Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Awards

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Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Awards

Postby Epistolary Richard » 12:47am on 15 Dec 14

12:30pm
Microscope Chronicle (Ben Robbins) - James G +3
Night Witches (Jason Morningstar) - David +5
No Country for Old Kobolds (Steve Wallace) - Will +3
Saga of the Icelanders (Gregor Vuga) - Adam +4
Serpent's Tooth (Ross Cowman) - Rob +4

5pm
Atlas Reckoning (Stras Acimovic & Giacomo Vicenzi) - Andy +4
Intrepid Histories (John Keyworth) - John +2
Kaleidoscope (Jackson Tegu) - James T +4
Montsegur 1244 (Frederik J. Jensen) - Steph +5
Pulp World (?)- Dicey Dave +2
Saga of the Icelanders (Gregor Vuga) - Adam +4



Announcements

Graham is running a playtest of his new larp El Pulpo on Sunday at St.Cs.

Indiemeet finally transcends the need to play games for its first non-gaming Socialmeet on Tuesday at St.Cs.

The first meet of 2015 is the Midweek Meet at St.Cs on 7th Jan.

Followed by Newcomers meet on 10th Jan at The Rising Sun, Cloth Fair (*shock* different venue).

The first regular meet is 17th Jan at St.Cs.

& Congratulations to the Winners of the Second & Last London Indie Darling Awards

Indie Game Darling (the game played most at London Indiemeet) - Fiasco, by Jason Morningstar

Indie Designer Darling (the designer played most at London Indiemeet) - Jason Morningstar (Fiasco, Love in the Time of Seid, Night Witches)

Indie GM Darling (the member who facilitated the most games) - Rob Carnel (Abnormal, Becoming, Death of the Gilded Age, Home, Houses of the Blooded, Odyssey, Protocol, Section 44: Conspiracy of Automatic Fear, Slammin', Vast & Starlit, Wield)


Special awards
The Hugh Grant's phone award for the designer of the most hacked game - D. Vincent Baker, as 17 of our games this year were Powered by the Apocalypse

The Powered by the Apocalypse awards to those who best exemplified the PbtA maxim of 'To do it, do it' (i.e. if you want Indiemeet to do something, then go do it!) - Tom Pleasant and Anita Murray

The KFC award for the best franchise in another city - James Torrance and the Cambridge One-Shots

The Harvester of Souls award for outreach to the uninitiated - Steph Jackson

The Carlsberg award for Indiemeet's best export - Stuart Chaplin

The Pump Up the Volume award for our favourite new podcast about story gaming - The Twitching Curtain


All categories ran from Dec 2013-Nov 2014

Some stats:

We had 12 regular monthy meets in the period.
We played 139 sessions
We played 96 different games
69 games were only played once
We had 40 different facilitators

And in addition to that, we had 9 Midweek meets and 9 Extrameets (3 Playstorms, 2 Longmeets, 1 Newcomers meet, 1 Blasts from the Past, 1 Monstermeet and 1 Tabletop Day meet). Overall more than 160 sessions of games played over the year!
"Asking Piers to a seminar about the state of the British RPG industry is like asking The Clash if they'd like to attend a Live Aid reunion." Baz King
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby Epistolary Richard » 2:10am on 15 Dec 14

In the first slot I played Serpent's Tooth by Ross Cowman. Didn't know anything about it, but from Rob's description I thought it might offer something different.

The basic premise is that the facilitator plays the 'king' (of some description) and all the players are members of the court who plot to strip the king of their power. Once the king has lost all their power (and handed over narrative control of broad categories of 'people', 'threats' and 'locations') then the game is done.

Stuff I liked:
- Cool tokens! When you plot to take control of a particular aspect, you get a cool 'tooth' token.
- I thought that this game would create a different kind of story (which is something I'm keen on) and it absolutely did. This isn't really a story about what will happen, but rather about how it would happen.

Stuff I didn't much care for:
- I've made a mistake before (in playing Kingdom) where my first game of a new system is a bit too far from where it's most comfortable. I might well have coped better in a game with a medieval-style fading king and playing a scheming courtier looking to sideline them from power rather than a supers game where we were plotting against the dominant superhero of the city. It's possible, of course, but I just found it more of a stretch to justify why I was scheming to bring down Dr. Mystery when there were more obvious threats in the form of an inter-dimensional child kidnapper.

- I don't mind games which are not so much about what will happen, but how it happens, but there didn't feel as though there was any interesting choice here. Even in the heavily railroaded Witch, the journey builds to the one choice you do have to make at the end. Here, the only choice was which aspect did you want to take. I did not feel as though that was a particularly interesting choice.

