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Inactive File => Playtesting => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on June 24, 2009, 09:00:07 PM

Title: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 24, 2009, 09:00:07 PM

1. I know they've always been around, but lately it seems to me as if a number of game designers have been turning their attention to, for lack of a better word, "Twosies," meaning for two players. Or loosely so, because a lot of the games offer opportunity for more players, but do well for two. The one which kicked it off for me and Tim was Sweet Agatha (see [Sweet Agatha] Stars, diamonds, and death (, and you'll be able to see the influences all over the place in this thread and in [S/lay W/Me] The Lion, the Wretch, and the Woman ( Annalise and Thy Vernal Chieftains are suitable for a number of players at once but are quite functional for two. A small and delightful project of Ben's which I'm not sure is public knowledge ranges from one player upwards, and my S/Lay w/Me is for two but has a slightly jury-rigged more-if-you-want option, like Tales of the Fisherman's Wife. Although two-person Trollbabe isn't my favorite way to play, it's also clear that it works quite well.

In Mars Colony, Tim's game in design, two players is mandated, one of which is called the Savior and the other the Governor. The fiction-premise is that Mars Colony, originally set up to be a tourist paradise and a burgeoning move-to spot, is foundering. A person has been given authority by the Earth Coalition to arrive on Mars and set things right. His or her name is Kelly Perkins, basically the Savior's character.

One of the features of the twosies games, I've found, is that the spare but definite starting components are generated in extremely fixed order, also specific to who gets to establish what. A related feature which bears intent investigation is the role of which material is "all yours" and which is chosen from lists. In this game, the Savior player chooses the starting two problems of Mars Colony from a list. I was that player and chose "others" (the single overwhelming sci-fi item) and "atmosphere" because like all SFF geeks I have sort of a thing for breath masks.

Play proceeds through a series of scenes, which fall into Personal, Progress, and Opposition categories. Basically, Kelly works hard to amass "health" points in each problem category, dealing with how he's viewed by the various political interest groups as well as his self-esteem (incidentally, Kelly's sex is not specified in the game, but I said my Kelly was male, so he's "he" for simplicity's sake in this post).

2. Those political interests bear special discussion. The political hierarchy is divided into the Mars executive, the Mars legislature, the Earth Coalition council, and the press. Four people are named for each group, but no details are given. A big part of play lies in identifying everyone in the political hierarchy with a given party, and the fun part of that is that you use current, modern-day parties. It's OK to give them a new name, and there's no reason to say that a party by this name in the game is actually historically continuous with the real one. But that's where the content comes from.

The Governor assigns one person in each "area" to a party at the outset, but input is OK, so I asked that Hezbollah be included, thinking very much in up-to-date terms as opposed to, say, 1985. Tim agreed and identified various peole around the diagram as Democrats and Red Party (Mars, red, get it?). I also got to pick a party for Kelly Perkins, and I chose Meretz ( (note: the current Wikipedia entry fails to mention Meretz's endorsement of the 2006 invasion of Lebanon and the 2008-09 assault on Gaza). As play proceeds, both players can also bring new parties in via assigning them to people during play, and eventually I brought in Blue Dog Democrats. American political parties make things tricky because they are the equivalent of what, in other democratic governments, are called coalitions. So we considered highly identifiable subsets of American political parties to be worthy of party-dom for purposes of play.

You get to roll to see where your starting "rep" is, and it turned out that the executive was suspicious of him, the legislature was either suspicous or held him in contempt, the press loved him, the Earth coalition loved him, the public loved him, and Kelly was happy with himself. A wonderful set of roll outcomes, in my opinion. As it seemed to be shaping up, I drew a little bit on Al Gore for inspiration, saying that Kelly was a former politician with a lot of public cred, and the author of a number of provocative books.

3. Procedures and events in play ... well, it's tedious simply to quote the rules, but basically, we trade turns. I can only garner Health points for the colony's problems (you need 20 to make a dent, 40 to stabilize it successfully) in Progress scenes. I get handed massive adversity in Opposition scenes. We can both call Personal scenes. The overall structure, basically, is that I get 9 and only 9 progress scenes, so as I call those, the counter clicks down.

