Saturday, June 11, 2016

How Falling brought me into real time games

Falling was one of the first, probably the very first, designer game that I discovered that used real time as an element. That is to say, a game without turns where everyone can do something at anytime.

James Ernst, the man who gave the world Devil Bunny Needs a Ham, is famous for his absurd themes and Falling does not disappoint. You are all falling and you are trying to be the last person to hit the ground. Not much of a goal but it's not like you have a lot of time to come up with a better one.

The game consists of a deck of cards. One courageous soul must choose to not be my seriously hurtling towards the Earth and be the dealer. (Wait a second? Choose NOT to fall to your doom? Make that one cowardly soul) They remove the five ground cards, shuffle the rest of the deck and put the ground cards on the bottom. Reasonably enough, you don't hit the ground until the end of the game.

Everyone else will be developing a stack of cards in front of them. The dealer will be dealing out a card to every stack in the game, over and over again, working their way down to the grounds on the bottom. The dealer controls the tempo of the game and they don't have to go too fast for things to be frantic.

The players can play the top card on their stack, using only one hand. If you pick up that card, you have to use it before you can pick up another card.

The cards are either riders or actions. You slap a rider in front of someone, including yourself. They can make the dealer skip someone or deal an extra card or even start a new stack in front of someone. The dealer then sweeps away the rider, leaving an open space for a new one. Actions let you steal or push away riders, as well as the powerful stop card that destroys a rider or causes a ground card to back on the deck.

Because if a ground card lands on your stack, that's it. Game over and you are a pancake. If the dealer somehow runs out of ground cards, they just point and say ground. There's no getting away from gravity.

Like I said, the goal of the game is to be the last person to pancake. You still hit the ground, of course, but you will be the happiest person-shaped hole in the ground.

I have played a number of real time games since I discovered Falling but I have not seen another that uses an objective third party moderator like the dealer, who acts like a dungeon master in this one-way adventure down the gravity well. It gives the game very unique and interesting feel.

And Falling is a unique experience. It is a quirky but fun game, definitely falling on the frantic party game side of the spectrum. I picked it up over 10 years ago and it has remained in my collection.

Falling is far from the final word in real time game if it was a pretty good first word for me.

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