It’s Complicated: Playtest #2

27 11 2007

I wanted to do a quick playtest of the new Complicated rules I’d been bandying about in my brain before I actually committed them to paper. (The only major change: a pre-round where you make lines, declare Oddities and Dysfunctions, but the lines don’t touch and you don’t have scenes about them.)

Fortunately, Char, Shreyas, and Jason P were up for helping me out last night. It was a pretty good game, although having started so late at night, everyone was pretty tired by the last scene (which was still full of mayhem and fun). It was nice to test the variety of settings It’s Complicated can handle, too; the first game had a very low Oddity threshhold, was set in modern-day, and revolved around assassins who were out of work due to their union being on strike. This game was about dysfunctional elves in a toy factory, so the Oddity threshhold was much higher. Everyone was so tired by the end of the game that we haven’t had a postmortem yet, but I wanted to get down my thoughts on the game before I forget them; I’ll probably post stuff from the game discussion later (or invite the playtesters to come comment).

  • Playtest #1 had more narrative interest because we established a situation– the assassins were on strike. We didn’t have any kind of “current event” context for the elves, which made it feel like there was no particular plot, which lessened the impact of the reveals. I guess this is one of those little details that seems like it should be obvious, but needs to go in the rules. (It’s not THAT obvious if even I forgot about it. :P)
  • Jason said that the game lost some of its shine when it got to the point where you HAD to cross two or three players every time you moved; I think that was a product of the new rule– starting with at least four lines on the board, you get to that point much more quickly. The good thing about playing out the establishing round in the first playtest was that, although the first scenes were slow, the slower build into complexity seemed a lot more engaging and less.. frenetic. There’s gotta be a happy medium..
  • The game took off in a much nicer, cleaner fashion by having everyone establish quirks and oddities before the start of the game. We seemed to have a better handle on who our characters were, which made it easier for them to interact; also, we didn’t really bother with declaring the nature of every relationship before a scene– we just let it unfold naturally, most of the time, and that worked really well.

The differences in Dysfunctions and Oddities between the two games was really interesting to me, as well. If you’re curious, the ending gameboards are here:

Playtest 1: Assassins on strike

Playtest 2: Dysfunctional elves

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4 responses

27 11 2007
Char

Having been in both playtests and ending up as the last person to go both times, I really preferred the setup of the second time, although it was harder to have a full board right away than to build it up slowly.

One problem I saw with that setup is that if someone near the beginning of the game has their D/O pair widely separated it severely reduces the options for everyone else. In fact, the first person could block the whole board if they were so inclined. “Yes, I’ll have Oddity 1 and Dysfunction 10…MWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!”

I’m not sure where the happy medium lies… what if you only had to declare an oddity OR a dysfunction at the beginning? That would give you a base to start with, but not have the board full immediately.

I did prefer having some sort of plot tying the game together (like the assassins’ strike) which made it feel more cohesive. The elf game was super fun, but it didn’t have any plot at all. It was very ‘slice of life.’

It would be interesting to me to get more plot into the game, but that might not be possible with only one or two rounds.

I did like not having to declare what relationship I was going for before the scene. I thought it felt more natural to sort of discover what it was in play rather than trying to force it into the scene. I tried to have an idea of what I was going for before we started but it was kind of tough with 3 lines to cross at once! Going last is complicated, but fun! 🙂

27 11 2007
Elizabeth

Regarding the oddity 1, dysfunction 10 thing– yeah, that’s something that Jonathan brought up before the first playtest. With a board like this, it’s easy to make yourself the epicenter of the game if that’s what you want, but personally, I think it comes down to social contract; if that’s not the kind of game you’re going for, and you have a player who would do that anyway.. well, that player’s a jerk.

No matter the shape of the board, there’s going to be a move which can bisect it.. But maybe there’s a shape that makes things easier. Hmm.

27 11 2007
Char

Well I don’t mind someone doing that on round ONE, but if you can’t touch or cross anyone on the first pre-game round, that makes it a problem! Cause then nobody can place their things at all.

29 11 2007
JasonP

Good game, but I really want it to rock.

I don’t want to tell people, “This is a really good game.”

I want to say “This gaming so totally rocks that I’m raising my goblet of RPG to the RPG gods!”

So I think there is a problem with a breakdown that occurs when the lines really start to amass on the board/sheet. I think it needs resolved. Maybe a new shape, maybe a way to remove lines, maybe something to do with all the lines you cross instead of only picking one. Get to work 🙂

I also really felt that the fuzziness of not declaring the scenes specifics hurt my experience. I felt I was waffling a lot and not really in the game but observing, even in my own scene. Maybe this is the intent, maybe its just me, YMMV. Now as Char says, having an arcing plot may actually help with this, since it would be something to cling to in all the murky water of ambient scene crafting.

Those are my two thoughts. End of line.

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