So, in a progress scene, I roll 2d6, and those are my points for that particular threat (doubles double, by the way), and hey! You can keep rolling if you want. The trouble is that 1's fuck you up. Either you simply fail and lose all your points in that threat, or you cover up your failure, deceive the public, and earn Lie points for it. Lie points count toward a successful total, but they also increase the chance for a scandal, and if you think 1's fucked you up, then you do not want to see what a scandal does. So, depending on how the rolls go and how risky you want to be, Kelly's success becomes a combination of genuine achievements, screw-ups, and either admissions or cover-ups thereof. Plus all those "reps" keep changing, including his self-esteem.

Oh yeah. There are also these cards that you make, in which each player writes things that he or she fears about his real, actual government. They get flipped up and incorporated pretty steadily through play. And just to make life as fun as you can imagine, if you stabilize any of the problems with 40 points, then hey, pick another. They just keep comin'.

If all of this is adding up to Imperial Life in the Emerald City ( to you, then yeah, that's right. Imagine if Al Gore had been appointed through some kind of popular vote to go "fix" Iraq in 2005.

4. Our scenes and what happened. ... well, it's a lot to summarize. The big picture is that the Martian administration is incredibly corrupt and socked-in-tight with the venal and stupid security chief. The Democratic Party is basically a big comfortable power structure whose members don't give a shit about anything except enjoying their positions, while playing at looking like activists once in a while. The Red Party and Hezbollah have been less featured, but are shaping up to be interesting - although Kelly did inadvertently get one of the latter assassinated when he underestimated the Democrats' ruthlessness. There's this bunch of weird extremists called Red Air, too, and I suggested we make it a supremacist group with the Aryan Nations ( as the equivalent. Overall, I rolled like a madman, including boxcars when dealing with the "atmosphere" problem, and so Kelly solved that one pretty easily. Plus he made first contact with actual aliens!! The press loves him and he still looks great in public. But his relationship with the administration is tanking, and he has already resorted to deceiving the public once ...

We've played nine or ten scenes so far, and I've run through four progress scenes out of the nine I have. If I have this right:

Press conference with Red Air interference (opposition),
Making the grand entrance for the press and public (progress, including the dodgy step of negotiating with Red Air, successful)
Meeting with his old pal Colin (personal)
Expedition to find the aliens, or rather, natives (progress, successful)
Red Air hostage situation at the university (opposition),
Kelly blows them up with their hostages using a thermobaric device (progress, solving the atmosphere situation)
Pressure from the Democrats in the coalition to re-instate the scummy security chief (opposition)
Colluding with Hezbollah to back-pressure the pressure (progress - failed and lied to cover it up)

Shoot, I know I messed this up, because I think it was in the middle that I rolled the boxcars for the atmosphere, thus giving me a huge lead for that goal, and solved it with a single roll in the next bit, the part with the hostages. When he solved that problem, the next one I chose was "corruption," so Kelly faces that as well as the extant "others" problem.

5. There's the political and there's the personal. Kelly also always has a problematic close relationship of some kind, and in this case it's a deceitful friend. Colin is one of the grizzled first-out-there colonists and scouts, and he doesn't like the latter-day city-folk and earth-government stuff one bit. I suspect Kelly is inches away from being kidnapped by Colin's buddies and doesn't know it. I think this feature, though, probably contributes more to re-playability than any other. Kelly might have a sick wife, or a politically-questionable child, or a deceitful friend. It totally changes the drama of the situation - or to put it differently, means that playing it again will be a completely different story from the core outwards.

6. The game's still in playtest and our copies had Tim's editorial and rules-altering scribblings all over them. Where it's most obviously working is the math, which is to say, if you play it safe and roll 2d6, stopping at rolls of 7 or higher, to avoid 1's ... well, nine progress scenes probably isn't going to be enough to make Kelly successful. I got a bit of a shot at that with my boxcars, but even that appears to be the shining heights before the fall. And that leads to the second thing which is working very well: the fact that whenever Kelly runs into trouble with the rolls, it still makes for great moments of political crisis. Early, late, in the middle, whenever.

