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Author Topic: thawing out heads of state with a game R&R set in bermuda  (Read 494 times)
redivider
Member

Posts: 92


« on: December 09, 2011, 11:19:35 AM »

Since I'm trying to fund a kickstarter for Heads of State, my collection of 9 short games about tyrants, I'm doing more playtesting on a few of the games that hadn't gotten fully smoothed out during the last phase of testing.

One of these is a game called Rest & Relaxation. When I was designing Heads of State & thinking up the framing situations for different games, I was inspired to create a game about tyrants-in-exile based on a scene in Gabriel García Márquez's novel  Autumn of the Patriarch:
Quote
“... he would spend the afternoon playing dominoes with the former dictators of other nations of the continent, the dethroned fathers of other countries to whom he had
granted asylum over the course of many years and who were now growing old in the shadow of his mercy dreaming in chairs on the terrace above the chimerical vessel of
their second chance ...”

In the game, a group of former dictators all in exile in the same city meet regularly at a cafe to commiserate about their fate.  Immersing themselves in stacks of weeks-old papers that have just arrived by freighter or on the latest international flight from their homeland, they interrupt their fellow exiles, read parts of the paper aloud, and offer their own spin on the stories.

Players choose real news stories for other players to react to in character. After adapting stories into memories of their tyrant's rule and snapshots of their schemes & states of mind, players move tokens representing their tyrants across a track of playing cards, trying to pass through the five 'stages of loss' -  Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Despair, and Acceptance. Dictator tokens are pursued across the track by tokens representing humiliation  and death. (An idea borrowed in part from Zombie Cinema by Eero Tuovinen).

Josh, Judson and I played this game earlier in the week. Heads of State supports different moods of play from very serious to black humor. The premise (and title) of Rest & Relaxation might tend to drive this particular game towards a sort of breezy irony. We chose atypical tyrants, in exile in Bermuda in the 1980s. Josh was the  King of Fiji, deposed by communists. Judson was the exiled ruler of a once-independent Quebec, now subsumed by Canada. I was the former chairman of a libertarian seasteading island off the coast of California, betrayed by my business partners.

3-4 years have passed since the last playtests.  The game calls for, and last time we handed around a hard copy of a daily newspaper. This week we passed around smart phones. Either works. Paper in hand is more visceral and in tune with the source material but we found that phones and laptops give easy access to tons of stories and the ability to search for stories on specific topics, from specific countries etc to challenge other players with.

The articles we got to adapt included:
   •   daughter of mafia boss arrested in bunker
   •   apple tv vs. microsoft xbox
   •   prohibition on new pet stores in montreal
   •   how to fill a ceo job no one wants
   •   should nuns be on the pill?
   •   Canada denies extradition request for bangladeshi assassin

It worked well to transform these stories and use them to reveal things about our tyrants. At one point, while I was explaining that assassination contracts were obviously legal on my microstate, Josh said 'I Hate your character.'

The movement/game mechanics needed work.
   •   Having one player start and rotating turns around the table was a problem because the first player to go in a turn gets the opportunity to move the humiliation token to disadvantage the other players. We decided that players should show cards each turn to determine order.
   •   As written, the game is played on a inverted triangular pattern of cards with tyrant tokens moving along the top row, humiliation at the end of the row, and death coming up from below. Because players can only move their tokens back and forth on the top row, they are very vulnerable to getting blocked by humiliation and having death come up to kill their tyrants. We decided to try a square grid so players can dodge and move in different paths.
   •   Players get a card at the start of the game they can only use to help other tyrants, but we played with some competitive verve and didn't want to help out. 
   •   To give more choice and eliminate need for assistance cards, rules will be changed to give three options: 1. move your token if you have a card equal/greater than the card you want to move to, and talk about your tyrant; 2. move death (if you have a card the same suit as the the one death is on) and talk about death; 3. swap your hand of 2 cards with 2 cards in front of another player's tyrant and talk about that other character.

A question for folks. As written, players agree on the location and time when the game is set but Josh and Judson thought I should decide on one setting & write a bit of color text on it as an intro for players. Do you like the idea of choosing the setting or having a prepackaged setting for ease of play?

R&R needs another run through but it felt good to try a tyrant game after a few years on ice.

