I’m very excited about Level 99 Game’s Power Play: Schemes and Skulduggery. I have played the Print and Play version of the game exactly once. But, I do feel that based on my one experience, I can share with you a reasonable understanding of the game. Please support it on Kickstarter if you feel like this game is right for you.
I’m not going to go into a rule-by-rule breakdown because:
1. The Print and Play rulebook is available for download.
2. To my understanding, the full-game comes with more rules.
However, I would like to give you guys a summary of what gameplay is like.
Power Play is a game about a secret group called the Agency who gathers a bunch of individuals with supernatural powers to do the agency's bidding. When I say their “bidding”, this is represented as a secret goal that each player gets before the game begins. In the case of the Print and Play version, each player’s goal is centered around obtaining a briefcase and manipulating it in some fashion (put it in a safe and bury it, gift wrap it and place it in mailbox, or obtain another player’s fingerprints and place it on the briefcase). Each player becomes one of these supernatural individuals and must use their powers to complete their goals.
These goals have to be achieved within the confines of locations; locations that are each fabricated by a single player before the game begins. These locations will become the city in which our supernaturals will attempt to achieve their goals.
On your turn, you are able to take a variety of actions. There are 2 key points that players should understand:
1. These actions are only restricted by POSSIBILITY. If an action is possible, then a supernatural executes that action 100% of the time. If, at any time, an action comes into question, any player may call for a reality check. Basically, the willing and interested players may present points about what constitutes the possibility of an action. Once all arguments are laid out on the table, players vote for the outcome they desire. Unanimous decisions are decided as possible or impossible. A mixed decision goes to a dice roll. Simple system.
2. An action is not an intent, an action is an accomplishment. Some players are not accustomed to this and will say something like, “I want to buy scuba gear.” A sentence like this needs a simple rephrasing to work in Power Play. Thus, an action would look more like, “I buy scuba gear,” and its corresponding [trait] for that player would be, “[Has scuba gear]” .
What makes the game interesting is the ability for players to propose traits to persons, places, or things at any give time of the game. Besides calling for reality checks at any time, players may propose [traits] at any time. This provides context in which all actions take place. Players can propose [traits] to create a situation in their favor. In our sample game, one player was on a boat fishing for the briefcase. To make his task harder, another player decided to propose a [trait] that the beach had [questioning Coast Guard]. This stalled the briefcase fishing player for a turn as he had to meet with the Coast Guard and convince them that he was certainly not suspicious.
The last situation to manage in Power Play is conflict between players. When two or more players have an action that interferes with another player, all involved players enter into a conflict. This acts much the same as a reality check except that it all comes down to a dice roll based on a simple table. Its because of the conflict system that this game has been advertised as a “This superhero would beat that superhero because...” kind of game. I now know why. Players get into passionate arguments detailing why their supernatural would obliterate their opponent.
“I’m the firestarter and I turn into a fireball hot enough to vaporize all incoming bullets”.
“But it takes you a turn to become hot enough to vaporize any material” “It says on my card that I control the intensity.”
“Well nothing can instantly become that hot.”
And on and on the nerd arguments go until it’s left up to the fate of the die.
Finally, when one player achieves their goal, the game is done and that player is declared the winner.
Gameplay in Action
In action the game probably looks something like this..
Player 1: "I buy a gun from a dealer, now I [have a gun]."
Player 2: "I run a behind a dumpster, now I am [hidden]."
Player 1: "I am The Gatecrasher! I teleport to the town hall."
Player 2: "From behind the dumpster, I see you teleport."
Player 1: "Okay, well now I grab the briefcase."
Player 2: "I teleport right onto your head. I am the Mimic!"
Player 1: "Wait no, I'm not going to let that happen... CONFLICT."
Player 2: "Well, I have the element of surprise, I just stomp on your head."
Player 1: "There's no way I would be staying still once I have the briefcase, you can't teleport onto me while I'm moving."
Player 2: "Well let it go to the vote then."
Player 2 gets 3 out of 4 votes from the rest of the players.
Player 2 has the advantage and claims all die rolls of a 1, 2, 3, or 4.
Player 2 rolls a 2, 2, 4, 5, and a 6.
Player 2 successfully wins the conflict.
Player 2: "I teleport onto your head and knock you out."
If you like the above conversation, then you will like Power Play.
