Game Chef 2011 – Review of the Exile’s Tragedy

This is a game by C. W. Marshall.

Mr Marshall chose to write the whole thing in iambic pentameter, even turning the prologue into a sonnet. This is a big risk which doesn’t pay off, alas. He’s just not as good as Shakespeare and you can’t avoid the comparison. Meanwhile while it makes it easier to read through (because its not a text book), it inhibits clarity and doesn’t really enhance the sense of setting. Ballsy to try it though, and damn he must have had to work hard to get it done.

The premise of this game is everyone plays an Exile, washed up on an island rules by the Duke Orsino, who is threatened to be ursurped by his Daughter. That’s literally all there is of the setting, you then have five acts to resolve this question of title.  Presumably the rest of the plot can be drawn from the characters you generate, which must have a Loyalty, a Legacy (as in what you’re famous for) and a Token (some item in your hand when you washed ashore) and a fellow player will provide a reason you were Exiled. You are also supposed to seek out a resolution to your Exile during the play. Since the Duke and his daughter are cyphers, I think these subplots should perhaps be the whole play instead. Although still, then, I think the game doesn’t have enough to be ABOUT, in the whole story or in each scene, and there’s no GM to set the scenes. There are very clear rules about how to construct a scene (the first two characters in it must be PCs, NPCs can never talk to each other) and resolve a scene (see below) but when it comes to what you’re going to talk about, there’s no help. There’s a space where the author expects “creativity” to somewhat magically occur.

The conflict resolution rules are neat, however. You have Blades (physical tests), Policy (social), Temper and Divine. In any contest, whoever has the highest wins, but you can win a tie by dropping a point of Divine (never quite figured out what Temper was for). But if you have less Divine than somebody else, they won’t believe what you say unless you swear an Oath, and if they have more Divine than you, you must trust everything they say. This means you trade off wining contests with not having to get into them in the first place and while I think it might break in practice, I like it. It reminds me of how in Amber you could spend points not on abilities but on the power of drama and the universe to generally work in your favour.

The other thing I really like is when you lose a point of Divine (to win a contest) you also break your Loyalty (first drop), or lose your Legacy (second) or lose your Token (not sure you’d care though). I like tagging abilities, I hadn’t really thought about tagging changeable abilities. We have hit locations and stuff, but what if every health level you got to write what it meant? If I lose my first hit level, that means I Forget My Wife’s Name!

Stealable.

Anyway, some clever mechanics but it ends up kind of floating without referents – full of sound rules, but signifying not enough.

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5 thoughts on “Game Chef 2011 – Review of the Exile’s Tragedy

  1. Thanks for the review — it means a lot that you took the time to think about the game (even if in the end it didn’t signify enough for you), and I am flattered that there are elements that you like enough that you might steal. Thanks,

    Toph

    • Sometimes the tragedy of Game Chef is everything is a heartbreaker – none of the games are ever complete, but almost all of them have some spark of genius. I didn’t think it came together for me, but there were a lot of sparks here. Like I said, I really like the way you took four stats ranked 1-4 and turned it into this complicated balancing act of success versus loss.

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