Reading Vampire the Masquerade by Mark Rein-Hagen

I mostly stopped buying games when I stopped playing them.  Reasoning that if all they were destined for was to fill my shelf it would be better to abstain.  But a friend proposed we’d start a Vampire group, playing second edition with just what was in that basic rules book. It sounded fun, and an acceptable investment in time and money, no need to read all the many sourcebooks in the franchise in order to prep the game.  So I bought the book second hand, with a price tag that was probably a bit higher than what it cost new. Let’s see if it was worth it.

The bookvtm2e

At 272 pages US-letter format the basic book for Vampire the Masquerade is one of the
thicker gaming books I’ve looked at in the last couple of years.  Most of the indie and OSR titles I’ve read have been comfortably shorter than 100 pages.  It took me two days to make my way through the text, and even then I skipped past the detailed descriptions of skills and special powers.

There are several (mostly high contrast) black and white illustrations, by a number of different artists, throughout the book.  The text is for the most part a very pleasant read, although a bit verbose in places. The few typos I caught were missing spaces between words.

The setting

It is the modern day 90’s, but darker and more polarized than the real world. And there are vampires, as the game’s title suggests.  The players all play vampires belonging to a certain sect of vampires that have decided that hiding from the humans they feed upon is the best way to live in safety, hence the ‘Masquerade’ from the subtitle. The vampires have set up a strict hierarchy with old and strong vampires at the top, and young and weak vampires at the bottom.

Most of the oldest vampires are dead, missing or in hiding, but it is suggested in the descriptions that soon some of them will rise again to feed upon the younger vampires, just as the vampires in the story feed upon humans. With this and other looming threats the world is full of potential conflict and struggle. Perfect for a roleplaying game. The players can fight other vampires in the sect for power, or against competing sects, or against werewolves, inquisitors or a number of other threats.  Or they can focus inwards and fight the hungry beast within themselves pushing the game into a more melodramatic or philosophical direction.

The rules

The rules are traditional.  The characters have stats and skills, which are added together to build pools of D10s. The pools are rolled, the more dice that exceed or meet the difficulty level of the task the better.  Also the vampires have special powers, called disciplines, that allow them to do various superhuman feats.

Much of the game centers around blood, taken from humans or other vampires, and spent to temporarily increase stats, fuel the special powers or heal wounds.

The form

My copy is from 1992, celebrating its 25th birthday this year.  An old game for sure. But it doesn’t feel that old when I read it. The text describes playing the game in tightly framed scenes, just as in most indie titles. But it retains the role of a sole GM participant, the Storyteller, who prepares each game and campaign, controlling all NPCs and acting as a judge and arbitrator when it comes to the rules.  The players are not expected to bother about anything else than running their own characters.

Conclusion

The setting is good.  Even if there are few specific details of what it is like in any particular place, there are good descriptions of the rules and mechanics that the vampires use to set up their societies under that of the humans’. There is enough information in the book to allow for years of gaming.

The rules are acceptable. They do little to support the feel that the game is supposed to have, and as we learn from the many sections of GM advice it may well be necessary to ignore or break the rules frequently. But the rules do contain enough mechanics to resolve most of the situations that might come up in the game, should one really want to.

The form is excellent. There are long descriptions, especially for the GM, on how to think when a game is set up, how to interpret the setting information to build a campaign of one’s own, how to run the game, and many other things.  When it comes to introductory text for tabletop RPGs I think this is one of the top five presentations that I’ve seen, if a bit verbose at times.

Will I play it?

Yes. It looks like I will. Both my friend and I have read through the book. Started thinking of what we will do with it and are looking for players to make a proper gaming group.

 

www.drivethrurpg.com/product/2310/Vampire-The-Masquerade–2nd-Edition – The game is long out of print, and has been superseded with at least two new editions. But it can be bought in PDF format from DriveThruRPG.  Or found on EBay for those who desire physical copies.

Reading Blood & Bronze by Olav Nygård and Johan Nordinge

I was offered a review copy of the new Blood & Bronze RPG, let’s take a look!

The bookbbcover

The game is available in print and PDF, I have read the PDF version. The text is set in double columns in the common small press format 6×9 inches. As usual I find that the character count per line gets a bit low in this format, but it is not a big issue. It took two sittings to get through the 68 pages of the game, there’s a lot of information crammed into the pages.  The layout is pretty dense, one could probably make a 96 page game out of Blood & Bronze without it feeling thin.

