Review: Troll Lands

In Short…

Troll Lands is Guy Shalev’s game of generational myth-making, rising from the linkage of the characters to the Troll that is both the creator of, and literally is, the land on which they live. While the game contains a number of interesting mechanical pieces and themes, I found the text difficult to parse, and the most interesting bits of the game (to me) had relatively little “screen time.”

Incorporation of Images

I think that the images of trolls were well-placed in relation to the troll=land concepts, and they really gave me an image of how to conceptualize the Trolls in play. I appreciated the use of the maps to illustrate the abstract nature of Trolls literally fighting over territory, but I had a hard time seeing the information in the images that the captions pointed too. That is, I didn’t see how the red and blue lines made trolls, but that is quite possibly just me not getting it – I often have difficulty seeing those kinds of things in images (like, I’m really bad at 3D pictures where you have to focus beyond the paper, and such).

Playability

This is one of those games that, if I were to play it, I would definitely need to sit down with the text for a little while and spend some dedicated time parsing it. The text isn’t particularly dense, but it is organized poorly (I would see rules references and be all “huh?” until a couple of pages later, stuff like that), and I think some more dedicated explication of how play should look at the table would go a long way towards filling in the gaps I saw between different sections of play. Also, I had to read the main resolution mechanic (based on Liars Dice) a couple of times, and I still don’t think I really understand how it works. I also have absolutely zero experience with Liars Dice as a thing, so perhaps I just need to do it a couple of times.

I loved how Troll/Land creation works, but I have one big question – how do the minus dice work (like, in the options that say +3 red dice, – 1 Blue dice, and so on)? Does that mean that you have to already have Blue dice and you subtract one? Or, if you were to take Blue Dice, you would get one less than usual? Or, what? This is a significant stumbling block to play, and would need to get answered before I could sit down with the game.

The generational aspect of the game really appeals to me, but I wish I had a better sense of what kind of scope actual play should be taking. Like, should each Season have one scene per player? Per character? More?

Finally, I really appreciate how the GMs role in the game is sharply defined and given currency, and I think that the situation creation rules are rockin’. Especially the Goals thing. Thats great.

Overall

Some parts of this game I really want to play (Troll/Land creation, Myth-changing throughout the ages), but my overall difficulty with parsing the text, and the fact that there’s a couple of rules questions that I would need to get answers for before playing, kills that buzz to a degree. There are some really cool bits in this game, and I think it really needs some playtesting to see exactley what should stay and what needs to go. I also wish that I could play a Troll, maybe not all the time, but under some circumstances. Maybe the first Generation of play could be with Troll characters, which set the ur-myths that your human characters respond to in later ages?

Further Thoughts

Hrm. Most of my thoughts are in the Overall for this one.

Guy, if you haven’t, I think you should check out Bill White’s Ganakagok. It has a similar season-based play arc that works really smoothly in play, and I get a similar mythic vibe from your game that I get when I play it.

Also, if I could play more Troll, I would be all over this game. More Troll!

-N

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Published in: on March 18, 2007 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Troll Lands by Guy Shalev evaluation

 Troll Lands by Guy Shalev

RPG Challenge Score Sheet

Review Scoring by Tad K

Best Incorporation of Images

A total of 6 images were used. The first ones had no explanation, being the actual images to represent the trolls. A small note would have been nice, I knew that is what they were based on conversations with the author. In knowing that they really add to the idea of the trolls as elements of the land.The other images used were a couple of maps, with colorations and lines added to them. They are used to illustrate game concepts, without illustrating actual game play, as maps are not overtly used in the game. This did lend a nice flavor to their use.Not sure where the other images are from the original set, I do not locate them in the game document. 

Most Playable

 The setup part is a touch confusing. The reason for the Troll Dice are not made explicit, do I use the Troll Dice combination to make the People dice, or they a separate stack of the same quantities in color. That could be clarified a bit more.How we get the People dice (normal dice) is not clear.Traits and Deeds, while I get that you get a total of 5 (basic setup of 5 Troll Dice) I would like to know more why I want this right at that part of the rules.Why do I use the Liars Dice game, when does it come into play?The Creating Situation has a nice example, I could use more. The strength, even with the guidelines, seems a bit arbitrary, especially in the duration. Perhaps a little more explanation of that section would be nice.A bit more explanation of the Deeds and Rituals, why we write them down, how to follow them for following seasons would be nice as well.  

