Review – This Match is Scheduled for One Fall

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.

The premise of this game is very clever. You play professional wrestlers, with one player responsible for each of the wrestler’s “real” and “gimmick” halves. The idea of two people having control of the same character is an interesting and clever way to represent the split personalities of wrestlers, and I’d love to see further development of that idea.

Actual gameplay seems to be mostly boardgame-like, with the only roleplaying element (beyond possibly describing your moves or something) being flashback scenes that some but not all players can inject into the game. The idea of some people playing a board game while other people tell a story surrounding the board game is kinda clever, and might work well with groups that have players who are not as interested in being put on the spot, and just want to watch other people roleplay while they fiddle with dice. I’m worried, though, that in other groups the gimmick players would feel like they don’t get to do the fun part.

My main concern with this game is that I don’t think either of the two games (the board game or the roleplaying game) is going to be very fun. The board game aspect is just a variety of ways to manipulate two pools of points, with a pretty hefty random element. Maybe there are clever emergent strategies, and you end up having to adapt to your opponent in interesting ways, but that’s very non-obvious from the rules. I rather suspect that people will start by doing stuff more or less at random, until an obviously dominant strategy emerges. Since this game is only meant to be played once, there isn’t much room for experimentation or trial and error. Maybe a strategy guide would help alleviate this problem? I’m still not sure I would have much fun manipulating two pools of points, but maybe in practice it would work out to be interesting if I knew what the strategic considerations were. I don’t really know enough about board game design to be of much help here. (Another consideration is that the different roles will be harder or easier than others – the poor Gimmick Doctor of Pain! This is not inherently bad, but it means that I would have no idea what to expect or how impressed I should be with a victory. Again, a strategy guide might help with this.)

The roleplaying half (unless you really get into describing the wrestling moves) is limited to a small number of flashback scenes. The problem I have here is that there is no clear incentive or motivation to tell an interesting story with them. The fundamental tensions of the game are, by definition, not known until it’s over, so you can’t really bring them in to the story. The prompts are occasionally somewhat interesting (I liked: “Former Title Reign – The Doctor had a 6-month run as the heavyweight champion. What happened in his real life that led to him giving up the title?”), but are usually pretty broad and often uninspiring. If you already had a cool story to tell about the life of a professional wrestler, then maybe you could tell it using these mechanics. But it’s not going to help you if you don’t already have good ideas. I suggest putting more tension into the description of the flashbacks. At the moment, I don’t have much interest in seeing what happened to the Doctor of Pain in Japan. Give me a reason to care about it, an interesting conflict or revelation or something.

All in all, I have thinking about this game all week, which is a sign that there is something interesting here. I like a lot of the ideas in general terms, and it’s certainly innovative. I think it needs a great deal of thought about how to make the various elements of the game really shine, though. This game has set itself a difficult task: making a fun board game and a fun roleplaying game, at the same time. I don’t think it has succeeded, yet. I have hope that a future draft might get there, though.

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