Monday, October 7, 2013

Fiasco - Review and Actual Play Report



"The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!"

- Robert Burns, To A Mouse

Saying this is an understatement when playing Fiasco is like saying Battlefield Earth had a few issues.

My action figure will sell millions!

The game is rather simple, its easy to learn, and was a blast to play. Its essentially a bit of collective improvisational storytelling. The game works by creating a series of relationships between each player, with each player adding new levels of detail to their own relationships with the person on their right or left, or someone else's relationship. As those relationships get fleshed out, the characters begin to emerge and you are ready for act one. 

In act one, each character has two scenes in which that character features prominently. Everyone plays multiple characters, and you act out each scene. On your turn, you can choose to set the scene yourself or have others set the scene for you. If you set it yourself, the other players will get to choose if your scene will end well for your character or poorly. If you let the other players set the scene for your character, you can choose if it ends well or poorly. This is done by choosing a white (ends well) or black (ends poorly) die from a big pile of dice in the center of the table. In act one, once your scene is up, you pass that die to anyone else.

After everyone has taken a turn to have two scenes regarding their character, The Tilt comes into play. At this point, there's some crazy scheme in motion, and the Tilt is a random event that throws everything out of whack, and inevitably leads to ruin.

Act two starts up, and works just like the first act, save for this time you keep any dice you choose/receive at the end of your scene. This is where the characters lives are starting to spin out of control, and they are trying uselessly to patch holes in the quickly sinking metaphorical ship.

Once everyone has had their two scenes, its time for the resolution, which plays out in a montage, describing what happens to that character afterward. You roll and total up the black and white dice you have in front of you, subtracting the black from the white. The closer your net score is to zero, the worse off your character ends up. In fact, unless you have a large number in either white or black, you are just varying levels of screwed. Each player then takes a turn describing what happened to their character, which each die representing an event; "this dice is my character doing this."

And its awesome


It's 3794 miles to new Zealand, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses.

Our game was set at McMurdo station in Antarctica, and the characters were: 

Mac, a chemist who runs a research lab, sells drugs, and runs a gambling ring on the side

Emily, the Mormon wife of Joseph (the NPC helicopter pilot whom the whole base hates), who has a drinking problem

Rachel, the sister-wife of Emily, and has a gambling debt to Mac.

Giada, an Italian doctor who sells drugs to Mac

Stella, another Italian woman who is Emily's secret drinking buddy who desperately wants to get the hell out of Antarctica (as does Giada).

We started with a flash forward, with Giada and Stella standing over the bloody body of Joseph, whom they stabbed to death on the helicopter pad. The story then flashed back, with lots of scenes setting up the characters, and Mac trying to make a tidy profit from the base by manipulating everyone.

The tilt comes, and Emily wrecks a snowmobile, putting her into a coma. Mac loans Giada some experimental chemical which she uses in a douche to revive Rachel (Giada's solution to any medical problem was to douche someone). Giada and Stella steal a snowmobile and head out to the helipad, where Joseph is fueling up the helicopter Joseph offers to fly them out if they will sleep with him, but they kill him instead.

Meanwhile, now that she's awake, Mac comes to collect a debt from Rachel, who can't pay up. Emily is in the room too, and wants to be first wife, so she allows Mac to pinch off her IV and leaves her to die. Before she dies, Rachel whispers to Mac know that she cut the gas lines to the helicopter.

Emily is the first to arrive at the helicopter, as she knows Joepeh was going to be taking it out today, and she wanted to break the 'tragic' news. Emily comes across the grisly scene, and Stella offers a hug, but turns it on Emily, and chokes her life out.

Mac takes off to find Giada and collect the debt she owes him, and comes across the carnage at the helipad. With Joseph dead, Mac is the only one left who can fly a helicopter, but knows better than to get into it. He splashes fuel on himself and sets himself on fire to get out of flying the helicopter, and Giada stays back to tend to him; Stella flies away into the clouds.

Then we had the epilogues; Mac suffered third-degree burns and had to have his hands amputated. Giada stayed out in the cold with him overnight before they were found, and she had to have her fingers and toes amputated due to frostbite; they both go to prison for murder. Rachel actually recovers a bit, but suffered severe brain damage; she spends the rest of her life as a dim-witted nun in a Mormon temple; her only job is to ring the church bell. Stella, however, puts the helicopter down some miles away safely, and with a bit of luck, comes across a submarine that broke the ice. She ends up getting back to safety and wins the lottery. She comes back to McMurdo and turns it into a condo resort, making her fabulously wealthy. No one ever discovers she murdered two people. 

My psyche is horribly scarred by murdering my friends. Maybe I can buy a new one!
While the mechanics are a bit hard to explain to new players, it doesn't take long before everyone has it down. Even those who never play any kind of story games pick it up quickly. There are a number of great playsets available for free here, and at $25, it goes a long way. The only negative I can think of is that no one has made a Blackadder playset yet!