No- and low-prep games

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Sometimes, life just gets the better of you: the regular GM can’t make it, or they haven’t had time to prepare, or half the players are sick, or you need something between campaigns, or you just don’t have the brainpower for a full-on game. When that happens, it can be good to have a stop-gap/single-session game to play. Because gamers seem to be getting busier, there are more and more games out there to fill these gaps. Here are some that my group has played:

  • Lost Days of Memories and Madness. This is a game of slightly twisted elves bartering over powerful memories at the end of the world. We haven’t yet played a full game of it, but we’ve had a lot of fun with it nonetheless. The setup phase, especially, has been a lot of fun; it’s mostly about worldbuilding and collaboratively declaring what the game is about. My friend John has been writing up and elaborating one of the games in his series of posts about the realm of Rust Gate. We’ve also had a lot of trouble remembering the name, so in our group, it’s become affectionately known as the “Elf Memory Game”.
  • Og: Unearthed Edition. This is a rather silly game in which you play as an early hominid. The wonderful idea of the game is that each character only knows a handful of words, and when you communicate with your fellow players, you’re only allowed to use those words. So “You go around the back of the mammoth while I make a distraction by those trees” becomes “You go! Me bang ugh!” and, naturally, the plan falls apart. In some ways, it’s a satire on the violence inherent in so many RPGs, but it’s also just plain goofy fun. While the game has a GM, prep can take as little as a sentence: “You’re hungry. There’s no food in your cave.”
  • Fiasco. Lots of folks already know and love this game, but just in case: It’s basically the RPG of Coen Brothers movies. Twisted people doing horrible things, often in hilarious ways. We’ve used the playsets “The Ice” and “Keepin’ On Keeping On the Borderlands”, and I could swear we’ve played one more, too. It’s very much a storygame, where you’re encouraged to think more about the story than identify with your character, and this makes it a particular kind of twisted fun.
  • Microscope. We’ve only played one session of this, but I hope it becomes semi-regular. It packs a lot of fun and gravitas into a single evening.
  • Blade & Crown Mass Combat. This was really a playtest, but it also functioned well as a stopgap game. We played out the siege of the Cult of the Two Suns by Morensian forces, and it was quite fun. It had a good mix of RPG elements and grand strategy, if I may say so myself.

There are a few that we haven’t gotten around to playing yet:

  • Shab al-Hiri Roach. This game sounds right up our alley, what with liking Fiasco and the Elf Memory game. We’ve even tried to start a session once, but the rules were slightly difficult to understand.
  • Old School Hack. Well, the group as a whole isn’t all that set on this, but I’d love to try it out sometime. It feels like the pure, distilled essence of what makes old school gaming fun, along with some nifty storygame-style mechanics.

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