Friday, September 25, 2015

Threeforged Game Thoughts: Part 3 (Final)

Here's the last of my #threeforged  impressions. I've gone over all of them, save for a handful I read but skipped commenting on. You can see the full list with downloads here. If you read at least five, you may vote. There's a G+ Community with reviews if you want to see some interesting critiques. Mine have been fleeting impressions, but others have dove in and thoroughly examined what's going on in the presentation. 

Now to try and figure out a top five. My current top 13 in no order. 
  • 15145 20.6 Miles
  • 15136 The World as Such
  • 15133 If At First You Don't Succeed
  • 15125 Pony Express
  • 15112 Anthill
  • 1582 Ad Libitum Absurdity
  • 1579 Conspiracy and Cowards
  • 1577 The Policy of Truth
  • 1559 Magical Mystery Tour
  • 1519 Fallen Sky
  • 159 It is Forbidden
  • 155 Ultranormal Encounters

That being said, there are a bunch of these games which would strongly benefit from workshopping after a revision. I think talking with other readers about what they understood as the intent and focus might help others solidify their vision.

My impressions Part One and Part Two.

1535 Flashback and Fate
Throughout these reviews, I’ve been a big believer in the power of the initial paragraph. If its fiction, it should be short and grabby, but still set the stage clearly. If it is explanation, it should invite me in and tell me what the hook is for the game and something about what we’re going to be playing as and/or doing. This bullet list might be informative, but it is off-putting. It feels like no effort went into synthesis and it doesn’t really help me grok what’s going on because of that. The weird parallel/non-parallel sentences feel messy.
I don’t think the list structure- carried throughout the game, has a connection to the theme, so I’m not sure why they’ve taken this approach.

Player/character confusion. Having done these kind of meta games before, you really have to lock that down. A lot of ideas and directions bundle together without clear transitions and connections. Just making it a list doesn’t mean you don’t have to consider how the reader moves between elements. Here’s another easily fixable thing, if you’re giving an example about Wild Card characters, don’t set that in the Wild West.

Too many admonitions before I even have a sense of what the game’s going to be like. I’m late in these reviews, so I just want to move on. Really needs a developmental editor to help smooth the presentation of ideas and information.

1534 Forgeborn
I like a non-hyphenated subtitle that gives a clear statement of the game. I like crafting systems and games- really excited to see what kind of subsystems they come up with for this. Die-drop map making- nice! I like rolls having value and position. Tactile! Cool- if a finished game the example images will be nice (and can show what’s meant by each term).

I get it, but probably need a little more clarification on the dice buys when first introduced. Marker for Heroine? Ah, not at the start? Have to recruit? Math. I need a math/system person to assess these probabilities and the dearness of dice. Not my wheelhouse.

So I love this BUT it seems very board-gamey. I’d like to see more rpg elements and have more discussion about how those are integrated with play. It feels like gloss here. It also feels very much like parallel play rather than a shared experience. I want to like this a lot more. I think I’d be interested in it, regardless of which direction the designers moved it: more fully a board game with some rpg elements, or more fully an rpg with some bg elements.

1533 Silver Tongues
More mechanized Munchhausen? Perhaps some explanation of the impact of the setting via World Building. What does that do? Why would players need to spend to modify things? Wow, you really throw the complicator in the deep end right away. What if they’re description doesn’t match the stat? Ugh popularity contest resolution. I have players who would hate that. There’s some interesting ideas here, but ultimately I think the competitive nature here puts it out of games I could get to the table. I’m uncertain if this game has too many rules (to keep track of everything) or too few (so you can get a victory spiral).

1532 House of Hades
Weird and evocative opening. I don’t know what we’re going to be doing, but the hooks short and enigmatic enough to grab me. “all encompassed by the grave” poetic or just misspeak? Wonk. Flavor history starts to bury me and we’re thrown back into the character creation process. “For each of the four character elements (places, things, actions, people), circle five of the ten possible symbols and write the number one next to each.” Is this defining terms , process or both? You completely refresh after a conflict, so you always want to play everything from your hand if you can, right? So it isn’t a choice but more a spatial matching problem. Death spiral for failure? Four rounds for the Oracle conflict?

