D Vincent Baker is a big name on the indie game scene. He is the creator of cool games such as Dogs in the Vineyard, In a Wicked Age, Mechaton, Murderous Ghosts, Poison’d, and Apocalypse World. I had not had the pleasure of playing one of his games until GenCon 2012. The first game that I played at Games on Demand ended up being Apocalypse World and I now understand why Vincent Baker has such a reputation.
My introduction to the game was a simple set-up. The MC started out by explaining to us that world as we knew it had ended some time in the past and that nobody alive had any recollection of what that world was like. What was left in the wake of the fall of society was the psychic maelstrom. Outside of this, what the world was like was up to us as the players. We went around the table discussing the various movies that played with the post aopcalyptic tropes and quickly discarded the idea of the desert setting. It was done to death according to us and we all seemed to have a penchant for Waterworld, despite it being a horrible movie overall. So, our Apocalypse World would be very similar to this movie but lacking in any Aquaman analog. After this, the MC described to us the basic mechanics of the system.
It was very easy to understand. Every character has access to a basic set of moves. These range from Going Aggro, to Acting under Fire. Each move details what happens within the story and what stat is added to the roll when the action is undertaken. When you are Going Aggro, you would roll 2D6 and add your Hard stat. If the total is 6 or less, you have failed. If the total is 7-9 you have a weak hit and a 10 or better is strong hit. A weak hit means that you have accomplished what you have set out to do with some complications. For me, I was playing the Brainer which is a psychic/weirdo and I went aggro on a member of the holder’s entourage as he was threatening another psychic in town. I rolled a 9 and instead of backing down, he took the damage I was threatening to cause and dropped to his knees from the pain causing me to have to up the ante another notch. Yeah, I ended up getting shot but it was so worth it! In addition to the basic moves, each character has access to moves that are specific to their character. As the Brainer, I had the ability to Go Aggro using my Weird instead of my Hard which meant I was threatening you with my mind not my body. This was awesome as it fit well within the idea I had for my character and led up to me facing down a bunch of thugs with just my mind.
In addition to the Brainer which I mentioned above, the game has a large array of character types available with each one representing a trope from post-apocalyptic fiction. There is the Driver that is your typical Mad Max character and there is the Holder which represents the leader of a settlement in this blasted landscape. Other types of characters include the Battlebabe, the Chopper, and the Angel to name a few. Each has it’s own play book which provides a list of options for you to customize the character to your liking. Each also comes with their own custom moves which highlight the feel that you want to have while playing that character. I really enjoyed the process of customizing my Brainer as the choices I made really helped set the tone for the rest of the game.
Fair warning though, this game is not your standard fare. In addition to being a story game it also does not shy away from mature subject matter that is inherent in the genre. Specifically, every character has a sex move. This is something mechanical that happens when one character sleeps with another character. For my Brainer, this move allowed my character to subject the other character to a deep brain scan which allowed me to learn the characters true wants and needs. In addition to this, all the characters have a History stat which reflects how each character is connected. They are rated in strength from -4 to +4 and are based on questions in each players playbook and how play works out. I know these things may not be everyone but they certainly make for one hell of a fun game.
I really look forward to playing the game again. My only disappointment was that I could not pick up the game at GenCon. I had to wait until I came home and things had returned to normal for me to be able to order it from Vincent Baker’s site. If you are looking for a new game with post-apocalyptic trappings, I suggest picking up Apocalypse World. You won’t be disappointed!