do at all stages. There’s a section on sex in games, good reading for players previously unfamiliar with lines and veils.

Will I play it?
Maybe. It’s a two player game, I only have few of those. I think one could vary the style of play in accordance with how familiar the two players are, allowing for more intimate story telling with close friends, to backing off a bit and playing it with more distance for playing with strangers at cons. I see the potential for both comedies and great drama in the game, depending on what setting is chosen. – The official site for the game.

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