26 June, 2015

Game Chef Review 12: A Traveler's Handbook by Johanna Hamren

A Traveler's Handbook

Ingredients: 5 [Dream (2), Stillness (2), +1 Bonus for "Abandonment"]
This is a game about travelling in a metaphysical sense, the ingredients offered are simply suggestions for where that travelling might take place. They aren't really integrated in the rules in any way, and the game has no prescribed setting so they certainly aren't an integral part from that perspective. After my first skim, I couldn't see where the ingredients were at all... it took me a second thorough read through to even notice them. But at least they are mentioned.  

Theme: 2
Again, in reference to The Zone and The Last Hour, I have to give this a 2. It's honestly not that I don't like this type of game, it's that we've been seeing so much of it lately and it's a very insular and specific type of roleplaying that excludes much of the tabletop community let alone wider gamers and the wider community around us all. It's a narrow niche, and while it may be exploring new themes within this niche, the contest isn't about telling new stories to the same audience, it's about "a different audience". Sorry.
Variant: (Theme 4) Since I really don't want t be too hard on someone doing this for their first time, let's look at a variant interpretation of the theme. Johanna is Swedish, let's assume that her "different audience" is English speakers. A quick look through G+ shows that she speaks (or at least types) English well. But we'll give he the benefit of the doubt as a non-native speaker, two bonus points. 

Would I play this?: 3
I'd tack this onto another game to give it stronger thematic content. Otherwise I don't think I'd really give this game a second look. It's a relational tool, with some vague ideas for setting up scenes. I could (and have) sat in a pub after a convention and written more elaborate games about interpersonal dynamics with prompts for setting scenes and resolving conflict through narrative on beer coasters. I've even played these games at conventions. I'd play this in conjuction with something else, but as it stands I don't really consider this a game...more of a freeform tool for establishing set dressing. 

Completeness: 2
See above. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt here. I could add this to an existing game to make it much richer. I could remember these rules while I'm drunk and make an epic pub crawl with some gaming mates. But it really needs something else before I consider it even a game (even if that something else is an awesome GM who can ad-lib like a demon bard). The game on which it is "based" has a marker based economy according to the website, but this one doesn't even have that.  

Innovation: 1
Sit's squarely in the jeepform/small-freeform/angsty-catharsis school of minimalist design. I don't see much envelope pushing here at all.

Output Quality: 5 [Language (3), Layout (2), Imagery (0)]
The language is a bit disjointed, but I won't mark this down for a non-native English speaker. The layout has a titlepage, headings, and bits with bullet points so it's a bit all over the place but generally functional. After looking at Johanna's comments during Game Chef, I'm actually a little disappointed that she didn't use more illustrations, place the text onto a background that looked like a traveler's journal, or even produce a game that was predominantly illustrations. As a fellow graphic designer I'm sure this could have been an awesome way to go. 

Overall: 32% Needs Work[15+4+3+4+1+5]
Variant Overall: 36% Needs Work [15+8+3+4+1+5]
I don't want to discourage a first time entrant, but as I've said a few times in these reviews, I think that this sort of entry is just lazy design that needs a lot more before it can seriously be called a game. No further comment.
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