Overall, the vision of the game is really compelling. It's political science fiction with a great core of humanity and personal player input.

Where it's a little rough include the following. First, there are several angles of input going on, almost all of which are pretty rich with potential. Tim's simplified it a lot by already organizing and naming the political hierarchy. Still, you have that hierarchy, you have the three-part "reps" including Kelly's self-image, you have the close-relationship person, you have the current status of lies and successes, and you have all the currently-active parties in the story. It's a lot. I don't know whether any could or should be trimmed. One thought is to limit the number of relevant parties to three or something like that. Another is to simplify the current admiration-suspicion-contempt matrix for each reputation. It's a good question.

Second, the parties didn't come into play as hard as I'd have liked. I totally forgot I could name people to be in Meretz too, which would have made life a little easier - Kelly could use allies about now. I know I made it a little hard for Tim by straying to other countries for sources, particularly those I've tried to learn as closely as possible in the last few years. I'm interested to know how others have introduced, utilized, and characterized the parties they've brought into play.

Best, Ron

P.S. Tim is bonkers about Mars. Me, I'm still mad that they haven't found Dejah Thoris yet.

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ben Lehman on June 25, 2009, 07:12:49 AM
Hey, Ron! This game sounds neat.

You talk about playing with the modern political parties as they are. How does that work? How are they transferred to a martian context? Not at all? Like if you had a secret mars colony and tomorrow told the DPP "hey, can you govern the mars colony for us?"


Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 25, 2009, 10:25:26 AM
I’m really interested in how Tim will answer this question.

When I say “as they are,” I mean in terms of economic and social priorities, personality types occupying certain positions, campaigning strategies, and perhaps above all, the image their representatives try to construct for themselves and the party as a whole.

Um. OK, say you’re watching a movie set in some late decade of the 21st century, set on some planet or space-ship. There’s a political party in action in the story, significantly so, and at some point during or after the film, the person watching the movie with you reacts strongly, perhaps humorously, but definitely: “Oh, those guys are so the Democrats!”

That’s what I mean. It doesn’t matter if the fictional party is supposed to be the literal historical descendant of the real Democratic Party. All that matters is the content and the recognition of the real party as it is now, at least as far as that person is concerned.

In the game, the real names are used, or optionally used, mainly out of convenience and as a reinforcer toward that content. So our version of Hezbollah isn’t some future projection of what Hezbollah may be, nor are we making any substantive claim that this party would be the major player in an Earth-coalition government. The commitment on our part is to play the priorities and personages and strategies of that fictional party in such a way that someone would have that reaction.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ben Lehman on June 25, 2009, 11:08:02 AM
I have more questions about how the heck this works (I'm pretty interested in it), but I'll wait for Tim.


Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Tim C Koppang on June 25, 2009, 01:39:40 PM
Lots to respond to -- but let me start with Ben's question about the political parties.

Right now the rules simply state that the political parties should "echo their modern equivalents" in the game.  Ok, what does that mean?

Really, it could go one of two ways.

First, the players could assume a continuity between now and the futuristic setting of Mars Colony.  If so, then time would become an important factor to consider.  The players would be making a commentary on where they think their modern political parties are headed.

The second way to answer the question is to use location (Mars) as the primary input.  The players would need to ask themselves something like this: "If the Democrats were to rise to power on Mars (or be transplanted from Earth to Mars), what would they look like?"  There is no way that the Democrats would be the same party on Mars as they are on Earth.  They would be cut off from Earth politics, faced with entirely different problems, and they would have to answer to a population that relates less and less to the Earth mindset.  So the players would be using modern Democrats as a guide to create a Martian reflection of the same party.  Nonetheless, the fiction would still be a commentary on modern Democrats.

Overall, the basic answer is that the political parties in the game should serve as commentaries on their real-life counterparts.  The fact that the real and fictional parties may share the same name is meant to reinforce and remind the players of what they are creating.  But of course the players can always rename a party if that works better for them.

