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Game Chef 2011: Magpie Games Reviews “Planet Tempest”

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As part of Game Chef 2011, Magpie Games is reviewing a few of the other entries and recommending one go on to the “Final Round.” Our entry, The Play’s The Thing is also under review and we hope to post any and all comments we get here on the blog.

The first game we’ve been asked to review is Tempest Planet, a science fiction game adapted from…well…The Tempest.

Here’s what our Lead Developer, Mark Truman, has to say about Tempest Planet:

First, let me say that I love what you’ve done here by setting The Tempest in space (even though it’s been done before). Each of the elements is placed in a way that preserves the tension present in the original play (Caliban as the rebel leader!) without making the PCs feel as if their actions are meaningless. Without question, Tempest Planet shows why Shakespeare is so timeless; you’ve got a great take on the story.

In particular, I love the idea of Ariel being an entire race instead of a single person. Ariel is one of the most captivating characters in The Tempest, and you’ve done a great job of letting the players take part in the story, either supporting the rebellion or Prospero. Overall, I think you integrated the theme and ingredients well.

Your layout and player resources absolutely support the feel and tone of the setting, giving a nice impression of completeness to the work. While I know that the 3,000 word limit must have been difficult for you, it’s obvious that you put the time and effort into Tempest Planet to produce a finished product. The art you’ve chosen gives the reader a strong sense of what the Tempest Planet world looks like.

Yet, I can’t help but feel that the mechanics seem to overwhelm everything else. The die rolling system, for example, is interesting but overly complicated. The various item cards and reward cards are neat ideas, but don’t seem to add much to the game overall. The Fate system is very attractive and I’d like to see more of that.

I think the real issue here is that it remains unclear what Tempest Planet is supposed to be about. I would gladly go see a movie or read a book based on your setting, but I’m honestly not sure what my players would get out of playing your game over another game. The players can take actions that matter, but this seems less like its own game than a module of something like Traveler.

I think this game is ready to be playtested, but I also think it may be time to return to the drawing board to figure out what you want players to take away specifically from their time playing. Is this something players could do more than once? If so, how could each experience be made meaningful. The issue here, I think, is not setting or mechanics, but instead vision. Once that is clearly established, the rest of the work will fall into place.

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