Category Archives: Play

That Jigsaw Game!

ThatJigsawGameBannerRough

A new idea

A few weeks ago I was struck with a simple idea for a board game that very quickly developed into what I hope is a viable product.

I had been reading about map-colouring games after taking one of my periodical looks into game theory a subject that I find fascinating. I think this created some connections in my mind about tile-laying and space claiming games which I had not thought of before.

So the idea is relatively simple, each player has a collection of jigsaw pieces that they take turn placing until there is not a suitable place for them to lay them anymore. The last player to play a piece would be the winner. The tactile and physical nature of a jigsaw piece would mean that it would be clear which pieces can neighbour each other and which can’t. Also, they would be familiar in most players’ hands, and the connections would hold the pieces together.

When creating games like this I usually like to explore all possibilities that make sense within the system. A normal jigsaw piece has four sides that are each either positive or negative, i.e. sticking out or going into the main body. Avoiding repetition due to rotational symmetry this gives six types of pieces, two sets can be seen in this picture.

PaperPrototype

As the initial idea was for a two-player abstract game, I would require a game board that could fit 12 pieces in total. A 3×4 size seemed as good as any.

I created a quick prototype of the game using cardboard and a marker pen. The dots represent positive connections and the blanks negative connections. This is an example of a two player game with the paper prototype.

PaperProtoExample

I played the game a few times by myself, I was interested to see how difficult it was to not play all the pieces in to the board. I then tested it with a colleague over lunch. My students were away (I often playtest with them) so I had to find some other ways to playtest the idea, if I didn’t want to wait weeks for them to return.

First paper playtests

I looked online and came across Playtest UK, a group that has open meet-ups across the UK for game designers to test their board and card games with other designers. It turned out there was a session the next day so I booked up straight away. (I later realised they had multiple playtests every week, so there’s nearly always one happening or about to happen).

Taking the original paper prototype I played a couple of games with the group. There seemed like there was potential but playing with cards with dots and blanks made it awkward.

Making it more real

I then started working in Adobe Illustrator to make jigsaw piece shapes ready to be laser cut. The most interesting thing for me to consider here is the shape of the piece. There is a risk when making a jigsaw piece that the surface area of the shapes vary considerably between pieces with all positive connections and those with negative connections. This is a basic example of a jigsaw piece, to me it doesn’t seem balanced.

bad_puzzle_piece

To overcome this you can shift the form of the sides, where the jigsaw is negative you can push the form of the piece outwards. This helps create a better balance of surface area across shapes, as seen in this shape I created for my jigsaw pieces.

22neat

Through doing this process I realised that I could use the notion of jigsaw pieces to form the frame for the game, this way it is possible to change the size of the frame for the number of players.

Open playtesting

I took this to the next Playtest session, and it went a lot better, the form was intuitive to play with and the rules simple to grasp. I was then invited to attend an open playtest session at Draughts a board gaming cafe in Hackney, London.

This session went really well. One group played multiple sessions with different player counts for over an hour, another played a few three player games. I played a few games with some of the other people showcasing their game, this time with four players and a different position player won each time (something I was concerned about and something that came back later).

Examples of two player and four player games.

A problem arises

I happened to be attending a colloquium in Athens, XXI Board Game Studies Colloquium 2018. This was my fifth time presenting at one of these events, and I often take new prototypes with me to play.

A few sessions in and something started to happen. The last player always seemed to win. It did not matter the number of players. The only way this seemed not to happen was if the final player made a glaringly bad play.

Athens IMG_4827

This was frustrating, I thought I’d cracked a game really quickly, but this appears not to be the case.

Despite this issue, the physical act of playing the game was pleasant. The pieces felt nice to hold, the colours work well together, placing the pieces felt nice and watching the board slowly fill all were enjoyable. The distinct problem being it didn’t work as a game.

Testing, adapting, testing, adapting

Continuing in the positive fortune of creating this game, straight after XXI BGSC I was heading to Berlin for A-Maze. A-Maze is a fantastic event, well worth attending. I started playing That Jigsaw Game with a friend discussing the problems I was having. A-Maze being a festival filled with games developers and designers, it wasn’t long before people started asking about the game and making suggestions on how to overcome the problem.