I think Ron's movie-watching comparison is also a good one.  The political parties aren't 20th century transplants.  Rather, they are author (player) characterizations.

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ben Lehman on June 26, 2009, 04:53:28 AM
Hey, Tim. Is there any guidance for how to transfer the national context of a political party onto Mars? Like with what Ron uses is this game: Hezbollah can't really exist outside of the context of Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. And likewise Meretz can't exist without the context of at least the Palestinians (and, from what I remember of my Maretz-supporting relatives, w/o the Jordanians, either.) Is there thus some sort of "martian Palestine-equivalent" for them to form their policy around? Or is that not important for some reason?

You'll have to forgive me for thinking about this in terms of national contexts: part of it is that I'm in Taiwan right now, where national context is pretty, uh, to massively understate the case, important to local political parties. I'm thinking about the KMT (Nationalist Party: the ones who assert the right to rule over all of China and Mongolia) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (who assert that everyone in Taiwan is no longer ethnically Chinese [or anything else] but rather a new shared, pan-Taiwanese ethnicity.)

So let's say I'm playing Mars Colony with Ron (which is not totally unlikely) and he decides he wants Hamas as one of the parties and I decide I want the KMT. Do we then necessarily have to have at least one larger political body (the PRC-equivalent for the KMT, the Israeli equivalent for Hamas) that we relate to and formulate our policy and identity around?


Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 26, 2009, 06:14:12 AM
Ben, you're making it too hard. As I see it, the only possible answer to your question is "yes or no." Some people will provide more context. Some won't.

Also, although real-life-actual-Hezbollah is embedded in its modern geography much as the real-life-actual-Democratic Party is, the process I spoke of above is the only priority. That is readily available through fictional porting of specific elements. There are so many ways to do this, ranging from literalist "how Hezbollah got here in this way" to "who cares, there's some sort of equivalent, whatever it might be," that it exhausts me to imagine explaining it.

Make it easy. We aren't creating setting in any detailed or highly-justified way for this game. It's the parties' features, methods, personalities, and goals which matter, and how they interact with other parties in the fiction.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Tim C Koppang on June 27, 2009, 09:23:10 AM

You raise a good point.  Political parties are a product of their time, place, and situation.  However, many political parties have existed for years, and evolved and changed.  You could argue that those parties still retained some sort of common core.  But that's not really the point.  I want to explore political parties as they exist today, and generate political commentary on those parties via science fiction.  In play, that means that the players have to decide what is most important to them about the parties they choose.  For you, it might be the context of the party as it exists today.  If that's the case, then you will create a reflection of that context on Mars.  For Ron and I, I think we were trying to concentrate on the more general "personalities" of the different parties.  That element is what we carried over to our fictional parties on Mars.  It's going to be different for each pair who play the game.  And I hope it will generate some unique and individualized sci-fi.

I want to get back to some of Ron's concerns about the game.  He mentioned (1) that there is a lot (perhaps too much) source material to work with, and (2) that the political parties didn't come into the story as hard as he would have liked.  Personally, I suspect that number 2 is a product of number 1.  We both tried to involve a bit of everything that the game presents, which meant that we couldn't concentrate on any one element (e.g., the parties) for very long.

In past games, the political parties were always American, and so they were always much more familiar to the players.  In a way, they became a background wash.  Yes, we knew they were there, but they really served more to set up conflicts of simple allegiance ("I don't like you because you're a Republican).  That sort of thing.  I'm ok with that, as it's the easiest way to engage with the parties.  But I don't want to stifle further exploration of the party politics by overwhelming the players with too much source material.

Here's what I'm thinking:

  • Limit the maximum number of parties to four.
  • Use pre-defined (by the game) fictional names to start.  I hope this will clear up confusion about whether the parties are "real" or "fictional".
  • For each party, make the players choose one of three positions: "dominant," "minority," or "fringe".  This will provide immediate context.
  • For each party, the players still choose a modern day party on which to base the fictional one.