An Absolute Blast
As soon as I saw a whale drop out of the sky to grab a briefcase, I knew I loved this game. The game pits players against other players in a world only limited by your surrounding players. If you can convince the players at your table of a given situation, it happens! This means that you have the potential to literally do anything. You can wield a lightsaber (if your group let you). You can gain control of the entire city’s police force (it happened). You can ride a whale (this also happened).
It would be hard to define Power Play according to traditional game definitions. This probably has much to do with the fact that Power Play is not a traditional game. The designers call it a competitive storytelling game. I think that gets closer to identifying what Power Play really is. Its a game in which you create a world and dictate your actions (sounds kind of like roleplaying). Except in this game, you don’t need a lot of setup, you don’t need a game master, and you don’t need a textbook full of rules. I think it truly does offer a narrative experience within the timespan of a few hours.
A lot of games advertise endless replayability. This is one of the few games that truly has endless replayability. There are so many small adjustments you could make to have one game vastly different from the next. You can have new locations, new goals, new heroes, and more. All of these changes, determined before the game begins, would lead to entirely different experiences. Even then, if all of the locations, goals, and heroes remained the same, I could still see a game playing out entirely different as players tried new strategies and tactics against their foes.
The game balances itself with the use of reality checks and the conflict system. Both of these rely on player input. As such, if you expect to do well in this game, you’re going to have to cater as much to your plans as to the other players at your table. I think this is where the skill factors come into play. The more cunning and convincing player will likely come out on top. The game is about setting up your actions and the context of the game beforehand so that you can swoop in and take the win. In this way, the personality of a specific group will dictate the possibilities within a given game.
On a similar note, one of my groupmates mentioned that the game is very group dependant. I could see why he would say this. Some groups might be a lot more relaxed with what is possible and what is not. Other groups might want a gritty and tense game. And there might be groups who have a hard time dealing with player-to-player conflict. I think with a quick read-through of the rules, you can have a very good idea if this game is right for you and your group.
After the game, I asked my group how difficult the rules were. “They were eeeeeeeeeeasy.” The games mechanics are simple and intuitive. I went through a 5-10 minute rules explanation (it was my first time explaining the rules too) and my players had nearly no questions throughout the length of the game.
I’ve already made 6 new supernaturals to go along with the 6 included in the Print and Player version. I had fun making up clever names with clever powers to go along. I’ve also started thinking about new scenarios that I would like to use with this game. I was thinking of a scenario in which players would fight to win the heart of a beautiful lover. The catch would be that this lover does not want anything to do with violence. My intention with this scenario is that players would have to tone down their natural inclinations towards violence and think of new ways to use their powers. My point is, I think anyone could make this game whatever they wanted it to be.
My first recommendation would be for you to read through the rules, listen to a podcast of the game being played, and/or print up the game and try it for yourself. But if you had to take my word for it, I absolutely love this game. I’ve never had a game experience like it and I want more. It’s a game where players dream, imagine, and create a world. It is the sandbox of gaming.
- Last edited Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:45 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:02 am
Reminds me of Amber Diceless Roleplaying.
Craig, we linked to your review from the Power Play page on the Level 99 Games website. Thanks for writing this!
Level 99 Games
Thank you! Please do. I think more people should know about this game. I've gotten lots of people I know into it.
It's a game that has stood the test of time. I continue to play it. There is just so much replayability. You can switch locations, heroes, and common elements.
It's also a game that every group can mold to their liking. We've done things like drafting heroes. We've also implemented rules to make the game a bit more dangerous for people who like to do outlandish things. I've also made a ton of my own heroes. I would like to post them, but I'm afraid they use art from Danny Hirajeta and I have not received any sort of permission to do so.
I'll just post an overview of my hero creations in case anyone's interested (these are not the actual rules)...
The Zombie Indian
Cannot be killed.
Can create zombies and give them orders.
Can make shapes out of his/her metal body (think T1000 from Terminator 2).
Can hack any electronic systems with complete freedom.
T-800 (Think Arnold from Terminator 2).
Can create visual and audio illusions.
Can become invisible until engaging in a conflict.
The Moon Child (Possibly my most complex character)
Can force another player to fulfill a trait you propose. If not adequately attempted, you control that player's turn.
Can alter gravitational forces by touch.
These are super cool! Have you considered putting them in a .pdf that people could use in their games?
I want people to play with my files. I don't consider them mine really. I consider them the game's. But I'm not sure about the art that I used with them. I've just used them for myself personally though. But here's a snapshot of what they look like...