Fastaval 2016 Retrospective

This year, I took a step down from being activities coordinator last year. Instead, I was “merely” a board game jury member. Plus, I wrote a scenario, Death of a Playwright. Being a member of the board game jury, I played more board games than roleplaying games – but again, being a jury member, I don’t feel like I should talk about my play experiences. In other words, I am only going to talk about my roleplaying experiences here.

Death of a Playwright

Death of a Playwright was my own game about Shakespeare’s characters replaying his life in front of his eyes. It’s in some ways a tricky game, because the game challenges the players, and because the game master/MC has very restricted tools to steer the action. Also, the casting of the players is very important – one player plays Shakespeare, and that player has to be able to bear the constant attention, but must also be a receptive player.

At Fastaval, I had six groups playing the game. Overall, I’m happy with the result. I had many people come over to tell me how happy they were to have played my game – and I even had one other scenario writer tell me (and the world in general) that playing my game inspired him to move on with an idea he’d had rummaging around in his head.

I’m going to write a separate post with some thoughts on the game, but it’s already available on Alexandria.dk.

Gargantuan

Friday was my roleplaying day. In the morning, I played Troels Ken Pedersen’s Gargantuan. The game is a game about a giant dirigible, crewed by elves and goblins. The game is steampunk-ish, and deals with racism and class struggles. It won the Jury Special Otto for the way it makes the themes come alive to the players.

The four players are divided up into two pairs – one elf and one goblin in each. The dynamics are such that the elf has the official power, but the goblin has the real power. My character, for instance, was an elf man from an old and powerful family that was out of money. As such, I was being courted by a rich goblin entrepreneur. This was potentially scandalous, but also a source of great possible wealth for me and my family.

The game reinforces its theme by a number of simple, but effective social rules. For instance, the goblin players can never describe an elf – and so if they need to introduce an elf, they must ask an elf player to describe the person. Whenever you describe an elf, you must describe the gems he or she is wearing, while a description of a goblin must include mention of at least one physical defect. Mention of physical defects in an elf can only be made in a whisper, while mention of gemstones on a goblin must be followed with “…like an elf.”

The game really works. It created a beautiful, horrible tragedy, with players having to go through the mud, yet remaining proud. My group had two rather weak players playing the other couple – but that just meant that the couple I was in gained more attention, and ultimately made my character the main character of the story, which was a great experience for me (and I think everyone around the table enjoyed the story we created).

All in all, a very enjoyable experience that I can wholly recommend. It is also available on Alexandria in English.

Down and Out in Marienburg

Kristian Bach Pedersen is famous for his special brand of gritty, cinematic elves. He started off with Reservoir Elves and went by way of Magician: Impossible to Apocalypse Drow. This year he went to the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy – more specifically to the free city of Marienburg. The game is about a bunch of lowlife elves, trying to get by in Marienburg. At the beginning of the game, they come upon a sudden windfall. Over the course of the game, it turns out that it may be more trouble than it’s worth, however.

The game is not shy about telling you that the Chaos god Slaanesh is somehow involved in the whole thing. If you know the Warhammer world, that tells you what might be in store: hedonism, violence and decadent sex. It’s not PG-13.

One of the interesting things about the game was the way it uses the character sheets. You received a two-page character sheet. On the second page is a list of bonus dice you can use in a fight – but to do so, you must scratch out an entry on your page. Below that are three secrets that you can introduce into play – secrets about you, or about the other players. When you introduce one of those secrets, you can tear of the secret on your charater, and use it to get a bonus in a combat. Finally, the first page has some scratch pads. During the game, you get access to some special dice. But when you use one of those dice, you must scratch one of the scratch pads. Under some of the scratch pads are a Slaanesh symbol, meaning you have been corrupted.

All of these things together add to the fun of the game. By giving a physical representation to something that happens in the meta-narrative layer of the game, those things gain a greater impact. That’s a really neat concept.

I played the game Friday evening. Unfortunately, I ended up with a group that had a very different agenda to mine. The rest of the group was all about silly violent action, whereas I was more interested in some more intrigue and character play. I did enjoy myself, it was very entertaining – but the whole way through, I kept thinking to myself: “is this really it?” I talked to Kristian afterwards, and it would seem it isn’t “it”. Other groups focus more on the play between the characters, and on the predicament they’re in.

And so, I vowed to run the game, to see what I can make of the game. The game won Otto’s for best effects as well as the audience award and was nominated for Best Scenario, Best Narrative and Best Presentation, so I am confident there’s something for me to work with. The game is currently only available in Danish, though it might be translated into English.

Board Game Jury

And finally, I spent Saturday in a wooden bungalow, trying to decide which board game was the best, and which was the most innovative. It was a very interesting and enjoyable experience, arguing with the other judges as to the relative merits of this or that game. Also, I was very impressed with the standard of the games submitted. I don’t feel like I can call out any games in particular, but I hope that more people will get a chance to look at them.

This Fastaval was really enjoyable. It was great not having to run around all day on official business, but having time to play and chat and be at Fastaval. At the same time, being part of the board game jury meant I felt like I had a purpose at the con. Also, because I had more energy to look at the games, I feel more filled with creative energy than I usually does after a Fastaval. I am already in the process of setting up several different games that I want to play, and I have a small list of concepts for scenarios to develop before next Fastaval (but more about that later).

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