Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Machinations Of The Space Princess Playtests

One of the things that we have been talking about behind the curtain here at the Dorkland! blog is to augment our usual "capsule" reviews (talking about games by reading them) with Hangout-based playtest reviews. Obviously, this isn't something that we are going to be able to do with everything, but when we can do it we would like to provide as many angles as we can.

Recently we played a couple of sessions of +James Desborough's Machinations of the Space Princess game. A couple of the bloggers back the Indigogo campaign, so that got us some early access to the rules. +David Rollins, one of the new bloggers here, ran a couple of sessions of it. We were all excited about the game, many of us being fans of science fiction, and that's what lead us to back, and then play a couple of sessions of the game.

Machinations of the Space Princess, despite calling itself an "old school" game, really owes a lot more to D&D 3.x and D20 Future than it does the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules that were used as the game's starting off point. That isn't automatically a bad thing, but it did cause us some problems with expectations of the game. All of us have previous experience with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which actually caused us trouble during play. Those expecting Machinations of the Space Princess to be the result of the equation of Lamentations of the Flame Princess + European science fiction may be disappointed. The game really diverged quickly from its base and took it into directions that were both heavier (from a rules angle) and more confusing in places.

Like I said, it could be that some of our troubles came up from the fact that we were expecting an "old school" game and instead received something different. Not different bad, but just not the game that we thought that we would be getting.

While we had fun with the game, we felt that much of that came more from the group itself than the game. Obviously what we played was a playtest draft, and hopefully there will be some changes made in the final version that is supposed to be out in July.

The parts we enjoyed: 

Character creation was fun. You can make interesting and varied characters with the system. Some of the rules were a bit confusing as to how many options characters received, but we decided on a ruling based on an extrapolation of a couple of the rules. The game went out of its way to support the weird and sleazy style of science fiction in the Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant vein. There was plenty of support for creating weird alien races for the game. The game did a pretty good job of spelling out what kind of game that it was, and tried its best to support those things.

The parts we didn't enjoy:

The game was fiddly. The game was very fiddly for a gaming touting itself as an "old school" game. There were a lot of moving parts to character creation and combat, and they didn't always work the way that they should have. You can see us having troubles with the combat rules in our playtesting. Being called an "old school" game, our expectations were different from what we got out of the game, and I think how combat worked was a prime example of that. There was also a disconnect to the rules at time, as things were attempted in order to bring "balance" to the game that ended up not making sense in play.

The things that we didn't get to see:

This was a text-only playtest draft of the rules that we used, so we did not get to see the art from +Satine Phoenix, which was an important selling point to many of us in the initial crowdfunding campaign. This isn't a negative against the game. The cover provided, at the time, was a great and evocative piece of art, stylistically idiosyncratic and different from a lot of what you see in games today. Gaming seems to have forgotten its idiosyncratic past in favor of more homogenized experiences. Seeing that style coming back is a good thing.

Once the book is officially released, we may revisit our review of the game.