03 July, 2015

Game Chef Review 31: The Stillness of the Tomb by Thaddeus Kelly and Andrew Barnes

Ingredients: 10 [Stillness (4), Dream (4), Abandon (2)]
I feel the ingredients in this design have been better integrated than just about any other game I've reviewed so far. Stillness fits as a thematic element in the game, as well as the need to keep the prop tea candles still to avoid their flame from blowing out. Dreams are a central element of the game, as the Mummy weaves their dream narrative, and the explorer translates it in "real world" terms. The final notion of abandoning the Mummy is a strong way to finish the game.

Theme: 3
The ritualised play and use of props gives me a vague impression of "A Penny for My Thoughts", and the idea of writing emotional things on index cards fits squarely into the indie design camp, that's not a bad thing but again it's not really different. The collaborative storytelling aspects of this game still feel like their only a step or two removed from drama class exercises.

Would I Play this?: 4
If I were playing another game, perhaps a game with a modern weird horror or pulp hero exploration vibe, I'd love to throw this in every now and then when the character encounter a truly ancient menace (some kind of mummy, vampire, or other immortal who spends time in a torporous stasis). Something to break the pace, and inject collaborative backstory into the setting.

Completeness: 8 [7 +1 Bonus for accessibility]
In similar collaborative storytelling games there is  tendency to let everything fall to freeform conventions (ie. none at all), this game structures the storytelling process in a ritual process. The completeness of that ritual is clear, but I'd like to have seen a few more play examples (and the two list of examples were obviously written up, then a few additional ideas added to the end...so that could do with being fixed up). A few bits of the game seem a bit rushed, perhaps emphasized by the flavour of stillness imbuing most of the text. It feels like it could benefit from a bit more refinement and clarity, but overall not bad.

Innovation: 5 [4 +1 Bonus for the use of the candles]
I like ritual. I drink sake because of the ritual of warming it up, and the culture of only taking drink when poured by others, I drink absinthe because I like the process of the spoon and sugar cube. I don't drink alcohol to get drunk, I drink it occasionally for the social elements involved. I like my gaming to unfold the same way, there are certain elements of play that make the situation more social and when a game utilizes these, I appreciate it. I don't find this game pushing a lot of new boundaries, but I appreciate the ways in which it pushes the same boundaries that have been pushed for the last few years.

Output Quality: 7 [Language (3), Layout (2), Imagery (1), +1 Bonus for Overall good package and accessibility]
This is one of the most accessible games I've encountered so far. I has been provided in a variety of formats from plain text through RTF and word document to PDF. The language is of a good quality, the layout is generally good. I'm giving the extra point for imagery despite the lack of pictures in the text because of the games use of props and ritual (much the same as I did with "Tea Ceremony").

Overall: 68% Credit [30+6+4+16+5+7]
It's a simple, clever game. One person starts a tale, a second person translates and refines it, before the initial storyteller takes over again, and the second party brings it to it's conclusion. It's the ritual around this process that makes the game interesting for me.
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