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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 55 - most online ever: 843 (October 22, 2020, 11:18:00 PM)
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Author Topic: [OrcCon 2008][Spione] Hey, it worked again!  (Read 4686 times)

Posts: 1429

« on: February 20, 2008, 12:41:57 PM »

So, I ran Spione in the 8pm Sunday slot of OrcCon here in Los Angeles.  It worked out really well again.  Hey, that's two successful runs of a Ron Edwards game in a row.  I must be doing something wrong.  I agree that running Spione in a con environment is a little bit like playing Russian roulette with the social context but I got lucky.  There was myself, Tom and Jim who I had played One Can Have Her with the night before and hung out with at the NerdSoCal meet up the night before that, Alex who I've played many games with at the con in the past, Eric Boyd of Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries fame, and one last minute drop in player whose name eludes.  So that's SIX of us.

It should be noted that for purposes of the con I reduced the number of Guy sheets down to just those with three or less Supporting Cast.  I was surprised that this left me with only six sheets but it worked out well.

I drew the 1950s again which at first disappointed me but I'm a rules is rules kind of guy.  We had Sarah Holly run by Eric spying for the KGB on the CIA Berlin Operations Base and Andrus' Haliczevich run by Tom spying for the CIA on the KGB in the soviet embassy.  This is probably the most straightforward setup you could have for a con game.  Very simple and plays into everyones minimalist experience of the Cold War.

The game was very brutal on the Principles.  Sarah never Disclosed and she ended up in prison with one Supporting Cast member also in prison and the other dead.  Andrus ended up dead but he did Disclose and both of his Supporting Cast members ended up escaping with CIA money.

With just four Supporting Cast members the game was a lot more leisurely but still frenetic on some fundamental level.  In another thread Ron talked about how the game starts way up the, "Hey, is this interesting?" level for generating scene content and I saw that a lot more in play here.  Previously I thought the game was a little fuzzy on how scenes end.  It wasn't until this game that I realized that the option to "place a spy in a scene" on your turn during Maneuvers is quite literal.  Thus we'd have someone do something like start a scene with Sarah shredding documents.  Then someone else who wasn't really sure what else to do with that scene would simply cut to Sarah somewhere else doing something else and the shredding documents scene just stood on its own.  I liked that dynamic quite a bit and made me more comfortable with scene and narrative flow in Spione overall.

Alex had the hardest time with the ambiguous nature of the story as he struggled to keep everything straight in his mind.  At the end of the game he said that if you played this game every weekend your mental capacity would be so expanded as to make physics and mathematics seem simple.  To somewhat alleviate this problem Tom took to grabbing index cards and writing characters names and professions on them.  He then folded them in half to produce little tents and we placed related characters near each other, even stacking them in some cases.  I commented that it brought whole new meaning to the phrase, "house of cards."

One of the things this particular group found was that they really wanted the spies to have a concrete goal.  Indeed at a very specific point of play Jim very purposefully introduced these twin lists of compromised CIA agents and KGB agents so that the spies had some kind of objective to achieve.  Also of particular note was that Jim basically re-invented the Revelation mechanic from Dirty Secrets without knowing it.  He basically said that when he was stuck for an idea he wanted some way to randomly generate a relationship between two characters.

Along similar lines Tom really felt that the game needed something that would guarantee the two spy stories would intertwine.  He even suggested the game designate a player upfront responsible for doing so.  I know that wasn't a design concern of Ron's so it's more perspective than criticism.  In this game it was Alex who introduced that element by establishing a suspicion driven but working relationship between the two spies' handlers.  An element I really enjoyed and was sorry we didn't do a little more with that.

This game dipped its feet a little more into the thriller aspect than my previous game had and I think it worked well.  We had a scene where Sarah tried to blow up her lover's office just as some school children went into the building and a scene where Andrus' tried to get the list of compromised agents out of safe during a busy embassy party.

All in all a successful game.

And yes, I recorded it.


Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 17707

« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2008, 06:24:59 PM »

Hi Jesse,

Hey, that's two successful runs of a Ron Edwards game in a row.  I must be doing something wrong.

Smart ass!

I think you'll find as you continue to play that a lot of the action in the game shifts into the Network, making more and more interesting characters and seeing more and more interesting content among the spymasters - specifically, including substantive information that's being transferred via spying. Having concrete goals of that kind is definitely valuable, and I always thought it was a big weird that someone could play the game all the way through, and then complain that it wasn't there. I mean, the rules are built to establish exactly that sort of thing into the story without any trouble, and the examples in the book do it several times.

I like the little paper things, but I should also point to the rules which talk about writing, writing, writing on the Dossiers in the middle of the table. It's also helpful to write names down onto the Spider's Web agency diagram - the little cards could go on there, too.

Thanks again, Jesse! Hey, one question: what emerged from this story, thematically, regarding the KGB and CIA? This is definitely an after-the-fact, reflection type question.

Best, Ron

Posts: 1429

« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2008, 01:18:10 PM »


This was definitely one of those two "sides", same tactics stories.  It should be noted that the CIA was responsible for both principles endings.  Sarah was arrested by the CIA.  Andrus' was killed by the CIA "cleaning house."  But the CIA was also responsible for saving all of Andrus' supporting cast in a "honoring a last request" kind of way.

As noted before I kind of like the working relationship established between the two handlers Jack and Tatyana.  At one point I used a double card Flashpoint narration to establish that one of Sarah's Supporting Cast members had been permanently imprisoned.  I did this just after it had been established that Jack wanted him back (he had been arrested by the CIA earlier in the story and this scene established that he had been turned over to Tatyana for some never revealed reason).  At that moment I felt sorry for Tatyana.  Here was a critical bargaining moment and her hands were tied.

I got the impression that a lot of bad stuff happened because of Jack's insistence from that point forward and Tatyana's ability to only shrug in response.

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