Review: An Inordinate Fondness

In Short…

An Ordinate Fondness is Mark Vallianatos’s game of person-sized insects exploring and theorizing about the artifacts of lost human civilizations. Definitely quirky, and with some very cool mechanical bits to it, it seems to me that it needs a stronger sense of focus in order to tighten it up.

Incorporation of Images

The game is obviously inspired by the image set, but I was sad to see all of the images in question clustered onto one page. While using them as inline pictures would have interrupted the well-designed page layout, I think that they could have been imagined as half-page or full-page spreads with accompanying text giving examples of how the insects misinterpret the human artifacts that they are interacting with in the images.

Playability

The mechanics aren’t terribly complex, and the running examples in the text are fabulous and helpful. I love the fact that cards are used both for their values, and also to represent the “stats” of the different body parts of the insects. Very thematically elegant.

The game is short-form enough in scope that the lack of an endgame state or win condition makes me go “huh”. Perhaps some kind of upper limit on Status or something involving total theory acceptance? I don’t see enough meat on the bones of the two-phase system to sustain more than a couple of rounds of it, without a definite goal to be aiming towards.

Overall

What a cool weird game! While I don’t see any reason I couldn’t play it, there are two areas of possible improvement that would make me more likely too. The first is an endgame state, as described above, to give a concrete goal to be working towards throughout the game. The second is that I don’t see much reason to roleplay in the Exploration phase, as is. The interactions between the insects are fairly minimal, and as each person only has a couple of things that they need to narrate in the scene, I fear that thats all that those scenes would consist of. You can see one of my thoughts to address this below. Overall, I liked the game, but I’m not really interested in playing it without something more to give me a tighter focus for play.

Further Thoughts

I had one thing that I thought of that would address my concern with Exploration scenes, and also introduce an overarching theme of tension that could easily get tied into an endgame scenario. That is that, maybe, lower-status characters could change cards with higher-status AFTER they are all revealed, by narrating how they use those respective parts of their bodies to alter the conflict in their favor (I bat his head aside with my wings, making him dizzy so he’s more attractive prey to the ants!). I think that this would provide something cool for having low status, would complicate conflicts (in a good way), and would provide grist for competing agendas in the Theorizing scenes.  I just fear that the game as is is too far towards the “parlor narration” style of game for it to be interesting to me.

-N

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Published in: on March 14, 2007 at 2:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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