Apr 30 2010

Game Poem 15: The Pitch

....and Chewbacca, for some reason.

The Pitch is a game for at least four players. (It should accommodate up to eight or so fairly well, and may even work with two or three.) Players will take the parts of employees of a company who are attempting to sell a particular product or service, and their clients or potential clients who will be deciding whether or not to buy what they’re selling.

To start, decide what you’ll be pitching or deciding to pay for. A long-term insurance policy? A remodel of a house or building? A new sports car? An advertising campaign, building a web service, or developing a new image? A collection of antique brass keys? A camping trip? A new kitchen gadget? Partnership in a communal living arrangement? It could be anything at all, as long as everyone thinks it’s okay, and it sounds a little fun. Don’t worry about picking the perfect thing – just throw out some ideas, and talk about it for less than a minute or so before grabbing something that sounds good.

Now, split up the players into the pitchers and the clients. The sides should be the same size, if possible. It’s better to err on the side of more clients, so if you have an odd person, make the extra player a client. Now find yourself somewhere to play – have the clients and pitchers sit across a table from each other, if you can. Oh, you’ll need a regular deck of playing cards, too. Grab some, shuffle them up, and have a seat.

There are two things to set up before you start playing. First, each player draws a card from the deck, and does not look at it. Do not look at your own card! Show it to the other players, and then put the card somewhere on your person where all the other players can get a good look at it while you’re playing – on your forehead, in your hat band, poking out of a shirt pocket – but where you are not able to see it at all. This first card is an indicator of how important you are to the rest of the group, and they will behave accordingly. So, a two or three is pretty low on the totem pole – maybe you’re an intern, or if you see that a client is a two, you don’t care about their business at all, or maybe the guy trying to sell something to you is a three, and you’ve already blown them off in your mind. Likewise, someone showing a face card is fairly high status – a king might be the CEO of the company, or a very rich, very influential client that you’ve been courting for a long time, or maybe just someone that you’ve had a crush on since high school. Try your best to keep your card visible to everyone else throughout the game, to give the other players a constant reminder of how important – or unimportant – you are.

The second thing you need to do before you begin is to draw a second card – this time, you will look at the card, and make sure that none of the other players see it. This is your motivation, or objective during the game. Look up the value of your card on the following list, and use the corresponding item to inspire you during the negotiations:

* Ace: You actually genuinely care about this product or service, and whether you’re a client or a pitch man, you really want this deal to work out as well as possible for everyone involved.

* Two: You are extremely attracted to one of the other players. Look around and choose someone now! You will do everything in your power to get them to go out, make out, or sleep with you.

* Three: You are sick and tired of the company or team that you’re part of now, and you want to leave and join the other side as soon as possible. Don’t let your current partners know, though – you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

* Four: You just want this meeting to be over with. You want to get out of here and get home. Maybe your kid’s soccer game is starting right now, maybe your wife is taking the day off and waiting for you, or maybe it’s just a beautiful day out.

* Five: All you care about is money, having money, and taking it from other people. If you’re a client, you basically want whatever they’re selling for free. If you’re pitching, you will squeeze every last dime out of these suckers, and then some.

* Six: You are very, very, very hungry. You didn’t eat breakfast, you skipped lunch to get here on time, and all you want to do is fill your belly with tasty, tasty food. There is no food at the pitch meeting, unfortunately, unless someone brought some.

* Seven: You are extremely religious, and enjoy proselytizing deeply. You would very much like to convince someone in this room to change their religion to yours. It doesn’t matter if they’re on your side already or not.

* Eight: You have to go to the bathroom very badly, but can’t leave the room until the meeting has been concluded.

* Nine: You are in a terrible mood for some specific reason. Something that someone here did, perhaps? You will turn down anything that anybody suggests to you, and won’t be happy until everyone else is as miserable as you are.

* Ten: You really don’t care if this deal goes through or not. What you do care about very much is whether or not every single person here likes you. You want to be everyone’s best friend, and vice versa.

* Jack: You just got an offer from a competitor this morning, and you jumped on it. You haven’t signed the papers yet, but if this deal goes badly, your new gig will benefit greatly. Don’t blow it, but don’t tip your hand too soon.

