Monday, August 14, 2017

Dipping my toe in the GenCan't library

GenCan't Roll and Write Library - Pippi and the Murmuring Desert

Pippi and the Murmuring Desert ended up being the first game I tried out in the GenCan't Roll and Write Library. Laziness played a part in that decision, since the whole thing is just one page and doesn't require any colored dice. It also looks like one of the simplest games in the library.

Unfortunately, I also had a feeling it wouldn't be that good a game. 

In Pippi and the Murmuring Desert, you are traveling through a desert, trying to reach a medicine woman in a mountain valley and then take the medicine to your papa on the other side. 

Each turn consists of surveying the nearby landscape, thus creating the map, and then moving.

There is an additional feature that you also only have so much water. Every time you don't move, you drink some of your water. Your pawn is actually a die and that's how you keep track of your water. I've seen that done before but I still like it. It is a simple but effective way of tracking.

So here's where the problem comes in. On your travel turn, you wrote two dice and consult the chart. That shows you what two directions you are allowed travel. But, in the best of circumstances, there is an obvious choice. If you roll doubles, you don't have a choice. And, what felt like all to often, both directions could end blocked and you really had no choice.
So I ultimately ended up making no actual choices and was forced to do what the dice told me to. That's a major problem in my book.

Sorry, Craig Froehle, the game has some fundamental problems.

Interestingly enough, I did have some fun playing the game. That's because it really, really reminded me of the first scenario in the old and much criticized Avalon Hill game Outdoor Survival. 

Contrary to popular myth, most of the scenarios in Outdoor Survival actually give you a measure of control and agency. However, the initial, lost in the woods without a map or compass basically consists of wandering around the woods, waiting to die of starvation or thirst or horrible accidents. In multi-player games, the winner is whoever dies last.

It's been years since I last played Outdoor Survival and I've actually gotten rid of my copy so I doubt I'll play it again. But it was a gaming experience that i will probably never forget. 

Pippi and the Murmuring Desert is actually a lot more survivable than Outdoor Survival (the board is a fraction of the size) but wandering lost in the desert while running out of water did remind me of the older game. Frankly, being able to relive that experience with one sheet of paper and three dice is all I need.  

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