Ancient is a game about being in an emo rock band. It probably says a lot about me and how old I am that I automatically edited it in my brain to a garage band. That being said, the band is doing well enough to get regular gigs and sell T-shirts so you must be doing something right.
The mechanics are very very simple. After everyone decides what they're playing in the band and you create a set list, it's time for your gig. You play out how the audience handles each song and your efforts at making them like you more by drawing cards from regular deck of cards. Afterwards, also using a regular deck of cards, band members determine if they are giving up or burning out or actually staying with the band.
Beyond having a name and what you do in the band, character creation only consists of drawing merit and flaw cards that will give you bonuses in audience reaction. Amusingly enough, merits and flaws work the same way in gigs. Their only difference is how they affect your chances of giving up or burning out.
Not only is the game a GM-free system, it is a particularly GM-free system. Nobody takes on the role of temporarily being the game master, except maybe the random draw from the deck of cards.
Beyond the fact that Ancient Committee has to be in the named of the band, because you have all those T-shirts, there are two choices in the game design that I do find rather interesting.
First of all, while the game is set up for ten sessions, which is how long it'll take sell all of those T-shirts, you don't need the consistent group. Whoever shows up, they're the ones who are in the band. While I can see some serious issues trying to run a game like that, I still find it funny and appropriate for the theme.
Second, every session should take about an hour. And Ancient draws a firm line on that. The more time you spend fighting about who plays what instrument or the set list, the less time you have to actually play music. And the gig has to end early enough to figure out if anyone is giving up or burning out.
It's not the first time I have seen a hard and fast time limit set on the game. Puppetland did it earlier and better, with its emphasis about how you are playing out a children's story. However, I still like how it punishes you, quite logically, when you spend more time fighting about how the band is going to be and less time actually playing music. Punish being a subjective term, since you might just be there for the fighting.
Quite frankly, for a variety of reasons I can't see myself ever playing Ancient. For one thing, I'm not into the theme. For another thing, a campaign model that is built on whoever shows up gets to play doesn't seem like a campaign that will last two sessions.
Honestly, there are enough interesting one shots that I would rather play different game each week if I had such an irregular group.
I would be curious to know what people who actually been in an emo band think of the game.