Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

Notre Dame—No Sale

In appraisals, boardgames on October 29th, 2007 at 12:33 am

Notre Dame has been available on Brettspielwelt for a few months now, and I have played it quite a bit. Misleading pre-release reports compared it to Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence, but, after a game or two, the difference was obvious; ND sits in the same weight category as slightly lighter fare such as Torres, Blue Moon City and Ninety-Nine.

The only strikingly original idea in Notre Dame is the rat track—the rest hearkens back to Caylus, Fairy Tale and Pillars of the Earth. Stefan Feld did a good job of tweaking the borrowed mechanics, though, and they work well together—it does not feel derivative to me. There are some annoying pointy bits hanging off of what could have been a nice clean design, though. The Inn and the Park do not follow the same pattern of progression as the other buildings, breaking the rather nice symmetry. The Inn also feels like a last-second-before-publication patch to fix a broken building. This is one of the factors that makes the luck of which action cards you draw together, and which get passed to you by your opponents, a significant factor in how well you do. It is possible to get screwed rather badly by factors that are out of your control. Finally, learning the personality cards takes long enough that it bugged me.

Despite my misgivings, though, I would call Notre Dame a fun, well-constructed game. I rate it an 8 on BGG, and I doubt it will drop from there. I own or want almost every game that I rate 8 or higher, as well as a few that I rate lower, but I’m not going to buy Notre Dame. Read the rest of this entry »

Interrogate Your NPCs—No Man is an Island, part 1

In role-playing games, techniques on October 23rd, 2007 at 2:29 am

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
-John Donne, Meditation XVII.

Contrary to Donne, roleplayers often create characters—PC and NPC, hero and villain—who are islands. Roleplayers show an inordinate fondness for friendless orphans; people who haven’t met a soul until some adventuring group stumbles into their lives. Players see wives, children, even good friends as potential weaknesses, and therefore as something to avoid.

This is a shame. Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Self conflicts are difficult to portray in RPGs, so most game sessions focus on Man vs. Other conflicts. Relationships are the heart and soul of Man vs. Other. Conflict fuel if you will.

Add octane to your games. Ask your NPCs, “Who do you have an interesting relationship with?”
Read the rest of this entry »