I got to meet Tobie at Strategicon the last weekend, and had chatted with him online prior about Games on Demand. He came in as a Strategicon special guest, having designed games including A Single Moment, now put out by Nocturnal Media.
He had some days before heading home to the Philippines, and so we planned for some gaming, and for him to come check out Story Games Glendale.
Meeting at Game Empire
I drove out to meet Tobie at Pasadena's Game Empire in the afternoon. It's probably one of LA's better gaming stores, and has a pretty decent RPG section, mostly focused around D&D and Pathfinder stuff, but including decent (but sporadic) representation with some smaller press games. Although he got there shortly after opening, he missed grabbing a used copy of Dogs in the Vineyard by a few minute. We later pestered the guy carrying that around, but he wasn't willing to part with it. Bummer!
After looking about a bit, we decided to play a few games. I was more than happy to try out A Single Moment, so we sat down to play that.
A Single Moment is a 2-player samurai themed RPG that Tobie wrote. I've recently played a game called Wind on the Path, which is similarly a 2-player samurai battle story game, but one that's very light in scope and theme and runs about 20-30 minutes, so I was eager to see how these two games compared.
A Single Moment
The game starts with two samurai meeting face to face, ready to commit this final act of conflict (all in media res and shit). It's great that it just sets the tone that there is really only one way this is going to end. And then most of the game is created using flashbacks to times and of moments where the samurai are friends, or possibly working together towards various ends, or betraying one or the other.
Elements I enjoyed included the use of cards that informed scenes and provided targets to hit for the story. This includes key character cards in which you can define such as the victim, or the coveted (which in some cases may be a person, but in our story was my family's old sword, which his family had stolen from us generations past). When the scene feels appropriate, you can introduce and mark off these elements in the story, which is a requirement to proceed further into the narrative and action.
Additionally, each scene you could either draw a virtue card (such as Honor or Respect), or use a virtue card that was static and informed the over-arching virtue of the entire story. These were great, as it meant that each scene had an underlying story cue that affected the mood of the scene, and how the players may act in it.
Like many story games, we came in with a very thin understanding of our characters; a name, where we were for the fight, how long this has been leading up. Everything else came up through play, and it was a real joy to explore that, in spurts and starts.
Our story ended up being one of a young teacher and an old student, old families fighting for power and a ancient sword, an arranged marriage gone foul, and vengeance extracted after the fight crippled the young samurai.
A Single Moment probably ran us about an hour or so, but you could pretty easily set it up to play for a longer, more drawn out and complex session, if you desired. There were more story cues and moving pieces than the other simpler game (Wind on the Path), which made for a more nuanced story, and more of a story game experience. I would choose the simpler game for newbies or short time frames, but for a more authentic and deeper experience, A Single Moment shined.
Game Haus Cafe and Story Games Glendale
After A Single Moment at Game Empire, I was able to introduce Tobie to Battle Line, a favorite 2-player card game of mine. I forced him to come with me to REI for a return, and then we headed to Game Haus Cafe, the regular meeting place for Story Games Glendale. We played another 2-player game called Lost Cities, an old favorite.
David, my meetup partner, showed up a bit early. We use the pre-meet times for chit-chat, catchup, and general game geekery. Also, David showed me A Single Moment before I ever heard of Tobie, and already had the cards printed and laminated and all, so he got to geek out at meeting Tobie. Not long after, a new meetup member named Thomas showed up. He'd never played any role playing games.
We decided to split into two tables. David got to enjoy playing A Single Moment with Tobie, which I could see he desperately wanted to get the chance to do! I played the simpler Wind on the Path game with Thomas in parallel. Although I could tell Thomas was nervous about how to approach the game, he was great in getting into it and trying something that was obviously not in his comfort zone. He even felt bad for killing off my samurai.
After that, we decided to play a session of The Quiet Year, a game Tobie had heard of but hadn't played before. After a quick go around the table, with everyone contributing an idea of where we were starting, we ended with a community self-contained in a large crater, possibly on some alien planet, with something like a crashed, hollowed-out spaceship for a community building. We played this using Lego bricks from Lego Creationary, but honestly I think we should probably have done it using the traditional map-based version that the game comes with. We did get to play the fleeting Quiet Year the whole way through, although the last bits were a little rushed to coincide with the cafe's closure.
The end of the night consisted of driving Tobie back to his relatives place, and fleeting late night conversations. All-in-all, great day with lots of gaming with good people!
An interview a few days prior
I just found this video interview of Tobie at the recently completed Gamex 2017, where he talks a bit about the game itself, as well as gaming culture in the Philippines. Note this was before we hung out on the day I write about, above, so he mentions game cafes, prior to experiencing the one we went to.
Oh yes, and you can find out more about Tobie on his blog, called TAG Sessions, including writeups from Gamex 2017.