03 July, 2015

Game Chef Review 33: Kaidankai no Akitsushima by Christopher Stone-Bush

Kaidankai no Akitsushima

Ingredients: 6 [Dragonfly (3), Stillness (3)]
The Dragonfly is in the name of the game, and the dragonfly is the harbinger of change when a Joker is drawn, it plays a key role in the mechanisms some of the time. Stillness is less specifically addressed, but is a more core element of the mechanisms because a stillness is required to ensure the burning of the candles, and a still moment precedes the telling of a story. Given the ingredients, I could have seen a dream connection to the kami, but the game didn't go that way.

Theme: 5 [4 +1 Bonus for addressing the audience in a specific manner]
This game distinctly uses an audience because a single player narrates a story of their own choosing, while the other participants act as a silent audience listening to the unfolding narrative. It's an existing niche group within gaming circles, but as a group the players are specifically injected into a liminal space through the ritual of play. That's something a bit different, and worthy of a few points.  

Would I play this?: 9
At first glance this feels like a game I would write, it has cards acting as an oracle, it involves ritual. It's not really a roleplaying game, unless you count that the participants are playing the roles of an ancient circle of storytellers. I've written games like that. It's exciting to see someone else playing in the same space. Especially when it comes to pseudo-Japanese storytelling. I know a few other people who are also really into Japanese myth and legend, who might be into this, but it would take a bit of priming and background instruction before they'd be ready to take on something like this.

Completeness: 7
There's enough here to play the game, but it's a bit sparse overall. Besides the ritualised aspect that frames the storytelling, and the elements injected into the story by the oracle, this game generally fits into that wider category of freeform game that basically offers a suggestion then tells the players to run with it without offering any further support mechanisms for that play method. Playing this game would require players who know how to fill in those blanks and who are confident ad-libbing their stories to a wider audience, even if that audience isn't looking at them. A reference sheet for all the players might be a nice addition for players who can't remember what the cards mean.    

Innovation: 7 [4 +2 Bonus for innovative presentation +1 for a medium not often used]
A lot of the ideas in this game aren't really all that innovative. give someone a situation in which to immerse themselves, give them an oracle to guide their actions, and then put the spotlight on them and let them go. The bonuses I'm giving here are for the added ritual of the situation and the way players are specifically seated to not look at one another. It might be construed as a bit angsty/cathartic/drama-class, but as least the set up is there to get players into the right frame of mind when they're about to tell their stories. That's a step ahead of other games in a similar design space. It might have been more innovative (and appropriate to game theme) if Hanafuda or Kabufuda cards had been used, but this would have made the game less accessible.

Output Quality: 6 [Language (3), Layout (2), Imagery (1)]
The language used in this game is clear and concise. The layout is typical of the field, and makes suitable use of tables to gather pertinent information. The imagery point comes from the description of the ritual space initiated before the start of play more than any particular illustrations (perhaps some photos or illustrations of the players in the play configuration might add something to the overall game).

Overall: 64% Pass [18+10+9+14+7+6]
I like this game, but I wanted it to be more. It still suffers a bit from the notion of just giving players a few tools and a space to work in, then letting them go. I'd like to see some kind of element where the stories might gain some kind of simple mechanical effect if they leave plot holes open and threads loose, while complimentary effects come into play when previous plot holes are closed up or threads tied together in other stories. This might weave together a wider world rather than simply throwing a few solitary stories into the world.
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