I was looking forward to try Fiasco, being a big Coen Bros nerd and generally a big fan of stories about people in over their head. After reading the rules I was still very much excited, and I managed to get some fellow gamers to try it with me.
We failed big time. Big time, and this post is my attempt to begin to understand why. I was the only one who had read the rules, and thus had to explain how the game worked to the other guys, which is a role I'm absolutely confident in, even in new games I've only read. I think I presented the game fairly, didn't criticise it or comment on it beforehand at all - just: "this looks great, let's play it!"
I still feel the same way, and I do want to try it again.
The only thing I was shaky about, in my mind, before the game was scene resolution, but my good man Peter confirmed to me in an online chat that it did work. I generally don't like deciding outcomes in scenes, so that was bugging me a bit, but I didn't mention it to the players. Structured "free"-form also leaves me relatively cold, so here lies, perhaps, another clue.
The group had never played together all of us, but we know each other pretty well, and the three of us have had very good gaming experiences (and bad, as you do) over a long period of time, say 3-4 years.
The short story was that the setup worked very well, and got us all engaged in the framework for the play. We chose the icestation playset. One very concrete problem we struggled with was reading the note cards of players opposite yourself - which made all of us feel a bit removed from what was going on over there, and thus not as sharp at inputting to the fiction based on info on the cards.
When the scenes began, we struggled from the get-go, and called off the game after four scenes I think. I goofed the first scene's resolution by somehow mixing up who could resolve it, but I don't it was a deciding thing.
J said: Nice setup. Bit complex, and took quite a while, but it made for an interesting setup. No idea how to start scenes, or where to aim at conflict, or whether we should have aimed at something else (like a crisis, or relationship). No idea where conflict happened. I personally wasn't sure who had jurisdiction over setting and relationships.
M said: Where was the game in the game? Or is it just a set of guidelines for improvisational
theatre, really? So much of it seems ultra-vague, handwavey,
To which J replied: There's a few games that are as simple, like 3:16 or Zombie Cinema, but there's more of a sense of what you should be driving at.
J later had the chance to read the book, and I was keen to find out whether I had presented the rules in a fair and workable way.
J said: Well... I don't think we missed anything. (And FWIW, there's some interesting mechanics that follow as the game progresses that I'd like to see in play). I think it's a playstyle thing. And some of it might have been the group, admittedly, and trying to get back into synch. But we all have a bunch of indie experience so I'm not 100% sure where the haltingness came from.
J continued: At the beginning, I definitely felt like I had very little to go on. I had the usual fear of stepping on toes, or taking over someone else's character (or scenes or places, come to think of it). Unlike, say, Contenders, I found it difficult to set an agenda for the scenes. Contenders has just the right 'push' for my preferred style - a framework, but everything within is loose. PTA does similar work by planning the arc. Sorcerer has kickers. And it looks like the next version of The Hammer Falls will have something similar by basing first scenes on character traits. But Fiasco doesn't start off with that little push.
D said: "I agree that it being the first game that we had all played together may have factored into the reticence to just start gaming but I feel that the "cold start" just made it all 100 times worse. It felt to me like we had put a lot of thought and effort into setting the scene and locations etc and then there was no spark to set the ball rolling. Like we said at the time, I just utterly failed to see where the 'game' was.