Actual Play – Damascus Falls (4/14/2012)

Apocalypse GalacticaGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Morgan Ellis, June Garcia, Michael Garcia, and Jon Edwards
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

Not two days after I was running AG for Matt Klein and crew, I was back in Oakland running it again for the EndGame minicon. Much to my surprise we had nearly the same cast pick a the previous game… and just when I was going to give up on the Visionary, the playbook gets picked two games in a row!

Cast

Morgan Ellis – President Asker. “Action” president. A labor union representative who was voted into to office by the Quorum. He was a man of the people and not at all afraid to roll up his sleeves.

June Garcia – Zoe, an Engineer just assigned to the Argonaut. She was the god daughter of president Asker and despised asking him for help. Despite many, many claims that she was an Cylon herself, Zoe was loyal to the fleet until the end.

Michael Garcia – Adon, the Visionary who found purpose in following the “One True God” of the Cylons, despite the fact that he had never met one. He had been spreading his pirate message across the Fleet’s com… drawing others to his faith.

Jon Edwards – Rear admiral John Holden. A young (30-something) Commander that was put in charge of the Argonaut (and the Colonial Navy) to lead the resistance when the Cylons attacked the colonies. Many, many other Commanders wanted this role, but he was the shining star that would defeat the toasters. Instead, they destroyed civilization.

Buried under work

More so than I think ever before, the Commander was buried under damage reports. Generally speaking the game starts with an overwhelming sense of “everything is out of control”. Once the characters struggle for a bit with that though, the pace slows a bit, time is elided, and a frail semblance of calm drifts through the fleet. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. This game, Admiral Holden and President Asker were constantly putting out fires. Enough so that I wonder if I packed the love letters with too many problems.

I did rather enjoy the moment when the comm officer told the admiral that despite all the other fires he was putting out there were two that now rose to the top. The best engineer on the ship had been put in the bring by the XO for treason and one the ships in the fleet was mutinying. I liked this so much I almost want to print out some card stock cards (with cut corners of course) that just say “Damage Report” and then fill those out and bury the Commander in them.  Hmmm..

Using Conditions

I’ve had several instances now of the Commander using the CIC move to remove a condition from the Battlestar. Having now played Monsterhearts, I’m really wondering if I should start using conditions to a more mechanical effect of being someone +1 (or -1) on a roll of if a condition applies, and putting conditions on the character sheet. Is this stacking too many mechanics onto the game, or would it help clarify (and consolidate) all the conditions that end up cropping up?

Worth note, most of the conditions are not on the characters themselves, but on the fleet, battlestar, follower, etc. For example: insubordination, paranoia, guns offline, etc. Also of note, some of them were designed specifically to have narrative consequences. Others just flavor conflicts. I want it to be clear that if a ship’s FTL drives are down, it cannot jump with the fleet. At all.

Finally, there are several positive conditions, like +loyal, +fearless, etc. I wonder if those should trump negative conditions, give a +1 on a roll, etc. Also how to mark them so they are clear on the character sheet? Worth pondering.

Crisis Clocks

The crisis clocks were used in full swing this game. Security, morale and eventually even hunger got up there throughout the game. I was really happy to have those as a mechanical reinforcement of how bad things are getting, but I do think they add another layer to the game that is perhaps too much for the players to handle. In Apocalypse World, fronts are managed by the MC. In Galatica I gave crisis to the President. I also gave her a move to affect the crisis clocks directly. In retrospect I think that is too abstract. I’m going to pull the crisis clocks back to the MC side of the table, and changes the President’s moves.

Paperwork

Morgan noted a few times that he was actually buried in paperwork. His playbook, love letter, the fleet playbook (including population) and the crisis clocks. While I do plan on removing the crisis clocks, I want to keep the population (this is an important thing), but I want to remove the “doing math” part of the game, as well as the flood of paperwork.

Action President

President Asker was the first ever president I’ve seen in the game that was elected rather than taking the Presidency because of previous office. He was a labor union representative and seen as a capable leader and organizer. The Quorum of Twelve, still intact after the fall, elected him as president because of that. This created a really cool effect becuse now that the Quorum was under house arrest, he really felt the pressure to serve the people that put him in power. To do so, he got personally involved and when manpower was needed to repair the FTL drive on the Condor, he personally was there, rolling up his sleeves to do so, which put him RIGHT in the line of fire…

Putting someone in a spot

As the result of some miss, or 7-9 result I told Morgan straight up that I was going to put the president in a place where he might have to die to save the fleet. Probably tipping my hand a bit too much at first, but I wanted to make sure he was on board with that risk. It took some time to figure out how to do it but eventually it was the president and visionary alone on the Miya San, getting the last of the parts off, when the Cylons appeared. Right then the ship was hit and they were “acting under fire” to get out. The president flinched an was trapped under a heavy cargo container. Adon, the visionary, tool now a the opportunity to reveal himself as a Cylon and tell the president he could live, IF he spread the word of the One True God.

“Sure, yeah, whatever you say.” Adon then picked up the giant cargo container himself and tossed it off the president, so he could go back to the fleet and spread his word.

Visionary Cylons

Michael announced towards the end of the game that he was fully planning to reveal as a cylon, but first wanted to gather his followers around him and incite them to preach to the rest of the fleet about the One True God. I was miraculously impressed with how well he did this. Not only did his people carry on is word after he died (he stayed on the Miya San when she blew of and destroyed the Cylon attack force), he also gained a hold over both the president and the commander. In the Commander’s case, he removed some of his problems, helped keep people under order and proved himself an asset. In the president’s though, he saved his life.  Not something that could be dismissed easily.

Too much to fix

Just as I was satisfied with the commander being under the gun, I loved that the Enginner was constantly playing catch up to put out fires. This was only FURTHER exacerbated by being accused of being a Cylon and being thrown in the brig by the XO. Damn, if Zoe didn’t just get the worst luck ever. To make matter’s worse, the only way she got out was because her godfather (President Asker) pushed hard for her release (to the point of assaulting the XO to make his point). The tension there of needing the engineer to fix things but not being sure if she can be trusted was awesome. It was further complicated by the uncomfortable family dynamics!

Thoughts on this game

As noted above, I want to work on the president and give the playbook more immediate “do these cool things”  concrete moves and less “shift the status quo” abstract moves. This will also mean taking back the crisis clocks to the MC’s responsibility. I’m down with that.

Part of the problem with having too many problems for the commander and the engineer to deal with is that means having so many things for me, the MC to keep in mind. I want to keep that same sense of overwhelming urgency and of difficult decisions, without actually having to personally (or have the players) keep track of so much stuff. Gotta work on this.