Friends or Fortune

This game feels incomplete, not in the sense of something being left out, but as though it were a piece of another game. Specifically, the game is about making only one decision, iterated a significant number of times. This has potential, but I do not feel that the consequences for that decision were sufficiently explored – and interesting consequences are the only way to avoid the game play from feeling simply repetative.

Image Use: This is a category where I’m fairly split on this game. On one hand, the ship map is evocative and well-done. On the other hand, that is the only image which deals with sea journeys and travel. The rest feel tacked on, and if anything detract from the feel of the game as a whole.

Playability: The functional playability of the game is largely limited by the lack of examples and inspiration. We will tend to have 9-10 challenge scenes, each of which will place the ship and a sailor at risk. Giving no basis for coming up with these challenges, is a recipe for creative burn-out for the players framing the scene. Likewise, some examples or even some direct mechanics for the endgame, especially ghosts would put some meat into the decision to let a fellow sailor die. That being said, the mechanics and game structure is clearly described, and offers the opportunity for a potentially interesting game, albeit a narrow one.

Overall: I liked the core of this game, but I felt there needs to be more too it. Specifically having a ‘make a friend’ scene followed by a ‘choose to save that friend or the ship’ scene is asking for boring repeatition. Especially as the outcome of that scene is binary, and produces a random effect on one of two status charts. There is a detachment from the consequences, which makes them less meaningful, and ultimately trivializes the decisions the game is based upon. I suspect this can easily be fixed, but it is a serious problem with the game as designed.

Suggestions: Two ideas spring to mind. First, increasing the depth of the decisions – one way could be to allow the sacrifice of an anchor as a means to influence the outcome, perhaps re-rolling a die, saving the sailor but sacrificing the friendship, or letting you roll and add another die when you save the ship (sacrificing the anchor you connected with that sailor).  Second, the appearance of randomness can be removed – consider if you have a pool of 10 NPC sailors, and under each is a face down card from 1 to 10, which is how much that sailor contributes to the journey if they die. You would be able to look at that card after you befriend the sailor, and you still roll to determine loss of seaworthiness. But now the decision is one based on some definite knowledge versus a gamble. This even fits the traditions of sailing, with the ill-fortunated sailors being considered the cause of a journey’s ills.
– Mendel

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Published in: on March 9, 2007 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the review Mendel. The image set definitely only served as inspiration and to lead me far enough into Wikipedia to find that inspiration. I was lucky that the one image had the sailing ships in it.

    The game definitely needs more examples. I clearly failed to convey the emotional resonance that should make the game’s decisions appealing and consequential. I think this is largely due to the procedural nature of the text.

  2. […] – Friends or Fortune Review Mendel has posted his review of Friends or Fortune. All in all pretty fair. I know that it needs more work, and this helps me to […]


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