As much as I like them, I'm also debating whether or not to get rid of the fear cards (those are what the players create before the game by writing something they fear about their own government).  I like how they force the players to bring in personal concerns to the fiction, but they also seem a bit vague and maybe even distracting.  If anything, I'm thinking that they should directly relate to the modern day political parties.  This may help tighten the game up.

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Willow on June 28, 2009, 08:54:12 PM

The Fear cards played a great role in our Forge Midwest game.  I'd be sad to see them go.

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ron Edwards on June 29, 2009, 08:14:14 AM
The question of the Fear cards speaks to a larger issue in game design, especially of this mainly-two-player sort (or strong at two-player, if not always focused exactly there). The larger issue is the whole "tightness" concern. I have been a bit dismayed over the last four years at how tight the independent community has been designing. Efficiency and elegance and focus are fine things, but if you compare My Life with Master and Dust Devils with a lot of the new stuff or proto-stuff, what I see in the latter is the wrong sort of tight: up-tight and tight-assed. It bugs that this very quality is often uncritically called "Forge design" especially since the games in question tend not to go through playtesting commentary and general discussion at this site.

In My Life with Master, it's not mandated that any given Minion defy the Master, nor need everyone strive to prompt endgame. In Dust Devils, a character's Devil may act against or for a given card draw, and in the larger story, it may either be the character's only hope or his/her damnation. These games are elegant; in fact, I'd say masterpieces of elegance - but they are not up-tight. You play in the moment and the game rules are always there as part of the mechanisms for human response for the group.

The same especially goes for the historically-linked mechanics of bonus dice in Sorcerer, Fanmail in Primetime Adventures, and Gift dice in The Shadow of Yesterday. But that's not relevant to Mars Colony and I will restrain myself.

All this is a lengthy and perhaps cranky way to say that the Fear cards may serve the game best through these means: (i) having written down the three things that one fears about one's government in the first place, regardless if any of them get into play; (ii) having the face-up ones there on the table (both literally and colloquially), especially seeing what the other player fears; and (iii) bringing them into the story itself only as one sees fit, when a particular card seems especially inspiring or appropriate relative to what's going on.

None of which = "flip over the card, bring its content into the story." And definitely none of which = "flip over the card, bring its content into the story for a bonus die" or some shit like that.

Tim, what do you think? I'm suggesting keeping the cards as a mechanism for opportunistic tightening in the positive sense of the term (think of a really jamming portion of a great song when all the instruments are working together as if played by one "mind"). But only as opportunity and inspiration.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Tim C Koppang on June 29, 2009, 09:59:23 AM

Thanks.  I agree that the Fear Cards were a big part of our game.  There have been quite a few additions/changes to the game since we played (really because we played).  So right now, I am struggling to get everything into balance.  The good news is that since I've had some time over the weekend to mull things over, I'm definitely not ready to give them up.



I won't speak to everything you're talking about.  But you know my feelings about wind-up toy design.  That is emphatically not what I mean when I say "tighten up" the design.

The Fear Cards, right now, work exactly like you described them.  They are always optional, never required or even mechanically encouraged.  If I'm going to keep them, I'm going to keep them that way.  What I realized, the more I thought about the game, is just how important it is to write these government fears down prior to play.  Even if the players used none of the cards, I think that pre-game exercise would be valuable.

Can I ask you, Ron, did you ever feel obligated to use the cards during play?  Or was it clear that they were optional?

- Tim

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 08, 2009, 08:33:31 AM
Hey Tim,

My apologies for forgetting about your question. I didn't look at the cards for about ... oh, Progress scenes 1 through 4. That's why I was a bit startled to realize it at the end of our first session, because I'd really liked writing them and using them, and then, oddly, didn't remember or use them.

After that, I think we used them pretty well, and I liked the way they were there to be used, but not Thou Shalt Incorporate constraints.

And ...

We finished our Mars Colony game last night, which is to say, we ended Kelly's story. The numbers of the game are well-built to provide some, squeaky chance that Kelly might actually manage to stabilize the colony, if he can resolve three of the crises. Remember, you start with two active ones, and for every one you solve (if any), another pops up. So even if he's successful, the colony is still left with outstanding problems.

