players: Feiya, Martin, Shuo, Ben
Sometimes games go "BONG!" This was one of those times. It was not a winner.
To be fair, we stopped very early -- we started preparing to stop after each character had only done one scene. Shuo mentioned that she needed to leave early, but I didn't brain-up and take that into account when suggesting While the World Ends, which is a strict four-player game. So when we knew she had to leave, it was easier just to stop than soldier on. I probably should have pitched something more flexible like Remember Tomorrow. C'est la guerre.
I've waffled between just saying "eh, off night" or digging into what went wrong. The more I think about the more I think there are good lessons here (in addition to "pick a game that fits the time"). I also think that if we had kept playing things might have come together. That's a fairly normal pattern: starting wobbly and then gaining steam and sorting things out.
Brief setting explanation:
Humans have come to live on a vast artificial world, probably made by aliens and abandoned. We don't know. The weird thing is that recently a small percentage of people have stopped needing to sleep and become tireless fonts of productivity, but the majority are finding their sleeping lives being taken over. When they sleep, another personality takes control and they wake up and go do things. Mysterious things. In the morning when they awaken they're usually exhausted and bleary-eyed, because they didn't really sleep after all.
As Martin pointed out when we were chatting after the game, we had a big world mystery ("who are the sleepwalking personalities?") that made it hard for anyone to establish what was true. In hindsight, I think that would be fine in a game like Shock, where you can roll conflict dice to establish world truths and declare what's what, but in While the World Ends you're just rolling to accomplish your story goal. Even if you fudged and did roll to establish truths, it would be unsatisfying because you're rolling solo: in Shock the other players get input via conflict dice and audience dice, but in WtWE you just roll by yourself. Other players would have no input. We had the same "who gets to say what's true?" problem in Remember Tomorrow. Starting with overt world mysteries is a bad idea in those games.
The other thing is that by creating a political tension between the sleepless and the sleepers/sleepwalkers, we got caught up in what was basically a standard "who controls society" story, avoiding the mystery of the strange entities, which was our whole starting premise. And I think there's a very logical reason why that happened: confronted with a mystery and no clear avenue to know who has the creative authority to say what the answer is, it is easier & safer in play to take the "low road" and just deal with the political conflict.
I think everyone would agree that world creation went on too long. We had a lot of different elements in the mix. Some of that is WtWE. It requires five aspects, which I think encourages us to make five big and unique aspects, which is way too much. I'd almost be tempted to flip the whole order and pick the "change" aspect up front then intentionally pick four more minor aspects. That's what we usually do in our heads anyway (Shuo's idea of sleepers being taken over was the starting idea and the change aspect) but then we struggle alot to come up with four other things of equal magnitude, which just complicates things. And then we spend way too much time putting them all together.
So, a lumpy game, but educational. I would chalk a lot of this up to picking a premise that fits game X when you're really playing game Y (game X being Shock). An error, but one we probably would have overcome it if we had kept going and built up some steam.