JiffyCon Recap

November 19, 2007

Playtested a slightly revised version of Transantiago with Shreyas, Elizabeth, Rachel, Emily, John, and Casey. I didn’t have a character, but participated anyway and moderated a bit. That seemed to work excellently, which was nice to learn. We turned the weirdness up to 11 and, surprisingly, the game could totally handle it. It didn’t even buckle, much less break. In the second to last station (after we’d opened all the others), half the characters converged on it all at once. We had previously determined that it was jam-packed with faceless policemen. Somebody, I think, happened to call it a “sea of policemen,” which led Elizabeth to declare that she was literally swimming through the sea. And then I said the subway car was floating on the sea like an arc. And then Rachel said it was full of singing animals, refugees from two previous stations (one full of music, the other full of animals wearing caps). And then John said the green ooze (from yet another station) was leaking down the tunnel and causing the policemen it touched to disappear, creating a kind of green landmass amidst the ocean of blue uniforms. But the weirdness never got in the way of the kind of abstract problem solving that is at the core of the game. At one point, John basically realized, “Hey, clearly we have to feed the strange little girls with multicolored balloons to the tattooed green slime monster that just emerged out of the wall.” And, he was right. Based on what had been established in the game, that was what needed to happen. So, overall, there are a few things that need to be tweaked or explained better, but it was really solid. I don’t think the game necessarily HAS to be that weird all the time, but it’s good to know that it CAN be that weird and the game can still handle it just fine.

After lunch, I played Emily’s A Day in the War. I’d link to the Knife Fight thread, but it’s already changed a bunch. Basically you play people involved in the ongoing mess in Iraq, split among various factions, and you play out the events that lead up to their death. Originally, Emily had a rule about basing your character on a real person who died, in an effort to remember them, but that continues to feel really uncomfortable for many players (I didn’t end up picking a person) and Emily said that was likely going to get dropped. Despite that issue, the game played really great with the mechanic she borrowed from Eero Tuovinen’s Zombie Game, which has one character move towards their death for every character that moves towards achieving their goals (though you still die even if you achieve your goals). it felt like playing Otherkind or Bliss Stage, where you have a limited number of resources and too many baskets to put them in, such that something is always left wanting. In this game, some character was always left wanting, with their situation growing more grim, no matter how much we wanted to do the right thing and make sure everybody got through this. The characters were a Shiite businessman with two sons in the US, a military contractor for Blackwater, a US officer in charge of a checkpoint, a CNN journalist looking for a big story, and an aid worker trying to perform vaccinations. I really had a great time with the other players, who were from Northampton, but I don’t remember their names, unfortunately. A few of us felt a little uncomfortable, I think, enjoying the game so much, when it was directly inspired by a horrible ongoing conflict (that emotional reaction, I suspect, may be what Em’s looking for), but I definitely think it helped me work through some feelings I had about the war, especially about military contractors, though I found I wanted to play it more, maybe playing multiple sessions (like 3 or so), with different goals each session that I could win or lose, even if I still died at the end of session 3. I’d be interested to see if the game could work in that format. Also, I kept thinking about the Angolan and Chinese civil wars and how the system, which was fairly sparse, could work in any complex, terrible conflict. Definitely a good educational tool for showing the multiplicity of any given situation. Can’t wait to play it again and watch it develop.

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