Tag Archives: Other games

Shape Up!

When I’m not making murder mystery games for Freeform Games, one of the other things I do is… make other kinds of games. (I may have a bit of a games problem. Although if you acknowledge it, it isn’t a problem, isn’t that right?)

So just lately I’ve been thinking about card games, particularly small ones that can be played in a family context – not too complex, but with enough interest and depth to make people want to try them again (and again). I am the first to admit that I have a lot to learn, and the games I’ve designed are not yet as good as I’d like them to be: but I have just had one published, so I thought you might like to take a look. Especially as it’s free!

Yes, the game’s called Shape Up! and you can download it for free from the publisher’s site, Good Little Games. Just print out the file, cut up the cards, and away you go. There are also several other good games on the site, all also free!

Here’s an example card from the game:
which is basically about assembling these different-symbolled cards in different combinations to score more points than your opponent.

Give it a go if you think it sounds like your sort of thing! – and Steve and I would love to hear what you make of it.

Peaky Writing Weekends

Players scheming in a corner in Venice
Players scheming in a corner in Venice

Last month Mo and I attended the annual Peaky freeform writing weekend along with 27 other like-minded writers and players of freeform roleplaying games. We formed into six groups and over the course of Friday evening and Saturday each group wrote a freeform. On Sunday we played five of them. It’s a fabulously intense, creative weekend and it’s one of the highlights of my year.

(A quick aside – a “freeform” is a type of live role-playing game. There are different flavours of freeforms and many are very like our murder mystery games, although they don’t necessarily contain a murder and they tend to be more fantastic than our games.)

The Peaky writing weekends started in 2001. The first few were held in Edale, in the Peak District, and that’s how the weekend got its name. In 2004 we moved to Upper Rectory Farm Cottages in Appleby Magna and since 2006 that’s been our permanent home.

Upper Rectory Farm Cottages

If was building a venue just for Peaky, I’d probably end up with Upper Rectory Farm Cottages. It’s perfect – eight or so interconnected but fully self-contained holiday cottages, plus a large refectory. This gives each group space to write, plus a large space for communal meals and playtesting.

This year I co-wrote Venice, a 15 player game of families, politics and power set in 16th Century Venice. Mo co-wrote What Happened in Blackpool, a very experimental game for 12 players set the night before a wedding. Other games were based on M*A*S*H, the villains of James Bond and Old Harry’s Game (a Radio 4 comedy set in hell).

We’ve published a couple of the Peaky games – Pirate Island and Monster Mash/Trick or Treat.

Peaky also publishes some of their games – you can find them here. A word of warning, though – they are less refined in terms of instructions compared to our games (they assume you know how to host a freeform) and they aren’t as flexible with player numbers. Oh, and I wouldn’t run any of them for a very conservative group. But they are cheaper, and if you’ve played one of our games you should find everything pretty familiar. I should note that I’ve had a hand in all of them at some level, whether as co-author or proofreader.

The King’s Musketeers

Last weekend Mo and I attended The King’s Musketeers, a weekend long game set in the swashbuckling world of Cardinal Richelieu and Queen Anne, of D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers, of the Duke of Buckingham, Rene Descartes, and Cyrano de Bergerac. I was Count-Duke Olivares and ruled Spain and Mo was Count de Soubise, a scheming rebel hero.

Steve and Mo at The King's Musketeers
Steve (left) and Mo (right() at The King’s Musketeers

The King’s Musketeers is played very much like our murder mystery games – but much, much bigger:

  • The game lasted all weekend, from 8pm on Friday night through to lunchtime on Sunday. The game was broken into five periods each of four hours  (that works out at about 20 hours of game time). Game stopped at midnight each night, which meant it was time to retire to the bar and catch up with old friends. “Time in” was generally about 9.30 each morning, giving scant time to eat and sleep.
  • The game had over 80 players and six “directors” (what we would call hosts).
  • Character sheets could be many pages long – mine was about 7 pages long with many, many objectives and goals.
  • The rules were even longer, and covered duelling, romance, politics, scandal and more. I was particularly involved in the battle rules, which involved moving armies across Europe and into the New World to conquer and defend territories. I didn’t get into any duels, unlike Mo.
  • Each character had various abilities which were broken down into combat abilities (that covered duelling), romance abilities (for when you lost your heart to another) and general abilities covering a range of uses. The abilities tended to be a bit more powerful than the ones we use in our games, and can potentially have a big impact. (For example, I had one that let me break the rules!)
  • The King’s Musketeers was held in the West Retford Hotel, pretty much in the middle of England. With over 80 players and taking place over a weekend, it’s not something that you can really host in your home.

Although there were murders in The King’s Musketeers (several!) it’s not really billed as a murder mystery game. Instead, it’s a kind of “LARP”, which stands for “live action role play” which spun out of the roleplaying games hobby (such as Dungeons & Dragons). In the UK and Australia this kind of LARP is known as a “freeform”, while in the USA they are better known as “theatre style larps”. Whatever you call them, the emphasis is on playing the character in whatever the setting may be – and a murder is optional. At Freeform Games we take some elements of freeforms/theatre style larps and turn them into murder mystery games.

Anyway, both Mo and I had a wonderful time playing our characters – although because the game was so big and we were involved in very different plots, we barely spoke to each other at all.

By some measures we might not appear to have had a good game – by the end Spain had barely half the power that it started with and Mo’s character died on the Sunday. But we don’t judge the game on whether we succeeded in our goals or whether we survived, we judge these games on whether we had a good time or not – and we both had a great time and are looking forward to the next one!