Best Overall

This is the most subjective portion of the evaluation. The images used in the game are excellent; they do tell what the game is about. Sure a cover of some kind would be nice. But this is not the production model of the game, and so it is not needed to grab my attention to pick it up, read the back blurb and buy it. My overall opinion is very favorable; it is a great idea for a neat board game. A sample board layout would have cinched it for me. I do not find it to be a role playing game in the traditional sense, it is a narrative story game styled game, and as such lends its self to a more board game, competitive feel. This is not really what I want in a RPG (Role Playing Game) since the players are more the Tribes vice actual individual characters. But that is more personal bias. On the basis of the game, it is playable in its current format. Some table discussion how and when the deeds and rituals come into play might need to occur. As well as when the guise of Story Teller shifts and to who, but those are pretty minor quibbles. I ranked it a 6 in incorporation since it does not fit into any single niche, but it does take elements from board games, dice games, and round robin style storytelling. The overall opinion shows how much I like the entire concept, and it would be easy to port this idea of Trolls and Lands to a stock Traditional RPG as a theme or history and be able to explore it more.

Published in: on March 5, 2007 at 6:24 pm  Comments (2)  

In Frankenstein’s Wake, Reviewed!

 By Guy Shalev.

Ok, WordPress ate my review once, so this one will be shorter…

Image Incorporation:

I’ll begin with what annoys me the most. The pictures which attract the most attention in this game are those of Frankenstein’s students. Those pictures were not part of the Image Set provided by Jake, not one of them.

There were exactly 5 pictures from Jake’s image-set used in the game, and the use of them had been far from optimal as well. While the pictures perfuse the game with the right feel, the headers of the game also do a lot in this regard (Not unlike Polaris).

You’d think the pictures showing scientific procedures involving bodies will be used near the places in the text speaking of bodies (Experiments and Gathering Materials), while they’re seemed to be placed randomally in the text, a poor choice.

Additionally, many of the images are from the sets Jake picked his images, but are different images. You could have taken out the images of Jake and just as easily have used other images, which kinda seems to beat the theme of the contest, where overall the images which should shape the game are those provided to you, and not images of a certain shape and size to be alternated in and out as you wish.

Playability:

The game’s goal is to be complete, like a board-game, a game to be taken out, rules explained in a short manner and for a game to begin, progress and end in one sitting. I feel the game largely succeeds in this endeavour.

I would have liked outlines for creating your own characters, but I understand why you chose not to, especially considering the time limitations of the competition.

I’d have liked more explanation and/or examples of personal Traits being changed, especially to how you use dice from “Negative Traits”, and while I can see you using “Vulgar” to intimidate someone, I would have liked it in the text.

You copy/pasted something which makes little sense, in your search for completion: Conduct Research regarding Burning. If I burn, then I should gain one, because I have no excess successes. I know this is not true, since if more than one player competes on Research, you could have 3 Excess Successes, and the opposition wins with 4, and when you burn you gain 3 Research points. But you don’t know it at this point in the text (and I believe the resolution mechanic could have been mentioned earlier in the text), and thus it makes little sense.

I would have also liked more hand-holding on competing scenes when one Researches for example, because nothing stops me from being in the library and getting what I need while you also get what you need from the library. I can hand-wave it as both wanting the same books or something like that. But I think examples for such occurances is key.

Regarding the board, it’s unclear what many of the boxes should hold, whose. And writing names under each would have solved this problem quite easily.

Unlike the image-set use which I’m not happy with, I feel the game is almost completely complete, and these are my nitpicks of what could be fixed regarding it, and all that could be fixed regarding such that I found.

Overall:

I like the goal of a game you whip out and begin playing, and finish playing in one evening. I also like the theme which to me has heavy influence from My Life with Master and perhaps even “A Night in Lonesome October” by Roger Zelazny, which is one of my favourite books overall.

I think the game can end too quickly and the disparity between players can grow too fast, and that competitively bringing the scenes to head (which end Role-playing and bring about dice rolling) can be detrimental to fun, but can also cause new tactics. But you gain some and lose some when you marry board games and competition with RPGs, I should know.

I’d have liked if the free RP was a bit constrained, and if more advice was given regarding certain scenes (Research when multiple players compete, as noted above).

I really like the Epilogue mechanic containing key-words from the Material cards you use, and it reminds me fondly of the “B Movie” card game which uses the same mechanic for its’ end-game narration.

