what makes a great game?

Someday I will have to poke JP to contrast Agents of the Argent Rose and Blaze of Glory for the benefit of building an even better mousetrap.
Brannan.JP � Blog Archive � Best Game Ever

Today at Ambercon North one of the games I played was Agents of the Argent Rose. It wasn�t the greatest game I�ve ever played. It was however the second greatest game I�ve ever played. The group of players meshed well and the characters were all a convincing (if diverse) family, and the story, setting and execution were wonderful.
(I still classify one of the episodes of Blaze of Glory as the greatest game I�ve played. There are certain common characteristics of the two games that I intend to think about sometime when I�m more awake in order to think about how to improve my own games. The two games are still quite different.)

I’ve played often in Blaze of Glory, and while I don’t have the perspective to compare it directly to something I’m running… I can see strengths shared by both.



  1. I would hazard a guess, as a player in both, that all of the players involved are ready and willing to both play supporting roles, and take main stage.
    JP’s high that year was as a main stage player (literally, in this case.)
    I’d had my high in Argent the year earlier (Die, Rasputin, Die!)
    It’s great to play a game where you can set back and watch the action as much as wade into the thick of it. And have nearly the same amount of fun, watching.

  2. I’d like to hear what JP has to say myself! I’ve reached the point with Blaze of Glory where my view of what I’m doing wrong pretty much obscures my view of what I’m doing right. And since I’m currently in the planning stages for 3.5 new games, figuring out what I’m doing right and what I should be doing differently would be a big plus.
    Of course, one thing that the two games have “done right” is to get great players — quite a few of whom are in both games.

  3. Well, as it turns out, I’ve got the next few days off and am on vacation decompressing for work, so I’ve got time to do things like think about games and read weblogs. So….
    I’m not certain that my “high” was from being a main stage player in that Argent Rose game. I would contrast it with an earlier Argent Rose game in which William (my character) did some major funky stuff with the pattern (sorry, my memory is fuzzy on the point, but I remember Tessla’s notebook and the primal argent pattern being involved.) In that game, I think it may be fair to say that William was probably the main stage PC, because the group was spread out all over the place and he followed along recklessly in pursuit of the plot. The spotlight was fun. However, the Normandy/Statue of Liberty/Hoover episode of Agents of the Argent Rose was far better in my mind. And the reason is that, in addition to all of the wonderful background, clever plots, and character connections, etc. the players played a group of siblings who were each their own personalities and still a family that came together not only to cover for each other but also to poke fun at each other, stay out all night, or hang out playing music. And when I say that, I really don’t mean what most Amber games you read about usually turn out to be: a subset of the characters being cohesive and compelling. I mean I felt like the role-playing going on allowed me to know and riff off the personalities of *all* the other characters. I can’t remember the character names now but I can remember who they were.
    The episode of Blaze of Glory that I classified as “better” had something like that, only with a lot more background, a lot more shared experience for the group, plus outrageous french accents, triplanes, and pirates. Oh, and a volcano. And….I experienced it first, which means it had more of an sudden “Aha” factor going for it from my subjective frame of reference.
    I used to run a lot more games, and had a lot of fun doing it, but I don’t know how you plan something like that. And now I’m rambling.

  4. Aha.
    Well, since you’ve been quite clear about what you felt made the game great, I’ll add some more thoughts.
    Great Players: yes, a very experienced group. I seem to recall that only one PC had not played a previous game. One PC bowed out due to illness before game start. This meant everyone had a comfort zone with the setting and group.
    More importantly, this particular episode did seem to have a tighter group of plot threads keeping PCs together. Between the settings: steamship and New York City, none of the PCs had expertise in the “lay of the land”. That probably had an effect of pushing the widely different characters to act more like a family than they often do in Paris.
    Something to keep in mind for future games.
    Most of all, I like your recollection of the quieter moments of cohesion and hanging out between PCs. I think this touches on the spirit of this particular game. This group managed a very bon vivant attitude in good contrast to the Americans they were visiting.

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