The cover illustration is made by  Adam Moore. There’s a rather nice map over the setting by Sam Perkins-Harbin. And there are a couple of wonderful black and white full spread illustrations by Rich Longmore used as chapter separators.

The game should probably have made one more round with the proof readers, I caught more errors than I usually do. [On Feb 14 2016 a new revision of the book was released that had gone through more stringent proof reading. The version I reviewed was the one prior to this. /W]

The setting

Blood & Bronze is a fantasy game in the sword and sandal genre, set in ancient Mesopotamia. The game assumes that the characters will start their adventures in the city of Sippar on the river Euphrates. The city lies on the border between Akkadian and Sumer influence.  There was recently a great flood which upset much of the world, so there’s plenty of adventure to be had among monsters, demons, gods and sorcery.

The characters are adventurers, searching for treasure to sacrifice to the goddess Ninlil, who in turn will make them rise in the ranks of adventurers.  The premise sounded a bit odd to me at first, but after some consideration it makes perfect sense in a fantasy setting where the gods actually walk among men.

The rules

The rules are on the light side of the spectrum.  Roll basic stats with 2D6, use the stats to derive a rating. The rating is the number of D6s the player should roll for various tasks, dice showing 5 or 6 indicate successes. Then there are bells and whistles added to the basic formula, most of them concerning various ways to get re-rolls, or force re-rolls onto opponents.

The form

The game follows the traditional format where a GM prepares adventures in advance and then run them for groups of players, each of them playing an adventurer. But there are elements of story gaming at play as well, e.g. in combat each attack is coupled with a desired outcome, like tripping the opponent, maiming them, or even killing them. Once a hit is made the opponent has the option of accepting the desired outcome, only if they reject it damage is rolled.

Conclusion

The setting is a bit thin. On one hand it offers more than many other games of similar scope, and the setting material offered is very evocative.  But on the other hand I get the feeling that I should probably hit Wikipedia and read up a bit on Mesopotamia before attempting to run the game. A dedicated chapter about monsters, demons and gods would have been nice considering that it is a historical setting to some extent, that steps outside the commonplace European middle-ages framework that we have established through pop culture.

The rules are good. They seem to go well with pulp style adventuring. While they follow different sensibilities to some extent they will probably feel right at home with most OSR gamers. Trad gamers and indie gamers can probably work within the confines of them and have fun too. That said there are some strange omissions, most importantly there is a section on how to form a covenant with a god, but no mention of why one would want to do this or what the mechanical effects of such an action would be.

The form is very good.  While the text is almost entirely devoid of examples, there is a really nice section with advice for the GM, including a method for preparing and running adventures, something that is usually absent in games of this size. There is probably not enough of guidance for someone who is entirely new to role-playing, but for someone who has played a few games this is very nice.

Will I play it?

If someone else were to run Blood & Bronze I’d jump at the chance to see what they do with it. As a GM I could probably wing something based on the material in the book,  I’d probably feel a bit lost at times though.  But the setting is very interesting, and the mechanics seem a good fit.

www.drivethrurpg.com/product/173051/Blood–Bronze-rules – Blood & Bronze on DriveThruRPG.

bloodandbronze.com – Official Blood & Bronze site.

Reading Into the Odd – Survival horror roleplaying game by Chris McDowall

I asked for some new games to review over on G+, and Chris sent me a playtest version of Into the Odd. Let’s take a look!

The book
Into the Odd into_the_oddcomes as a 25 page A4 PDF. The text is laid out in a two column format and is very readable. The game reads in less than an hour. There are numerous black and white illustrations, presumably harvested out of the Public Domain.

The setting
The introduction describes the setting as follows:

The world is too large for anyone to fully map and too old for academics to accurately record. Explorers return from every direction with tales of bizarre places, wondrous and horrific.

You are an Explorer, braving the unknown in search of riches, fame, knowledge or power.

Behind that we find the outlines of a 19th century setting merged with the weird. Aliens, monsters and items that spontaneously develop magical properties can all be found here, and treasure. Lots of treasure, reasons for going into dark holes and braving the dangers beneath.

It feels very much like the old computer game Arcanum, but sans the magicians, elves and dwarves.

The rules
The rules are simple, characters consist of three stats (Dexterity, Strength and Will) that are rolled by 2d6+3. Then 10 is subtracted from each to get the bonus that is applied to all rolls for actions in that area that the characters engage in. Combat does away with any to hit roll, and attacks are simply resolved rolling damage straight away.

For the game’s size a surprising amount of the text is dedicated to the company mechanics, which allow the PCs to found actual companies, but also businesses, cults, political parties. There’s also a mass combat system which will come in handy the day the company comes into conflict with another company.

