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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 132 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Coyotes in Dark Alleyways] An unofficial review  (Read 1955 times)
Dan Maruschak
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Posts: 128


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« on: April 27, 2012, 01:59:06 PM »

Coyotes in Dark Alleyways by Peter Borah (PeterBB) wasn't one of my assigned reviews, but I wanted to post a review of it anyway.

Metaphorical coyotes have featured very prominently in a lot of entries this year, so it was a breath of fresh air to see literal coyotes in this one. But there are a lot of things to like in this game beyond mere novelty. The single-PC/many-GMs structure seems like a very fruitful setup, and the “badass scientist” is a great thematic base to build that framework around.

I had a little trouble understanding the token economy. There don't seem to be very many tokens in the game (3 per mystery, after you've done all the key scenes?), and it's not entirely clear to me whether it will be difficult to work the “key scenes” into the flow of play. In general the game is a little unclear about whether anybody has explicit scene-framing powers, which matters mechanically for injuries that last “for a scene”, and for determining when the mystery players get more tokens. Since the fiction of the game follows a single character, my instincts would tend to lead me toward “continuous coverage” of the character if there isn't anything to prod me toward sharper scene transitions. The game is also a little vague about what sort of things the mystery player ought to be inserting into the fiction (and the stated goal of making Alex's player say '“holy shit, seriously?” as often as possible' would presumably be painful if taken literally – drama and rollercoasters both work via variation, not exclusively pushing to extremes). The game acknowledges some Apocalypse World inspiration in terms of its die system, I think it could also use some AW-style “here's how to GM” sections, although the limitations of Game Chef may be to blame for that part of the game being a little thin. I also suspect that Mystery Sheet 4 will be a source of trouble with some groups, since many people will expect to have 100% authority over Alex Stokes' emotions when playing that role (whether they're coming from an RPG context where mind-control is frowned upon when applied to PCs, or from the normal expectations about what an actor is normally brings to a role), but the fictional content that the Mystery Sheet 4 player is supposed to insert into the story messes with that expectation a bit. I'm not sure that taking Mystery 4 in this direction is worth adding this potential source of tension between the Alex Stokes player and the Mystery 4 player, I'd be more comfortable with a more external mystery.

The dice mechanic seems largely functional, but I would worry about possibly running into “blank page syndrome” with some of the very broad options. Since this game has a unified mechanic instead of multiple AW-style moves it has less room to present little hooks in the mechanics to assist in coming up with interesting complications on the fly. Perhaps something could be added to the Mystery-player sheets to give some “sharper” inspirations that are easier latch onto and build on rather than the broad categories like “something temporary”.

This game has some good ideas in it, and I'd like to see it developed further. Although it exemplifies the Last Chance theme of Game Chef, the fact that the game is less compelling once you've read all the mystery sheets seems a bit problematic to me. It might be interesting to see whether it's possible to increase the replayability by creating more mystery sheets (some of which might be made to be superficially similar) so you can mix and match, or maybe keep the number of mysteries limited but give the mystery players some options to select from during the “character generation” part of the game.
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my blog | my podcast | My game Final Hour of a Storied Age needs playtesters!
PeterBB
Member

Posts: 48


« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2012, 11:18:55 PM »

Hey, thanks so much for the review! It's very generous of you. Just out of curiosity, why did you decide to review my game in particular?

Your critiques are very thoughtful and useful! I am resisting the temptation to go through everything you mention and "defend" my game. Suffice it to say that I think some of the things you point out are very real problems with the mechanics that I'm planning to change, and others are issues of bad or incomplete writing on my part. I'm currently working on two main things: fixing the resolution mechanic (the key scenes work great; the dice not so much), and making it expandable/replayable. I don't know how long it will take, but I'm pretty excited about trying to make a bigger and better version available at some point. :)
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Dan Maruschak
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Posts: 128


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« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2012, 07:19:20 AM »

I decided to review it because it was one of the ones I read (so the pitch on the submissions page was interesting enough to catch my attention, and the writing was good enough for me to read it all the way through), I thought I had something nontrivial to say about it (i.e. there are things I wanted to mention about the game that I wasn't sure would be said by every reviewer), and I thought the review wouldn't be overly difficult to write (for example, my natural tendency is to focus on where things can be improved so I sometimes have trouble noticing things to make positive comments about, but there was enough I liked here that I didn't think I'd have to struggle with being overly negative). I'm glad you got something out of it.
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my blog | my podcast | My game Final Hour of a Storied Age needs playtesters!
PeterBB
Member

Posts: 48


« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2012, 01:16:28 PM »

Awesome, thanks again! :)

(And I totally hear you on sounding overly negative. I have the exact same tendency.)
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