There’s some interesting stuff here- and some mechanical choices I’ll want to see in play. The designers have a clear vision, though it isn’t a game I’d want to play.

1530 Q
I really hate darker page backgrounds. Especially against a font as thin as this body text. Four character and sheet filling out. Will need to time to see how long this takes. The longer this part takes, the higher the chance to different players finishing at different times (and then having them wait for the others to catch up). Lot of pressure on the bard without any real support beyond “tell a story.” Need some more material for them. Background, samples, etc. As it is, ends up being very generic. Literally a game about people telling a story.

1529 Psychic Detective Agency
Again, I’m not a LARP person, so I don’t feel qualified to judge this. I do like the idea of different players having different control over narrative periods. That sounds neat. Generally feels well-written.

1528 Untitled
May giving us a sense of what we’re actually playing? I mean what are we doing as players? Like to know early, especially given the darker tone of that opening. OK, I think there’s no GM, right? Not made clear. Do we need all of these questions? Can we tighten the Clinic list down to say five? Same thing with the staff. I like the hypothesis framing, but it looks like we’re doing a lot of work here. Again. Maybe over egging the pudding. Is there a way to tighten that?

Need a reference card for the scenes. I like this generally, but mostly for the concept and some of the play elements. My feeling overall is that things can be tightened across the board.

1527 Last Year’s Magic
There’s some funny bits in the opening, but it goes on a touch too long. And regardless of the humor, we need some kind of descriptive statement explaining what the game’s about. Call out box if you want it away from this color text.

“Just Roleplay.” How about some kind of conversation starters? Maybe give the players a little more structure or aid to get them started. There’s a lot left vague or unspecified here. “Folk interpretations.” Then moves to trick taking, but not connection between statements and cards played. Bad trick. It looks like it will work, but it doesn’t feel like there’s much meat on the bones here. I wouldn’t mind something with the flavor of The Face in the Frost, but this need further development.

1525 Space Problems Argh
The fragment sentence structure approach doesn’t feel informal or breezy to me, just incomplete. Why the full list when we can only be a few of them? Is it assumed we have this gear when we take that skill? Again, many things presented abruptly. There’s room for development and fleshing out. Why question marks on some of the victory conditions?

Are we rolling the initial problem details? Probably need to explicate that process. Overall I like this and it has potential. It’s held back by the outline approach and underdevelopment. Given more room to breathe and really thinking about how to present rules to readers (rather than just sketching things out) could make this strong.

1524 The Hot Seat
I’m going to hold off on reviewing this because I’ve been working on something close to it for a while.

1523 Timelines
OK, this needs a reduced list of point of references, to have the full list at the end, or both. Created in sequence or placed in sequence? Playing out instructions under “Let’s Start Playing” feels like “And then a Miracle Occurs.” If this is only an overview and we’ll get full instructions later, then it needs to be trimmed. If this is the total explanation- just roleplay- then it needs development.

Reminds me, tangentially, of Everyone is John. Does each Jamie incarnation need the full run of regrets? Why the switch in format between these regrets and the first set? Should/must these connect/not connect with the earlier regrets? Time travel is confusing. If that’s part of what this game is trying to emulate, then it succeeds.

Form of time travel seems really crucial, but left fuzzy. Mind sending, omniscient intervention, double selves. That impacts the narrative logic significantly. There’s a ton of great stuff here, but ultimately there’s a weird gap in the “just do it” discussion of the scenes. And then it gets super complicated. How would you go about explaining this to new players? What key ideas do the players have to grok?

1522 Untitled
Magical Burning of Moscow. Travelling game- I like that. Is this an adaptation or just a skin for an existing game? How should we consider that? Little for the players to build on in creating their characters. Probably need to offer more aid in that process. Ideas, suggestions, etc- or talk about how their choices shape the world they’re playing in. Stats, but effectively they’re all equal? Phrasing makes that a little confusing. Flaw or fault?

Formatting and typos distract here. 47 possible road day incidents. Lots of mechanics handwaved or not fully explained. Who narrates the results? Not immediately clear. Short and underdeveloped. Early on a suggestion that we’re going to have a fuller presentation of the base system? But then it just looks like the mechanics of the game. How is this distinct from the base system?

1519 Fallen Sky
An interesting idea. I’ve only seen two post-apocalyptic games with a strong Western flavor. Deadlands comes off as more horror and Helix comes off as more gonzo. Good opening material: sets stage and moves us on. In play will probably need a reference card for suits and actions. Some of the action groupings there aren’t intuitive for me. Like the character deck and drafting thing there. We do something like that with Action Cards.

OK, this is pretty awesome. Jumps into my top ten. Clean, clear and novel mechanics, a solid combination of background material and rules, letters home are pretty cool. Good balance of detail and imaginative space left to the players.

1518 The Prophet’s Price
Glad to see a citation for the art. Is that in CC now? Maybe clarify a little early the modern backdrop? As it is we don’t know that until the middle of page 3. It’s suit of cards, not suite, right? Or is there some specific use of the term for effect happening here? Maybe not the best thing to title a section with the name of a Major Arcana immediately after the section explaining meanings. My mind immediately thought this was defining the card’s symbology, but we’d moved on to another topic. Italics for titles helps in reading: The Prophet’s Price.

There’s a good deal of material here and it hits many heavy ideas in succession. Need to fix some of the distraction typos and look to how you can format this to aid the reader in following the ideas. It seems like a good editor and some workshopping could help condense some of the ideas down here. They need to be further distilled. Seems like the backdrop’s generic. That works against the material, given that we’re trying to grasp some really abstract ideas. Examples and concrete details would help.

1517 Voyage of the Promethean
There’s a casual tone in the intro that I assume is going to carry through the game. Slacker space travelers, man, amirite?

How much is messiness just because it’s messy and how much deliberate presentation. Hard to judge and I think that might be an obstacle for the reader. "Set Up" just seems loose for example, rather than the playful tone of the opening. How many questions to answer? How long will that take? Character vs. character roles: be precise when you’re throwing terms around.

Torn on how much forward the references should be here. Do we need some explanation of the (parenthesis) or the matched flaw? Inbred doesn’t sound good.

How the system works needs more fleshing out. Confusing and hard to piece together on a read right now. In part because I’m still reeling from the new terms from before. Now we’re getting even more. Mood comes really late after it’s been referenced quite a bit. There’s some interesting ideas here, though it feels generic in places. The roles seem cool and like they’re the place where the game wants to convey setting. But a chunk of it feels rushed- certainly examples would help throughout.

Also my initial impression that we were taking a slacker tone (ala Red Dwarf or the like) in the intro doesn't play out in the rest of the material. That makes the intro just messy.

1513 Blue Shift
OK those images are annoying. I assume that’s an error introduced later. The text ran over the art, but I turned on the word wrap and moved some of them. Now it’s cool- especially since they cite sources.

Nice, cleaner statement of play at the start. Intriguing as comedy can be really hard. It think the only comedy rpgs I like the humor of are TfOS and Ghostbusters.

If we’re presenting some logic to the garbage problem, then better answer the “why not throw it into sun?” question. I am, unfortunately getting flashbacks to the terrible Human Occupied Landfill game. Or Low-Life? Some word drops here. Page three and we’re still getting background. Twist, twist, twist. Quintuple mumbo jumbo.