* Queen: You aren’t especially concerned about the business side of things here at all. What you are concerned with is making sure that everybody with a stake in this deal feels okay about everything that happens.

* King: The most important thing in the world, whether the deal happens or not, is that everybody in your presence recognizes what a smart and intelligent person you are. Much, much smarter than they are, in fact.

Once everybody has taken a look at their objective card and had a moment to think about it, and has also had a chance to look around at the relative importance of all the other players, it’s time to get going! Set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes, and let the pitchers begin their spiel. Interact normally with each other, and try to behave as if the status cards and your motivations are real and compelling. Whatever is said by the players should generally be accepted as truth during the game, so try not to cancel out or invalidate something that someone says without a very good reason.

When the timer goes off, the meeting is over, and you must immediately decide if the deal is off or on. Take a minute or so to come to a decision, shake hands, and wrap up. (After everything is settled, take a look at your own status card, and see if you were able to figure out how important you were, based on how the other players were treating you!)

Apr 19 2010

Game Poem 14: The Next Round

This is a game for a small group of friends to play together. To prepare for the game, gather your friends and have everybody put in earplugs. Have everybody sit at a table together. The host will turn on some music – preferably some music that you don’t particularly like – and make sure that it’s fairly loud. The music should end abruptly (ideally at the end of a song) after somewhere between twelve and fifteen minutes.

You will all play the parts of friends who have been hanging out together at a bar for a few hours. Each of you has had more than a couple of drinks, and now everybody’s glasses sit empty in front of them. It is time for somebody to buy another round of drinks. That person must be you.

To begin the game, one player must move to stand up and announce that they will buy the next round of drinks. They might ask what everybody is having, or just assume that they’ll have another of the same. However, nobody can actually get up to leave the table until everyone has agreed unanimously on who is actually buying the next round. When someone makes to get up, someone else must stop them, and insist that they buy the next round of drinks instead, and explain why. Anybody may attempt to get up at any time, but nobody may allow anyone else to buy the next round. Each player has very strong reasons why they much be the ones to buy next, and they will make sure that everybody else understands them as well as the circumstances allow.

Try not to come to blows.

Soon, the music will stop, and whoever set it up must announce “Last call!” (If you were unable to manage the music setup properly, just keep an eye on the clock, and turn off the music by hand.) All the players should stop talking for a moment and take out their earplugs. The decision must be made right now, or everybody leaves without getting their last drink in. You have about thirty seconds to decide, and then the game ends.

Apr 12 2010

Game Poem 13: In|Compatible

In|Compatible is a game about romantic relationships for three players.

To set up, find yourself a regular deck of playing cards. You will be building four decks that represent your potential partners in the relationships that you will be playing out over the course of the game. Each deck starts with six cards of a single suit; so, begin with a deck of six hearts, a deck of six diamonds, a deck of six clubs, and a deck of six spades. (The number values on the cards no not make a difference.) After building the first half of the decks, shuffle up all the remaining cards, and then deal out six more cards onto each of the decks, so that you wind up with four stacks of twelve cards, and each stack will be at least half all one suit, and a good mix of suits for the other half. Don’t look at the two (hopefully) left over cards! Put them face down to create a discard pile somewhere in the middle of the play area.

Now that you’ve created the four decks that represent the four romantic partners, you will assign a name to each one. If you’re playing with two or three female players, you will all be playing men in the game, so you should give each deck a female name. Likewise, if you’re playing with two or three male players, you will all be playing women in the game, so you should give the partner decks male names. (If you feel like mixing it up or challenging the heteronormativity of the setup or anything, feel free to mix up the genders of the players and partner decks any way you like, as long as all the players are okay with it.) Shuffle up each of the decks really well, mix them up in a random order so that you don’t know which one is mostly which suit, and place them near index cards or pieces of paper that say what their names are.

Once the partner decks are constructed and named, each player will secretly choose a suit that represents their own personality. It’s totally okay – good, even – if more than one person chooses the same suit! Write down your suit, and if you want to think about what that suit might mean to you, personality-wise, cool. Once you’ve done that, each player will choose a random deck to start with; this deck represents the person that you’re in a relationship with at the beginning of the game. There will be one “single” deck left over, so put that in the middle where everyone can see what’s going on with it.