The form
The form is traditional. A game master (called referee) pits a group of player characters against traps, monsters and other hardships. Characters that manage to survive gain experience and improve.

Conclusion
The setting is weak. There’s not very much information about the setting in the game. But that should not be a problem for an experienced group willing to fill in the blanks themselves. There are enough monsters and magical items presented in the game to last for a while though.
The rules are good. The game sets out to be a simple and quick dungeon bash/adventure game, and the rules definitely support that kind of play.
The form is very good. There’s an extended example of play showing how the game should be played, and a full adventure is included showing what kind of play the game was written for.

Will I play it?
I’m leaning towards a no. Not my kind of game, really. But on the other hand, for the very rules light Old School group I run games for occasionally, this looks like a better choice than the Swords & Wizardry White Box rules we’re currently using. The lack of depth in the ItO rules will not be a concern for those players, and the simpler mechanics might even suit them better.

soogagames.blogspot.com – Official site for Sooga Games, where the game can be downloaded.

Reading Svavelvinter by Tomas Härenstam and Thomas Johansson

Back in the 80ies, when Drakar & Demoner ruled the Swedish gaming scene, the Svavelvinter adventure took the scene by storm. Swedish gamers held it in very high regard, in a sort of a The Enemy Within kind of way. Years became decades, new but backwards incompatible versions of Drakar & Demoner were released, but Svavelvinter was still regarded as the high point in Swedish RPG history and commanded very high prices among collectors.

Recently the original author, Erik Granström, started releasing novels set in the Trakorien setting from his old adventure. And a few months ago I got the new Svavelvinter RPG in the mail. Let’s take a closer look.

The book
Svavelvinter (Eng. Sulphur Winter) is a 352 page hardcover tome in an unusual landscape format, about 22×27 cm. It is heavy, and the full colour pages fan considerably if the book is held vertically. The text is laid out in a two column format, with a very wide outside margin where sometimes an extra column of text is squeezed in. A whole group of artists have been enrolled to make the numerous illustrations throughout the book, but they have managed to keep a consistent style and feel.

The game is not a quick read, expect to spend many hours at even getting an overview. I wouldn’t be surprised if it would take days to read and learn ‘all of it’ before running a game.

The setting
Svavelvinter dedicates about 100 pages to describing the Trakorien archipelago and nearby lands in quite some detail, including several maps. It is a setting with a renaissance Italy feel, mixed with various bits and pieces taken from other historical periods and places, and Erik’s quirky imagination.

The rules and form
While I usually divide rules and form into separate sections I could not find a reasonable way to do so for Svavelvinter. They are intimately bound together, reinforcing each other.

Play happens at two levels, character level and shadow level. The character level play is what we usually associate with the story gaming style these days, separate but intertwining storylines about the main characters rather than a party of murder hobos travelling the land for loot and wenches. The shadow level is a boardgame played by the players, in which the powers that rule the setting compete for dominance in various areas.

Character generation is mechanically mostly limited to dividing points over the four stats; Fire, Wind, Water and Stone, and then selecting a few special abilities and the character’s goal, curse, destiny and relations. The character also has three experiences from the past, detailed with one sentence each.

Task resolution comes down to rolling pools of d6s based on the stat and a bunch of modifiers and counting 4+ results as successes, the more the better. If the roll is successful the player gains narration privileges to describe the outcome.

A single basic conflict resolution mechanism is used for everything from persuasion and pursuit to combat, albeit with a whole bunch of modifiers and special rules for every situation.

Character advancement is important. Every time one of the character’s past experiences is tagged in play to give a re-roll it is marked. When all experiences have been marked (and the character has completed an order from the shadow level of the game) the character gains a level. Levelling gives more abilities, but once the character reaches level 10 it must face it’s destiny and leave play.

The shadow level of the game is quite different, it is a board game where the players play one round at the start of every session. The events in the board game influence the character level play, giving depth and background. Every player’s PC stands under the influence of another player’s shadow power, which will give the PC orders and tasks (which when resolved enables the character to level as described above).

The game is run by a GM, but all the PCs and shadow powers are controlled by the players. The GM acts as a facilitator and arbitrator, and introduces events to colour play. Also every campaign is guided by a prophecy (8 pages of rules and tables for creating prohpecies!), the campaign ends when the prophecy has been fulfilled, at which time the players sum up their points from the shadow level board game and add their characters’ levels to find their score. This is a competitive RPG.

