Game Chef Review 32: The Collective by Beth Hintze

The Collective (link removed at request of designer).

Ingredients: 5 [Dream (3), Abandon (2)]
There really doesn't seem to be a lot of connection to the ingredients in this one. The "Dream" connection occurs in the second act of play, it's a distinct part of the game and makes sense in context. the ingredient "Abandon" is present but less so than the dream. It's a solid game concept, but overall it feels like the ingredients have been shoehorned into something that the designer had been mulling around prior to the contest.

Theme: 4
The way I'm reading this, the game straddles the gap between traditional resolution and freeform collaborative storytelling. Unlike most games that try to do this by finding a middle ground and minimizing the rules, it weaves between soft conversation and hard mechanisms. If I had to link it to anything existing, I'd suggest it might be a bit like Fiasco, but instead of having a single big tilt in the middle of the story, it has a few smaller one along the way. (It's not a perfect analogy, but it vaguely fits). So it doesn't particularly tread new ground or address different audiences, but it addresses the niche audiences two different styles of gaming and tries to bring them together.

Would I play this?: 7
I'd be interested to try this out, a few times in a row to see how it plays out... to me that means running it at a convention. There's quite a bit of variation possible within the rules, but it doesn't particularly seem well suited to long term campaign play, this reinforces the convention notion, but not necessarily something I'd get the guys around to play on a regular basis.

Completeness: 9
Character sheets, reference sheets, scenario ideas, sidebars with extra information and ideas, advice for the GM/Overseer...this game pretty much has everything. The only thing I'd change to make it more complete would be to format the various character traits into card sized rectangles to make them more uniform and easier for random selection.

Innovation: 5
There are a few clever ideas in here, but on the whole this feels like it treads a lot of the ground we've already seen in many independent gaming releases over the last decade or so. That doesn't mean it's bad, in fact the game weaves together some otherwise disparate elements into something cohesive and clever, but it doesn't really hit me as something saying "Hey, this is new! Look at me!!".  

Output Quality: 8 [Language (3), Layout (3), Imagery (1) +1 Bonus for Overall Package]
The language in this game is functional and informative. The layout gains it's bonus because it includes sidebars and additional features that add elements of interest beyond most of the games I've reviewed so far. The imagery point comes from the watermark, which a step above and beyond what most games have been offering so far.

Overall: 61% Pass [15+8+7+18+5+8]
I like this game, there's a tension in the balance between freeform narrative resolution and mechanisms to pull things back into line. The presentation of the game is better than most as well, even if that just comes from a watermark background on the pages, it shows a level of attention to detail that I appreciate. The main things that let it down according to my marking rubric are the lack of a strong connection to the ingredients and theme (and since those are heavily weighted in the score, it really wouldn't have taken much more to push this game to credit or even distinction level).


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