Things that were tried:

  • You can’t lay next to your own colour.
  • You have to create the largest area of your own colour pieces.
  • Changing the frame to a square.
  • Changing the number of negative and positive bits in the frame.
  • Changing the order of play based on the current number of positive bumps of each colour currently on the board
  • Using the frame pieces to block, in a completely freeform game.

Experiment IMG_4850

Nothing seemed to work, the games were either too complex, still had an obvious dominant starting position, or just ended in draws all the time.

The problem

The issue with the original rule set is that the last player in the round will win nearly all the time. The solution seems like it could be in changing the order of play. However, this need has to be balanced with the original simplicity of the game, something that I want to keep.

The play order shouldn’t be random either, the players should have control of it. It’s a matter of striking the balance between being easily deterministic who will win and being a game were players have control.

The next step

I have one next adaptation I want to try.

Giving each piece a value between 1 and 3. This value will determine who plays next, the turn moves to player who is that value of spaces away from the current player.

Hopefully this may solve the problem, without being overly complex for players to implement, by adding one additional rule.

Advertisements

144 New Ways to Play Chess Without Wanting to Win

Chess is an old game with rules that have only changed very slightly throughout the centuries. Here I have created 12 different play styles to use while playing Chess. Using these play styles you will be able to experience chess in a new ways.

The focus of these play styles is not necessarily about winning in the usual sense, but creating different narratives and choices within the game. Each of the twelve options below are designed to embody characteristics of varied approaches to conflict.

As there are 12 new methods of playing and 2 players, there are 144 new potential ways to play. Whilst playing try to envision and understand the actions and choices that you are making and how they embody the style and methodologies of conflict. Remember the goal of these games is not necessarily to win but to experience Chess in a different light.

Play Styles: Each Player Pick One

Before starting the game of chess each player should select one of the following play styles (listed below) by either blindly drawing a chess piece from a bag, rolling a 12-sided dice or selecting one that takes your fancy. Once you have selected your play style play chess following the usual rules for movement and capture.

1. Pawn – White: The pawns serve one purpose, to sacrifice themselves for the noble houses represented in the army. They march gladly into war to protect your names, heritage and family lines. Avoid the death of the noble families who stand at the rear of the battle field commanding lesser folk as they should.

2. Pawn – Black: Your pawns are your most important pieces, they represent the people of your country, it is you duty to protect them at all costs.

3. Rook – White: Only cowards hide in the shadows, be bold and open place your army in the centre of the field boast of your upcoming moves, it shall make no difference as you are righteous.

4. Rook – Black: You are sly, you are cunning, stick to the edges of the board in the shadows until it is time to strike your enemy.

5. Knight – White: The enemy colour is so abhorrent in your eyes that you avoid to stand any of your own army on that colour, even if it would be tactically wise to so.

6. Knight – Black: The Knights are the most glorious combatants, do not upstage them by allowing other units to take a killing blow, do all you can to protect them. Their glory is your glory.

7. Bishop – White: For your previous actions in previous battles you seek penance, you deserve to be punished, place your army and yourself in harms way, but do not seek to harm others. You can be absolved of your sins.

8. Bishop – Black: War is cruel and there are no true winners, avoid doing harm or having harm done to you at all cost. Talking is the way forward, perhaps a truce can be struck if your enemy is also wise.

9. Queen – White: An eye-for-an-eye, those that do harm to you must be punished directly and immediately for their crimes, above all else. Only this way can we restore justice to the world.

10. Queen – Black: Defence is the best form of attack, make sure you and your army are strongly protected from any assault. It is better to be alive and thought of as cowardly, than in a grave.

11. King – White: You are strong, there is no stopping you, death or glory is the only way to act when in combat. When ever there is opportunity you must strike at any cost striking fear into your enemies heart.