I am also quite fond that while the dice-size does not matter for success (You have %50 of gaining a success, since any odds is successful), a bigger die increases your chance (dependant on who rolls highest) of narrating the scene’s outcome, while having the lowest die (before rolling anything) decrees who sets up the scene (which can also be used competitively, especially when it comes to refreshing attributes).

I like the spirit of the game, and some of the mechanics. But there are also some things that I think could have been better, regarding feel and regarding mechanics.

Published in: on March 5, 2007 at 5:06 pm  Comments (3)  

Whoo…

By Guy Shalev. 

I’m done.

My game, Troll Lands, is done. I need to write about 3-5 more mythology stories as fiction-intro to my game, but mechanically, the game is done.

Published in: on February 22, 2007 at 6:13 pm  Comments (1)  

Game Save.

By Guy Shalev.

I feel like I have a good core, and I may fuck it up yet. So here is my basic structure, so if things get FUBARed, I’d just go back to this point instead of trying to salvage them:

  • Map level of Trolls who fight/deal with one another for more growth.
  • Village level where there’s RP. The Troll dice are allocated between important figures. Village sheet has areas like “Food” and “Spirituality”, to which characters belong.
  • You play a “Season”, like Winter, Spring, etc.
  • Above Seasons there are “Generations”, 15-20 years later, probably in the same community.
  • Every four Generations are an “Age”, because no one who lived four Generations ago is still alive now.
  • Troll-level of events occur at the Age-level, as they and the land are one, and anything less than an Age is of little consequence, personally.
  • There will be “Troll” burning where you pick the traits of the land, which give your dice configuration.
  • Resolution mechanics are to be based on courage and daring. No reward for cowardice.
Published in: on February 20, 2007 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Game Itself.

By Guy Shalev.

The game will have two levels, the “Village” level and the “Land” level.

The game is basically a god game on the Land level, with the Trolls being in direct contest with one another, it’s possible to do turn-by-turn of this, in a Risk/Dune the computer game kind of way, with the players choosing which area to advance to next. Another option is that on the Land level each player controls a different Troll, and once there’s conflict, the players zoom down to “Village” level, a different side’s each time and portray actual people there.

There will be different axes when you generate your Troll/Land, which are based on features of the land, such as bogs, volcanic activity, type of vegetation and so on and so forth, with them generating different colours of dice. You begin with 5 dice total, and each die colour can be spent elsewhere. Black dice from swamps, red dice from volcanic activity and blue dice from water sources can be spent in Magic, and show-case sacrifices at such locations, while you need Blue, Red(hunting game) or Green (fruits/agriculture) dice for sustenance.

Each Die represents one important person, with the players playing such personnae or them being important NPCs. Each session has each area accumulate coins equal in number to the dice located there, with these coins being spent in order to face hardships and narrate the survival and growth of the community.

The Trolls? They can be Norse Trolls or the Aesir, they can be dwarves or the Greek gods. They are an embodiment of the land, it may be that the important people are ridden by the Trolls like Voudounic Loas or that they channel them as they fly into berserkers’ rage.

And that is what the game is about, basically.

Published in: on February 17, 2007 at 4:16 pm  Comments (2)  

My Initial Idea.

By Guy Shalev. 

Note, I may get grounded to my base, with no internet access, for two weeks starting tomorrow.

If that happens, I’ll type the game on my non-internet army computer and use a floppy-disk to carry the data home. It’d be one day late technically, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me, if that would be my case.

Now, for my initial idea: Each Troll is a Titan-like entity, a manifestation of a location/type of place, and the last map showcases how the Trolls are trying to manipulate and battle for the earth, gaining control of it for their type of place and thus making it a habitat for their kin.

Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 5:02 pm  Comments (1)  

10 Images From Guy Shalev

From The Temple Of Music:Liber Tertius

Original Source

From Death Becomes Her:
Leviathan

Original Source

From Purloined Samplings:

Nimis Solicitus

Original Source

Glockenspiel

Original Source

From Westphalian Peace Commemoritive Album:1654 Allegory

Original Source

From Accumulated Snippets:Chronik

Original Source

From Jamieson Celestial Atlas:

Plate 23

Original Source

From Fragmented By Design:

Devils 1904

 Original Source

From On The Inconstancy Of Witches:

Ram Ride

Original Source

From Symphony Of The Absurd:

Jean Coulon Sax Noir

Original Source

Published in: on February 10, 2007 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment