Another Story Games Glendale meetup, and there a few hours early. Asher got there early as well, and after some initial chatting, I mentioned how I’d talked to friend Noella the prior night about trying to test For The Queen with two players. Asher was in for a test session. Additionally, they brought a massive Magic the Gathering art book, and so we used that to flavor our session by choosing an iconic image from that to inspire our queen!
Given that most of the time you don’t end up with actual character names in this game, I’ll refer to Asher as “the artificer”, and my character as “the streetwise”.
We played in an entirely urban setting, also inspired in some way by the Magic art from the book, which had a very science fantasy vibe you find in settings such as Eberron. Recent touchstones are the canon from Blades in the Dark, and we wanted our urban setting to feel similar to that: a sprawling city that goes on as far as the eye could see, and maybe a fear of the dangerous unknown that’s beyond the city walls.
As we navigated the game, we found that my character was the daughter of one of this queen’s hardcore followers. That she started an uprising against the government, but it’s slowly been put down piece by piece. That now it’s just the smallest core of us still alive, making a run for a contact at the far reaches of the city, maybe one that is rumored to give us a way our, or an alliance with someone who can change the tide of the revolution. The artificer had skills important to our movements, but the streetwise had been mostly raised an orphan, and knew how to navigate the urban environment.
In the end we made it to our contact, only to be betrayed, and the queen shot down. But the two of us escaped, last minute, in a balloon device of the artificer’s making, floating up above the city walls, to who knows where.
Thoughts on For The Queen with 2 players
Although the game is advertised as 3-6 player, it worked very well for two, which wasn’t surprising to me. I’ve played For The Queen with much more than 6 and its still worked very well. However, there were a couple of small things I noticed in the 2 player version.
More questions than usual would come up that didn’t match or work for the story we were telling, and we X-ed six questions during the game based on this. Again, normalizing the use of the X-card here is key, especially around tone and such, and so it really wasn’t an issue at all. Also, because it’s a two player game and we have probably about 25 cards to go through in a half-deck game, it didn’t feel like this affected the game in any negative way.
One interesting side-effect of two players is that, as the non-active player, you can ask whatever clarifying or side questions you want, and you actually don’t have to wait for anyone else. As soon as you’re done with questioning or interrogating the other player, you just pick up the next prompt card! It has an interesting effect on the pace, which just felt a bit faster and more… fluid?
I would say that because there are only two players, it’s probably as important, maybe more so, to get the players on the same page. I mean, this is important regardless in this game, but with a larger table there is maybe more of an expected amount of disconnect - even if it’s minor - between players. But with a good two player game, which is more intimate, I think it’s critical to get both people on the same page for tone and goal. This was done with our game by choosing a queen together, as well as some tone discussion of what sort of exploration we wanted to do (in this case a discussion of the urban setting, and level of sci-fi / magic and other game elements).
I have to admit that the flexibility of having another 2-player game, combined with the smooth and fast pace feel of this game, makes me want to play it again.
The rest of the meetup
There were other games as well, of course. I ended up pitching and running For The Queen for a table that included regular Todd, who hadn’t played yet and had wanted to try it, and three new friends who were very new to RPGs. The setup was somewhat standard as far as tone and fantasy tropes, but again there was good drama, and always new things.
On a second table, Spenser pitched and ran his game which is a mashup of Dungeon World and Masks, which has a ‘young adventurers’ vibe. Sounds like the play itself was successful, and importantly, the feedback session after the fact looked useful to Spenser, and to the players for getting to debrief and express desires. Another successful playtest at SGG!