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Play Folk #2: Two Rooms and a Boom

Myles Nye



Here's what happened last Tuesday.

The members of our club were very punctual even though Two Bit Circus is a famously tricky destination... or should I say DETONATION? I already did in the comment above. It's the payoff to the comment in the previous post. There is a method to the mad bombings around here.

There is a tabletop night at the downtown workshop facility and magic factory of Two Bit Circus, and Dan B. and Brent B. graciously allowed us to piggyback onto this biweekly event. They even played the game with us, and some of the other regular tabletop players joined in the game as well, some staying for all 5 times we played it.

When I got there, Lily was there with bottled waters for all and Willa arrived a moment later with the traditional Starbucks pastries, including a brownie earmarked for me. Willa was with Mac who was one of our two-time players, AKA hundred per centers. Others included Dagny and Kyle, John Greg and Dash, and the two Billys: Billy the Red and Tombstone Billy. And of course Billy's kids, April and Tre.

The first new club member I met when I arrive introduced herself to me as Wally; on Twitter I know her as @LadyOniyide. She said she had been at last year's IndieCade and had taken up an interest in indie games. It gave me a great feeling to welcome someone to the club who so clearly belonged there. My hand is blocking Wally's face in the picture above, but she appears in all the pictures in a black leather jacket.

I won't go into the details or rules of the game except to say this: a few hours before the event, Willa texted me to ask if I could send her the PDF files to print the cards. Until that point, I'd planned just to write on Post-It notes and DIY it, like when we play Trash Bucket (AKA Celebrity) as a variant of Time's Up, a great game published by R&R Games out of Florida that played the same way.

So anyhow, Tuesday Knight Games is currently preparing decks of the game to ship to its Kickstarter backers but they also make the game available online as a free PDF. The 45 page long document that describes the different characters and add-ons you can play with takes some wading through, but I'd done a bit of prep when we played this game at KDB for a party with Wise Guys Events personnel so I knew which were the fewest number of cards needed to play the game.

I sent only those PDFs to Willa, along with the cardbacks (rather cleverly I thought) and Willa showed up with these:


The printer just gave them to us. Lily has pointed out how our different skills and background benefit the group; in this instance Willa conjured as though from thin air the only materials we needed to play the game. Well other than the brownie, which I didn't eat until around the third round because I was yapping so much.

I won't tell you the full details of the game and how it's played; that information is available at the Tuesday Knight Games web site. Here's what the night was like.

At about 8:15 Erin Dean, my colleague from Survivor and a TV producer with a long resume, requested that the game begin, so I used my big loud yelling voice to gather all the players. I sat in the comfiest chair of the comfy circle of couches and furniture that we called the lounge and used for one of the two rooms. The players I yelled at were in the loft space up above, putting away tabletop games and yakking. If I had to do it over again, I would have made that the second room because there was another comfy circle. Instead though we used the workshop space, visible in the posed group pic, which was far away enough that no one could hear what was happening. The other benefit to playing the way we did was that we had the leaders meet in the communal bar area between the two rooms to indicate when the hostage exchange should take place.

The Lounge (room 1). From L to R: Tre, Myles, Greg, Dagny (in my chair), Erin, Blake, April, Dash with the blue hoodie.

The Lounge (room 1). From L to R: Tre, Myles, Greg, Dagny (in my chair), Erin, Blake, April, Dash with the blue hoodie.

The Workshop (room 2). From L: Zach, Tombstone Billy, Willa, Wally, Mike, Billy the Red, Doug, Mac, Dan Busby the life of the party, Kyle (not pictured), John Greg (back of head). John Greg and Greg are two different people.

The Workshop (room 2). From L: Zach, Tombstone Billy, Willa, Wally, Mike, Billy the Red, Doug, Mac, Dan Busby the life of the party, Kyle (not pictured), John Greg (back of head). John Greg and Greg are two different people.

Lily took these pictures during round 5 because one card had gone missing. We'll get to that, but I bring it up because there were quite a few great players who don't appear in these photos, including Two Bit's CEO Brent and Catherine U. who had to step away to take a phone call.

When all players were gathered at the comfy circle I did the rules patter and took questions from players who raised hands. The first game we played was:

3 minutes - 2 hostages

2 minutes - 1 hostage

1 minute - 1 hostage

There were 24 players in the first game. About the same as came to Tombstone Hold 'Em but with a mix of returnees and new faces.

In this game I debuted my wristband strategy. I drew a red team card (no special ability) so I put a red wristband on my hand. When people offered to cardshare with me, I told them I'd made a deal with myself that I wouldn't cardshare with anyone, but I would show them my wristband and that I would tell the truth. Some people believed me, some didn't. Some people said, "You just didn't bring a blue wristband." I showed them my blue wristband. Of all the flaws in this strategy, that was the one thing people were sure was going to be my Achilles' heel.

The red team won the first game and everyone said with one voice, "Too short!" And I said, paraphrasing the game's inventors, "Of course, but now you have your first game under your belt and you've been playing for less than ten minutes. The next game will be five minutes, three minutes, two minutes." Everyone agreed this would be OK.

In both the first and second game we played with a red and blue shy guy and no other special abilities. This idea came from the Board With Life video podcast and seems the best base game for a big group, because the Shy Guy gives all players license to withhold cards. Players did color card sharing quite a bit, and in the last round everyone was willing to show anyone anything because it was essentially too late to do anything.

After the second round, a most extraordinary thing happened: Zach, a first time player and Dash's roommate, was the President two times in a row. Jackie, who had been the bomber in the first game and successfully blown Zach up, pointed out that she was on the red team once again and was surely the lucky charm. This proved to be something of an understatement as we played the rest of the games through.

