So we sat down, I give the three of them a brief introduction to what the game's about and the structure of the Faith and go into character generation. That goes okay - not as well as it would have for people who knew each other better, I suspect. We get some good characters:
- Brother Cutter, orphaned by Mountain People. An angry, sinner-smiting young man.
- Brother Ezekiel, a student of theology and doctrine.
- Brother Tom, a Mountain Person convert with a big chip on his shoulder about it.
So they ride in to Eagle Falls Branch. They take a look around a little outside the town and a boy comes up to greet them. They pretty much grill him on whether he has been learning the Book of Life and so forth. A pretty hard-ass start, I thought. The kid was just being friendly. Anyhow, he invites them into his place for something to eat and drink. His ma sets the Dogs up and then asks them to deal with her daughter Tryphena, who wanted to marry the wrong man. Both families and the Steward agreed the marriage wasn't ordained and told them to forget it, but it seems they were still seeing each other. The Dogs say they'll sort it out but don't talk to the girl now (in fact, they never did). They head into town instead.
They go to see the Steward, Jeduthan, except for Brother Cutter - he decides to check out the guy who's the other side of this love affair. Ezekiel and Tom sit down to talk to the Steward, who's a convert from back East. They immediately decide he's a bad guy because of all his decadent Eastern furnishings. He lets them know that there's a problem with a few of the congregation refusing to come to meetings on the Sabbath - because they dislike him for his background.
Meanwhile, Cutter scares the willies out of Archibald, who repents and promises to no longer question his ma, pa or the Steward.
Then the Dogs have a bit of a meeting in the town square and tell the folk that they're here and they're gonna sort out everything that's wrong. They ask people to come and let them know what's wrong, and spend the afternoon fielding more and more details about Micajah and the others he's convinced to avoid Jeduthan's preaching. Apparently Micajah was expected to be the Steward after the last one died but Jeduthan got appointed instead. There's also a few stories about bad things happening when Jeduthan's blessings ought to have protected the town.
The Dogs decide to sort out Micajah. They head to his house, where Cutter and Ezekiel start trying to get him to admit that he's a sinner. He comes right back with the line that he always ought to have been the Steward and that the Eastener ain't a true Faithful. Eventually Tom gets sick of this and pulls a gun on the guy. We go into a bigass conflict, starting with fighting and then escalating. We had shooting, tomahawks, demonic powers, exorcism and probably some other stuff before it all ended with Micajah shot down on his porch and Brother Tom bleeding to death from a couple of bullets in his gut.
Cutter and Ezekiel work feverishly to save Tom's life, and manage to do it by the skin of their teeth.
Then the three of them go through the town and get every one of the people influenced by Micajah's false teachings to go back to the Faith. Strangely enough, they all complied with this. Also, Cutter went of alone and married Archibald and Tryphena. I think he just felt sorry for them. They told Jeduthan off for letting things get as bad as they did, pretty much implying he was basically at fault for it all.
Reflection at the end had Cutter and Tom warming to each other significantly, which was nice. I don't think they pondered their judgments too much, oh well.
So that's what happened, now the analysis.
The game's astonishingly good at making the Dogs judge people. It really is hard to just go dump the problems on the Dogs, though. Baker says this himself. Every other damn game you're expected to hide the problem. So you are constantly thinking "Oh, let's just hint at this thing... No! Tell them the whole damn mess!" But it works. Especially with these Dogs... they made their judgments quick, and I suspect they might need to learn to double check what's going on as we play through some more towns. Either that or just hope they make a good choice first time.
The "say yes or roll dice" advice works like a charm (once I caught myself beginning a conflict out of habit when I didn't need one - I just said it all went as desired and didn't make that mistake again).
The dice mechanics are great. They work much smoother than they read and they've got a lot of style. I don't think I've seen another game where everybody "got it" so quick, either. It's fun, too - especially when the players realized things like "if I pull my gun and start shooting, I get all these extra dice to roll".
Overall, play seemed to be everything the game promised on reading. I cannot recommend this game enough. Buy it (one of the guys who played last night told me he ordered one already).