- On reflection, I think part of that was because actually 'taking' the king's power wasn't that attractive. Taking narrative control of one of the categories felt more like work. It feels to me as though the designer is playing with how to distribute authority. They take the GM narrative role, split it into three, and then let players essentially take the bit they want. But between four players and the facilitator, it felt pretty lumpy. The player who had taken control of 'Threats' ended up doing a lot of work as they were regularly called upon even when their hero character wasn't in the scene. I had taken control of 'Locations' but I found this pretty *meh* as always describing the location can get dull and also I didn't want to impinge upon players being able to frame their own scene.

So I feel it has a laudable goal of telling a different kind of story, but the mechanics don't do much to make it interesting and, worse, get in the way of common story gamer practice (e.g. letting players frame scenes, trying to roughly apportion player time). Overall, I'm not going to look to play this game again.
"Asking Piers to a seminar about the state of the British RPG industry is like asking The Clash if they'd like to attend a Live Aid reunion." Baz King
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby jamesgraham » 2:41am on 15 Dec 14

A lot of those criticisms chime with my reaction when I read the rules; there didn't seem to be any interesting choices. But I need to give it a try at some point.
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby Epistolary Richard » 2:58am on 15 Dec 14

In the second slot I played Atlas Reckoning by Stras Acimovic & Giacomo Vicenzi after having heard nerulean rave about it at Dragonmeet. It's apparently Pacific Rim the rpg, now I haven't seen that movie, but I have seen Voltron (both Far and Near Universe versions) and Mazinga Z as a kid, and I was a Battletech fan back in the day so I'm well onboard with mega-mecha combat.

The first thing I want to mention is that this game is in playtest, so stuff might change.

The second is that it's _really_ designed for 4-5 session campaigns and so the one-shot experience is always going to be just a taster.

The third is that, the way it's designed, every player has to be there for every session. So if you're playing a campaign and one player can't make an evening then you cannot play a session without them.

If there was ever a candidate for a convention campaign then this is it because that is going to be my most reliable way to get a good game out of this.

Okay, so that's the logistical observations out the way; now, how did it make me feel?

Answer: It made me feel like a frakkin' badass... and that was just in the setup. A lot of setups get you excited about the game you're about to play (Fiasco is a great example of this), but I've not played a game which made me feel so awesome before we'd even started playing. I got to pick what kind of awesome pilot I was. I got to pick my country of origin from any country out there. I got a freaking callsign! Top Gun the rpg here we come! I got to design my mech (sorry, "Atlas") and I could have put jump jets on it if I wanted to!

If this is not your kind of thing I completely understand, but if you ever used to design Battletech mechs just for fun, you'll squee a little over getting a chance to do this as part of an rpg. For some people, optimising their mechs will be a game in and of itself. Make sure those kind of people start about an hour before the rest of you. I think if we'd have had any kind of clue about what would be good or not then setup would have taken twice as long. As it was, we bolted some stuff on and then cued the Thunderbirds launch sequence as we got to go kick some daikaiju ass.

At this point, the dichotomy of the game was revealed. I've not played 3:16, but I imagine that this game is a little like it. When you're fighting a daikaiju (big monster) then you're essentially playing a co-op board game.

Much like any co-op board game, it risks the alpha player problem (especially if the pilots are fully synched). I personally was happy that someone knew what we were doing to guide us through the boardgame section, but - from a design perspective - it's just something to be aware of.

Once you've defeated the daikaiju then it's back to base to roleplay some scenes. While the scenes are free, you get various bonuses or heals for scenes in particular locations around your home base and for roleplaying in certain aspects. So even in the downtime you've got to be working on your overall strategy, whether it's setting scenes in the repair bay so you can fix your mechs or in the foundry so you can build a new one. I'm sure how this works will get modified through playtesting, on the one hand it's a very much a 'tick the boxes' exercise to ensure that you get all the bonuses and heals you need, but on the other hand it gives you clear direction as what kind of content to include in your scenes. There's never those moments of wondering what scene to do next and, of course, it's never long until the next battle.

This game is very focused on telling a particular kind of story - specifically the "Battle of Britain" type - of increasingly difficult battles, of stress and casualties, but interdispersed with over the top mecha action which allows you to introduce a lighter or more fantastical tone if you want.

The board game sections gave me a real feeling of nervousness whether we would be able to survive the encounter, and so a real sense of victory when we won. More so than I would have gotten from a more freeform or negotiated approach to resolving the conflicts. You can just fail, even if it wouldn't make a good story, but - for me at least - using hands of cards made me feel that the mechanics of the game were insulated from the "one critical miss" die roll problem that can suddenly mess things up. When I drew my cards, I could tell at once broadly whether I was going to be able to toe-to-toe with the enemy or if I was going to struggle.