In my case, Kelly was doing pretty well especially given a useful boxcars roll a few turns back. But even so, the numbers looked bad. I'd resolved the Atmosphere problem using the alien technology, but the aliens themselves (Others) and the Corruption issue were still problematic. Plus I'd faced a severe defeat in Corruption which had significant SIS results, limiting my plausible fictional options even though no particular mechanical penalty or whatever was involved.

Well, I gritted my teeth and forged ahead, seeking to resolve the Others issue by setting up "welcome" contact centers for them at the edges of human-controlled territory on Mars. Tim hammered me with an Opposition scene, saying that the security forces and military were basically training the staff there to "kill'em all," using the cards we'd set out that included the military making its own policy and the security forces fixating on boogeymen. I sought further help from the university researchers, saying that they'd developed some kind of psychic technology that was still experimental but allowed the human mind to resonate at the same frequency as the technology we'd found. Kelly used it to contact the Others ... and I got it! I rolled boxcars again! I solved the Others problem by having our contact with them be, not physical and geographic, but mental, and even better that meant that if they were contacted with hostile and xenophobic intent, they could simply stay away. Plus, by "contact," that meant potentially bringing them right there wherever you were broadcasting from.

That solved, I chose Terrorism as the next problemt to arise, pretty much because Tim had established that as a potential issue all the way back in the first scenes. I decided to focus on that one too, as I liked Kelly's decisive defeat regarding Corruption and thought he'd be a little gun-shy of trying to address it again. Basically, this is where Kelly's Connection, defined as Deceitful, was revealed as a menace. Colin's "original Martian" frontiersmen crowd declared themselves as a violent separatist group and threatened to bomb all and sundry, even seizing a nuclear facility. I had Kelly deal with it by paying off the already-established Red Air extremist group to integrate (sort of) with the security forces and effectively creating a bloody, hand-to-hand civil war among the two extremist groups. I patterned this, obviously, off the cynical and bloody "Awakening" tactic Petraeus used in Iraq, paying off the Sunni militias. (Bear in mind that I'd already used the Aryan Nation as the model for Red Air. Not nice people, even though as with the real-world Awakening, Kelly spun them as "concerned citizens' groups.")

I failed that roll, and covered it up with the lie that it was all going very smoothly, even as car-bombs were killing families left and right, and as people empowered by the police were dragging anyone they didn't like into alleys and shooting them in the head. Kelly visited the "troubled" area and even though the women and kids he was going to photo-op with were killed by a car-bomb, he simply gathered up a bunch more of them and did the photo-op anyway. At this point, the chances of a possible Scandal (which would remove all my Lies gains) were creeping higher, and in fact, I missed it by a whisker on a particular roll.

The final crisis came when Kelly was (of course) kidnapped by the Original Martians and used as a hostage for their demands. I said he was able to concentrate and duplicate the mental frequencies he'd experienced under the machine to bring the real Martians to his aid. ... And I rolled some good points, a good value, without failing (defined as getting a 1). But my total was 38, two points shy of 40. Dare I roll again? At this point, the chance of a Scandal was very real, and this was my last Progress scene allowed. Right here, I could stabilize the colony and leave as a success, or I would plunge down in a fiery scandal of personal and policy disaster. It was an awesome balls-to-the-wall roll situation. No matter how it turned out, I was totally psyched.

I don't know if we've made this clear in the thread so far. You roll 2d6, and doubles' values double (so two 2's gives you 8 points, boxcars gives you 24). The fun thing is that you can always choose to roll again and add ... but a 1 will destroy that roll's value and mandate a loss. You can then choose to suck up the loss or to lie, in which case the points so far will serve toward the desired 40, but are vulnerable to being lost through scandal. I always lied like a motherfucker when I lost. But the cool thing in our game is that this didn't happen at all for the Atmosphere or Others, so my Kelly was a determined idealist when it came to ecology, technology and cosmic matters - but a lying, ruthless, and not especially competent player when it came to Corruption and Terrorism. What a portrait!

