[GPNW] Montsegur 1244 AP and thoughts on the game

edited July 2009 in Actual Play
Friday night at GPNW I played in a game of Montsegur 1244. Ryan Macklin facilitated the game for us and the game went very well. This was my third time playing. Each game has been completely different. It’s amazing how much replay value there is out of such a tight scenario.

I lobbied to have the handouts on the faith and the perfects read during act one instead of acts two and three. I think this information is important to get out early and will help any player who is not already familiar with the historical setting. Ryan agreed and we read the faith after the first scene and the perfects after the second or third.

Our game centered mostly around the Péreille family. Paul Tevis has talked about how M1244 has a number of sub games that show up during play. Any given game will center around one or two of these games and which games you end up with will depend on who the principle characters are. This variation is where the replay value comes from.

I think there are four sub games; family, sex, faith, and war. The family game centers around Raymond, Corba, Esclarmonde, Phillipa, and to a lesser extent Pierre Roger. The sex gave involves Pierre Roger, Phillipa, Arsande, and Bernard. The faith game shows up if Bertrand or Cecille are principles. Esclarmonde may, but not always, figure in to the faith game. Lastly there is the war game involving Pierre Roger, Bernard, Garnier, and to a lesser extent Raymond. The kids, Amiel and Faye, seem to be wild cards.

We had Raymond, Phillipa, Esclarmonde, Garnier, Corba, and Arsande as principle characters. In my experience Phillipa is always the center of attention. Arsande’s presence meant we had a little of the sex game. When Arsande is a principle the sex game will likely be there. Garnier can fit into the family game through his longing for Escarmonde. Garnier ended up being the father of Phillipa’s child do to a drunken escapade where he mistook Phillipa for Esclarmonde.

I played Raymond, who turned out to be a real bastard. Arsande revealed he was the one who “took her by force” at 15 in an attempt to guilt him into spiriting Amiel and Faye away to safety. Raymond responded by apologizing for not paying for her services, threw some coins at her, and walked off. Earlier he threatened to turn Cecille over to the inquisition if she continued to preach to his family. Both Phillipa, and Esclarmonde converted and took consolamentum. After loosing most of his fortune to the war and about to lose both of his daughters to the inquisition, Raymond decided to escape into the night and start over, abandoning his wife Corba.

Nobody played any of what I call the laser shark cards. Those are story cards that can drastically change the tone of the game; Witchcraft, Revelation, and The Grail.

Comments

  • Wow, Raimond was a bastard.

    Did other cards get introduced? Which ones? I think they are all laser sharks in their own way.

    How did playing in a noisy public space change the game's tenor?
  • Some story cards were played. I can't recall which ones though. I don't see any of the other story cards as having as much laser shark potential. I would be interested in hearing more of your thoughts on them.

    The noise was frustrating and it would have been nice to use the library, but we dealt with it.
  • I've recently seen the Templar knight and the Cathar treasure take the game in a weird direction, for example. I think that's the point, more or less - a mid-game disruption to give everyone something to grab if they need it.
  • I don't recall any story cards being played at all.
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinI don't recall any story cards being played at all.
    That strikes me as either really good or really bad. Which was it?
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinI don't recall any story cards being played at all.
    I was thinking one came out in act 2, but looking back you're probably right.
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarThat strikes me as either really good or really bad. Which was it?
    I think it was because every scene opportunity people had stuff they wanted to do based on the fiction we had established. We didn't need the story cards to give us ideas. I think that's a good thing.
  • Hi William, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    You are right that the choice of main characters significantly pushes the game to be either about family, sex or religion with more or less the characters you list. I find that the kids are great in the religion sub game and to lesser extend the sex sub game. The war sub game, I think, is more a plot sub game, where focus of the game tends to move from being about the relationships to being about what actions the characters take. This game appears not only because of the main characters selected, but also as a consequence of using many story cards. The laser shark cards you mention - and the two Jason mentions - will move the story focus to be more plot oriented.

    I had the chance to play Montsegur 1244 again two weeks ago, and it turned out to be exactly the family game you describe, with Phillipa, Corba, Pierre Roger and Raimond as main characers. With only two story cards played (the arch bishop & one of the inquisitors), we had a very intense family drama. This being about my 10th game, still had surprises for me.

    Good thing to introduce the details of the faith earlier - I usually share much of the information as I explain the game and then just have it repeated.
  • Bad would be a sort of in the weeds game where nobody really cared, so that probably does not apply here. In all of my games a number of cards have come out (sometimes the maximum). I think I'll note that it isn't that important next time I facilitate.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarThat strikes me as either really good or really bad. Which was it?
    Given the success of the game, I would say really good. I will admit that I, as a player, don't really think about them -- I might have played one in the three games I've been in. I'm not sure if it's because of some skill I can't mastered yet, or because I get immersed in the situation enough to where I feel it's unnecessary (though I have yet to see others introduce them in ways that feel like intrusions).

    It was also clear that there was one predominant story line in that game, and we all kept riffing on that, contributing to it.

    I played Phillipa, and for once I (the player) fought to actually have the child born -- in both the last games, the child was stillborn (and I was the father in the first game). For some reason, that seems to rub a nerve with me -- people for the general human reason it does in people overall. So, I thought that having the child born and recanting the heresy at the end would be a "good enough" ending.

