26 June, 2015

Game Chef Review 14: Tea Ceremony by Niamh Schönherr

Tea Ceremony

Ingredients: 8 [Stillness (4), Dream (4)]
A player must meditate for a moment of stillness as the tea/liquid in their cup settles. A single player takes on the role of the dreamer, and relates one of their dreams as the focus of conversation during each round of the game. Both elements are simple, concise and focal to the game as it unfolds.

Theme: 10
This is a very personal game, a soul laid bare in mechanisms and meditation. It is a game that can be played without the players even realizing that it is a game, it doesn't so much push the notion of game out into the world but absorbs the wider world into it's embrace. I didn't think I'd see a 10 according to my scale, but this one seems to fit the bill. It makes the audience a part of the game, no matter who that audience might be. It's probably one of the most open games I've seen.

Would I play this?: 8
I would totally play this. I would play it without telling people that I was playing it. I would conduct dinner parties around this. I considered trying it as I was writing this review, and did have to track down my tea set and my sake set to see which might make a better conversation starter.

Completeness: 9 [8 +1 bonus for making everything necessary available to all participants]
This game is very specific in what it is, and what it isn't. The game doesn't claim to be an immersive experience of angst and catharsis, it simply is what it is. Specific (and almost ritualised) instructions are provided for the host and the guests to follow. There is no victory condition, but none is needed beyond the simple having of a good time.

Innovation: 9 [6 +1 for presenting in an innovative way +2 for using a medium I haven't seen before in games]
The idea of making a tea set the central element in a game and actually engaging game mechanisms to that prop has stunned me as an innovative idea. In fact the whole game has crash tackled my psyche, and manifested a new level of gaming awareness. This is what I'm doing the reviews for. It's personal, it's shared with the world. I'd love to see it bundled up with a tea set and sold in places where games are sold, or in places where tea is sold.

Output Quality: 7 [Language (3), Layout (2), Imagery (1) +1 Bonus for simple elegance]
The language is up there with many of the entries, simple and functional for the most part. The layout is simple, but gets a slight upgrade due to having a separate Host sheet and a separate Guest sheet. While the game has no images per se, I've given it a point for imagery de to the eviactive nature of the writing throughout the text, but most particularly at the beginning (in the "About this Game" section).

Overall: 86% High Distinction [24+20+8+18+9+7]
I didn't think a game would reach this level, but I was wrong. It seems odd to be scoring a lot of the freeform/jeepform games really low while this one has been scored so high, but the sheer simple elegance of this ritual game just struck me with it's purity. It makes good uses of the ingredient components and rather than trying to pull players into a world were they're given the scene then they have to do all the hard work, it simply overlays concepts of ritual and game onto an everyday activity. It strikes me almost like a meditation. I might have created a few nicely laid out pages in the forms of invitations for the host and guests.
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