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redivider
Member

Posts: 92


« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2011, 01:33:05 PM »

I'll keep all the heads of state reports in this thread
Quote
    “The causes of a revolution are usually sought in objective conditions – general poverty, oppression, scandalous abuses. But this view, while correct, is one sided. After all, such conditions exist in a hundred countries, but revolutions erupt rarely. What is needed is the consciousness of poverty, and the consciousness of oppression, and the conviction that poverty and oppression are not the natural order of the world. It is curious that in this case, experience in and of itself, no matter how painful, does not suffice, The indispensable catalyst is the word, the explanatory idea. More than petards or stilettos, therefore, words – uncontrolled words, circulating freely, underground, rebelliously, not gotten up in dress uniforms, uncertified – frighten tyrants.”

- Ryszard Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs

Subversive words is one of the dictator games in my heads of state series. In the game, players control characters in a work of art that a dissident writer/ artist is making on the touchy subject of the tyrant – and the artist herself as a character struggling with life, creativity and censorship.

Subversive Words plays as a fairly fast-paced, largely collaborative storytelling game that bounces between the artist and the work of art. When describing the life of the artist, players move a token around an emotional wheel. They narrate events that would cause the artist to feel the emotion on which the token is located. When narrating the events of the book/ opera/ painting/ film/ video game etc that the artist is working on, players draw scrabble pieces and narrate events focused on a key word that starts with one of their letters. To help tie the two sides of the game together and pace the stories, the letters used in the art side of the game are the currency to move on the emotional wheel in the artist side of the game.

Since I wanted to double check how the letters/ tokens worked between the two sides of the game, Tony, Judson, Josh and I played Subversive Words. First we needed to decide who the tyrant was, who the artist was, what previous work the artist was best known for, and develop a small cast of characters from the artwork. Earlier playtests had included games focusing on a drama about a Carpathian monarch and a street mural about Indonesian dictator General Suharto. We were stuck for an idea on what tyrant to focus on until Josh, who has been researching 19th century geo politics for a game he is working on, suggested making William McDougall, a Canadian regional governor, the ‘tyrant’ so the artist could be a Métis (half native, half European) partisan of the red river rebellion that resisted the incorporation of their region into the Canadian federation. We decided that the artist was novelist known for a Swiftian novel satirizing Canadian politics. The main characters of his new novel-in-progress would be Billy the trapper (presumably a stand in for the tyrant McDougall; Marie, his unrequited love; his friend Hank the country lawyer; and a wolf, the personification of nature)

After drawing scrabble pieces, we started the game inside the book, moved to the novelist and back between so that we had 3 ‘chapters’ on each side. A sample sequence of play in the novel- determining what is being written in the book:
R for Represent – Billy will represent himself (in a lawsuit to try to seize property that Marie lives on)
V for Voir dire- billy is asking questions of his peers, thinks they are all biased
T for Tears – billy cries while questioning marie
N for Nolo contendere – hank pleads no contest for marie
G for Gold- so billy gets access to the gold on the property
L for Land – and becomes a major landowner
N for Network –and creates a network of trapper spies
M for Marie- billy confronts marie
N for No – billy proposes to marie, she says no
B for Bigamy- she says no because she has already married Hank (at the court after the trial)

A sample of the movement/ narration on the artist side of the game:

Optimism – writer’s lawyer explains that the circumstances of his arrest may allow him to be released from gaol.
Joy- his spirits soar as he hears the prison band play
Anticipation- expects a visit from his wife and lawyer
Surprise- is woken and taken to scaffold early in morning
Awe- noose on neck, contemplates his mortality
Acceptance- he accepts his fate

The game worked fine to generate two stories but the movement rules in the artist side of the game (placing down tokens on spaces you start on and move through; putting down tokens where you move through and end) was a lot of effort without doing much. We worked out a variant in which play would start in the art side of the game and every time a player uses a letter, they put it down on their choice of emotion on the emotional wheel. Then when play switches to the artists’ side, players had to start on the wedge with the most letters on it and movement could only be between spaces with letters. In this way, players would seed the emotional wheel during the art story.

We also discussed whether letter points could be counted to determine which player could name the work of art at the end of the game (to add a little competition). perhaps as an option?

