Wednesday, June 24, 2020

PnP reminds me I haven’t read Orlando Furioso

I decided to make a copy of Astolfo on the Moon almost entirely based on the theme, which is the bit from Orlando Furioso where Astolfo, a knight who rides a (borrowed?) hippogriff, flies Elijah’s flaming chariot to moon to bring back Orlando’s sanity back in a bottle.

I haven’t actually read Orlando Furioso but I have seen it referenced so many times over the years. It’s one of those poems that influenced literature for centuries. Frankly, it has always struck me as a weird mashup between King Arthur and Baron Munchausen. As a modern reader of modern fantasy, it feels like it breaks so many rules because those rules didn’t exist when it was written. Which is totally unfair since it _wasn’t_ written as a fantasy. (If anyone wants to correct my views on Orlando Furioso, feel free. As I said, I _really_ don’t know it)

The game is a nine-card game from this year’s nine-card PnP contest. Each card has an image and quote from the poem and the corner of each double-sided card has a number on it, one to six. It’s a tile-laying game where you connect the cards via their corners and the numbers have to add up to seven to be a legal connection.

You win if the last card, which is always the Ampoule card (the bottle holding Orlando’s sanity), is connected to one of the two Astolfo cards. (While the Ampoule card is always the last card, you still shuffle it in to determine which side you use in the game) If you don’t get it in the first go, you get a second go but using the same cards in the same order. Then it really becomes a puzzle to solve, often snaking the cards around to create that final connection.

Astolfo on the Moon has grown on me more than I expected. I really expected it to be ‘well, I didn’t pay for the files so it’s okay’. But the mechanics create an interesting enough puzzle for me to come back to it. I don’t think it will have long legs for me but I was expecting to be done after a couple plays. 

Still, the theme does all the heavy lifting as far as my engagement goes. The use of imagery and poetry and even incorporating the theme into the mechanics with Astolfo  needing to find the Ampoule basically creates my interest in the game. If it was a pure abstract with numbered cards and shapes for symbols, I’d have forgotten about it already.

I freely admit that I hold PnP games that are free and fan-made to a different standard. Among other things, I view them as being prototypes, albeit possibly perpetual prototypes. Astolfo on the Moon honestly doesn’t pass the threshold for a ‘published’ PnP for me but I appreciate how it got me to think about Orlando Furioso.

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