I made that last roll, getting no 1's. I summoned the real Martians and they ripped the snot out of the Original Martians terrorists, and I solved the Terrorism problem basically by killing them. (Note: the game text is very clear that by "solved," it only means stabilized in the immediate context of Kelly's political story, not for all time or in all ways for the colony itself.)

So Kelly's job was done. He'd managed to stabilize the colony, to be hailed as a political success, and to avoid falling into contempt with any of the branches of government or press (although most were suspicious of him by the end and his self-esteem had been shaken). Mathematically, I'd done a little bit better than the best you could reasonably hope for, and it was still grim!

This game is excellent. I can't wait to see Tim's spiffy ashcan at GenCon.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Tim C Koppang on July 13, 2009, 02:09:45 PM

Thanks for the kind words and the great play session.  My favorite line was when you looked at me towards the end of the game and said, "This really is turning into Iraq, isn't it?"  It'd be funnier if it wasn't true.

If I could have played anything differently, I think I would have used one more Personal Scene to develop Kelly's relationship with his frontiersman friend -- if only to give the betrayal a more personal twist.

I'm very happy with the way the dice mechanic is working.  You weren't the only one feeling the tension of the final roll.  I'm not sure I'm totally sold on the doubles rule.  I'd rather have players trying to push their luck with multiple rolls than relying on a lucky set of boxcars.  That said, messing with the math may make the game too unforgiving.

I'm also making a few tweaks to the way some of the source material is created and introduced during game preparation.  For example, I've created a framework for political parties, which I think will help players to get a handle on the political relationships.  My hope is that certain players will create a real commentary on the modern day parties.  But I don't expect everybody to use all of the source material all of the time.  It's all just there so that you can use it in any combination you like.  My position on "twosies" is that the game should provide a bit more raw material in order to make up for the lack of creative input from multiple players.  Sweet Agatha does a great job of this for example.

My last little worry is the way Reputations are supposed to move back and forth between Contempt and Respect.  Unless the player accepts a failure without creating a Deception (or rolls a Scandal) there's really no way to generate Contempt.  If most players are encouraged to go the Deception route, then there's a good chance that Contempt won't enter into the picture.  Then again, maybe I'm okay with that.

In all, I'm also looking forward to future playtesting, and my Ashcan version at Gen Con.  It will be very red, I can tell you that much.

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: DevP on July 19, 2009, 08:29:23 AM
It seems that on your turn, you describe the kind of action you're undertaking and roll the dice as described to determine how much progress you make (incurring possible losing or lies along the way). Are there any rules affecting the kind of narration, or is it free narration attached to a mechanic?

(Also, I'm way into Marspolitic!)

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Ron Edwards on July 19, 2009, 11:33:39 AM
Hi Dev,

Talking in the game is pretty unconstructed, a lot like Sweet Agatha. There are alternating turns, but they serve mainly to make sure that certain definitive statements appear as the dialogue flows along.

As I understand it, Tim is still finding exactly where he wants that aspect of the game to be. In the draft we began with, the turns and speaking were quite strongly delineated, and then for the second half of the game we used the next version, which was more like what I'm describing in this post.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Mars Colony] Just a little lying, this once
Post by: Tim C Koppang on July 19, 2009, 05:02:22 PM

Ron pretty much has it.  There are three types of scenes: Personal, Opposition, and Progress.  The players take turns framing scenes, each time choosing one of the three types.  The Savior (the player in charge of Kelly Perkins) may only choose Personal or Progress.  The Governor may only choose Personal or Opposition.

During Personal and Opposition scenes, narration is very open, and there is no dice mechanic involved.  While one older version of the game imposed a further turn structure here, I have since gotten rid of that constraint.

Progress scenes are similar in that narration is open.  However, the main dice mechanic also comes into play.  There might be multiple dice rolls, and after each  roll, the players narrate a bit about Kelly's progress (or failure as it may be).  So while Kelly's progress is gauged by the dice, narration is more free-form.