Between the second and third rounds, a few players took off and we played one more round with all the samesies before mixing it up. We also took time for refreshments and the house drink. Recommended by my friend Hannah it was a gin buck: gin, ginger ale, and a squeeze of lemon. The lemons were from our front yard. And the brand of gin? BOMB-bay Sapphire of course. And the Stone IPA which was not thematic but we had leftover from the last play date.

I should be able to tell you more about what went on during the game, because the strategy should be the best in the re-telling, but I found myself more focussed on enjoying myself than making moves that would win the game. I was the red team most of the time and tried to help them win by figuring out who the President and Bomber were, but a lot of people would have side conversations that I couldn't have been following all of, even though I did get snoopy. The game is strategically sound but I think most of us were playing it like a luck game, but a sneaky luck game, and treating it like a fun night with friends, which it totally was.

We added extra rules in the fourth round: the bomber had to cardshare with the Engineer to fix his faulty ticking mechanism and the President had to meet with the Physician for medication, otherwise the President dies from Bartlett's Wasting Presidents' Disease or SLIDS: Sudden Leader of the free world Instant Death Syndrome). The card itself said Nurse on it; there's also a Doctor card in the deck but I lost it when I was sitting in the comfy chair (it is probably still there) and I'd rather just call it the Physician card in the retelling because it takes the connotations of sex out of it. It's not that kind of game.

In the fourth round, the President met with the Physician and the Bomber met with the Engineer and the red team won for a fourth consecutive time. By this time, Jackie had been the bomber twice. In addition to Zach being President twice, these seemed like the most coincidences you would expect in a night, but there was still one last game left to play.

In this game, I drew the Bomber card. I panicked. I put my blue wristband on. It was the first time I'd not worn the correct wristband. It was an impulsive decision. Billy the Red told me after the game was over, "I knew you'd lie on the last round, you prisoner's dilemma thinking person you!" He actually raised his voice. Billy is tough to outsmart. But I hadn't counted on being the Bomber.

For the last game we played 5 rounds, each 2 minutes long. The other thing that impacted this game was the uneven number of people. I was only in the Lounge with 7 people, while the workshop had about 13. There didn't seem to be a ton of red players in the Lounge with me and I decided with 5 rounds I could slowplay it, but I did think it was important to get to the other room.

Why we didn't hold up starting until the rooms were even, I can't say. Objectively, it probably would have made the last round better but it turned out pretty great anyhow. By the third round, I had not been to the Workshop yet and I was starting to sweat. Blake was the leader and he was also blue (I was wearing a lying wristband) and I tried to convince him to send me as the next hostage. He said, "Why would I do that?" I said, "I'll switch my wristband." His brow furrowed. He said, "I was thinking of sending you, but now that I know you'll do that I don't know if I can trust you." I had overplayed the wristband card. Blake sent Greg, who was conspiring with Blake against me.

When the final round ended, I had shown my Bomber card to everyone in the Lounge and no one was the Engineer and no one could help me. The leader sent me to the Workshop finally. I crossed paths with Wally at the bar. "Are YOU the Engineer?" I said, as a last ditch effort. She shrugged. I didn't make a good faith effort to cardshare with her, because I didn't think it would have counted. Now I wish I would have done the ballsier thing and forced her to cardshare with me during the crossover and then insist it counted. Because Wally was the Engineer. She hadn't been able to get out of her room either, and she knew I wasn't there.

So the bomb coughed and sputtered and didn't go off. The President was in the room with the bomb. Jackie was President, after successfully being the Bomber twice. She had not met with the Physician. Jackie had cardshared with everyone and not found the Physician. The Physician card was in a player's pocket who had walked off to take a phone call. In the absence of a Physician card, and given the bomb's inability to explode, the game was a clear win for the Blue team.

To recap: Jackie Riddle was the Bomber in 2 of the 4 times the red team won. The only time the Blue team won, it was when Jackie was President, when the Bomb couldn't get repaired and her ailment completely went away with the Physician card. Talk about a good luck charm!

Jackie on the right looking into the camera. Do not bet against this lady.

Jackie on the right looking into the camera. Do not bet against this lady.

Extra random thoughts:

The printer who helped Willa with the cards is from the same province of Cambodia as her parents are and proved it by using a vulgar word, an obscenity Willa had only ever heard from her parents' mouths.

Erin Dean proposed the two-part group pic and also became our first lifetime member with a $25 donation to the club. We collect suggested donations ($5 for a Play Date) to allow us to buy booze and cups and perhaps to built up a bit of cash for a special game some day that isn't free.

That brownie was pretty darn good but next time I want a cake pop.

Doug, Jackie's husband, is known for always lying, but he was the first person I saw do this: when he got switched over as a hostage, he entered the Lounge displaying his card to one and all. After that, cardsharing went up which I think helped, and the introduction of Engineer and Physician were just right.

I am going back and reviewing the photos and seeing our first timer's faces and it makes me feel so great about this club.

In the last game, Tre was just reciting lists of Encyclopedia Brown book of trivia-style facts, which was a little weird. Greg also reported that the round where he wouldn't tell anyone what color he was wasn't much fun because everyone assumed he was on the enemy team and didn't make deals with him. Different strategies.

Someone asked what I would do if I got the gray player. I said I'd put on both wristbands and take one off before the last round.

Adding the rule where the leaders meet at the bar was the right choice and it gave Lily a chance to take great pictures.

Along with this, it seemed it was a good idea to have the clocks in the rooms actually synched up as opposed to nearly so. I had intended to bring 2 stopwatches and have those be the Leader token but I forgot them. We had cool cards though.

And in addition to all that, due to a strange feature on the camera, we have what amounts to a Vine-like compilation (only longer) of the briefest of moments preceding each of the photos that Lily took. See for yourself, if you've read this far.