As you might have heard, there's been a pandemic on. This has put a bit of a downer on large scale events that involve multiple people in a room together, and seeing as that's how people mostly play megagames it's been a bit quiet on that front.
When I last did an AAR it was for Den of Wolves, the game of traitors in space. Since then, I went a bit megagame crazy:
- I've been involved in upwards of 5 runs of Den of Wolves at this point I think
- I've controlled for Andrew Shield Dods' wonderful Red Planet Rising (and got to play in a few)
- I ran my own game Running Hot multiple times (5!1) online, and had a blast2
- I even gave a seminar at the first ever MegaCon about porting megagames to run online
Now that lockdown has eased slightly thanks to a successful COVID vaccine rollout, we're slowly getting in-person games starting up again. I got to play at Jonathan Pickle's "The Real Heroes"3, and this month I got to play Fête Of The World4 by Holly Wall under the True North Megagames banner.
The setting for Fête is that 50 years ago there was an apocalypse. It's fine though, because we were all safely sealed inside The Dome! Every year, the Dome holds a village fête on the anniversary of when we were all sealed in and the 50th anniversary is definitely the most special!
There were 5 teams:
- The Old Money (the wealthy and eccentric family that built the dome)
- The Bobbies (the police, who were all called Robert5)
- The Knitting Circle (the old grandparents of the dome, who know everything)
- The Morris Dancers (the keepers of the bees6)
- My team, The Weasels (the chemists of the dome who keep the Dome stocked up with Mulk, WhiskE and the other necessities for dome life)
By now, I've worked out how I like to play megagames which is to start with a stupid joke that only I would find funny and then lean into it for the entire of the day.
The Weasel's entire secret is that the Mulk we provide to everyone is much less mystical than you might imagine: It's just almond milk. Our briefing was to make sure that nobody ever found this out.
When we arrived at the game, it turned out one of our members was unable to attend. This was perfect: We could say that the fact that they weren't going to be here had absolutely nothing to do with mulk whatsoever.
Wrangling the bees
The main mechanic I was interacting with was a pre-programming game. See, the world has ended so nobody can go outside. However, the hives of bees that have been looked after by the Morris Dancers are more than capable of going outside for us!
All you had to do was give the bees a series of instructions of left and right - whenever they hit a junction they'd follow that instruction until either they found something or their instructions ran out. After everyone had finished on the main map, you could write down what the map looked like so you didn't send your bees to the same place that someone else had been at.
For the first turn, we had no idea what was out on the map - so I just sent them round randomly. They came back with a case of Yugenya Croke7. This seemed fine. We pocketed it and forgot about it.
I'd like to pretend I was good at wrangling bees. I was exceptionally bad at it because I was bad at updating my local map, which brought Bee Control a lot of joy. I'd give a series of instructions and watch in mild confusion as they ended up going somewhere else entirely. Somehow that kept working for me.
I think of the 6 bee turns in the game, the bees went where I wanted them to go exactly once. On one turn, due to reasons I'll go into later, I'd completely forgotten to provide bee instructions and panic-wrote a series of instructions which sent them round in a circle before stopping (though Control took pity on me and let me write more instructions afterwards)
Crystals, and the problems therein
As I was happily sending my bees off into the world, my fellow weasels were helping maintain the Dome. Things seemed to be going well under they found Peggy (the character our missing team member was going to play) in stasis. In a crystal. This seemed bad.
The rest of the game instantly began investigating us. This was definitely bad.
As you've no doubt guessed, this was primarily a problem because the rest of the Dome might accidentally discover that Mulk is almond milk! This is where the Weasels came into our own:
- As the council began investigating, we provided a lot of resources into the investigation. We told Control that our resources were to make mulk production look suspicious and scary
- Our player who had press access ran several headlines saying "Bobbies questioning Weasels over disappearance of Peggy. Related to Mulk??????"
- I spent a whole turn going round to people saying "I just want to reassure you that the issue with Peggy being encased in crystal is nothing to do with mulk" which had the desired effect of them saying "Oh, ok? I wasn't worried about that before"
The first baking competition came up. I went over to Control and had one of my favourite ever megagame conversations:
Me: Hi, I'd like to do some nonsense if that's alright
Control: Is it baking related?
Control: Doesn't sound baking related to me, go sit d-
Me: During the baking competition, I'd like to break into the Bobbies' base really badly, so it's obviously me who's done it. Then they won't look into Mulk.
Control: *beat*. This is a very megagame plan isn't it?
Me: Yes. Here's some resources, let me know if I need to do anything else
While I was having that conversation, I came back to a plasticine weasel having been made by another Weasel as our entry into the baking competition. We submitted it, but were sadly unsuccessful.
While we were planning our next turn (and I was writing a bad list of instructions for the bees), Control informed us that we successfully made the Mulk production look very suspicious. The only problem was that there were some chemical synthesizers that we had definitely not put in there and we had no idea what they did.
Without a word, we handed Control a bunch of resources to investigate. I then sent my bees out, discovered that I hadn't included a junction in my copy of the map and promptly sent them somewhere else. This was not for nought, because I got a pet rock for my trouble.
I handed it over to Control on the next turn and we got back an actual rock back, which was described as having a face and some crystals inside it. We promptly named the rock "Peggy 2".
Making more problems
Just before lunch, we were told that the chemical synthesizers had the power to alter people's DNA and could therefore survive outside the dome but not inside the dome. We duly synthesised them. For science purposes.
Over lunch, someone mentioned that there were tunnels under our home base. They seemed surprised that I was surprised, when another Weasel ran up to me and said "The council found tunnels under our pub, we've no idea where they lead". The non-weasel who mentioned the tunnels shrugged and left us to it.