    But because I had Pierre Roger as my secondary, there was no interaction between us -- played well by the idea that we were married and yet strangers to each other, where both were able to say with confidence "it's not the husband's child." So, when Garnier turned out to be crazy obsessed with the sudden discovery that it's his child -- enough to murder Pierre Roger, though all thought he died in batter at the wall -- Phillipa just snapped. She lost her husband, her one-time lover who coveted her sister was insane, and the child felt like this intrusion upon her life.

    So, not as an act of faith but as an act of a woman broken and looking to die, she converted, took Consolamentum, and burned -- leaving her mother to care for her daughter.

    There was also a lot going on between Phillipa, Corba & Esclarmonde -- Corba talked so highly of Phillipa in her first scene that I felt like I had an answer to the "Why are you not speaking with your mother?" question: because she couldn't stand the way Corba was breaking her sister's heart by favoring her over Esclarmonde. And because she didn't want to become the poor mother that Corba was. There was a lot more sisterhood bonding here -- Phillipa even named her daughter Esclarmonde.

    In my mind, this was Corba's story. She lost everyone she loved to cowardice, to battle, to the fire, and all she had left was this newborn whose mother abandoned it in depression. Serious props to Matthew Gagan for playing Corba so damned awesomely.
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinBut because I had Pierre Roger as my secondary, there was no interaction between us
    Yeah, that reminds me. The combination of characters a player has will also impact which game shows up. In my first game Phillipa was my Primary and Pierre Roger was my secondary. That story played in a very different way. I decided Phillipa was terrified of what Pierre Roger would do if he find out the child was not his.
  • Yes! There's a really subtle interplay. The scene economy is so tight that, for example, having Garnier as a secondary is totally going to change Esclarmonde's arc as a primary. That is definitely worth considering - I think it is part of the strength and replayability of the design.
  • edited July 2009
    Posted By: WillHRaymond responded by apologizing for not paying for her services, threw some coins at her, and walked off.
    Awesome.
    Posted By: WillHEarlier he threatened to turn Cecille over to the inquisition if she continued to preach to his family
    Awesome.
    Posted By: Ryan MacklinPhillipa even named her daughter Esclarmonde.
    Awesome.
    Posted By: Ryan MacklinSo, not as an act of faith but as an act of a woman broken and looking to die, she converted, took Consolamentum, and burned -- leaving her mother to care for her daughter.
    Great resolution - this is exactly the kind of answer, I hoped players could create with the game.

    Playing with few or even no story cards are perfectly fine. I tend to throw in a bishop or an inquisitor early on to give a face to the opposition, and sometimes one of the other story cards can give a direction for somebody else in answering a question.

    How long did you play? How much did you use scene cards to extend/move/add scenes? Did you play with one scene in either act two or three (the official rules for a six player game)?

    Edit: fixed html
  • edited July 2009
    Posted By: Frederik J. JensenGreat resolution - this is exactly the kind of answer, I hoped players could create with the game.

    Playing with few or even no story cards are perfectly fine. I tend to throw in a bishop or an inquisitor early on to give a face to the opposition, and sometimes one of the other story cards can give a direction for somebody else in answering a question.

    How long did you play? How much did you use scene cards to extend/move/add scenes? Did you play with one scene in either act two or three (the official rules for a six player game)?
    Yes on the official six-player rules. I've only played with six players, but I like the sense of tensing up as people realize they aren't in both middle acts unless they force it.

    As far as time, it was probably just over three hours? I cannot fully recall.

    I would say that half of the scene cards gained were used to make follow-up scenes, or to buy a scene in the act you didn't have. I know I used all mine up, but not everyone did. There were, I think, two flashback scenes bought -- one was used to make the murder of Pierre Roger explicitly murdered by Garnier rather than just killed, which is how we first took it. I love that retroactive only-for-the-audience contextualization.

    No scene movement/hijacking. I have yet to see that happen in a game.

    It's interesting that you said you play a card early on to give a face to the opposition. I have to wonder if American fandom linked up with Joss Whedon's writing of very strong internal-antagonism is why I personally don't need a card to give a face to the external pressures. But in saying that, I'm just musing in an ivory-tower way without bearing any fruit.
  • Having a name for a leader of the opposition allows taking prisoners, having people surrender, or having sympathy with the opposition which can make things much more complex for the main characters. It can also pay off in the final confrontation if you surrender to a known foe.

    But it can also defuse the situation by allowing players to pick "safe" choices for hard questions.
  • My story card was cool but didn't feel right for either of my characters. I think I had one or more Story cards coming but forgot to draw them.

    I alternated between trying to make Corba sympathetic and self-righteous simply because I couldn't settle on a mode. Maybe that ended up making her more human by default. Now that I've thought about it more, I think the external noise got to me in this session - my hearing isn't the best.

    I found Eric's portrayal of Cecille alternately compelling and repellent; so polite, principled, and seemingly altruistic on the surface while spouting beliefs that rang really alien and uncaring to my ears, given our situation. Really well done. Anything I learned about the Cathars twenty years ago I'd pretty much forgotten by now, so this was quite the re-introduction.

    Thanks Ryan, for introducing me to this game. I own it but hadn't read it thoroughly yet. I don't feel the draw of lots of re-plays as many of its fans seem to, but I'd definitely like to try it again in a quieter setting. I suspect I will have as hard a time finding other players as I do for Grey Ranks, but I will be making the effort.
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