12. King – Black: There is honour in combat, prove yourself by only attacking enemies with identical types of unit, this way we know the battle is fair even if our enemy does not play by the rules.

 

Gamification is an Ugly Word

img_3653

I was recently asked to create a workshop for a conference that would introduce a small group (around 25) to concepts of play for work. Over the last few years I have come to dislike words like gamification, edutainment, or serious games, and what they stand for, but had not really spent much time thinking about why.

There is this idea that if only we could make things which we are not motivated to do more fun, then we would want to do them more. Also games are fun, people often like playing games. So therefore we should make: work, training, learning, education, study, eating well, and exercise more like games, then they will be fun too, and we will enjoy doing them. At least that’s what the plan usually is.

The issue is not only that the execution of this concept is poorly done, but there are often more fundamental issues with it in the first place. Not every task is suited for being made a game of. However, amongst all the mess, there are some good examples of games being used in serious ways, which I will try to highlight later on.

So, I had to prepare a workshop, but I didn’t want it all to be negative, I wanted there to be some positive outcomes for the people who attended. It was also important for me that they went away with more than a simplified idea of how games and work can be mixed.

I observed that there are four broad approaches to mixing work and play, each with their benefits and issues in different amounts. I will go through them one at a time, giving the example of the activity I had the attendees of the workshop complete.

1. Rewards, Badges, Points and Medals.

This is the easiest way to gamify any activity. When tasks are completed, the player is awarded a small reward. The more tasks completed the more rewards are gained. Players can compete with each other to see has the most rewards, encouraging engagement with the game.

It is possible to add timing, reminders, and a little bit of randomness to increase the engagement of the players, see Skinner Box and Operand Conditioning if you are interested in learning more and research out from there, also look at the free-to-play mobile gaming market.

The activity: When the participants entered the room, an equal mixture of black and blue chairs were set out, there were more seats than participants. The group was split into two teams. Each team was tasked with gathering and stacking all the chairs of their teams colour to the side of the room, maximum stack size of five chairs.

Stickers were rewarded for certain tasks completed.

  • First chair moved.
  • Third chair moved.
  • Placed the last chair on the stack.
  • Placed the last chair on the stack three times.
  • On the team that stacked all their chairs the quickest.

Thoughts: The participants did not really enjoy staking chairs, and could see they were being manipulated.

In situations where the person wants to achieve something, is capable of achieving it, but perhaps is not intrinsically motivated to do something, rewards can potentially help. Also, if the activity is optional and engaging, this additional motivation can help. The issue is being forced into a system of rewards and being manipulated, or being told something is now fun because of stickers. Another issue is that people can become reliant on extrinsic rewards. Removing these reward risks removing the desire to complete the original task, even in cases where the person originally enjoyed the task itself.

2. Incidental Outputs of Game are Work

This is a little harder to describe, but the idea is as follows. Sometimes when playing a game, things which are not a major aspect or goal of the game also occur. If the game can be created in such a way that these outcomes are useful, then they could potentially be harnessed for work. For example, although Civilization (Sid Meier) does not explicitly test your knowledge of history, players often get a better grasp of historic events and time periods. Pokémon GO, asks you to collect Pokémon, but to do so successfully requires you to walk around (there are also motivations of play more similar to 1. within Pokémon GO). A really good example of this is how playing games can reduce pain felt (google: reduce pain with games). These games are not designed as training tools for not feeling pain but simply playing games in itself is distracting/engaging enough for it to work.

The activity: I had the participants play Connect-4 with the chairs, placing them in turn into the room. Although the group is focussing on trying to win the game, the nature of the activity means that the chairs were placed in such a way that they could be used as seating again, i.e. returning them to a state similar to when they entered the room.

Thoughts: The participants enjoyed this activity a lot more, however, they noted that it was not an efficient way of completing the task. In general it would have perhaps been a better use of their time to just get the job done, and then move on to something else. The other issue is, an example with placing chairs was relatively easy to determine a game for, but coming up with a truly engaging game with incidental outputs for many jobs, tasks or training would be quite a difficult feat of design.

3. Layered Gaming

In 2. the issue was designing a game that had in game incidental outputs that equated to the none engaging work that was original required. The idea of layered gaming is to further separate the game and the work. Have a game which can be played in parallel to work, an alternative reality that is happening in the same space and time. Depending on the type of work which is required the game must be selected so that it does not interfere with it directly. So whilst doing physically intensive work a thoughtful word or memory game could be played, or vice-versa.

The activity: Whilst stacking the chairs away for the second time, each player was given two scrabble tiles. The players had to form groups which would create the longest work. All players in the group with the longest words would be declared the winners.

Thoughts: In this instance this lead to quite a bit of distraction and not a whole lot of stacking chairs. With more consideration between the choice of game and the work/training activity I think there could be potential in the idea. The difficulty is making the game not interfere negatively with the original task.

4. Just Play

One option, and probably the simplest, is just to make time to play and games. I find it a good way for people to get to know each other. Games allow interaction through systems, and give space for people to both talk about something specific (the game) and about other things in between. There is also opportunity to not say anything and just engage with the game, meaning long awkward silences are far less likely. Finally, games create stories and moments that people can relate to later, and in the case of non-digital games people have to share a space.

The activity: For this example we played a variation of Lemon Joust a game brought to the world by Minkette. Players each balance a lemon on a wooden spoon. When the game begins the players attempt to knock off other players’ lemons with their spoon. Players who have their lemon knocked off are eliminated, the winner is the last remaining player with a lemon on their spoon.

Thoughts: The majority of the participants seemed to enjoy playing or watching the game. This method of just allowing play seems the most honest and least manipulative of the four suggestions. Not to say there are not certain scenarios where each could be appropriate, if well developed. This method is probably the cheapest, but for some reason perhaps the hardest to justify as there is no work being done. All you need to do is a little research and identify some great games for groups of people. With the recent resurgence in board, card and party games there are plenty to choose from. Check out ShutUpAndSitDown for some ideas of games to play.

Final thoughts

Overall I believe the workshop was a success, the participants seemed to enjoy it and gave positive feedback. Of the four activities, lemon joust and connect-4 were the most popular.

There is clearly a spectrum of approaches to mixing games and work. All the way from having games and work embedded in the same system through to having them completely separate from each other.

There is plenty of challenges in making them work together well, and in some cases it may be worth it. However, in my opinion, both the cheapest, simplest and most honest solution is to just create time for play and games, as a different activity to work. This way, there is clearly no manipulation and those that do not want to participate do not have to.

Argh, Who am I?! – Playtests & Hiatus

I’ve had chance to playtest Argh, Who am I?! a couple more times and have decided to put it on hold for now, however it may come back in another form. Here are some of my reflections on the last two playtests.

Playtest with my MA students

The first of the two most recent playtests I learnt that players were quickly identifying who was telling the truth/lying and then narrowed down on who it was. I noticed that players were more likely to ask someone who was telling the truth, in order to avoid the mental anguish of dealing with untwisting lies.

ARGH1b

I decided to up the complexity and allow players both a chance to lie and tell the truth. To do this the players turn their cards upside down each time they’ve asked a question. This difference had an additional benefit of allowing for a mechanism for telling who had and had not being asked a question, meaning no player was left out from asking or answering a question.

Thanks to Hadeel, Tom, Sun, & Jai for playtesting.

Playtest with the Board Game Studies Colloquium

In the second of the two most recent playtests the upped complexity didn’t really add anything other than further confusion, which in this case isn’t really an interesting solution.

Players had fun, but I think the amusement came from coping with the mechanics rather than playing the game. This can be good in certain situations, like the weird mental block that occurs when matching pairs in Dobble, or racing against time trying to roll dice in Escape: Curse of the Temple. However, the connection did not feel right in this instance.

Thanks to Ralf, Jacob, Tom & Tiago for playtesting.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall the game had two parts that didn’t connect very well. First was working out who was telling the truth or lying and the second narrowing down to the card you’re holding. Players would start the game, in brain twisted confusion, then clarity, then finish with systematic logic. I think there perhaps needed to be a less linear relation between these two parts.