Character creation requires some wacky, lateral thinking. Connections and secret shift tone? How necessary these elements? Any direction we should be steering those creation elements toward- advice on best practices? The examples have a pvp element. Is that encouraged? There’s a good deal of “And then a miracle occurs” in the scene material, but less than other games so far. The picking mechanic for dice seems really wonky and arbitrary. If our reasoning is “well, they need to play to the spirit” then why have an involved resolution system? If we want choices and simulation, then having it be this open seems to work against it.

The setting’s really interesting and I dig the premise. I’m not taken by the mechanics and that’s too bad. It’s another case where workshopping to pull out the designers’ intent might help.

1512 Anonym
“Let’s get this out of the way” opens with a slightly antagonistic tone? Is that going to carry through the game. This is the first thing we see: why? What’s the logic of presenting this first and taking that voice?

OK that’s a shaggy dog idea that takes a while to come around. This is how we create characters- wait. No. We’ll come back to that. Strange order of information. We have some sarcastic asides and tone bits, but they’re infrequent. Makes me unsure what tone this wants.

Character creation sheet. That’s a funny joke. But I don’t want to do that. Outside my wheelhouse. I can already imagine some of the problems we’d have. I have some players who read very slowly, while others rush through. Here’s the thing, there’s a tone here that reminds me of Time & Temp, but the earlier bits don’t sync up with this.

1511 Galactic Arena
Opening states ideas, but sentence structures need examination. I understand the peer pressure reference is a joke, but it lands flat. Until everyone has written something on each card? Do we need that many? Can we duplicate events on the cards? How long will this creation process take? For a one-shot, it’s taking a long time to get to character creation. Ways to mechanize and/or speed this up?

Is there a reason you wouldn’t take the highest, given that the rules make mention of this? Interesting use of the Moves. Curious if some of those are significantly more worthwhile. Interesting overall, but I want to see more.

1510 Damned
No citation or references given for images.

159 It is Forbidden
Images are clearly older, out of copyright, but probably ought to cite sources? Guides for the questioning process to establish the premises?

OK. This is pretty great. Solid, well-written and it deals with questions I had right away. Looks cool and I would definitely play this.

156 The Deep
Another game where the heading font comes through as some kind of unreadable gothic text. “2 to 5 man game”- be careful about gender exclusive language. Confused in the synopsis- takes a moment to catch that The Deep isn’t referring to space, but some kind of phenomena. Some typos here that interfere with the reading; a good edit should help fix some of this. Overall really needs a good pass through or two in skilled hands to make it smoother.

There’s some real confusion in the explanations. We start with exceptions and sub-details before establishing main concept. Bullet list doesn’t work here: break up the steps to make going through easier. Right now it is a jumble of text. Some weird off references. There’s a lot of colorful setting ideas early and then “the Gm just makes stuff up” when we get to play. Resolution system seems OK. I’m not fond of the pvp elements here.

155 Ultranormal Encounters
I dig interview style games (like Penny for Your Thoughts or inTERRORgation). Playsets, ok that’s cool. I like the idea of card draw for modifying the basic facts: good combination of structure and collaboration. And we have parallelism with the character creation material. Nice! Good structure for the Questioner/Agents. Wow. Cool method for play passing.

Solid. Good game. Want to see the fleshed out version.

153 Double Potions
Full circle. When we first got access to these games, I opened and read this one. Now, having gone through all the rest I come back to it.

Since I first read this, I’ve picked up the Alchemists board game, so I have that in the back of my head. Well, that plus the other various HP games in the competition. Are the specializations examples or do they cover the whole spectrum. At least simple cc. Players taking role of the opposition in other players’ scene. No mechanical resolution. Purely subjective, perhaps some cut off mechanism? Bag drawing- worried about the fiddyness. Ah, the “You” here means the group and not the individual players. Potion process itself: need to see that actually played out. Verdict is wholly arbitrary? Doesn’t seem like a good payoff.

Feels boardgame-y. Maybe could be shifted to emphasize those elements? Something like a storytelling hybrid (ala Tragedy Looper?).

...and done. 

 You can see the full list with downloads here. If you read at least five, you may vote.