Marc = The Governor (and facilitator)
Adrienne = Kelly Perkins
Domineering political consultant Kelly Perkins arrived at Mars Colony to find a fractured government, a dangerous economic situation and a city-state filled with crime, on a planet plagued by dust. The original democratic Blue party was in the wane after years of poor decisions and bureaucratic delays. The new yellow party (Greed is Good!) had recently taken the reins and had plans to make Mars Colony into the ultimate capitalist community. A small faction of citizens believed that the strong firm hand of a police state was what Mars really needed to get its problems under control.
Kelly started by trying to fight the crime issue. Gangs were in control of many sectors of the city and had infiltrated government at the highest levels. Eventually, by giving Jerry Lloyds (chief of security and one of the leaders of the red party) his head, the corruption was removed. Jerry and Kelly became lovers and while she continued to try and find solutions to the dust plague and inflation her already-sour relationship with her husband Derrick deteriorated even further. Eventually she and Derrick divorced, Jerry and Kelly wed, and she maneuvered to place him in position as the new mayor.
In the end, once Mars is 'fixed' to the shining standard of the Yellow (Gold?) party. It becomes a city where the poor and the weak are oppressed, but the rich and ruthless flourish in splendor. Kelly finds herself looking elsewhere - to another city to fix, new relationships to engineer, and a further challenge overcome.
Thoughts on Mechanics:
- Not difficult at all, once it's explained and demonstrated.
- Seems very well designed for pacing. Both our game and one of the ones next to us ended with the final dice challenge being the last one needed to solve all three problem tracks.
- I really like how deceit can ultimately blow up into scandal and then becomes contempt. Perfect for a political game.
- Kelly does a lot of talking! During the personal scenes it's pretty equal, but once she starts trying to fix a problem, she's basically going solo until she stops rolling the dice. It felt like because she would start another personal scene after usurping an opposition scene with a progress scene, I was taking more turns that I should have been, and I kept on having to be reassured that I was doing the right thing.
- It's kind of jarring to switch between the free roleplaying of the exposition scenes and then the blunt statements of the conflict. Similar to Polaris in that regard. We tried to make the transitions a bit smoother by adding some fluff, but I think that was a preference of Marc and me, not something intrinsic to the game.
Thoughts on Specifics:
- We didn't use the political parties much at all, but I think that the fact that we spent some time discussing them and figuring out how they related to each other made it easier to envision the colony. Also, it helped set some characteristics for the NPCs, so they weren't such unwieldy blank slates.
- We spent a lot of time in character and consequently our game took about three and a half hours. Great for us, but it's worth knowing it could easily be faster.
- We also kept the NPC count very low. There was Derrick, Jerry, and occasionally a news woman and the (original) mayor. This meant a large chunk of our story was very focused on Kelly's interactions with these two men. Fewer relationships explored more deeply. Very happy we did it this way.
- Exploring Kelly's personality through her responses to the two very different men (Derrick and Jerry) was so much fun. Great work on Marc's part, making them so interesting and unique, and being able to switch between them.
- Kelly was a pretty cut-throat bitch-on-heels. I found myself having to describe her inner state much more than (I think?) I do with other characters to try and humanize her.
- I found I really wanted to 'win'. I think it was partly due to the way you narrate conflict. If you're describing what she does to try and fix something, you've invested some time and effort into planning your strategy; and at that point you do want your investment to pay off. It may also have to do with the gamey satisfaction of bringing that health total up to 40. It may also have to do with the fact that people, in general, quite like to solve problems. Whatever the combination, it was a little weird for me to be rooting for the dice to fall a particular way in such an otherwise story-heavy game.
This was wonderful Marc; thanks so much for facilitating it for us all (five people!) and being such a fantastic governor to my savior. I'm look forward to playing this game many more times in the future.
What an excellent writeup! That game sounded quite interesting, and I like how you divided it into such useful sections: "Hazy Recap" is a perfect description. I have a daunting backlog of writeups to do and I think this may have inspired me to actually try and tackle them, as part of what's been holding me back has been worrying about how to structure them... In any case it definitely makes me want to try out Mars Colony now! :D
Thank you for this very thoughtful writeup, Adrienne. It was a pleasure getting to play with you.
Our story turned out surprisingly well for Kelly. Generally speaking, Kelly's chances of successfully hitting 40 in all three tracks are very low--I'm quite surprised it happened in even our game, let alone both! That's randomness for you I guess.
I've found that spending a lot of time on world-building really helps with this game. Much like other games such as Shock and Polaris, spending a few minutes (or an hour) just looking around at the scenery makes the story seem that much more alive.
The political parties are largely just to provide motivational backgrounds for the characters, as you said. However, we chose rather "generic" parties, all told. If we'd gone with something else--a religious group, or a more fringe ideology--it might have had a larger impact on the game. But I like that it isn't always the focal point.
Doing lots of sympathy/personal scenes is something that took me a while to get used to and get the hang of, but it really benefits the game. Without all that development, Mars Colony can stagnate into a series of back and forths, sort of like a Polaris conflict that never ends. Watching Kelly struggle or thrive makes those moments seem far more impactful.
Three other things I always notice when I play Mars Colony:
Thanks for a great game. Hopefully we can play again sometime. I think you will be even more in awe when you try out the Governor role and discover the game from that side.
Edited by Marc on Dec 26, 2012 5:00 PM