For some reason lying as an answer was difficult to do. First the question had to be assessed, then check for a yes/no answer and then potentially reversed. This process just seemed more tasking than it aught to be. There was a few times where players got confused and gave the wrong answer (including myself).

In the end the game play had very little interesting choice, much possibility for strategy or fun inherent in the game play. The players were told whether to lie or tell the truth. On reflection I think lying is more likely to be amusing when you can be caught out, and there’s a risk/reward tied to this.

An Observation

The most interesting thing that arose from the games was the possibility for ambiguous answers and questions, and the possibility of players disagreeing with each other about the answers.

For example:

  • Someone asked if they were alive or dead, when they were holding a robot card.
  • Someone asked if they were magical, when they were holding a zombie card.

Both these questions gained different responses within the groups. Perhaps there is something in this, an idea for another game. For now at least the game where you don’t know your own identify is on hold.

 

Argh, who am I?! – Revision and Playtest 2

I made some revisions to both the cards and rules for Argh, who am I?!

Previous Posts: Argh, who am I?! v1 rulesMaking of, Playtest 1.

IMG_2875.JPG

Changing the Card List

The card list has been expanded and changed from all Hollywood monsters:

  • Frankenstein’s Monster
  • Mummy
  • Skeleton
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Fish Person
  • Zombie
  • Ghost

To a range of people/things:

  • Alien
  • Robot
  • Pirate
  • Ninja
  • Cowboy
  • Demon
  • Angel
  • Zombie
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Santa Clause
  • Tooth Fairy
  • Easter Bunny

This should now allow the players to narrow down their potential character card in a larger range of ways, similar to 20 Questions.

Changing the Rules

The first set of rules I wanted to change from version 1 of the game, was the question and statement section. The answering back and forth was messy.

The main issue I was trying to avoid with the original rules was that as soon as the players realise that one player is telling the truth (or lies) they become the most reliable source and there is no reason to ever ask anyone else a question. By giving the player who is asked a question some power, it reduces the chance of this happening. In changing this aspect I did not want to lose the freedom of the players to ask whoever they wanted a question.

There were a number of possible work arounds which I considered:

  1. Every player must be asked at least one question before, players can be asked another question. This at first seems a fair method however it has a downside in terms of elegance. The players will require an additional token or card to remember who has and has not been asked a question. Additionally, the first player will get to ask their choice of all other players whilst the last player will not get a choice, every round. This could be solved by skipping the first player of the previous round to change the first player for the current round. Balancing out in the end. All this adds a lot of additional components and rules for a relatively small game.
  2. Players who are asked a question get to ask the next question, and must ask someone else. Players in this case have to balance asking someone who they know is telling truth/lies with giving them the power to ask another question about their own card. In this manner the game should self balance. One issue might be that players may realise the point at which someone has worked out their own card and therefore not ask them a question again, so they cannot declare. To get round this a player could declare at any point.

Of these I selected the second option.

Changing the Setup

Another issue that needed resolving was the length of the game, which for its type was possibly too long. Also there was difficulty in knowing what the cards were in the deck, so you could work out who are or are not. A problem exacerbated by the newly increased character list.

This was solved with a simple setup rule change.

  • The entire deck of cards is shuffled.
  • Cards are laid face up, one at a time, in a grid.
  • Any time a card matching an existing grid card is found it is added to the play-deck. Therefore, mixing the matching truth and lies cards between grid and play-deck randomly.
  • Once the grid and play-deck both contain one of each character type, the play-deck is shuffled again.
  • Each player takes one card from the play-deck.
  • Players help each other orientate their cards correctly.
  • The game begins.

So, although the list of characters is longer, the actual play-deck is smaller than the original version. Additionally there is no need for reference cards for the player as setting up the game creates a grid reference for all the players. There is also now no repeating of the same characters.

Playtest 2

I took the new cards and rules to my monthly board game meet-up and played a couple of games.

