Last Train Out of Warsaw

So we took the Last Train Out of Warsaw tonight. Matthijs has written about it previously.

The facts:
5 players. No GM. I facilitated but jumped in to play a character. I had deliberately not read all the scene descriptions up front but tried to play it "from the text". After 1 hour warm up (talking about setting, expectations and trying out the rules) and 3 hours play we got through 5 scenes. A GM may be able to pace it quicker - but to play it in 'a single short session' is a bit optimistic. We have scheduled another session for the second part. Characters in play: Conductor, Engineman, Quiet Man, Adjudant, Countess. We took our turns within each scene quite loosely.

Stuff that worked well:
* Resolution cards. Be sharp on the task to achieve and when to go for the resolution card - giving the card to another player to interprete is a fun trust builder.

Stuff that worked ok:
* Fate cards. They got the story moving - but deciding when to draw and how to interpret it to match both character and story element was sometimes difficult. Advice: Earlier in a scene is better than later.
* Story elements: Delegating ownership of the train, the passengers and the outsiders explicitly to a single player is powerful - the abstract ones are more difficult to combine with fate cards - but will bring violence, fear and loyalty into the game.
* Try in a different way: Replaying a scene is powerful - but can also throw the player down a less interesting path.
* Scene text and ideas for things to throw in the scene.

Stuff that could be made stronger:
* Initial characters relations could be stronger and requires players to push for them to evolve rather than settle.
* Creating and resolving a secret for each character is much work and takes time.
* Hitting the character destinies requires much focus for each player and reduces focus on the other player's destinies.
* Pretty Girl is not very interesting for character development.

Notes on playing GM-less:
* Having someone to know the overarcing plot before and gently steering the fiction could have been useful. We had to retrofit a bit. That might not have been a GM though - just having one player read all the scenes before could help.
* Having the support of a GM to develop the character destinies could be helpful.

Comments

  • Frederik, when you used "try a different way", did you replay the entire scene? Or just do a quick edit of the last few sentences? I usually do the latter.
  • Matthijs, the technique was used once, were I stopped the scene halfway through and asked for another approach - and the scene was replayed from the beginning. This gave a more serious tone - which I liked. I understand that the technique can also be used to just change a detail - however, this filtering process often takes place anyway during the idea brainstorm for e.g. interpreting fate cards.
  • Thanks for these notes, Frederik. I've never run the game GMless and I was pretty confident it would work, so your feedback on what went well - and not so well - is quite valuable.

    Were your character secrets open or closed? What would you recommend in terms of revising secrets and destinies?

    Some of your observations may be group-specific - I've seen the Pretty Girl become the hub of the action twice.
  • All characters were open - I went through all of them during the warm up except the fireman who I had decided to leave out as the least interesting to speed play.

    My comment on The Pretty Girl is based from the group's reaction after the game - not from trying it out in play.

    The characters could use some extra help to get more relationships going - family, love, hate, that sort of thing - or it can easily settle on just the formal relations (conductor + engineer, quiet man + adjundant) plus the mystery (what is under the floor board?, where is the train going?).
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