[Land of 1000 Kings] My children visit the Land of 1000 Kings–Post-game reactions and playtest feedback

Post-game reactions

The game was an unqualified success. After both sessions, the kids were clamoring to return. Even after the second session, where I didn’t give them what they wanted, they were fully engaged fairly quickly and enjoyed what actually happened.

Crystal and Gabrielle have both expressed an interest in playing, but life didn’t line up properly for them to join us for these games. Samuel was trying to persuade both of them. I’m pretty sure that he’s figured out that the only way to increase his Attributes is to get other players to play. That’s pretty cool.

Arianna was deeply touched by the events of the game. She was very distressed to have to leave her new friends behind, even though she knows that they are make-believe. I think that the simplicity and sincerity of the Land of 1000 Kings was appealing to her. She is already starting to learn that the world is a dark and complicated place, and the simple honesty of a rat was pleasant for her.

For the kids, the biggest speed bump was the Recollection dice. For those who don’t know, in an action, any player can contribute a real memory that is thematically connected to the action somehow. This gives him the right to contribute a die to any player in the action. This was a bit challenging for the kids to get, though they were starting to get it. I think that experience will overcome this somewhat. Also, as one of them said, “It’s not fair, Dad. You have more memories than we do!” There’s some truth in that.

Playtest feedback

This is a playtest, so here are some thoughts I have on gameplay, both generally and specifically as it relates to my children.

First, I like the “playing as yourself” bit a lot. It’s one of those things that has been “done” in gaming a lot, but I think that making it a major feature of play, including the actual memories of the players at the table, is a big deal. I think that it creates a positive environment of trust that draws the players together. Also, I think that it helped my children to connect to what was going on.

As a general principle, I like the dice system. You roll your dice pool and (generally) take your highest die to see if you won. If you tie, you reroll. However, all 1s and 2s are set aside to contribute to the magnitude of the result of the action. This is all very cool.

However, I’m not sure if Location, Condition, and Reception is working out. Now, that’s a real “I’m not sure”. I’m going to keep playing with it and see if I change my mind. I’m not sure what I’m concerned about, really. Maybe it’s because it feels simultaneously constrained but too open. Also, sometimes one of the categories didn’t seem to make sense in the context. For example, if you’re by yourself, why does Reception matter?

Also, sometimes the amount of currency that was generated could be overwhelming. As an example, there was a conflict that had something like 11 currency available to the winner and 6 available to the loser. The winner was able to establish Location, Condition, and Reception for everyone involved, plus throw out a hefty Wound. What should the loser do? Wounding the opponent was locked out by Condition, so a Memory was all that remained. Then the player left soon thereafter and couldn’t keep the Memory, since you only get to save one from visit to visit. So I felt like he was cheated a bit. Any thoughts on this, Ben?

Veil of the World seemed too large. Eight dice is a big deal. I actually felt guilty grabbing more than four dice for the Veil, especially if I could also grab dice from a Realm. Maybe more guidelines here would be handy. Or maybe it would be different if we were using more powerful characters?

I’ll have to read over the rules on Realms. At least on the surface, they make sense, and I did use them in play, but I’ll analyze them closer and see if anything jumps out at me. I like the idea, though. It seems to give some guidance to difficulty and to the shape of the experience. Doing this thing is against the Law of the Realm, so it will be harder. Doing this thing works with the Law of the Realm, so it will be easier. So I’ll be keeping my eye on it and see if anything else turns up.

At the end of a visit, the gatekeeper is allowed to put a memory “on the world”. What’s this?

There was one other thing, but now I don’t remember what it is. Grr.

So, in conclusion, this is a nifty game that will doubtless propagate like a virus throughout the indie scene. And, if that is so, I think that we will all be the better for it.

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