I took this news as something else that was nothing to do with Mulk, and promptly told people this. They again looked suspicious, until the Morris Dancers asked me for a pint of Mulk.
Since we didn't know what they were planning on doing with it, we promptly:
- Smashed Peggy 2 to pieces8
- Put the bits of crystal that we got from doing this in the glass of Mulk
- Handed that over to the Morris Dancers
- Hoped they didn't ask any questions
We then baked a robotic mince pie for the baking competition. We didn't win which was clearly rubbish because our pie not only had hands, it even had a caption saying "Hi, I'm a pie".
Oh, and one of us drank the chemical that altered people's DNA.
Problems up to the gills
Although it was a team decision that one of us should drink the chemical9, I wasn't there when he drank it. Doing so meant that the character collapsed and was unable to breath. Control said "Just so you know, one of the Weasels appears to suffocating" and I ran over to try and help.
He apparently now had gills, so we sensibly threw him in a bath. This didn't help.
In the end we decided to just throw him outside the dome, where he suffered from agoraphobia and vertigo all at once but he was able to breath, so you know, swings and roundabouts10.
All glory to the revolution
Remember that Yugenya Croke I got early on? Control said "Give this to the bees". Not being one to argue, I did so. The bees then began to glow in red and gold colours and began buzzing The Internationale. I was about to synthesise my own DNA altering chemical and leg it, before the bees started talking to us.
They were able to tell us that Dolly (who had gone missing - I'd have mentioned it early but we were busy making problems for ourselves) had been seen north west of the dome. I tried to send the bees there, and instead sent them in a circle back round to the dome because my map was wrong.
While my bees failed to get to Dolly, someone else did get there. Upon arrival, they discovered that Dolly had been having a picnic. She'd also disappeared and there was a giant tentacle. This was probably fine.
The turn after, the tentacles moved closer to the dome. This was probably fine.
I spoke to the bees and asked about the tentacles and they were confused as to why we were scared of them. This was probably fine.
As the tentacles circled the dome, the Fête began. The automated AI began equalising the internal and external pressure. This was probably fine.
The Weasels synthesised several vials of DNA altering juice and prepared to leg it at the first sign of trouble. The Bobbies came over and asked if we had a power source or a geode or something to help keep the Dome alive. Unfortunately, the only geode we had had been dunked in the glass of Mulk we'd given to the Morris Dancers.
More importantly, we make a lovely spread of glowing ciabatta for the baking competition, including:
- A knot of love heart bread (as the theme was weddings)
- A 3 tiered wedding cake, made of bread (as the theme was weddings)
- A pile of bread money (as the theme was...weddings?)
The judges finally came to the correct decision that our bake was the best.
The tentacles came closer. Contrary to previous form, I decided that people didn't need to know that this was nothing to do with Mulk - that might have led to the panicking.
Two other players got married in a lovely ceremony. As they exchanged vows and rings, a group of mechs came out of the shadows, raised their shoulder rockets. As the Weasels got ready to down the DNA juice, the Mechs announced "Congratulations" and fired confetti.
As we breathed a sigh of release there was a knocking on the Dome. We all looked up to see the tentacles all dressed up in wedding garbs excited to come to the first wedding in 50 years.
The game was a lot of fun - I honestly don't think I've played a True North game that wasn't exactly the right brand of nonsense that I can get behind. Although True North games are a bit of a trek for me (since they're run in Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and other far flung places).
As per usual, there was a lot of things that I missed:
- The plan of breaking into the Bobbies failed to work, entirely because it was too obviously us so they assumed we'd been framed
- The Old Money spent a lot of time blowing up the dome so that the AI didn't turn on fully and end the world
- The Morris Dancers were actually part bee
- Everyone had their own exit strategy for the fête which they hadn't shared with anyone else, except for us!
There were a bit of rough points with the game - the bee game seemed a bit stingy with resources, which meant that if you were rubbish at the bee game and didn't have a good map you could spend a whole turn doing absolutely nothing.
But primarily, it's a superb game. Holly's megagaming career is similar to mine (her first game was also Shot Heard Round The Universe) and it's great to see that Shot has now been the starting point for at least 3 people who have then gone on to design and run their own games.
My next game is By The Grace Of God on the 27th November in Manchester, where I'm part of the Control team. After that, I think my next game will be some of the games run at Megacon 2022. Hopefully I'll see you at a game!
I think at this point Running Hot is one of the most run megagames, which sounds impressive until I point out that most games get run once or twice. The exceptions seem to just be Den of Wolves and Watch The Skies. ↩︎
I have a lot of thoughts about the game which I need to write up, though there's hopefully going to be an in-person run next year so I'm reticent to give away too many of the tools of the trade. ↩︎
The Real Heroes was the second run of this, originally under the "Who Will Watch Them?" name. The first game was almost great, though half of the game fell apart. This run was a lot better, primarily because that half was removed! ↩︎
The entire megagame community is jokingly furious with Holly for having such an amazing name. ↩︎
And in the game! No seriously. Half of the people who were playing the Bobbies were called Robert in real life ↩︎
In hindsight, it's a good thing Holly didn't cast me here because I would have definitely arrived in full morris attire. ↩︎
The really amazing thing about True North is how all of their games will have easter eggs that refer to previous megagames run under the banner. Yugenya was the fictional country for The Generallissimo Is Dead. ↩︎
Resource Control was heartbroken at our callous disregard for the life of our Pet Rock. ↩︎
I would love to tell you why ↩︎
We eventually fashioned a rebreather that meant he could come back inside the dome safely. ↩︎