I think our next heads of state playtest will be the assassination game Sic Semper Tyrannus to see how its rules on garbling messages have held up.
the heads of state kickstarter is getting close to funding, check it out if interested.     “The causes of a revolution are usually sought in objective conditions – general poverty, oppression, scandalous abuses. But this view, while correct, is one sided. After all, such conditions exist in a hundred countries, but revolutions erupt rarely. What is needed is the consciousness of poverty, and the consciousness of oppression, and the conviction that poverty and oppression are not the natural order of the world. It is curious that in this case, experience in and of itself, no matter how painful, does not suffice, The indispensable catalyst is the word, the explanatory idea. More than petards or stilettos, therefore, words – uncontrolled words, circulating freely, underground, rebelliously, not gotten up in dress uniforms, uncertified – frighten tyrants.”


Ryszard Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs

Subversive words is one of the dictator games in my heads of state series. In the game, players control characters in a work of art that a dissident writer/ artist is making on the touchy subject of the tyrant – and the artist herself as a character struggling with life, creativity and censorship.

Subversive Words plays as a fairly fast-paced, largely collaborative storytelling game that bounces between the artist and the work of art. When describing the life of the artist, players move a token around an emotional wheel. They narrate events that would cause the artist to feel the emotion on which the token is located. When narrating the events of the book/ opera/ painting/ film/ video game etc that the artist is working on, players draw scrabble pieces and narrate events focused on a key word that starts with one of their letters. To help tie the two sides of the game together and pace the stories, the letters used in the art side of the game are the currency to move on the emotional wheel in the artist side of the game.

Since I wanted to double check how the letters/ tokens worked between the two sides of the game, Tony, Judson, Josh and I played Subversive Words. First we needed to decide who the tyrant was, who the artist was, what previous work the artist was best known for, and develop a small cast of characters from the artwork. Earlier playtests had included games focusing on a drama about a Carpathian monarch and a street mural about Indonesian dictator General Suharto. We were stuck for an idea on what tyrant to focus on until Josh, who has been researching 19th century geo politics for a game he is working on, suggested making William McDougall, a Canadian regional governor, the ‘tyrant’ so the artist could be a Métis (half native, half European) partisan of the red river rebellion that resisted the incorporation of their region into the Canadian federation. We decided that the artist was novelist known for a Swiftian novel satirizing Canadian politics. The main characters of his new novel-in-progress would be Billy the trapper (presumably a stand in for the tyrant McDougall; Marie, his unrequited love; his friend Hank the country lawyer; and a wolf, the personification of nature)

After drawing scrabble pieces, we started the game inside the book, moved to the novelist and back between so that we had 3 ‘chapters’ on each side. A sample sequence of play in the novel- determining what is being written in the book:
R for Represent – Billy will represent himself (in a lawsuit to try to seize property that Marie lives on)
V for Voir dire- billy is asking questions of his peers, thinks they are all biased
T for Tears – billy cries while questioning marie
N for Nolo contendere – hank pleads no contest for marie
G for Gold- so billy gets access to the gold on the property
L for Land – and becomes a major landowner
N for Network –and creates a network of trapper spies
M for Marie- billy confronts marie
N for No – billy proposes to marie, she says no
B for Bigamy- she says no because she has already married Hank (at the court after the trial)

A sample of the movement/ narration on the artist side of the game:

Optimism – writer’s lawyer explains that the circumstances of his arrest may allow him to be released from gaol.
Joy- his spirits soar as he hears the prison band play
Anticipation- expects a visit from his wife and lawyer
Surprise- is woken and taken to scaffold early in morning
Awe- noose on neck, contemplates his mortality
Acceptance- he accepts his fate

The game worked fine to generate two stories but the movement rules in the artist side of the game (placing down tokens on spaces you start on and move through; putting down tokens where you move through and end) was a lot of effort without doing much. We worked out a variant in which play would start in the art side of the game and every time a player uses a letter, they put it down on their choice of emotion on the emotional wheel. Then when play switches to the artists’ side, players had to start on the wedge with the most letters on it and movement could only be between spaces with letters. In this way, players would seed the emotional wheel during the art story.

We also discussed whether letter points could be counted to determine which player could name the work of art at the end of the game (to add a little competition). perhaps as an option?

I think our next heads of state playtest will be the assassination game Sic Semper Tyrannus to see how its rules on garbling messages have held up.
the heads of state kickstarter is getting close to funding, check it out if interested. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2088966277/heads-of-state-nine-short-games-about-tyrants
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