Once More

Once More Review

Overview
In Once More, players take on the role of Shades, soul-like entities that are reincarnated through a series of *boan* — a kind of self-contained vignette that depicts some aspect of human or divine existence — in what is ultimately a journey to one of four final destinations: Heaven and Hell, which opposing each other on a joy/pain axiom; and Truly Called and Fully Aware, which oppose each other on a self/no-self axiom.

Use of Images
As a source of inspiration for the theme and content of the game, the game ties in very well with Justin Smith’s image set. The author could have gone a lot of ways with the starting premise of Burmese Buddhism, but the choice he made is transcendent in scope and gives players a lot of room for creativity and story building. Mendel incorporated all 10 images of the set into his text, matching them appropriately to the current topic of the text when used.

Playability
I initially had difficulty grasping the rules of the game. The author starts his text with many references to terminology that aren’t explained to the reader until further in the text, and uses impartial examples that aren’t immediately clear. However, after reading over the full rules, the mechanics became clear. Mendel has put together simple, straight-forward mechanics that encourage player narration and provide a fair dose of Gamist strategizing. The gameplay is highly structured, and yet leaves a lot of room for creativity in terms of characters and setting. As presented, the game could be picked up and played with almost no preparation necessary.

The only pitfall I can see is the danger of getting caught in a loop between two boan. Playing the same boan more than once or twice per game could become tedious. However, the author does provide several variants that would proclude this issue.

Overall
I’m simply blown away by the detail in each boan. Mendel’s text contains 53 pages dedicated to the boan. Each one has a unique feel, but is abstract enough to occur in any time or place. I’m particularly jazzed by the elemental boan, such as Wood and Metal. I’m envisioning sessions where the Shades are literally reincarnated as trees in a forest or skyscrapers in a large contemporary city. The possibilities seem endless. I would love to give this game a try.

In terms of the spirit of the contest, I would say Once More met that spirit satisfactorily. The design fits within the realm of rpgs, the game draws heavily upon the images for inspiration, and all of the images were incorporated into the text of the game.

Suggestions to the Designer
In terms of rules design and playability, Once More seems pretty tight to me. I think at this point, play-testing would be the only way to determine if any changes are necessary. The biggest area of improvement I can see is the layout and explanation of the core mechanics, which is forgivable at this stage, especially in light of all of the hard work you put into the boan descriptions.

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Published in: on March 8, 2007 at 2:14 am  Leave a Comment  

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