One of the reasons I started this series was that it hopefully allows me to brainstorm games that are outside of the types I would usually design. Sometimes when you’re trying to design more ‘seriously’ you tend to use the same sort of approaches to problems, or even to creating fun in your game, and this leads to a lot of similar designs. For example, for months after Relic Runners was picked up for publication, I tried to make so many games with networks and locations, and in the end all I designed were several poor imitations.
Today’s idea is for a game well outside my normal wheelhouse, a party game. I was inspired in part by the interview with the Bamboozle Brothers (Jay Cromier and Sen-Foong Lim) in which they discuss their latest game, But Wait, There’s More!, a party game where players are trying to pitch weird contraptions to each other. This gave me an idea to try a game where story took centre stage, with a very specific backdrop.
Day 24: From the Belly of a Whale
The players are all seasoned fishermen and women in a stormy port town, far away from any other civilisation. Usually there is not much to disrupt the steady tedium of rain and salt, but this evening, word has reached the pub where the players are gathered that someone has just returned after being swallowed by a whale. Being the boastful kind of people you would expect from fishermen, each of the players is trying to convince the others that they were the one who was in the whale.
Each player has a hand of cards, which give details of the whale itself (it had already swallowed 3 other ships!) or of the sailor’s exploits (I was stuck in its belly for hours, and I almost lost my mind due to the bellowing of its lungs!). On their turn, a player is essentially trying to string together as many of the cards in their hand to form a coherent story. As they play the cards, they explain how they fit together, and are encouraged to give more details than what is expressly noted on the cards themselves.
As the active player is telling their story, they can be interrupted by another player playing one of their cards. This is essentially a challenge to the active player’s tale, asking them how their card fits into their story. Essentially players should wait for the opportune time when they think their card contradicts some part of the tale being told. The active player has 15 seconds to adequately explain how the new card fits in the tale. If they are able to, they take that card and make it part of their story. This is good, as a player scores points equal to the number of cards in their story. However, if they falter in their explanation or fail to make any sense (as judged by a simple vote by the other players who are not involved), then the story is broken. The active player’s turn ends with them scoring no points, and the interrupting player gains 2 points.
Play continues from player to player in this way, with players drawing up to a hand size of 6 at the start of each of their turns. Once the deck runs out, each player has one last chance to tell a story before the game ends.
Being a novice when it comes to both playing and designing storytelling games, the mechanic in this game may have already been done. But hopefully a group would really get into the grim and dark world that the game takes place in, and would start to feel like this occurrence with the whale must have been truly incredible as the details continue to pile up. The cards should have enough details that you could plausibly trap someone if you interrupt at the right time, and this is where the real interest in the game could be. If you enjoy these types of games, how would you make this one better?