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Holding On: Am I a Nurse or an Interrogator

Brad Scaggs
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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Origins 2018 was a pretty awesome experience even though I was only able to attend one day. I checked out lots of great games and was able to hang out with so many amazing people. Following the convention, you often see people starting their "best of origins" lists and talking about the games that had the most buzz. My favorite game that I saw/played at Origins has to be Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr from Hub Games.

The main idea of the game is a patient has arrived at your hospital with heart complications. The doctors have said that he has about 2 weeks left to live before organ failure. The players, as nurses, are tasked with providing care to keep him alive as well as trying to figure out exactly who he is so that they can notify next of kin.

The core mechanisms in the game are resource management and a bit of set collection. Each round consists of 3 shifts that must be staffed with either the player's nurse pawns, assistants, or on-call staff. Each shift card can range between needing one pawn and up to four I believe. At four players, a rotating shift manager decides who handles the tasks for that day's shifts. The shift manager can have players "work a double" to help cover a following shift but that character will take a stress token. If a player or assistant acquires too many stress tokens, they'll have to be sent home and won't be able to be scheduled for work that day.

Players will use their care tokens to heal/maintain Billy but the second half of the game is what I found most interesting. Instead of providing care (which must be done once a day or a strike will occur), players are often given the option to get to know billy a bit better and talking about his past or stocking up on care tokens. To win the first scenario, you need a certain number of memories that are obtained from talking with Billy. These memories form a sort of grid on the middle of the table and piece together the story of who Billy is.

The Interrogation of Billy Kerr. This was mentioned quite a bit when people were discussing the game at the con. Billy has a health track that slowly drops as you fail to provide care. Some events can cause a massive dip if players aren't gaining the care tokens are a reasonable rate. You're constantly shifting importance between maintaining Billy's health, gaining care tokens, and acquiring memory cards. Knowing that the win condition for the scenario was to obtain a certain amount of those memory cards and to later get the matching piece, players found themselves "grilling" Billy for answers to his past.

If players focus too much on the memories though, events in the deck can cause roadblocks and hurdles. These events do various things based on Billy's health. The lower the health, the more trouble the events can cause. This is what caused our race to the finish. We had reached a point where Billy didn't have a lot of health left and we only needed one more clear memory to complete the scenario. It came down to a card draw that determined Billy's fate and luckily he was willing to share the last detail we needed.



Some really cool things this game does:
The player/nurse with the most seniority (left of the Shift Manager) decides what action is being done that day. This helps to reduce quarterbacking because that person make the choice.
The art on the panels is really interesting especially once you get to the clearer memories.
The constant struggle between gathering resources and gaining memories provides some tough choices.

Some things you may not like
This is a cooperative game. If you don't like co-ops, this may not be the game for you
There is some narrative here given through text on the memories, but there isn't a big story book that will be telling you a tale. You're going to be piecing things together one picture at a time. That isn't for everyone, but I enjoyed the slow drip of info.

I'm buying this when it hits retail. I'm excited to learn more about Billy and look forward to enjoying the process as we play.


If you want to hear us talk about the game, you can checkout our Origins 2018 Recap episode HERE.
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