Game Chef Review 36: Back Home by Scott Slomiany

Back Home

Ingredients: 8 [Abandon (4),Stillness (3), Dream (1)]
Abandonment resonates pretty strongly in this one, so I can't deny the full 4 points for that ingredient. Stillness is also a fairly common part of the genre, and reflected in the way the controllers and travellers are unable to completely work with one another, so that's a pretty strong showing. Dream is mentioned on the title page, but I think this is a pretty tenuous link. Perhaps it's refelected in the dream and desire to get "Back Home".

Theme: 4
While I think that this is an intriguing game that play a bit differently to a lot of RPGs, I really can't see this opening up new audiences. It's fairly typical of indie game design, and looks like it would need open thinking ad-lib style gamers (who are a distinct existing niche within the hobby). I could have marked it lower in this regard, but I've boosted the mark slightly, because I could see a game like this being used as a part of a critical thinking exercise in a corporate team building environment (where I have seen similar exercises used infrequently in the past).

Would I Play This?: 7
I'd seriously consider running this, as is, for a convention. As a one-shot, it's a tight game that seems like it could be easily paced into a 3-4 hours session. I'd also consider injecting it in an existing campaign as a change of pace.

Completeness: 8
Despite the generally small package, almost everything seems here to run a game. A bit of background knowledge regarding gaming would probably help, but I've already penalised the design for this based on the "theme" mark. This entry provides what you need (scenario set up, mechanisms, play examples) and little more. I'd say it's streamlined more than incomplete.

Innovation: 6
There's nothing overwhelmingly innovative in this, but there are a few nice ideas implemented in elegant ways. I think the most innovative, if least elegant, is the track of 15 points on the travellers (marked with Is and Gs [I note that in one of the examples, a traveller has has these filled in incorrectly]). I can see why the dots have been arbitrarily filled in the way they have, but that's probably my irk... it feels arbitrary. The use of relationships, specialties and hobbies to improve chances of success in coming "Back Home" is a nice simple way to modify the flow of the story, and while I've seen similar ideas in previous games there is an elegance to the way the traits are used here. These ideas have got me thinking about ways to expand or refine things.

Output Quality: 7 [Language (3), Layout (2), Imagery (1), +1 Bonus for overall package]
This game is put together pretty well. The language is on par with most of the better entries, the layout includes title pages, decent headings, use of bold and plain text, and generally breaks down the text well.  There is a decent title illustration and example cards depicted for the traveller characters. All in all, the kind of thing I could print out and bind for my shelf, or even run through a POD service as a part of an anthology,

Overall: 68% Credit [24+8+7+16+6+7]
This is a solid entry. It skirts the region of game designs that I don't usually like (ie. games that give a vague situation then tell the players to run with it), but instead of leaving the players adrift it gives an interesting pacing mechanism and a series of prompts for resolution in the form of relationships between the travellers and the controllers. I could easily see this game being hooked into an existing campaign as a one shot, where the travellers (and controllers) described in some other gaming system have more detail and depth to their character. I understand a lot of the design choices made in this game, and even though I might not have made them, they seem a decent fit here. The only real thing letting it down is the fact that I couldn't see how it really opened things up to "a different audience",


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