[Her Son] Ronnies feedback

Started by Ron Edwards, April 15, 2011, 10:05:50 PM

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Ron Edwards

I would love to see Jackson Tegu's Her Son as its own custom card game of some kind, given some design refinement, probably next to a similarly-packaged final version of Camwhores. And damned if I don't think Her Son, at least at this phase of the texts, isn't the more disturbing of the two. The first page gave me chills. A lot of games have sought that distinctive Terry Gilliam vibe of fantasy, emotion, trauma, and drama, and not found it, but I think it's here.

The terms use is really cool, because they're subtle. "Amazon," for instance - it's not actually that the village is composed of warrior ladies in the kid's imaginary jungle, she could be anything there. It's about facing a distinctly female medical crisis and the distinctive nature of one's female friend's support. And why "queen," well, that raises a couple of real-world issues too, but what I like about it is that the most fascinating, tension-producing concept I can imagine given the existence of an "amazon queen" is her male son. As in, uh, the title. That is really nicely done.

So why this "do a Eurogame on it" recommendation and not "holy poo, the RPG of the year, dust it up and lemme see"? Same reason as for Camwhores, actually. I need to clarify something important about this. It is, this is not a demotion. Games like Oriente and Bang, which I mentioned, are a whole new and fun thing. You have characters to a greater extent than in traditional board or card games (even CCGs), you have what amounts to making a plot as you go along, usually in an emergent "holy cow we made a plot" fashion, and you are engaged in a very straightforwardly competitive activity usually with good underlying game theory, so you can enhance your chance of winning throughout but cannot lock down the victory in advance of the final round or two. I used to call this the Cheapass approach, referencing the early days of that game company, particularly their games I enjoyed the most, Get Out and Give Me the Brain. I don't want to use that term now because I can just imagine the misunderstandings from people unfamiliar with the company's name and also because I'm actually not talking about their production value but the various games they've put out that I like.

Here's my point: I'm trying to give feedback to make the best game you can. If that best game, based on the current features, is one of these, then I say, do that. I'm not saying that it's not good enough to be an RPG or has failed to wear the RPG hat and gets booted out of the clubhouse. I'm saying its features are lining up in another good direction, so run with its strengths. But if it's not where you want to take it, that's OK too.

Here's why it went this way for me. As with Camwhores, it's not like a protagonist is making any decisions during play. The decision has been made, and from here on out, your role as a player is to punch it hard via the quite structured pace and flow of scenes, and to hope. Does that make any sense?

I only have one main question about play itself, which is, how does the collective play of the protagonist work exactly? I get the part about everyone talking in the kid's head, that's fine, but I guess I don't see the point of having many voices. The card-play is raw beat'em, as far as I can tell, meaning that it's not like the people playing the kid have to debate about what to do with the cards in the hand. It seems more suited to Twosie play, in fact. Although I do like the rotating guide + collective play combination, so if I'm missing something about how role-playing the kid is supposed to affect playing the cards, then let me know.

How the village track, the cancer tokens, and the endgame vs. accumulated cancer all play out will reveal their various sweet and rough spots via playtesting, so I don't have much to add about it, and the same goes for the procedural musing about when to reveal and how to deal with what's revealed. But for any of that to be possible for me, I need to understand the main question first.

Best, Ron