The game is played in twelve rounds, each of which will represent some amount of time that you have to deal with being in (or out) of a relationship with one of the partners represented by the decks you’ve just built. Each round will be scored, and when the twelve rounds are over, the player with the most points wins! Begin with the player who’s been in a relationship the longest, or if none of the players are currently with someone, begin with whoever has been in a relationship most recently. Give the start player a coin or token of some kind to note who they are.

Here’s how a round goes. First, turn over the top card on the “single” person’s deck, just to show everybody what they’re missing out on. Then, the starting player will describe some kind of event where there is potential for conflict in their relationship. If it’s early on, it might be deciding what movie or restaurant to go out to, or whether to stay in or go out at all. In the middle stages of a relationship, the conflict can be more serious, with higher stakes – maybe an argument over friends, or jealousy, or job or money issues – and later on, you might be talking about whether you should move in together, get married, think about children, and so on. Whatever you choose, make it brief, and make sure that there is a clear point of decision. When you reach that point, turn over the top card on your current romantic partner’s deck, and compare it to the suit that you have chosen for yourself. (Clearly, after the first comparison, it will no longer be a secret to the other players.)

If the card that you’ve revealed is the exact same suit as your chosen suit, that’s great! Take a couple of sentences to narrate how things were resolved perfectly, with the best possible outcome for you and your partner. If your mate’s card is the same color as your own chosen suit, that’s still pretty good – the person on your right will describe how they reacted positively, or how the outcome of the situation came out fairly well for you. However, if the card you’ve turned over is one of the two suits that is the opposite color from the suit that you’ve chosen (black for hearts or diamonds, red for clubs or spades), then things have gone very poorly. The player on your left will describe in detail how things went terribly wrong, and decide just how very badly the conflict went for everyone concerned. However the incident was resolved, hang on to the card that you’ve turned over. Put it somewhere safely nearby, and let the next player have a go.

The players will continue around setting up a situation, revealing the top card on their relationship partner’s deck, and either describing the outcome or having it described for them, until all three players have gone. Once everyone’s done their thing for the round, you all have the opportunity to decide whether to stick with the relationship you’re currently in, or end the relationship, and swap your current deck out for the single person’s deck in the center. If things are looking bad enough, a player may even choose to break up with their current partner, and remain single for a round or two! (In which case there would be more than on single deck available to the other players…) Starting with the beginning player, each of the players will make this decision, either keeping their current partner deck or trading them in for a new one, and once everyone has done so, pass the start player token to the left, and begin the next round.

Once all twelve rounds have been worked through, each player should have had the opportunity to make a dozen decisions through a dozen beats of their love lives, and act as the starting player four times. Once that’s all done, each player can take the opportunity to narrate a short ending to their relationship story, and then calculate their scores for the game.

Scoring works like this. At the end of the game, each player should have a stack of twelve cards, chronicling the events of their relationships. (Fewer, if they chose to remain single for a round or more.) Each card that is the exact same suit as the suit that you chose at the beginning of the game is worth three points. Each card that’s the other suit of the same color as the suit that you chose is worth one point. Each card that is the opposite color of your suit is worth negative two points – subtract two from your final score for each of these! Add up all your cards, and then, if you stuck with the same relationship partner deck throughout the entire came, double the number of points that you have. Whoever came out with the most points wins at life. Congratulations! Or, better luck next time, as the case may be…

Apr 7 2010

Game Poem 12: The Azoné Butterflies

The Azoné are a tribe of fantastic hunters and warriors, and they have lived at the edge of the jungle since their reckoning began. Each season, as their young men and women approach adulthood, they prepare for the ceremony of Stála, in which the youths demonstrate both their worthiness as defenders and providers for the tribe, and their attractiveness to prospective mates. The Azoné value equally skill in deadly combat, and the ability to construct and wear battle garb of exquisite beauty. It is the balance of these two traits that make the Azoné “butterfly warriors” (or “Tyriá”) truly great.

Each player will take the role of a young man or woman, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, who is preparing themselves to take part in the coming of age ceremony, during which they will create their own exotic clothing and weaponry, and then venture to the place of Stála, in a clearing near the edge of the jungle. There they will strike the great wooden bell that hangs there three times, and face the beasts that emerge from the wilderness. If they survive, and return to the village, they will have their choice of partners, depending on how fine their battle raiments were, and how bravely they fought.

