28 June, 2015

Game Chef Review 20: Sisters of the Hive by Jordan Saxby

Sisters of the Hive

Ingredients: 7 [Dream(4), Abandon (2), Stillness (1)]
Dream is the obvious central aspect to this game. The game is about crafters of dream, each working in a quartet, each working to transcend (or abandon) the quartet. There is also an inherent desire to manipulate the dream from the background, the shadows, maintaining a stillness that does not disrupt or disturb the psyche of the dreamer.  

Theme: 5
When looking at a game like this, I start to wonder if I'm seeing elements in this that were present in other indie/freeformy games. I can see a structure in this one, it's more of a ritual than anything else, maybe akin to the ritual in Tea Ceremony. Within the narrative, this game plays to the audience of a dreamer, the characters portray arcane pseudo-technomystics who provide dreams to this individual. Outside the narrative, as a part of the ritual, the audience for the story is the other players, no more no less. As a game it's still designed for the subset of gamers and improvised theatre types drawn to this kind of expression, but in this particular case, the procedures are ritualised, hand movements mean something and body language actually plays a part in resolution. It's more inviting than games that simply set a scene and make the participants do everything else. This game would have gotten a 4 for that, but it's careful explanation of play bumps it up a bit.      

Would I Play This?: 5
If this were available at a convention, I'd seriously consider playing it. I don't know that I'd run it myself, but I'd be intrigued enough to see how it played out. There are restrictions built into the game that unfold over play, so it's not fully freeform and I typically think that restrictions add to the challenge and refine the final story.

Completeness: 6
This game has a tag line describing it as "a semi-cooperative storytelling game", which implies that it is also semi-competitive. The rules holdup to this description, there are rules to describe how players may manipulate the narrative experienced by the dreamer, rules to describe how they might collaborate and how they might compete, as well as end games resulting in individual victory, group victory or failure. Things don't always go well in this game.

Innovation: 6
I've seen a few competitive roleplaying games over the years, and have experimented with some of my own competitive storytelling games, but it's nice to see someone else playing in that space with some interesting ideas their plucked from a range of sources to create this design. I'd like to see how this evolved over a few playtests.  

Output Quality: 5 [Language (3), Layout 2, Imagery (0)]
I have no issues with the language on this one, it's generally functional and clear. The layout is simple and no overly complicated but it gets the job done. No images at all. 

Overall: 59% [21+10+5+12+6+5]
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