It starts with a Golden Rule. Almost all good games do these days, but this one focuses on the core action of the game, playing your cards, and it sets up a dynamic immediately. The rule says that “There is no right or wrong way to combine cards” except, if the group deems it inappropriate for the “particular situation.”
I found this interesting and it said something to me right up front. A GM isn’t going to be making rulings in this game – it will be an appeal to the group that sets the tone for what is acceptable. This may seem like a small thing, but it opened a little tingle for me as I continued reading…
… and that’s when the writer, perhaps anticipating my worry, steps in to discuss the function of the group and the role of the Game Leader – though the GL here seems like more of a mediator for the group than a traditional GM. Maybe I make too much of these things?
But how does the game play, that’s what you came for, right?
Well, after the group discussion the game tells us about the cards. There are seven different kinds of cards in the Core rules, which seemed like a lot to me just looking at them.
Life Cards are (effectively) a character’s core attributes (what these would be in a more traditional game), Ability Cards roughly correspond to skills, Equipment cards cover exactly what they sound like, Path Cards set your background and have some control over what other types of cards you can actually get and they might be useful in an action but don’t “grow” with a character over time, Effect Cards cover things like spells, powers, supertech and other things, and finally, Circumstance cards which, like Equipment cards are just what they sound like.
The seventh type of card, Mechanics cards aren’t actually part of the the “deck” really but each character has them: a Name card, an Initiative Card, and a card to mark their discard pile. These seemed really odd to me at first but I figured them out.
The explanation of the Static and Dynamic card pools left me feeling like it was one of those concepts that would sound funny on paper but would make sense once you saw it in action. The Examples provided in the section could have been fleshed out a little more to make it smoother, but weren’t bad.
I had the same feeling reading the Flow explanation (how you move cards from deck to pools) that it seemed odd on paper but would work out in play. I know this all sounds a little negative and you shouldn’t take that the wrong way. I’m a critical reader and I have played a lot of games. I struggled not to judge certain concepts as I was reading so that I could try them out – but I will admit, I was a little worried as I read the rules to this point.
Moving on into the rules for keywords and playing cards I was struck again by the number of keywords attached to play and particularly with the default keywords. Cards in the deck have certain behaviors they always follow and then certain terms on the cards change the default behaviors. The idea of pseudo-cards (meaning they don’t actually exist but can still apply to an action as appropriate) are discussed as well.
Reading about the actions I was struck by the sentence, “almost nothing a character does is free in 6d6 RPG” because it really speaks to the way characters and players will need to stay very actively involved with their cards and flow-usage (and the interaction of the same). It’s an interesting way to focus players on the action at hand.
When characters take damage they forfeit cards to absorb the damage. The discussion of the distinction between “losing the trait” and “losing the advantage provided by the trait” was well thought out and interesting. I really appreciated this section – as someone reading the rules – and as someone who has gamed with very (very) literal players at times.
Next up, after a discussion of things like awareness and hazards comes the part I’ve been waiting for – character creation. To keep it simple, several options are offered but basically come down to a character being built by buying their cards with a point-buy system that is then slightly altered by also being a party game, in a way. The group picks cards (like path cards) in an almost draft-like fashion for their characters (along with paying the CP cost).
This was an unexpected innovation but also interesting in the way it alters the character creation dynamic. As an aside, I’m always of two minds about party character creation (and I realize that it could be ignored in this game without a problem). On the one hand, I’m always excited about seeing a game that works to put the party together but at the same time it means that you can’t really work on your character without the other players around.
Some of the alternative character creation methods are also pretty fascinating and worth a read.
Tomorrow, I’ll post about the characters and talk about my experiences playing with the cards… for now, a few final words about the “review” portion.
Overall, this is a really tight little rules set that is very detailed. I’ve played and enjoyed card-based systems before and I’m impressed with the innovation for play and the interplay of cards and flow that go into making up actions. It changes the dynamic from a typical tabletop RPG and even from the other card-based RPGs I’ve played. The freedom to design an action from all your cards is compelling – though possibly also a little overwhelming – and also creates a lot of potential for discussion during sessions about what is appropriate and what cards can be used.
After I discuss the characters and play tomorrow I’ll get to a few final points for the review.
Thanks for reading and go check out the 6d6 RPG.