Second Playtest: Concrete Cow 14 1/2

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Second Playtest: Concrete Cow 14 1/2
« on: September 18, 2014, 08:46:52 PM »
I ran a second playtest at Concrete Cow 14 1/2, a con that takes place twice a year in Milton Keynes, England.

In this game, I managed to speed up the set up enormously by getting my players to fill in a proforma with all the stronghold and peoples options on it, and then compiling the results at the start. That way, I could focus on asking establishing questions rather than the options themselves - I felt a lot more comfortable with this.

Other than that, setup was fairly straightforward - except that I ended up skipping households entirely and focusing on the relationships between the characters. Again, I was a lot happier with this.

What we ended up going for was a small community which had been established around a stronghold which was at the base of a stone henge. It was also marshland and the site of an ancient battle in which hundreds of people from across the kingdom died. As such, ghosts roamed the landscape and much of the Felgars' rites were focused on maintaining good relations with them.

We established an interesting combustible relationship between the moderate Keep Liege and the more militant Dragon Herald. The latter's general response to being threatened by the neighbouring warlord was to take independent action - which gave us a good opportunity to try out the Denied Your Right move.

The other characters included an Outranger who generally sided with the Dragon Herald, a Wicker Wise who was the wife of the Keep Liege and a Peasant Beauty who was actually the daughter of the Keep Liege from a previous marriage.

Again, kicking things off with the season moves was a bit of a challenge. As I was trying to try out the battle moves, it was relatively straightforward however, in that I simply gave them reports of the enemy marching towards them. The rest of the story involved them mustering forces from neighbouring communities, which partly involved doing a deal with the ancestral ghosts to help them out.

We built the story up towards a big battle. I had two problems with the battle moves. Firstly, when it came to using them I wasn't entirely clear how to use them. They were being attacked, so I assumed that the first move was Come Under Attack, but as the move stands you simply roll dice and select a number of options. But what about the enemy? I assumed that they got to choose two options from the Lead An Attack list, a bit like the Single Combat move but it wasn't clear.

My other big problem is that, frankly, I don't know anything about how mass combat really works, and the system doesn't really help me. As such, I was really struggling to turn this into something narratively interesting. There's a huge number of options, which made selecting them quite slow, and it ended up being purely procedural. In addition, only one player got to roll any dice.

The Fighting In Company move is a bit odd. It makes it clear that it takes place at the end of the battle, but if you do that then the move is fairly uninteresting. By the end of the battle, the amount of damage that the side has taken is sufficient that no-one has any choice but to pick the unhurt option, while the "at your war leader's side" option doesn't seem to have any point unless it happens during the heat of battle. It seems like a far more interesting move if you use it after each attack move as it gives each character something to do.

In the end, the aftermath of the battle was much more interesting than the battle itself, with the warlord fleeing the battlefield and seizing the Wicker Wise who had been hiding out on the henge.

So, my main comments on the battle moves is that they need clearer explanations, fewer options in Lead an Attack and Come Under Attack, and the Fighting in Combat to take place after each attack move. I'd probably find some kind of abstracted battle map which correlates with moves quite useful as well.

Still struggling with the setup. Ignoring the household rules was helpful. Far fewer, more interesting options for strongholds and peoples would also be welcome.

Still very excited about the game and looking forward to seeing the next iteration!

Thanks