Last week we kicked off a little experiment, our Friday afternoon play test forum. A lot of us have games that need playtesting, but we have no more evening time available.
I wasn't sure that anyone would show up on a weekday afternoon, but we had an excellent turnout. Sam showed up early and we tried out a tactical war game that he and Trey have been working on. Phil and Trey showed up a little later and we started to try out Eric Boyd's Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries
The Committee blends a lot of elements from successful story focused independent games, and I have to say that so far the blending is excellently done. In The Committee, all the players are pulp-era explorers just returned from an expedition who sit down in the halls of the Committee to recount their adventures and compete for acclaim. The game requires each player to have a "festive beverage" at hand, and includes rules to take advantage of this fact.
One thing about The Committee that I thought wouldn't go down so well is it's use of ritualistic phrasing to begin certain phases of the game. For example, there's a special toast ("to learning, travel, and adventure") to kick of the adventure. When a character cannot overcome a hazard on the journey, they say "I'm embarrassed to say that for a time we were uncertain how to proceed." Despite my worries, the players were soon speaking in accent, proposing toasts, and getting right into the action.
The Committee also has an interesting twist in timed narration. When a character struggles to overcome a hazard, they have 3 minutes to complete their narration. We didn't institute this rule because everyone was still trying to get the hang of the game. Next week, we'll complete our play test using the timer. The conflict resolution system is very smooth and rapid, so there's the potential for this to work quite well, but I definitely want to see it in action.
I may write a proper AP of this after we play again. So far, this game feel extremely polished and while it's not quite ready for publication, I think it's probably a better produt that a lot of games that are now for sale.