The first game went ok, but there was a weakness found in the system. Once someone had identified who they were once, and therefore had the most cards, they could keep randomly guessing to diminish the deck and win with their single card.

The second game we removed this issue, if you’re wrong when you declare you are removed from the game. However if you’re the first person to declare correctly you win. This added a nice layer of tension, do you risk guessing early without all the information but with good odds, or do you risk waiting and someone else guessing first. It also reduced the playtime to a nice length for the style of game.

I did however get confused with the truth and lies, and double negatives at one point, giving a player some incorrect information.I handled it in that moment with a friendly apology, however, this is something that needs consideration in the future.

We played with a relatively large group of people and at times I noticed that some were being left out more than others, so further testing is required for different group sizes.

Once the game was reduced to two/three players the game play changed. For two players it is impossible to have the don’t question back rule.

Thanks to the Playtesters: Ricky, Robin, Patrick, Jonathon, Jazz, David & Peter.

What’s next?

  • I am going to have another look at balancing the character list, so it doesn’t swing too heavy in any sub-genre’s favour.
  • I need to test it a lot more times with different group sizes, and different deck sizes.
  • I’m interested to see if I can expand the deck, but add an additional stage to the set-up which removes a number of cards depending on how many players and how difficult the players want the game to be. This might need a little bit of math to get to a nice starting point but will be ultimately balanced in playtesting.
  • Consider testing the other rules variation with the additional tokens, to see how it feels.

Can I get the new cards?

I’m going to hold off uploading the new cards for a little while until the game has settled and I have time to do some more placeholder art rather than just text titles.

Argh! Who am I? – Playtest

ArghWhoAmICardPic

Finally got round to playtesting Argh! Who am I?! this week, you can read about the making of it here. Although the general feel and mechanics of the game was good there were some issues which need improving on.

1. The playtime was a little long for the type of game it is.

This could be relatively easy to solve on it’s own, the answer would be to simply reduce the number cards in the play session. So instead of removing only 1 card at the beginning of the game, you could remove three. However, I feel there is more to this issue.

2. The fish-man was the least interesting character to talk about.

This is likely because there is less popular culture about the fish-man monster when compared to vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc. The answer is remove it, or find a replacement. Doing this would actually help neatly with issue 1.

3. It is difficult to keep coming up with interestingly differences between the characters.

One issue might be the range of characters, in the first version of the game they are all classic monster tropes. This means all of them are already grouped by one sort of characterisation, removing the opportunity to explore. This could be resolved by increasing the number of groups in the set, i.e. sci-fi characters, fantasy characters, monsters, etc and reducing the number from each set.

4. Giving a true information, is very precise. Giving a false information is vague.

Once someone was found to be giving the true statements, players who had lying cards could abuse the imbalance of power between the two. There’s 8 characters, so the player eliminating the options through negative comments are at a distinct disadvantage. In short, the difference between having a truth card and a liar card are too great. By reconsidering the objects/characters on the card this could be improved. For example if instead of characters there were objects which were a set of binary choices:

  • Black / White
  • Round / Square
  • Edible / Non-edible

e.g.

  • 8 ball – black, round, non-edible
  • slice of bread – white, square, edible

If I ask am I round, and I know if you are lying or telling the truth, then I can deduce the truth relatively easily. However, this really reduces the number of questions which are usable, and the game is significantly reduced in terms of creativity and free thinking. This idea is part way to a potential solution but not the full answer. Each character card needs similarity with some of the other cards but not with all the other cards.

Other ideas for variations

Whilst thinking about these issues I came up with a few ideas for the game that I need to consider for a little bit before making the next version. Some of them should be easy to test, just by varying the rules.

  • When you ask a question everyone else answers. Removes the need for a statement.
  • Players with liar cards, can both lie and tell the truth. Add some chance for deviance, will depend on what the items are on the cards whether or not this is suitable.
  • After a player is asked a question, they cannot be asked another question until everyone else has been asked. Removes the need to give a statement. Requires a neat way of keeping track of this.
  • Have players create their own cards, i.e. the backs follow truth and lies but the characters / items are decided by the group who play. This adds another element of creativity to the game.

