I’m slowly working my way through the first Bundle of Holding I obtained (first of many), and it’s time to review Ladykillers by Matt Snyder, one of the games in the Bundle that I’m most interested in. It features a pitch that could easily be run in most other systems – wronged women return from the grave with magic powers to hunt monsters – but its native system is quick, simple and flavourful.
Content warning: this is a game where you will want to discuss permitted content. One of the character generation questions involves suicide, and obviously given the subject matter, which is very much in the genre of female-centric revenge thriller, there is a lot of potential for upsetting themes to come up. Continue reading
The Powered by the Apocalypse system, Vince Baker’s revolutionary game design paradigm originally showcased in Apocalypse World, has become a big of a mixed blessing: while it inspired games like Monsterhearts (which is incredibly important to me as it massively changed how I play and think about roleplaying games), it seems like lots of people are trying to make PbtA games without really thinking about what that means. The virtue of PbtA is that is can emulate a specific combination of genre, emotional intensity and surprising twists like no other system that currently exists. At the same time, it just doesn’t work for everything. It shouldn’t – it’s not a generic system. It’s pretty much the opposite of that. There are some great places to look for systems that can be hacked into whatever shape you like: Fate if you want high-action, minimal changes; Cortex for something more tailored to genre emulation; Hillfolk for high-drama big-picture plots.
So when I hear ‘it’s x done in PbtA’, my heart sinks a little. Will it disappoint me? My ears prick up. Will it have mechanics I really want to get my teeth into?
The Secrets of Cats by Richard Bellingham is an excellent setting for Fate, part of their Worlds of Fate series (which, by the way, is generally wonderful, as they’re really committing to their Open Gaming Licence and promoting lesser-known designers with innovative uses for the system). The characters are all cats who belong to a secret cat society that guards and watches over humans, their ‘Burdens’, using sacrificial magic, territory and occult know-how. If that didn’t already make you excited about this game, you’re probably a lost cause for this review, because this game fully embraces the concept. Less horrifying than Bunnies and Burrows, more heroic than Another Fine Mess, it’s a sweet and occasionally brutal game of animals who are willing to risk anything to save those they love. Continue reading
Definitely not a Molly Ringwald film – instead, an innovative horror game that was nominated for several categories at the ENnies (though sadly did not win).
Ten Candles is a game I supported on Kickstarter a couple of years ago and mostly forgot about. I mainly went in on it because of its core mechanic: games take place by the light of ten candles (with optional extra lighting, obviously), each of which darkens as the game goes on. When all the candles are out, the game ends. It certainly caught my attention, plus the tagline was ‘A storytelling game of tragic horror’. So, y’know, my kind of thing. I’m actually really pleased I backed it on a whim, because it’s brought up some great concepts. Continue reading
Roleplaying and Shakespeare? The Play’s the Thing was always going to catch my attention, but I didn’t expect for it to be quite as strange and cool as it is. The players, guided by the Playwright, are actors in a theatre troupe trying to act out a play – however, when anyone can suggest weird and wonderful edits, who knows where things will end up? The Play’s the Thing is a fantastic way of acting out your favourite Shakespearean dramas – just be ready for everything to change at the whim of the players, or sometimes the pettiness of the actors!
Heroine is a story game for 3-6 players in which a young female character undertakes a magical journey and fights through obstacles to confront the antagonist…and herself. Inspired by Labyrinth, Spirited Away, MirrorMask, The Wizard of Oz and many similar stories of human girls in fantastical worlds, one player in Heroine takes on the role of the Heroine, one the Narrator and any others the Heroine’s quirky Companions who help her through her journey.
Dead of Night is a brilliant horror game explicitly designed for genre emulation and pick-up-and-play short games, and though the mechanics won’t be to everyone’s tastes, there are definitely some really great ideas here. Plus the book is beautifully-produced and filled with inspiring posters and suggestions to get you in the mood for a truly horrifying experience. Even if you’re not interested in the mechanics, it’s a great read for anyone who wants to run horror games.