25 June, 2015

Game Chef Review 6: Wings by David Rothfeder

David asked me to review this for him, and it's actually one of my assigned formal reviews for the contest. So here goes...

Wings

Ingredients: 8 [Dragonflies (4), Stillness (3), +1 Bonus for Abandonment]
This is a game about faeries and dragonflies, and the relationship between them. It focuses of the time when faeries need to move on from their dragonflies, an awkward stage of adolescence and transition. The dragonflies seek stillness while the faeries seek to find their place in the world either by separating from the dragonflies of resuming the status quo. These ingredients seem to play well into the concepts of the game.

Theme: 8 [6 + both the bonus points]
There are a few games around for pre-teen girls, but not a whole lot. So this gets moderate points in that regard, where the bonus points come in are for the way the author addresses the way the game is directed at that audience...it's not just a pink version of monopoly, it's a tool for addressing the issues that a pre-teen girl might ace in her daily life and a way to explore those things. As a therapeutic tool to explore issues it could be useful.

Would I play this?:7
As a teacher in training conducting research papers into using games in the classroom, I can see how this game could definitely be used to explore themes within a "safe zone". Group therapy could be engaged using this system as a barrier interface between the issues that don't want to be spoken about and the "real world". Its not a perfect fit for all audiences, but the author readily admits this and often a one-size-fits-all approach isn't a good fit for anyone. I might make some changes regarding the number of scenes taken by everyone, because there seems to be scope for more interesting scenes as the game progresses and tougher decisions have to be made. But even as it stands, it's one to add to the pile of games to look at and play when the time is right.

Completeness: 9 [7 + 2 Bonus Points]
There are a couple of bits in the rules where some proofreading would help (some parts indicating "defiance" while the character sheet simply uses "defy", it's just pedantic stuff but it took a second read through to make sure I was appropriately grokking the text. On the whole though, there is information about how to make characters, information about how to set up scenes, cards to cut out, character sheets [that's a bonus point], ideas for how things might need to be changed to account for colour blind people (like me) [that's a bonus point], and there's even a pretty decent play example at the end. It's a pretty tight package.  

Innovation: 5
No game is perfect, and here's where things slip a bit. I've seen just about every component of this game before, maybe not in the configuration offered here, but the components are all familiar. The relationship between faeries and dragonflies reminds me of the dynamic between wraiths and their shadows (used by White Wolf 20 years ago), on the surface this game doesn't go as dark as that predecessor, but it still feels like that dynamic. This is one of the reasons why the game has scored fairly well in other areas. I know these components work, I have seen some of them working together, and I've seen them easily understood by non-gamers. But even though these ideas are presented in a way that is a bit new for a new audience, they feel familiar. It doesn't particularly feel like it's pushing the envelope.

Output Quality: 9 [Language (3), Layout (3), Imagery (2), +1 Bonus for a good package]
The language is generally informative and concise, no issues there. The layout is possibly the best I've seen so far, with borders, columns, iconography, and simple but elegant font work. The cover illustration doesn't have a dragonfly on it, but again that's just being pedantic and it's a pretty cover regardless. There are plenty of dragonflies elsewhere to generally make up for this.

Overall: 79% Distinction (24+16+7+18+5+9)
It really wouldn't have taken much more work to push this game into a High Distinction category. Certain one of the more professionally presented and thought about games so far. There could have been more depth and consideration given to the mechanisms of play, but the freeform angle here is probably right for the style and the audience so I really can't complain too much there. I foresee it being hard to beat this one according to my criteria.
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