The big question – what or who do I put on the cards?

The main issue I need to consider is what it is that goes on the cards in the first place. Monsters was a quick idea I had and it worked well enough for the playtest, but I feel that this is the thing that needs changing, it’s also the most time consuming thing to do, both in thinking and time spent creating cards that are nice enough to play with.

Thinking about the theme of the game might help, mechanically it’s about truth, lies and deduction, which sounds a little like a murder mystery. Perhaps you’re removing suspects, finding locations and looking for specific objects. Not sure how all this ties in with not being able to see what you’re holding, but their could be an answer somewhere.

Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne at London Indie RPG Meetup Group

photo 2

Last night I made my way to the London Indie RPG where six of us decided to give Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne (Pomey Crew Design, @PompeyCrewDesig) a go.

Witch: The Road To Lindisfarne is a GMless role-playing story game for 4-6 players.

In a single evening, players will collaborate to tell the story of the journey to a young woman’s absolution. They will explore the lingering pasts of a cast of characters, their relationships to each other, and decide their ultimate fates.

I heard about this game at an earlier London Indie Meet, and have since been looking for an opportunity to try it out. Since there were six of us, we had the full roster of characters, Elouise (the accused witch) and the troupe of five leading her from London to Lindisfarne, where she is to be burnt alive.

photo 1

I chose the character Ham, a greedy, twitchy and cowardly character. Throughout the game I tried to find the answer to my characters three questions.

  • Who is paying you to lead your companions?
  • Who makes you want to be a better person?
  • What offer would it take to betray your companions?

photo 3

One of the most interesting things about the game is that the player whose character is Elouise decides whether they are guilty or innocent at the beginning of the game, and a card representing this is placed in the centre of the table, under a larger card marked ‘The Truth’. This card is revealed in the penultimate part of the game, just before we hear what happens to our characters after the event at Lindisfarne.

Over four main Acts, we explored different locations on the route. Tied to each location was a mood guiding the feeling of the company. We, not purposefully, forgot about this aspect in our game, not that it seemed to matter much.

On the way our band dealt with bustling crowds in London, questioned party loyalties in Hangmman’s Wood, and dealt with a scene of a murder near Cliff Top Pass. It was also at Cliff Top Pass, that Ham had his most interesting moments. Whilst the other members were either away dealing with the scene of the murder or asleep around the campfire he spoke to Elouise and revealed that he had contracted the plague, (note: an important part of our story was that Elouise was accused of bringing the plague and one of the character’s sisters had also died from it). He bargained with Elouise to find him a cure, as she had some knowledge of herbs. She agreed but only promised to slow its progress and Ham set her loose in the woods to find the necessary ingredients.

When the alarm was raised at the camp by two of the other characters, they rushed to find the rest of the party at the murder scene. Upon their return to the campsite Elouise and Ham were back in the ‘rightful’ places and Ham concocted a story of kidnappers and bribes, only to line his own pocket further.

After some drama at Lindisfarne, one Knight refusing to carry Elouise to the pire, a squire admitting that it was his fault for the plague as he had renounced god, and Ham revealing he had been healed by Elouise by showing his scars where the boils were, we determined not to burn her. Which when we turned over the card in the centre turned out to be the right thing to do as she was innocent.

Ham returned home with heavy pockets of gold, falsely claimed for compensation for paying of the ‘kidnappers’ but vowed to change his ways after paying of his debts and getting his sister safely back to their homestead. It is here that is was revealed that Elouise was right and that she had only slowed to plague and not cured it, a couple of small boils remained on his back.

I really enjoyed the game we had, I think having a very tight structure for the game worked as there was still plenty of room for players to explore their characters relationships and history. I would be interested to see how the game plays with the same group, and how much variance their really is. However, it is clear that playing this with different groups would get different play experiences. Also its relative ease for setup and play compared to other games makes it great to play at short notice.