Review – Our Last Best Hope

22 Apr

Rules Link

First, a general disclaimer that I’m putting on all my reviews this year: I tend to be very harsh with my criticism. It’s a personal failing, and one I try to temper, but with limited success. Don’t take my criticism as a sign that I hate you and your game. If possible, think of it as an attempt to help you make your game as amazing as possible.

Now, on to the actual review.

This game sets out to emulate a fun genre, which automatically gives it some points in my book. I like the really simple “crises and complication” table, it gives us a good starting place and is very true to the source material. If I were playing this game, I might use it as a random table, which is great because I love random tables.

I found myself having a lot of quibbles with how this game works. I don’t know if it’s helpful for me to be this nit-picky, but here are some things that bothered me:

-30 dice in two contrasting colors is a lot of specifically colored dice. That’s about twice as many as Fiasco requires, and I’ve had trouble scrounging enough dice for that game before. I wouldn’t be able to play this game using my existing dice.

-The “Role Abilities” don’t seem very balanced. I know that balance is a very nebulous thing in this sort of game, but a penalty to “acting quickly” seems much harsher than a penalty to “disobeying orders”.

-Myers-Briggs is a complicated system. I like the idea of making it a part of char-gen, but I feel like it’s too complicated to be useful in actual play without more systemic support. I would have liked more specific rules about how to incorporate the types in play.

Even ignoring those quibbles, however, I’m nervous about the general way this game is designed. There are some common dangers that Forge-style games often run into, and I am worried that this game will do so.

The first potential problem is that it seems to rely on the players already having good ideas about this sort of fiction. The main exception is the initial list of possible disasters, which is great. But otherwise, the inspiration for the game ranges from Solaris to Children of Men, and the game doesn’t do much to help if you get stuck and don’t know what should happen next.

This may be nothing more than a word limit problem. A longer version of this game could include more GM advice, and more examples, which would help a lot. Still, though, I’d love to see more mechanical support for people who don’t know what to do next.

A second potential problem is how rigid the structure of the game is. It has a very specific economy that changes in relatively deterministic ways. I worry that this will make it hard to fit the circumstances of the individual game to the structure of the game. In particular, I don’t like the way assets and story points work. If I have the perfect tool for the job, why do I have to spend a point to use it? I’m also pretty unsure of the “Consequences” roll. What is it supposed to represent in the fiction? What if there’s no obvious way to lose or gain an asset there?

That said, this game has an interesting premise, and is very complete. If I could get my hands on some more dice, I think I could play this game right now. With a good group who is comfortable doing a lot of the creative heavy lifting, I think this could be a lot of fun.

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2 Responses to “Review – Our Last Best Hope”

  1. Mark Truman April 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Thanks for the review!

    I think your overall critique is spot on. I ran a playtest of the game yesterday, and it did feel like it had the potential to stall out in the middle. It’s something that future drafts are going to have to tackle better.

    One way to do that is to make the game GM-less and use more random tables to set up conflicts. The players would set up scenes, and then the threats would occur as a resolution to the scene (i.e. you sit down to have a conversation about something else, and the broken airlock interrupts you).

    I worry, however, that cutting the GM will make it too much like Fiasco? What are your thoughts here?

    As for your specific issues:

    1) 30 dice is a lot. In reality, you probably only need 10 of each color, especially if you use tokens for the event pool. I’ll make that more clear in the future.

    2) The roles are going to need to be tweaked. The mechanic works great, but the orders thing doesn’t really come up!

    3) Myers-Briggs is cute, but I mostly added it because of the Forge thread. I think future drafts will drop it completely, and the character sheet will just be a name and a role.

    Thank you so much! Great feedback!

  2. Caesius April 22, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    I have read through the game, but have not played it (critical distinction). Admittedly, I am not too familiar with what is available at this level. Keeping that in mind, I found the “role-play/adventure with an ending” quite refreshing. In addition, I am always on the lookout for ways to tweak a rule in an existing game that does not work, and I liked what I was seeing with the two-tone dice and specific roles. Once play-tested & ironed-out this would seem a perfect game to play when a play group finds itself mired in random encounter after random encounter. That’s the time to bring out this game. Time to save the world. Looking forward to seeing what evolves.

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