We’re playing a campaign of Burning Empires, as was established in a previous post. How did the actual game turn out, after the excellent session of creating the world and central cast together? In a word, great.
The game features no prewritten story, instead relying on the players coming up with stuff that matters to them. The narration turn goes around the table, each player framing a scene in which their character is the star. You could imagine that this leads to a disjointed, unconnected game, but nothing of the sort happened in our game. Because every player wants to advance their characters’ Beliefs (goals in life) and every player gets a very limited amount of scenes to work with (normally three per maneuver), every scene holds meaning and advances the game. Indeed, the game’s pace was breathless, with major developments in every other scene.
The one real problem we had was that the gamemaster – yours truly – was severely outgunned. The players basically took turns bashing my teeth in. This was the result of bad planning on my behalf: my characters, the players’ antagonists, were all of soldier stock and simply lacked the skills to be useful in the bigger picture. I kept losing at the metagame level and looking for a chance to directly attack the players.
We’re psyched to continue the game. I’m actually planning ahead to see what I could do to even the odds. Of course it sucks to lose all the time, but this is a new kind of challenge to me. It feels weird and invigorating to have to try to out-think the players. Since everyone is playing with open cards and subject to the same rules (which can’t be tweaked!), it’s really a game, something you need to be good at to win. Still, being alone against the players, it feels unfair. But I suppose I’m just learning.
A word of warning: the game is a lot to take in. It weighs in at 655 pages and that’s almost exclusively rules. There’s next to no separate setting material and absolutely no filler. It is not hard to learn, as everything is simple and logical, but there are procedures to every stage of the game.