On the one hand, there is still part of me that is old enough that the idea of micro RPGs and two-player RPGs and GM-free RPGs and one-session-by-design RPGs are pretty amazing. The reality is the revolution is over and both sides won. There are a lot of new and innovative role-playing games out there but the older ways are still going strong with plenty of good gaming out there.
On the other hand, at this point, I've seen a whole lot of them. Some, like Microscope and Fiasco, have been amazing experiences period. Others, well, they can be okay but not inspiring. Any role playing game can fun and creative with the right people but some games and some systems help really bring that out.
South Side of the Sky is a two-player game about two people who are lost on a mountain and struggling to survive and get home. Hint: it's not going to end well. The best you can hope for is to not be dead yet at the end of the game.
The mechanics as fairly simple. Each player gets a hand of ten cards from a regular deck of playing cards. Each scene is a call and response, with one player setting the scene and the other responding. You play cards that define what's happening and the mood of the scene.
Most of the rules are actually a guide to what each card means. Or, if you want to be more free-form, each suit as a general meaning, giving you more room to improvise.
Whoever played the higher card put the cards in their discard pile. If the caller gets the cards, things went well. If the responder gets the card, bad times. Whoever has the fewest cards at the end will narrate the ending and if they have more black cards, everybody dies.
Having lived in a couple different places where there are mountains and getting to hear news reports on a semi regular basis of people getting lost and dying in them, I do have to admit that the theme resonates for me.
And I do think that the rules create a very strong if simple framework to work with. There aren't any gaping holes and the resolution system is very clean.
At the same time, South of the Sky didn't really excite me. I will freely admit that part of that is because I have just looked at so many micro RPGs this year. I'm getting a little jaded. But even considering that, I don't think there's that inspiring hook that really makes a game like this shine. Solid ideas but there isn't a twist.
There are definitely some good ideas that work here. But I think it needs just a little more.