Conclusion
The setting is very good, lots of information and details.
The rules are excellent, they cover what the game is intended to do very well, and provide a framework for telling a very specific style of stories.
The form is excellent, the game provides great detail on how to play and run it, including an intro adventure.

Will I play it?
Yes, it seems like I will. A new group has been formed and it appears that we will rally around Svavelvinter as a common interest.

However, had I not had a group that specifically planned to play this particular game I’m not so certain. In spite of the very high grades above there are things that speak against the game.

First, it’s 350 very dense pages, without a clear flow through the text and actually learning this game is quite an undertaking when compared to the usual ~50 page games that I’ve gotten used to.

Second, the Trakorien setting is fantasy, but a very detailed and peculiar brand of fantasy. It may easily cause the same problems of mismatched expectations that occur when a group gathers to play StarWars and some players saw the original trilogy 20 years ago, and some have embraced the expanded universe stuff.

In my discussion on Fantasy! a while back I expressed fears that the game had failed to attract a following, but it seems I was wrong on that account. The initial 1000 print run had sold out, and Fria Ligan apparently has ha lively forum for the game on their own website.

frialigan.se/svavelvinter – The official Svavelvinter page.

sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svavelvinter – The Svavelvinter page on Swedish Wikipedia.

erik-granstrom.blogspot.se/ – The author Erik Granström’s blog.

Reading Fantasy! – Old School Gaming by Tomas Arfert

A few months ago a Swedish game written in Swedish made a splash even in the international community, Svavelvinter, an indie game that looks like a trad game. Meanwhile on the Swedish scene, people mostly talk about Fantasy!, a trad game that looks like an indie game.

Confused yet?

Let’s take a closer look.

The book
Fantasy! is a 100 page 17x26cm book, print-on-demand via Vulkan. The text is laid out in two columns that are on the narrow side of comfortable in width. But it is still an easy read as long as you can read Swedish, in spite of it’s name the game is not written in English.

There are numerous illustrations by a whole group of artists, and they have worked in differing styles which gives a somewhat scattered impression.

The setting
Beyond the generic Sword & Sorcery land of generic fantasy gaming there is no setting as such in the game. An example city setting called Morcar is given 8 pages as an example of what the game could look like in play, but it’s just an example.

The rules
For char gen four stats; Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence and Presence, are either rolled with 1d6 each, or bought point-buy style. In addition to that each character selects five special abilities that give small bonuses under specific circumstances. For those who would prefer to get started quickly there are templates with pre-selected abilities for the usual bunch of killer and thief PC professions. Not counting the traditional purchases of starting starting equipment char gen can be done in a matter of minutes.

Checks are done by rolling the value of the corresponding stat in d6’s and counting the dice showing 4+ as successes, the more the better. Simple rules for character advancement and a turn based system for physical combat (no grid or minis needed) make up the rest of the rules body.

The form
The form is traditional; a GM who interprets the rules (and invent new ones as necessary) and a group of players who play their own characters.

Conclusion
The setting is either OK or missing, depending on if you count the example or not. This shouldn’t be much of a problem though; the PCs are a group of murder hobos and there are monsters to kill and treasure to loot. Just like it always has been.
The rules are good, very focused on combat, but considering the scope of the game that is only proper.
The form is very good. The game sets out as a beginner’s game, and if you need an introduction in old school style of gaming (rather than specifically OD&D) it has everything you need; PC-generation, a bunch of monsters to kill, a setting example and even a dungeon bash intro adventure.

Will I play it?
Maybe. We have an old school game going with the S&W White box rules already. I’m not in a rush to get rid of that set of rules now that the players have learnt them. But if I were to start anew, I might go with Fantasy!. It’s quick and easy, and adding a few house rules or abilities to the system to reflect a specific setting is easily done.

www.sagagames.com/fantasy – The official site for the game.

Reading The Trouble with Rose by Todd Zircher

As I’m working with the print release of The Daughters of Verona I keep hearing echoes of other games from last year’s GameChef. Forsooth! and The Play’s the Thing are already available in print, and Todd Zircher keeps updating and doing supplements for his game The Trouble with Rose. Let’s take a closer look.


The book
The Trouble with Rose is a 17 page PDF, layout in a two column landscape format. On some pages the layout makes the lines a bit on the long side, but since it is a very short game it’s not much of a problem. There are a few illustrations to lighten up the text a bit.