First, you will create the beasts that your Tyriá will do battle with. Each player will create three creatures by writing numbers from one to nine on three slips of paper. The number will determine the strength of the beast, and all three numbers should sum up to thirteen. They may all be about the same strength, or there may be a mix of very strong creatures and very weak ones – you will not know until the ceremonial bell is rung. If you wish to write down one adjective or attribute that describes the beast on each slip of paper – “talon”, “red”, “moaning”, “woolen”, etc. – you may. Then put all of the slips of paper in a bowl, mix them all together, and strike the bell to begin.

Each player will face three creatures during their trial, in three rounds. To start a round, a player will write down two numbers between one and nine: the first is how beautiful and elaborate they have made their battle gear, and the second is how deadly the gear makes them in combat. The two numbers will add up to ten, so you may choose five and five, one and nine, or anywhere in between, but always, the more beautiful you make yourself, the less effective you will be in fighting the jungle beasts, and vice versa. You may change the numbers between rounds, as you change your ceremonial battle garb, but you should not tell the other players what you have chosen until everyone has decided.

Now it is time to fight. Each player will draw a slip of paper from the bowl, and, beginning with the oldest, reveal the numbers they have chosen, and describe how they have outfitted themselves for the fight to come. For every three points of beauty you have chosen for yourself, you may describe something about your battle garb that is exquisite or beautiful. A peacock-feathered cloak, jewel-colored leggings of knotted silk, a long knife made from the pressed petals of the scarlet glass-flower, or any other thing that you can imagine. Likewise, for every three points of deadliness you have chosen for yourself, you may describe something about your equipment that is particularly effective for defeating the jungle beasts. An iron spear with a jagged obsidian hook-head, your elder brother’s spiked and beaded bamboo chest-plate, a net made of thick vines with tiny barbs woven throughout, and so on.

Then, look at the number on the slip of paper that tells you how strong the beast is that you must fight. In a single short sentence, give an impression of what the creature looks like, and how it approaches you from the jungle. Now compare the beast’s number with your own, and determine the outcome of your battle. If your deadliness is higher than the strength of the beast, you defeat it easily. Narrate your victory, and mark down points for both your deadliness and your beauty. However, if your deadliness is less than the creature’s strength, you lose the fight, and are wounded. You do not mark down any points for this battle, and if you are wounded a second time, you will be killed. Take the time now to briefly describe how you are defeated. If your deadliness is exactly equal to the creature’s strength, you will just barely defeat the beast – you are not wounded, but you only mark down points for your deadliness, not your beauty. You may again narrate your victory, but describe what you lose during the fight. (Are your clothes or weapons destroyed? Is your skin scarred? Did the beast die under an ill omen?)

After each player has fought their beast, they may choose a new set of numbers for their beauty and deadliness for the second round, which proceeds as before, drawing new creature numbers and fighting again, oldest to youngest. After the second series of battles, the surviving players may choose new numbers again, and fight the third and final round of creatures. When the last jungle beast has been dealt with, the newly mettled Tyriá return to the village, and determine their fates.

Each player totals the points for their beauty in battles that they won against the creatures of the jungle. The player with the highest overall attractiveness wins the game, and has their choice of mates from the Azoné tribe. Take a moment to narrate how you are received, the greatest of the new Tyriá warriors, and describe the mate that you have chosen for yourself. The other surviving warriors may briefly do the same, in order of descending beauty, each receiving rewards from their people slightly less glorious than the ones before them.

The last thing you must do is determine the fate of the village. The first duty of the Tyriá is to defend their people from the beasts of the jungle, and it is said that if they have not proven themselves to be capable enough warriors, then the wilderness itself will reclaim them. Total up the deadliness scores from all of the warriors’ successful battles. If the total score is at least ten times the number of players – so, forty for four players, for example – then they have performed their duties well, and the village is safe for another year. Celebrate! However, if they did not prove to be deadly enough, then the beasts of the jungle will overrun the village and destroy the Azoné people. If this is the case, describe the terror and sadness that befalls your tribe, and vow to protect them at any cost, next time.