I've seen a bunch of posts from various folks these last few weeks talking about the War Birds
Kickstarter and the important issues it addresses as a game anthology and the works and stories of women during wartime that the games help bring to light. And how relevant these not-so-distant stories are to now. That's all true, but that's not what I'm going to talk about.
I'm going to talk about baser things like money and design because the truth is, there are a lot of unplayed games collecting dust on my shelf and many more that I've given away and I'm a little more hesitant to throw money at just anything that sounds cool or worthwhile these days because there are a lot of cool and worthwhile things out there competing for my and your resources. Why do these games sit unplayed? Sometimes it's just logistical issues, of course! But for some of them, I can appreciate them as creative efforts but don't actually enjoy running or playing them, or worse in some ways: I really want
to run or play them but I can't figure out some crucial pieces of game play - something doesn't quite add up. And maybe if we put our heads together or asked around or contacted the designer, we could figure it out, but sometimes that minor barrier is enough to pass over it for something clearer.
What does that have to do with War Birds
? About a year ago (if I recall correctly), +Mo Jave
asked me if I'd be willing to run a playtest of the cornerstone game Against the Grain
at a house con. It hadn't been playtested yet, so this would be the first round. Normally I'd be hesitant to say yes because playtests can be frustrating and I don't feel like I always have the right skills to approach them fruitfully, but I love Mo, she's good at communicating, and the situation was relaxed so of course I said yes!
There was really nothing to be anxious about. I read it over and had a pretty good sense of how it would go and what I should do. That is actually pretty huge. Communicating the basics seems like it should be simple but so many people (myself included) struggle with writing clear game text. Mo killed it right out of the gate.
And the game went really well. Of course there were bits here and there to be tweaked or polished, but it worked and it did a wonderful job of setting up and facilitating a story about an important historical situation with all of the tension of multiple perspectives and agendas and lives on the line.
There was minimal space set-up, warm-up exercises to break the ice, and solid read-aloud text to set up the historical situation without overwhelming everyone with too many details. Just enough. And there were richly designed characters charged with conflicting desires and needs. I didn't have to work hard as the facilitator. Just kept an eye on things and prodded a little here and there to twist the knife on internal and external conflict. The players felt empowered by their characters to push most of the conflict all on their own.
So I'm really excited to support Against the Grain
in its finished form! And I'm all the more excited because there are several other brilliant minds adding games to the War Birds
anthology and there is support to help these games reach their best potential as well.
The Kickstarter will be over fairly soon, so if you're thinking about it, it's a great time to commit. It's already funded, but your support could actually add more
games to the anthology - games that also sound really good. And you can help kickstart it because you want to support these awesome writers and because you think the topics are important - these are valid reasons! - but also? The design is really solid. These are games to be read and played.https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/721113354/war-birds-0