The setting
The game comes with thirteen one paragraph mini settings for the players to flesh out during play. They cover a wide range of styles, instead the elusive Rose character provides a red thread for the game No matter what the setting is, there is Rose, and Rose is in trouble. The stories of the player characters’ revolve around them helping or hindering the NPC Rose.

The rules
The game uses very simple character sheets with name, short description and six traits/attributes. By highlighting the attributes in play the players score points. There are no mechanisms for task or conflict resolution, the game relies entirely on free narration.

The form
The Trouble with Rose is a GM less game where the players take turns framing scenes for their own characters. Each player holds a hand of dominoes, and in their scenes they play one tile to indicate which of the six attributes they will try to highlight in the scene. The other players will play NPCs or their own characters in the scene, and then vote on how well the scene setting player acted the attributes. The player with the most points at the end is the winner.

Conclusion
The setting is poor, the players will have to make their own at the start of play. This should not be a problem to most groups, and for those who want more details Todd has posted several play sets with more detailed settings and pre gen characters.
The rules are OK, it’s a competitive game in the free narration style, and the rules won’t get in the way.
The form is very good, the text is clear on how the game should be played. There’s an example of play that illustrates how a scene is played and scored.

Will I play it?
Maybe, but probably not. Especially not with the competitive element, which I think might distract from the story telling. Still, it’s a quick and easy way of getting a game going, as long as you have your dominoes available.

www.tangent-zero.com/trouble.htm – The Trouble with Rose, where both the game and supplements can be downloaded.

Reading Monsterhearts by Joe Mcdaldno

It’s been a while since my last update here. While I haven’t been away from gaming, I haven’t done much reading of games lately. Other aspects of the hobby have taken my time; I have been running a hacked Swords & Wizardry campaign, visited the Norwegian RPG con Holmcon and done a whole lot of podcasting on Nordnordost (some of the episodes are in English). I have also been waiting for Joe’s game Monsterhearts, I chipped in on the Kickstarter and have followed the updates with great interest since.

The game was released late yesterday evening, and I devoured it this morning before breakfast.

The book

Monsterhearts

Monsterhearts

I got the PDF version of the game, it’s a 160 page file laid out in single column 5.50 × 8.50 pages. So a little smaller than the usual 6×9 format, but not by much. The text is very friendly and accessible, I found it a lot easier to follow than the ancestor Apocalypse World. Yes Monsterhearts is based on Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World, sharing the same core rules but it is a stand alone product.

Monochrome photo manipulations done by Joe are used to illustrate the text.

The setting
The setting isn’t very detailed, there’s some sort of vague assumption that the game will be set in the present day, but nothing would have to be changed to play in a historical period, or sci-fi setting. Instead the focus is put on the PCs, they are troubled teenagers who are monsters, and have sex. The game focuses on the interactions between the PCs.

The rules
The basic resolution mechanic of the game is very simple. Roll 2d6, apply any modifiers from stats or conditions, a sum of 7-9 is a partial success, 10+ is a complete success, and 6 or lower is a failure. Around this mechanic an elaborate social conflict mechanic has been built, where the PCs have strings attached both to other PCs and to NPCs. The strings can be used to manipulate the other characters, or to gain advantages/bonuses.

The game comes with a set of character classes, called skins. E.g. Werewolf, Vampire, Witch, each adds some special rules that only apply to that class, including a mechanical effect for what happens when a character of that class has sex.

The form
Monsterhearts uses the traditional setup with a GM and a group of players, playing a single character each. The players and the GM both follow the rules of the game, but the mechanisms are asymmetrical, the players follow one set which models stuff characters do, and vice versa.

Conclusion
The setting is OK, there’s not much detail. But if everyone buys into the general idea of playing teenage monsters who have sex, it should not be hard to fill in the blanks as you go.
The rules are good, they model the interactions in an interesting way.
The form is good. Both GM and players get very clear instructions on how the game should be played. There’s no intro adventure or anything like that, due to the way the character focused play is set up, but there are clear instructions for the GM on how to do everything from preparing the table, to leading the players through character generation, to finally running the game.

Will I play it?
Yes, I want to play this. A more difficult question is if I’d like to run Monsterhearts, the required GM style is very different from how I usually do things. From what I’ve read and heard from people who have been playing Apocalypse World or Monsterhearts is that it works very well in actual play. But I wonder if the style leads to players feeling that the rules get in the way of the story, or that the rules generate cool stories.

buriedwithoutceremony.com/monsterhearts/ – The official Monsterhearts page

Reading 44 – A Game of Automatic Fear by Matt Snyder

It’s Christmas Day, all presents have been opened and everyone here is relaxing. I decided to dive into the folder with PDF games I have acquired during the last year and see if I could find any gems for next year’s gaming. First, I read 44 by Matt Snyder.

