Finally, A Bad Review!

But he won’t talk…


Also, here:

Over a century of experience! I thought I was hardcore with my 30+ gamer years. Good thing I shaved off my Fatbeard, Mr Scruffly, otherwise he might have leapt off my face in embarrassment.

He does make some points further down that likely are very legitimate for their playstyle, since there is no clue-finding skills, at least in a traditional manner. Also if you read previous posts it sounds like he went into the game jazzed, and it sounds like they hit a paradigm wall which would be pretty disappointing.

Really Clyde?

I find it interesting that a person needs to cite “a century of table-top experience.” So? To me, that can be an extreme hindrance in terms of perspective on and approach to a new system. Not knowing BW may have exacerbated their problems, but from what I’ve heard of Mouse Guard, it shouldn’t have. MG is not an “add-on” or supplement; it’s its own system.

To me, it sounds like they simply didn’t have play styles that complemented the MG rules. Also, from the response in the comments where the blogger finally stated some of his group’s issues, they were looking for something either linear or mechanics-driven. MG is neither. It’s a roleplaying game, in the truest sense of the word. If you aren’t sure, make a judgment call and keep moving forward. Hell, eschew the rules and roleplay it. Address issues after play, not during.

There’s nothing wrong with people not finding a system compatible or whatnot but, in posts like that, I’m bothered a bit by people posting a long, defensive-yet-authoritative preamble… and then just saying “it didn’t work for us.” Why post a massive CV of experience and then not be specific in what they felt was wrong? It struck me as “I’m too good to have to explain myself further. Suffice it to say that if we don’t think it works, it doesn’t work.”

The post, overall, was quite disappointing. The comments were good, though, and far more illuminating.

You got me during my backpedal.

This is not about playstyle, “good players,” a “good GM” or a “good group.”

I find that a hard conclusion to come to not knowing the guy really. It sounds like they’re coming from fairly traditional, participatory, or illusionist play. If you don’t believe Mouse Guard could create a paradigm wall, for someone coming from that style of play, to have to climb… shrugs I’m not sure what else I can say.

Throwing “playstyle” at every problem in RPGs is not constructive. I understand that Mouse Guard plays differently, but it’s instructions are clear.

Damn, and here I was jazzed. With a “good bad review” you can usually get a good idea about a game, why it didn’t work and why it might work for someone else.

Right. This wasn’t a play style problem from what I can tell. It was a comprehension problem.

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I agree. It’s definitely not the last three, but possibly the first one (playstyle). Or, perhaps a better word: expectations. The nature of their issues were to do with rules confusion, not how the game worked in terms of the conflicts, the twists, etc; ie, the roleplaying opportunities that ought to have alleviated some of the bad feelings towards the game. In my experience, not understanding all the rules has never been responsible for my dislike of a game. Understanding the rules and then disagreeing with them (or flat-out disliking a setting theme) is usually what stops me from playing a given type of game [again].

If they found it too complex, fair enough (and it seems that they did). However, as many people have said here, in other reviews and in podcasts, you can’t skim the rules and go “yeah, let’s do this” and get it 100% right in terms of applying the rules to situations. A willingness to build from a solid foundation is the best approach to anything; “I don’t know everything yet, but I get how it works and know how to resolve most situations. I’ll build from there, with the patience and forbearance of, and help from, my players.” Session 2 will be more fluid than session 1, and session 3 moreso than session 2, etc.

To play one session and give up on the system in a kind of “all or nothing” attitude is… Well, it seems to me like they had really high expectations of being able to jump right in and get it bang-on right away. (Hence my comment of “If we don’t get it, the rules are too complex. Period.” sentiment above.)

Yeah, that’s what I was trying to get at, ultimately, in my saying I was disappointed by the blog post. That’s the best way to phrase it: This was a “bad bad review” in that it seemed to forestall any discussion about the game and it seems they won’t give it another shot, which is too bad.

Anyhoo… People can have any opinion they like and play whatever they want, since the end result should be to have fun. Hopefully that group has moved onto something that they’re getting into a bit more.

It sounds like he ran a bad game to me. It seems he didn’t even seem to read the first two pages of find the grain peddler. He didn’t read the first 40 pages of the game either. He said he was familiarizing himself with the rules, what happened?

As grandexperiment, I have been talking through this with Jason and Jeb. Both are decent guys with lots of RPG experience.

I agree that the problem they suffered was not running the game in accordance with the instructions. There is a lack of comprehension of how the game is meant to work, which is probably tied in to the group’s prior RPG experience. As such, it doesn’t surprise me that the result was a bad game.

The most clear example of this was the fact that the players were trying to investigate in the GM’s Turn and then had nothing they wanted to do in the Players’ Turn. As posted on RPGnet, my take on how this should have worked is:

  1. This kind of test should be in the Players’ Turn. The GM’s Turn is all about obstacles and danger. If the PCs have the time to start investigating, then it is best done in the Player’s turn. The reason why this is important as it gives the Players more say in the investigation which allows them to help contribute to the story, rather than bundle it all on the GM.

