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Subject: Testing the Waters rss

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Seamus Kleissler
United States
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Last night we broke out Shakespeare the Bard Game for the first time in a while. There were 7 of us and we broke into teams of 2, 2, and 3. 3 of us had played before with 4 newbies.

We played with two basic house rules:
1. Excluding the Globe where plays could be executed at any time (but once per game per team as normal), the other 3 theatres were open for one play per "season". When a play was held at 1 of these 3 theatres the script was placed on it closing it to full productions until the other 2 had been used. Then all 3 were re-opened for the new season.

2. The game would last for 3 "seasons".

I was paired on one of the teams of two. But the big thing was getting the teams warmed up to the acting and we quickly encouraged the other team of 2 to engage in some acting when they got the chance. Their first attempt wasn't the most impressive but the first one never is and it got everyone thinking about it.

Two teams had drawn high value scripts including ours and knowing that we may want to move a little faster to put on a production we made our way to Shakespeare's rooms only to find out he was away in Stratford. We quickly moved on to start collecting the pieces we needed to put on MacBeth.

While we were at that the other team of two managed the resources to put on their medium value script (I don't remember what it was) and got some quick points. Meanwhile, the team of 3 started on their run of fate (they seriously had this incredible streak of luck that was a lot out of hand) and were collecting funds quickly. After a visit to Shakespeare's rooms they threw on a quick play at the Rose and made away with the dough. We were down with zero points for some time to their scores in the mid-20s.

The ladies (the other team of two were both women while ours was men and the team of 3 was mixed) kept talking tough about brawls but when the two other teams challenged them they lost twice in a row! The result was the quick liquidation of both of their Great Actors (we went on to lose ours to Team Trio due to some lousy fate). And we took our newest cheapo script to the Globe for our high value roll off and the lead!

The lead didn't last as while we tried to rebuild our cast for MacBeth, Team Trio was rolling along with the fate and the ladies also got in a play at the Globe. We finally made it up to the Fortune to end the season, we drew a Marlowe Script from the fate pile. But it was getting too late as Richard III was put on by Team Trio at the Globe and they nearly sealed the deal.

Note: By this point we had decided that 3 seasons was too long and shifted the rule to first to 100 points. Team Trio had 95 points while we had 65 and the ladies 64.

All Team Trio had to do to win was put on any play anywhere. The Rose had been closed by Team Trio who quickly sped off for more props and the Curtain. Both us and the ladies were ready to put on some quick plays and we bluntly discuss how to close the Curtain before Team Trio got there (we were both at the Saracen's Head Inn and heading towards the Gallows with the original intent of getting to the Fortune before the other). The ladies got sidetracked by fate which left only our team in the way. We rolled within 4 spaces of the Curtain and Team Trio needed 9 to beat us there. They rolled 11. Game Over!

Some Thoughts

The theatre closing for the "season" rule really worked! It created a unique tension and forced everyone to use the board. It maybe could use a tweak or two but it works as we played it and we'll definitely use it again.

While the theatre closing for the season rule worked, it didn't entirely fix the board imbalance. After thinking about it and discussing it with everyone else last night I think we might try something where if you visit the Cathedral you get to roll again as usual, but you may also put 5 shillings in the collection and collect one prop! It may make that side too attractive in which case maybe we'll make it a challenge where if you put 2 shillings in the collection you can win a prop by answering an easy question correctly.

I don't mind a fair amount of luck but the extraordinary luck that Team Trio had was absurd. I have no idea how to temper that and probably won't as even with all of that luck we were still in the race at the end. It really hurt Team Trio's experience I think because they never acted out a single script card which is to me half the fun of the game! My highlight of the night was making use of one of the candles when reading a line about blowing out a candle which helped make up for my bad acting skills.

Teams of 3 don't work so well. It is my wife's game and she loves Shakespeare but was on Team Trio and wasn't able to engage as much because the two guys dominated their moves and decisions. It is harder for three to sit close enough to mutually take part (can't simply place pieces half way between two players). Again, we enjoyed this as a team game alot!

This is the first game where folks got into brawling in the streets and it added to the experience some. But we did misplay two rules. With brawls we incorrectly stated that they could only happen in the streets when in fact they can happen at any moment that two teams meet. The other rule we erred on regarded busking because we forgot that busking required the draw of a fate card. So busking ended up being a bit overused!

For what it is worth, Tom from Team Trio rated the game a 6, while Ry from my team gave it a 9, and Mud from the ladies team gave it an 8. This says something about personalities and it may reflect the different experiences between Team Trio and the other teams. Team Trio had all of that good fate in the game but little chance to enjoy the trials of acting!
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