07 May 2007

Actual Play - Beast Hunters

So, I sat down to play Beast Hunters last night. Overall, not a successful game, unfortunately. This was largely a matter of preferences, rather than the game failing to deliver.

We both made up hunters, and had a good time with that. The allocation of traits and resources as you make up your life story worked well and made interesting characters. We also elected to be from the same tribe, and that led to some nice touches (one hunter was the chief's granddaughter, the other from a line who were once tribal chiefs but now impoverished).

Once play began, however, it didn't go so well. Our challenges quickly got bogged down in less than stellar narration and rather too much dice rolling. The dice rolling in particular was a problem for the other player (who doesn't like things to be too complex or involve much arithmetic). The lack of interesting narration was because of two things - on the one hand, we'd had a long tiring day. On the other, the setting didn't really spark the interest of my partner.

Contributing to this was the fact that you have to go through quite a few conflict turns to win. Our first conflicts revolved around a family argument and a vision quest, with the hunter beset by spirits. Both of these were fine at first, but we began running out of ideas long before the conflict was over. I don't think this was just our lack of inspiration either - my preference would be for conflicts to be significantly accelerated. If I were to play again, I might halve the advantage cost of strikes, just to move things along faster.

We found that each conflict began with a fairly boring turn or two of both sides activating traits, then a few maneuvers, then a low level strike, a few more maneuvers, another strike, etc. Actually finishing the conflict off turned out to take a lot longer than I expected, and felt rather drawn out to me. This was particularly the case with the conflict that was rather further from the combat metaphor - the vision quest.

The idea here was that the hunter needed to get guidance to track down the beast they were to hunt, while hostile spirits and the environment tried to confuse her. However, after a few rounds, both of us found that we had no more material to keep the conflict interesting.

As challenger, it also broke me out of the swing of things a bit to have to make a numerical offer in response to each maneuver. My natural inclination was to just roll the dice and see if it worked, instead.

There's also a lot to keep track of, so the first go was quite difficult in that sense. Particularly in a conflict, you need to make sure you know several different numbers that can change each action.

In the end, we decided to stop before completing the adventure, as it just wasn't working out.

So. Overall? None of that should be taken as criticism of the game, itself. This was mainly a case of 'not the right game for us, then'. I'd been keen to try it, even though my partner had expressed some reservations about the game, and it was for my benefit we played it. And, it turned out to not be her sort of thing. I also didn't enjoy it as much as expected, mainly due to the issue of conflict length mentioned above.

4 comments:

Christian said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the write-up! I'm hoping that part of the issue is the learning curve of a new (and unique) system rather than fundamental play style or preference differences, and I'd like to explore that, if you don't mind.

First, I think this is key:

The lack of interesting narration was because of two things - on the one hand, we'd had a long tiring day. On the other, the setting didn't really spark the interest of my partner.

Since the game is basically built around promoting and rewarding creative narration, I can see how that made it fall flat. The players both need to step up energetically to get the most out of it.

Second:

As challenger, it also broke me out of the swing of things a bit to have to make a numerical offer in response to each maneuver. My natural inclination was to just roll the dice and see if it worked, instead.

This is directly related to your issue with conflict length. If you offer higher numbers, the Hunter will gain AP quicker and the conflict will be that much shorter. Hopefully this is a matter of getting used to this unique mechanic, because it's really the heart of the game.

Did you play completely spontaneously, i.e., without any adventure preparation? Maybe your partner would engage with the setting more with some aimed prep work. It seems like your characters were well-situated and there was material to use there.

Finally, I myself learned the hard way that when the challenge is starting to drag, the Challenger just needs to give and move on.

Christian said...

Oh, one more important question:

Did you two salute in, in full awareness of the meaning of that salute?

The Gamester At Large said...

Okay, I'll address those out of order.

We didn't salute in - purely an oversight, there. It was even listed on the rules cheat sheet I wrote, but we forgot to actually do it.

There was no pre-game preparation, we just made characters and started playing. More preparation would probably help, but we don't have a lot of free time so it isn't really something we can manage.

I'm interested in what you said about offering high and/or giving as Challenger when the conflict seems to be dragging. This would obviously have worked well in our game, but I can't remember reading advice to do that in the book.

In fact, I considered doing that a couple of times, but felt that it wasn't really in keeping with the spirit of the game.

I can see that it would work, and I guess it's implied in the advice to the Challenger to keep things moving. But it kind of pulls away from the intention to make up cool descriptions of what is happening in each conflict.

In terms of overall reasons it didn't work, I think that preferences are a big part of that for my partner, but it was more the new system for me.

Thanks for your comments, I'll definitely be using all that when I try it again.

Christian said...

Hey Mike,

Thanks for the response. You are probably right about it being preference for your partner and getting used to the system for you. I hope you can get more acquainted with it and try it with someone who's more into Stepping On Up sometime soon :)

(As a side note, the advice on giving if the challenge drags is on page 67.)