  2. The Players’ want to find someone with information on the Grain Peddlar. Thats a Circles Test. The dice will help the GM know how to run this encounter, bringing the Player, GM and mechanics together to create the scene (rather than having a predetermined encounter).

  3. If the Circles Test is a pass, the PCs find someone who has the information they want. The Players may even help embellish what that information is to steer the adventure toward what they want to see.

  4. If the Circles Test is a fail, the PCs either find no one and get a twist (such as their investigations come to the attention of the Grain Peddlar’s allies) or they meet an NPC with the information that is hostile to them. This NPC may give them false information, require a further check with Persuader to get the information, or become a full blown Conflict.

For an example of this, in my recent game (AP here -, my player spent her Player’s Turn investigating and the mechanics did well at allowing her to help forge the results of that investigation as much as I did as the GM.

The bloke chose not to follow the advice, and had a bad session. No bloody surprise.

Custom characters for first play are a BAD idea… people will make poor choices if they don’t have the relative power of various skills down. Same is true with BE (and from what I’ve heard, BWR).

I like to consider this whole thing a cautionary tale for gaming in general.

What Not to Do: Don’t get bogged down in rules and what the exact skill or sequence of play is if you don’t know and looking it up would detract from immersion and playing.

What to Do: Think of a sensical quick-fix, and keep things moving and push the fun fact. Afterwards, re-read relevant sections of the book. Failing that, ask questions on these forums and talk to your players. Better to ask a question you think is silly (and get a direct, helpful answer) than wonder what’s wrong and develop a bad habit or turn yourself and players off a game based on a misinterpretation.

That applies to gaming in general, not just to MG.

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Hi, everyone!

It’s my blog that got posted here and since folks from this forum have been wandering over there, I thought I’d come back here and clear up some incorrect impressions.

I wasn’t waving an experience-peen around, I was saying that we’ve played a relative ton of games across the g/n/s spectrum and this was the first one we just couldn’t wrap our heads around it. Four of us, all from different backgrounds, two of us the lead designer and lead writer of an online kid’s game.

It was just surprising to all of us to hit such a case of the system explicitly telling us what we could and couldn’t do… when most of us believe that the system should support player choice, not straightjacket it.

That was the absolute opposite of our experience. The experience of everyone involved was that the GM turn stifled roleplaying and player expression. When it came time for the player turn, we had had enough.

Because I wasn’t writing a review.

I didn’t intend to go into a long and involved post about the game and what I felt was its shortfalls, because I know that stuff is highly subjective.

We tried it with the best of hopes. We didn’t like it. One of us is still interested enough with the system that he’s going to monkey around with it on his own… the other two players hated it… I am open enough to maybe play it again with an experienced GM, but I’ve no interest whatsoever in running it again.

Also, it’s not really my goal to write negative reviews of gaming products. Friends who read my personal blog had been asking me via IM and emails what I felt about the game, and I posted a quick “It really wasn’t for me.” Furthermore, I kept my specific complaints out of

My initial post wasn’t a review.

Someone asked me some specific questions, and I (reluctantly) replied to them. I have a great deal of other complaints, but I didn’t think airing them was of any use, mainly because we’re highly unlikely to play it again, and because I don’t like trashing things that other people have made.

It’s like going out on a blind date and being asked how it went… if the chemistry wasn’t there, no amount of “Oh, they aren’t normally like that” is likely to change things.

Mea culpa. Me hope am read better some day.

Aw. Cute.

Jason, you’re also picking on the guy who hasn’t read or played the game.

Why not go after Skywalker?

jdurall, glad you swung by! Your post really cleared a lot of things up for me, especially in terms of how you and your group approached and reacted to MG.

The one thing I want to say – which you drew attention to a few times in your post here – is that you didn’t want to say too much because such would be a subjective opinion. Good! That’s what we want. (Well, it’s what I want, anyway.) What do individuals think of it? I myself have yet to play it. I’ve only read these forums, followed Actual Play posts and podcasts and otherwise gearing up to give it a try. Any information, good or bad, is food for thought and worth knowing.

I apologize for the appearance of the negative tone in my initial post. I re-read it and can see how it looks like I’m being a bit of a jerk. My honest gut reaction to reading your blog post was “Oh, wow. These guys are really experienced, well versed in a variety of systems, they’re game designers…” and then “…we didn’t like it” with no further embelishment. As I said, I was disappointed. It’d be like a Bush Administration inquiry being done and the report reading “Not good.”

Good or bad, I like to know what happened, what you guys thought worked and what didn’t. Opinion matters more than fact (especially since it can be argued that facts about whether a system is any good or not can’t exist).

Would you mind posting something on the Game+Life forum under the actual play or something sub-forum what didn’t work for you? I doubt you’ll be burned at the stake and I, for one, would love to know. I’m entering into this blind so any and all insights are helpful. If you don’t want to, can you fire me a message here with more specifics? Cheers!

@ Luke: It’s all good. I wrote what I did in the way I did, and he’s responded. I’m happy to hear more, in fact.