But it's the roleplaying sections that actually make the board game sections feel of real consequence. This isn't just a one hour board game where one side wins or loses and then you play again, the roleplaying makes it feel _personal_. My mech isn't just a model on a board, it's Dingo and Combo's walking gun-turret.

There's more stuff I haven't mentioned, but to sum up I found that this is a game where the board game and the rpg elements complemented each other and made a better game as a result.

The only reason I wouldn't look this game out again is because I wonder whether it could be properly enjoyed in a one-shot session. I might give it one more go as a one-shot and - if I decide to GM it, maybe run a few - but really I'm going to be looking for a con or somewhere similar where I can play a few linked sessions. This may only be a 'once a year' kind of game because of the logistical challenges, but I'm already looking forward to it.
"Asking Piers to a seminar about the state of the British RPG industry is like asking The Clash if they'd like to attend a Live Aid reunion." Baz King
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby jamesgraham » 3:05am on 15 Dec 14

Looks like the always coming soon new edition of Bliss Stage (which predates Pacific Rim but is also about mechs fighting monsters using the power of their emotions) may have missed the boat. Look forward to trying this at some point.
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby ncmreynolds » 9:48am on 15 Dec 14

Sound a bit like what Neil and Declan were doing with Star Ace last year.
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby carnel » 9:59am on 15 Dec 14

I didn't feel as negative towards Serpent's Tooth, although yes there probably should be more character building questions at the start of the game so everyone understands why they want the King's power and why they haven't taken it to date. I found it interesting that the players didn't try to steal the regalia (authority) from one another, clearly the stakes weren't high enough! Having competitive elements in games has fallen flat with story gamers before.

Perhaps a Game of Thrones or a Medici-styled playset might fit better. Like Piers I was quite interested in exploring the real-world Kings.

For me it gets another play at some time.

In the afternoon Kaleidoscope, which rather like Imaginary Book Club is good fun pseudying and jawing over nothing.

Regarding Bliss Stage's take on the giant robot genre, definitely not one to play if you want to feel awesome!
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby oreso » 10:12am on 15 Dec 14

Congratulations to the winners, and to Indie Meetup for another successful year!
Keep up with the latest Pompey Crew Design games, like Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne and the Marquis of the Ferrara, here! Some free games too!
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby nerulean » 12:40am on 16 Dec 14

Thanks for the awards (which were splendid again!) and for the write-ups.

I had a pretty similar feeling from Serpent's Tooth - it felt like we were attacking the patriarch because Patriarchy is Bad, rather than having any specific drives towards it. The game is probably a few setup questions away from working as intended, though it would be a lot more likely to produce the sort of experience intended if we'd gone in with more of a Game of Thrones mindset.

That Atlas Reckoning game was pretty epic! Would it be okay if I point Stras and Giacomo in the direction of your writeup? I think they'd be pretty glad to see the game hitting these notes, and they're very open to playtest notes if there's anything else you'd care to sling their way.
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Re: Games Played :: 13th December 2014 + Indie Darling Award

Postby Epistolary Richard » 1:51am on 16 Dec 14

Sure, feel free to send them the link. The only playtest stuff I would add would be:
- I'm going to guess that they're going to cap the number of 'Outcomes' a character can have in-between two missions (maybe on a incremental scale so they can access the more powerful Outcomes later in the game) - they can still do more scenes but they don't get more mechanical benefits. If I were a GM I would like to have a clear number that the players can get with pretty much a token nod towards the trigger. I don't want to be in a situation where I'm having to argue with players whether they sufficiently steeled their will or not.
- I'd also go through the Outcome list again and think seriously whether they want a mixture of stuff that my character does versus what someone else's character does. The last section is probably the best illustration of this:
-- "teach someone a new trick" - no problem, I can narrate my character doing that
-- "someone praises your Atlas or it's modifications" (sic) (there's a typo on the sheet BTW) - that isn't something my character can do, it's something another character has to do and I either have to meta-game it and ask another player to do it so I can get the bonus or have my character try to goad it out of someone in the scene.
-- "defend your Atlases value or virtues" (sic) (another typo there, plus work out whether Atlas is singular or plural) - while this is an action that my character does, it implicitly relies on another character attacking my Atlas... so again I have to meta-game it or goad it in-scene.

The other thing around Outcomes would be to clarify whether NPCs count as 'someone' or whether it has to be another PC.

In terms of the boardgame element, I know that the plasma-cannon / sensors combo seemed pretty OPed but I think Andy had the right point that - under different circumstances - the GM could just adapt the behemoth wave to compensate. A bit like Ender's Game... actually, it's a lot like Ender's Game... there should so be an Ender's Game hack of this after it's released.

EDIT: I have now started working on an Ender's Game hack of this in my head :D
"Asking Piers to a seminar about the state of the British RPG industry is like asking The Clash if they'd like to attend a Live Aid reunion." Baz King
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