The book
44 is 37 pages in the usual 6×9 format.44 cover The text is formated in a single column, but very heavy with rules terms, it took longer than expected to get through. There are a few small pictures in the margins.

The setting
The game’s setting is the US in the fifties, and one by one Section 44 is replacing the people with robot replicas. The PCs stumble across the truth and are targeted for replacement, and the game takes it’s beginning.

The rules
The rules are focused on tracking the struggle between the PCs (trying to survive) and the Director (trying to replace the PCs with robots). PCs have dice pools for Resolve, Contact and Material, and roll them against the Director’s pools to resolve conflicts. The system covers allies and friends, called Bonds, that the PCs can draw help from in the form of bonus dice. But doing so exposes them to danger, and they risk being converted to robots in service of the Director. Everything is geared towards promoting paranoia and fear.

The form
The game has a GM (The Director) to play the opposition to the PCs. Play goes through a fixed number of scenes during which the PCs try to avoid being replaced by robots. Any players who fail, proceed to play their robotic counterpart and work on the GM’s side to convert the remaining PCs. Any PCs that remain human at the end of the game have won.

Conclusion
The setting is weak, besides the basic premise of a shady conspiracy that replace people with robots in the fifties there isn’t much setting in the game. However, if the players are willing to fill in the gaps along the way, it shouldn’t be a problem.
The rules are good, are focused and seem to model the PCs’ struggle well.
The form is good. Clear instructions are given to both the GM and the players. The GM is even given a ‘character sheet’ of his own to track his resources during play.

Will I play it?
Maybe. I think that the general paranoia feel of the game is awesome, and I’m a fan of similar fiction with movies such as The Faculty and The Invasion, and the brilliant Iron Empires comics.

On the other hand I wonder how relevant the GM really is to the game, at first glance it looks like we have a Vestigal GM on our hands. I.e. 44 might be a game where so much of the GM’s role has been automated and handed out to the other players, that it might as well be played as a GM-less game. Only very small adjustments are needed to play the game in the style of Polaris, with the GM’s tasks rotating among the players.

storiesyouplay.com/44/ – The official 44 page

Reading Silver and white by Jackson Tegu

Yesterday I stumbled across Jackson Tegu’s game Silver and white, and I can’t get it out of my mind. Let me share my thoughts on this game with you all.

The book
The game comes in a 36 page PDF, formatted to be printed into a small booklet. The text is single column and easy to read, the wording is poetic at times. Almost half the book consists of handouts to be cut out before play, so it is a very quick read.

Silver and white
The setting
The game’s intro reads as follows:

Four suburban teenagers encounter the mystery that
will shape their lives. They explore, and each time they
touch, we players exchange cards. For them a few days,
for us a few hours. We make up a story together, our
invented truths springing from the cards we hold; and
they step into the unknown, pausing at every awkward
touch, hopeful despite everything to come.

The game is about four teenagers who stumble across a dead man and a mystery, and the relationships between them.

The rules
The game comes with four semi-pre gen characters, the players pick one and make some minor tweaks to it before going into play. There are no rules for task or conflict resolution, only a card driven mechanic for directing the interactions between the characters.

The form
The game is GM less, and steps have been taken to make it as facilitator less as possible. The players read the rules together as part of the shared prep before the session. Every player controls an aspect of the setting, and as the cards trade hands during the interactions between the characters, that control also shifts among the players.

Conclusion
The setting is good, there isn’t much setting material in the game, but what there is is very evocative. The players will do a lot of filling in the blanks during play.
The rules are OK, I think. Trading cards during the character interactions, possibly trying to get a card with a good epilogue on it, feels a bit contrived. But there could be an emergent quality to the mechanism that I fail to see just in the read through.
The form is excellent, the game demonstrates excellent pedagogy of play. The GM/facilitator less setup makes me think I could put this on a table, and then send in a group of players to experience the game by themselves with only the briefest of introductions.

Will I play it?
Yes. The fixed requirement of four players may mean that it will take a while before I get a good opportunity to do so, but this is presently the number one game on my to-play list. I sense that the game would benefit from a translation into Swedish before play, to remove the distractions of constant translations, but it should be playable in the original English.

photographsoflightning.wordpress.com/silver-and-white – The official site, where the game can be downloaded.

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.

Conclusion
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.

www.blackgreengames.com/bti.html – The official site for the game.

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